The City of Lost Children (1995)
June 14, 2022 12:51 PM - Subscribe

Old and decrepit Krank (Daniel Emilfork) has lost his capacity for dreaming and is attempting to fight death by stealing the dreams of children. Krank's cadre of cloned henchmen (all played by Dominique Pinon) snatch 5-year-old Denree (Joseph Lucien) to subject him to the horrific dream-retrieval process. The boy's father, One (Ron Perlman), the hulking strongman of a traveling circus, and his precocious 9-year-old friend, Miette (Judith Vittet), join forces to defeat Krank's minions and save Denree. Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet's macabre fairy tale.


The Santas Scene.

Rotten Tomatoes: 79% fresh.

Currently streaming in the US on Amazon Prime and Roku (the later with ads) and for digital rental via the usual places.
posted by DirtyOldTown (20 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
It still holds up. (Also, Denree is One's brother, IIRC.)

Such a strange fever dream of a film!
posted by Kitteh at 1:06 PM on June 14, 2022 [2 favorites]

I. Love. This movie. I loved it when it came out -- I'm not sure how I got to see it as quickly as I did -- and although I haven't seen it in probably fifteen years, I bet I'd love it now.
posted by Countess Elena at 3:14 PM on June 14, 2022 [2 favorites]

This film. I show this to people when I want to demonstrate the richness of the cinema experience outside mainstream English-language films. Hallucinatory, terse, tender, exuberant, dark, and very very funny. My highlights:
  • That opening scene. It careens from sweet to sinister so quickly and so well.
  • One's speech about his whaling career. "After, always, always miss."
  • The music box - such a sinister and foreboding dirge.
  • Miette - the actor absolutely nails the world-weary but not broken child of the streets
The whole thing has a real Victorian London vibe, like something out of Tim Powers' The Anubis Gates.
posted by Paragon at 4:52 PM on June 14, 2022 [7 favorites]

I absolutely love this movie. It’s great to see a bunch of non-classically-handsome actors with really expressive faces doing something that combines cartoonish storybook logic with this sort of clanking Victorian melodrama.
It’s Ron Perlman bathed in that Guillermo del Toro aesthetic, not long after Cronos, really, like the universe needed to build these densely packed glowing storyscapes around Ron Perlman as much as possible. And he worked with both of them again, so obviously the universe was pleased.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 7:32 PM on June 14, 2022 [3 favorites]

I watched this as a double feature with Cronos and came away really impressed with Perlman. (And have stayed that way.) I really enjoyed it.
posted by Spike Glee at 9:34 PM on June 14, 2022 [1 favorite]

I too love this film, the richness of it, that it goes in so many strange directions but makes sense. Terrific acting all around. Then I watch Delicatessen again so I can have more of the actors Dominique Pinon and Jean-Claude Dreyfus.
posted by winesong at 8:45 AM on June 15, 2022 [2 favorites]

Frikkin' awesome movie.
posted by Jessica Savitch's Coke Spoon at 1:20 PM on June 15, 2022

I love this movie but a few years back I saw it for the first time in a while and Miette's weird bond with One hit a little differently now than it did back in 1995. Like, it doesn't play like a father/daughter relationship at all. They're flirtatious! ("Getting attached?") One is such a dumb, innocent soul, and Miette seems so shrewd and sophisticated for her age, so you never get the feeling that he's a danger to her. If anything she seems like the grown-up of the pair, and I think their attraction is meant to be just one more surreal element in a movie that is wall-to-wall weird. But still! There is a totally inappropriate quasi-romance at the heart of this story, and I'm kind of amazed that Twitter hasn't come for it yet with pitchforks and torches.

FYI: There was actually a City of Lost Children video game (slyt). The graphics were stunning for the PS1 era and still have their own quirky charm. It's full of soundbites that will burrow into your head and never leave. To this day me and my girlfriend will say "I cawn't manage it" in a sad little English accent whenever one of us fails to open a jar or something.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 8:55 PM on June 15, 2022

posted by infinitewindow at 1:01 AM on June 16, 2022 [3 favorites]

oh yes, this is an amazing movie
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 3:02 AM on June 16, 2022

This movie is great. It’s its own thing, of course, but it is almost like what you would get if you asked a video generating version of Dall-e to cross David Lynch and Wes Anderson. (With some Terry Gilliam and Tim Burton vibes thrown in.)
posted by snofoam at 10:22 AM on June 16, 2022

Incidentally, Perlman said that filming this was a lonely experience for him because he doesn't speak French, and learned all his lines phonetically.
posted by johnofjack at 7:36 AM on June 18, 2022

I haven't seen this in 20 years but teenage film nerd me loved this movie. The visuals and tone go well together with Brazil and thinking about it I really miss movies with weird sprawling set pieces filled with campy and still very human characters.

Oddly enough Leon: The Professional being made by a French director is what eventually turned my little group of high-school film nerds onto this and Delicatessen. I need a oral history documentary of how in the world those two movies led to Jean-Pierre Jeunet being given the Alien franchise so he could make it weird. Every once in a while I will remember Ripley making out with her alien baby then watching it get sucked out a tiny hole into space.
posted by M Edward at 8:21 AM on June 18, 2022

Wow. Forgot about this one. I raved about it to everyone the first time I saw it. Maybe should try to find it again.
posted by Glinn at 10:46 AM on June 18, 2022

Thanks for posting. I'm a big fan of the movies of Jeunet & Caro. Today I've ordered the Blu-ray to upgrade from my DVD. Looking for the PS1 game but it's pricey; I'll start looking in my thrift store runs.
posted by neuron at 10:40 AM on June 19, 2022

There was actually a City of Lost Children yt video game

I still have the PC version. I never finished it; I should scrounge up a 5¼" floppy drive and see if it's playable now.
posted by rhizome at 10:55 AM on June 19, 2022

I love this film (and Delicatessen) so much. I was so excited when a new Jean-Pierre Jeunet movie, Bigbug, landed on Netflix. Unfortunately it does not hold a candle to those prior two.
posted by ejs at 1:03 PM on June 19, 2022 [2 favorites]

I was so excited when a new Jean-Pierre Jeunet movie, Bigbug

Bigbug felt to me like a bit of a letdown after the excellent (and weirdly unnoticed) Micmacs and the sweet-hearted fable of The Young and Prodigious T. S. Spivet, but after a little reflection and spot-rewatch, I feel like it stands up visually and as a sort of side-chamber worldbuilding effort for the Jeunetniverse. It's a bottle episode in the long running Jeunet show, like a curious day-glo French take on the early Doctor Who serial Edge of Destruction with a strong flavor palette from Tati's Mon Oncle and the Villa Arpel.
posted by sonascope at 8:52 AM on June 20, 2022

If anything she seems like the grown-up of the pair, and I think their attraction is meant to be just one more surreal element in a movie that is wall-to-wall weird.

Yeah, I always read their relationship as an age-inverted "mother/son" thing (with the age-inversion adding to the weirdness). One is almost certainly at least somewhat developmentally disabled - it's a wonder he's survived as long as he has - and so the far more aware and streetwise Miette essentially "adopts" him.

And definitely the kidnapped kid that kicks this off is One's "brother", not his son. Which I think just helps the case for taking the "quasi-romance" between Miette and One as being not a romance at all - One, for all his size and strength, is just another orphaned child on the street finding family where he can, and he's quite possibly not even psychologically developed enough to really have sexual or romantic urges.
posted by soundguy99 at 3:35 PM on June 24, 2022 [2 favorites]

the "quasi-romance" between Miette and One as being not a romance at all

I'm gonna have to disagree. I think their relationship is meant to be rather... charged. Think of the thing with the string, and how she gives him a lingering look and asks, "Getting attached?" How he's her "heater." How he turns down the lady trying to seduce him because he's so distraught over Miette, pining over her like a man who's lost his true love. I think their relationship is meant to be a little confusing and perhaps disturbing, because One is as innocent as a child and Miette is as shrewd as an adult, so they kind of meet in the middle.

The film came out in a different era, when movies like The Professional or Beautiful Girls (both starring young Natalie Portman, creepily enough) could feature these weird, flirtatious relationships between men and underage girls and audiences didn't run for the exits. In hindsight it's all very WTF indeed. But I think both of those movies were a LOT creepier than Lost Children, because, again, Miette is kind of the adult in the relationship and it's about as innocent as the scenario can be. One is a pure-hearted lummox and he's no threat to Miette at all.

I'm absolutely not trying to say "this is a movie for pedos and we should all cancel it." But I am saying that, in the current climate, I'm kind of amazed this movie hasn't gotten more criticism. People love to get outraged about movies, after all.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 4:44 PM on June 25, 2022

« Older Movie: Dual...   |  Movie: Metal Lords... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments