Friday, August 5, 2011

An Adult Fairy Tale In A Strange Land, The City Of Lost Children

The Good: Visually impressive, Excellent acting, Good characters
The Bad: Fairy tale plot
The Basics: A visual treat, The City Of Lost Children puts a young girl and a strongman together to thwart a mad scientist in an adult fairy tale.

The City Of Lost Children was one of my risk films, the type I saw - actually bought the DVD - without knowing anything real about it. I saw the movie poster when I was in college and, being a fan of Terry Gilliam's work, I was amused by his quote on the poster and saw the images and thought it was very much like Brazil. Brazil (reviewed here!) is my favorite film, so I thought The City Of Lost Children might be enjoyable.

I enjoy being right.

The City Of Lost Children is a distinct place and it's amazing to see. In it, there is a man named One, caring for his "little brother" Denree. When Denree is abducted by a group of people who pluck out their eyes and put in cybernetic implants, he goes on a quest to find him. To that end, he allies himself with a little girl named Miette, an orphan thief for the Siamese twin Octopus. Meanwhile, there is a floating laboratory where Krank lives. Krank is a brilliant scientist who lacks the ability to dream. In fact, he's somewhat sadistic and to that end, he kidnaps children and attempts to try to live in their dreams. Aided by a group of dimwitted clones, a brain in a fish tank and his petite wife, Krank swaps technology for the kidnaped children. So, One and Miette must confront Krank and free the children.

While it's no Brazil, The City Of Lost Children has so much going for it. It is a wonderful chance to see a visually stunning work. The City is an amazing and distinct place, with its waterways in the town and the strange trucks that drive the streets, this is a weird place. The design of the place is enough alone to bring the viewer in.

Refreshingly, the characters support that. One and Miette are interesting. Miette wants something more and she finds that in One, who has a predilection toward protecting children. They are made for each other. And Krank. Krank is the villain. Not much more, but he makes for an adequate villain.

What makes the film worth watching, even more than the simplicity of the spectacle of the production design is the acting. Ron Perlman, who plays One gives an inspired performance. He is kind and gentle with his portrayal of a man who is basically a stranger in the most strange land. Perlman gives a great showing, he is strong and fatherly, which is exactly what the role calls for. And Daniel Emilfork is a great villain. His acting makes Krank a viable villain, even more than the script does. He has a cold stare that is menacing and yet when he softens his face, he can pull off real humanity, which makes him more than the monolithic villain.

But two people steal the show. The first is Dominique Pinon. He plays six roles in The City of Lost Children. He's the clone, working so hard that he slaps other versions of himself in scenes and he does it with utter convincing talent. Add to that that he plays the Messiah, the source material of the clones and he makes a completely different character with him. It's more than just the beard. He makes the man unique. It works wonderfully.

But Judith Vittet is the most impressive talent. At nine years old, she breathes live into Miette. She plays the girl like a woman, lending wisdom to the role that just screams of being someone far older than who she actually is. Judith is incredible and had it not been for her, the film would have almost certainly been far worse than it was.

What is the problem with The City of Lost Children? It's just that it is predictable. It's a fairy tale and it seems like one to watch it.

But, it's an adult fairy tale and it works very well as such. Not for children, The City Of Lost Children is a visual masterpiece that is intrigued with systems, events that affect other events and they work very well. It's interesting and fun to watch. Children won't understand it. If you like Brazil, this will be something you enjoy, though you ought not to expect as much from it. If you did not enjoy Brazil, this is for you; it has the visual weirdness of the superior film with a much more coherent plot.

For other works featuring Ron Perlman, be sure to visit my reviews of:
The Clone Wars - Season 1
Hellboy 2: The Golden Army
Star Trek: Nemesis
Alien: Resurrection


For other film reviews, check out my index page by clicking here!

© 2011, 2007, 2002 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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