The City of Lost Children (1995)

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The City of Lost Children (French: La Cité des enfants perdus) is a 1995 French fantasy drama film directed by Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet and starring Ron Perlman. The film is stylistically related to the previous and subsequent Jeunet films, Delicatessen and Amélie. The music score was composed by Angelo Badalamenti. It was entered into the 1995 Cannes Film Festival. From an ocean rig, a demented scientist, Krank (Daniel Emilfork), kidnaps children to steal their dreams. Among them is the little brother, Denree (Joseph Lucien), of carnival strongman and former Russian sailor One (Ron Perlman), who sets out to rescue him with the help of a young, orphaned, thieves' guild member named Miette (Judith Vittet). They delve into the world of a bio-mechanical kidnapping cult and discover the connection between the scientist and the missing Denree. Krank is both aided and hindered by Martha, a diminutive woman; Irving (Jean-Louis Trintignant), a talkative brain in a tank; and six identical clones of the genius (Dominique Pinon) who created them all and has been missing for many years.


The long-awaited follow-up to Delicatessen is another surrealist adventure into the questionably sane minds of French creators Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro. It’s been four years since that film, and their new picture, The City of Lost Children, is twice as strange and almost as good.

A twist on the typical fairy tale, The City of Lost Children is the story of an evil genius named Krank (Daniel Emilfork) and his henchmen of mechanically-enhanced Cyclops, six identical Clones (all played by Dominique Pinon), the tiny and bossy Miss Bismuth (Mireille Mosse), and a disembodied brain (voiced by Jean-Louis Trintignant) which provides the philosophical foundation for the group. The band of genetically-engineered characters live on a man-made island off shores of a coastal city, and it is from this city that Krank’s thugs kidnap children. Why? Because Krank is unable to dream, he attempts to steal them from the children’s minds.

When the adopted brother (Joseph Lucien) of a circus strongman named One (Ron Perlman) is stolen, One goes on a crusade to save him. On his way, he hooks up with a nine-year-old ingenue/street punk named Miette (Judith Vittet), and they develop a symbiotic bond in their quest to destroy Krank’s plot.

If you saw Delicatessen (and I highly recommend you do), you’ll know what I mean when I say it gets much stranger than this. Full of vibrant imagery and elaborate sets that seem half from the 1700s and half from the 2100s, The City of Lost Children pushes style to the limit, while occasionally causing substance to lag behind. While the movie sometimes gets so convoluted it’s impossible to tell exactly what’s going on, it’s always fun to watch.

Be sure you know what’s on the menu if you decide to see this film. Expect some incredible effects, especially Pinon’s unprecedented six-fold presence, plus one of the best serendipitous-chain-of-events sequences ever filmed. Angelo Badalamenti (who scored Twin Peaks) provides appropriately haunting music as well. You might not ‘get’ this film when you leave the theater, but you’ll be sure to have had a terrific time.

Aka La cité des enfants perdus.

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