The City of Lost Children
|The City of Lost Children|
French release poster
|Produced by||Félicie Dutertre|
|Music by||Angelo Badalamenti|
|Box office||$1.7 million|
The City of Lost Children (French: La cité des enfants perdus) is a 1995 science fantasy drama film directed by Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet, written by Jeunet and Gilles Adrien, and starring Ron Perlman. An international co-production of companies from France, Germany, and Spain, the film is stylistically related to the previous and subsequent Jeunet films, Delicatessen and Amélie.
Krank (Daniel Emilfork), a highly intelligent but evil being created by a vanished scientist, is unable to dream, which causes him to age prematurely. At his lair on an abandoned oil-rig (which he shares with the scientist's other creations: six childish clones, a dwarf named Martha, and a brain in a vat named Irvin), he uses a dream-extracting machine to steal dreams from children. The children are kidnapped for him from a nearby port city by a cyborg cult called the Cyclops, who in exchange he supplies with mechanical eyes and ears. Among the kidnapped is Denree (Joseph Lucien), the adopted little brother of carnival strongman One (Ron Perlman).
After the carnival manager is stabbed by a mugger, One is hired by a criminal gang of orphans (run by a pair of Siamese twins called "the Octopus") to help them steal a safe. The theft is successful, but the safe is lost in the harbor when One is distracted by seeing Denree's kidnappers. He, together with one of the orphans, a little girl called Miette, follows the Cyclops and infiltrates their headquarters, but they are captured. Meanwhile, the Octopus orders circus performer Marcello (Jean-Claude Dreyfus) to return One to them. He uses his trained fleas, which secrete a poison that causes mindless aggression, to turn the Cyclops guards against each other, before rescuing One. However he leaves Miette behind, who almost drowns before an amnesiac diver living beneath the harbor retrieves her.
Miette leaves the diver's lair to find One and Marcello both drowning their sorrows in a bar. Upon seeing Miette alive the remorseful Marcello lets One leave with her. However the Octopus confronts them on the pier, and uses Marcello's stolen fleas to turn One against Miette. A spectacular chain of events triggered by one of Miette's tears leads to a ship crashing into the pier before One can throttle her. Marcello arrives and sets the fleas on the Octopus, allowing One and Miette to escape to continue searching for Denree.
Back at Krank's oil-rig, Irvin gets one of the clones to release a plea for help in the form of a bottled dream telling the story of how they were created. It reaches One, Miette, and the diver, and the latter remembers that he was the scientist who made them, and that the oil-rig was his laboratory before Krank and Martha pushed him off to take it for themselves. They all converge on the rig; the diver to destroy it and the duo to rescue Denree.
Miette is almost killed by Martha, but the diver harpoons her. She then finds Denree asleep in Krank's dream-extracting machine, and Irvin tells her that to release him she must enter the machine herself. In the dream world she meets Krank and makes a deal with him to replace Denree as the source of the dream; Krank fears a trap but plays along, believing himself to be in control. Miette then uses her imagination to control the dream and turn it into an infinite loop, destroying Krank's mind. One and Miette rescue all the children while the now-deranged diver loads the rig with dynamite and straps himself to one of its legs. He regains his senses as everyone is rowing away, and pleads with his remaining creations to come back to rescue him, but a seabird lands on the handle of the blasting machine, blowing up him and the rig.
- Ron Perlman as One
- Judith Vittet as Miette
- Daniel Emilfork as Krank
- Joseph Lucien as Denree
- Dominique Pinon as the diver and the clones
- Geneviève Brunet and Odile Mallet as the Octopus
- Jean-Claude Dreyfus as Marcello
- Jean-Louis Trintignant as Uncle Irvin (voice)
- Mireille Mossé as Martha
- Rufus as Peeler
- Serge Merlin as the chief of the Cyclops
- Marc Caro as Brother Ange-Joseph
- Ticky Holgado as an ex-acrobat
- Lorella Cravotta as a woman
The film holds a 80% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 54 reviews, with an average rating of 7/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Not all of its many intriguing ideas are developed, but The City of Lost Children is an engrossing, disturbing, profoundly memorable experience." It also holds a weighted average score of 73 on Metacritic, based on 16 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews". Roger Ebert gave the film 3 stars out of a possible 4, writing that the film's design and visual effects deserved the highest possible praise but the story was sometimes confusing: "I would be lying if I said I understood the plot."
According to authors Jen Webb and Tony Schirato, the dual nature of capitalism constitutes a main source of tension in the film:
On the one hand, capitalism is presented as enabling self-interest and freedom, as exemplified by the freedom to produce scientific developments (Krank), pursue religious ideas (the Cyclopses), and seek wealth (the Octopus). On the other hand, it exposes the deplorable effects of capitalism ... the exploitation of childhood (the cynical orphans), of tenderness (the Original scientist, attacked and turned out by his own beloved creations), and of innocence (the terrified children whose dreams are stolen) while suggesting that there is no place in capitalism for originality, disinterestedness, duty, self-reflective analysis, and other defining aspects of "the human."
According to author Donna Wilkerson-Barker, these elusive aspects of humanity are presented within the film for various characters to identify with. For example, the relationship between One and Denrée represents, for Miette, a family of authenticity. Prepared to sacrifice her life in order to become a part of their family, Miette helps One to save Denrée from Krank's manipulative environment. In another example, Irvin the brain plays his part in overturning the same environment in order to liberate his "family" of clones. In the end, two boats filled with these two different families row towards their futures: In one boat, a technologically produced family of Irvin and the clones; In the other, a rationally envisioned family containing Miette, One, and the abducted children. This leaves the audience to question precisely what the future will hold for these two differing visions of humanity.
A 1997 Psygnosis video game based on the film was released in the United States and in parts of Europe for the PlayStation console first and then the PC. The PC version is a straight port of the PlayStation version. Players take on the role of Miette and confront puzzles in an adventure game format. On GameRankings the PC version holds a score of 60% based on three reviews, while the PlayStation version holds a score of 54.50% based on four reviews.
The game received mediocre reviews. Reviewers generally remarked that the graphics are stunningly beautiful and atmospheric, but criticized the excessive difficulty of finding objects and the slow pace. A Next Generation critic explained, "To pick up an item, you must stand directly on top of it, a problem when most of the important objects aren't out in plain sight. You'll find yourself looking in every nook and cranny just to make sure you didn't miss something. Even then, the vast majority of items are found almost by accident ..." Josh Smith of GameSpot further remarked, "The game's puzzles are arbitrary and not particularly intuitive. Trade the marbles for a sleeping potion? Go figure. Put a bone in a cash register to short out the security system on a safe? Come on. The lack of deduction required by the game encourages the kind of random gameplay that can only be described as frustrating. Solutions to puzzles rarely yield a sense of accomplishment since more often then not they are solved through happenstance, not reasoning."
Shawn Smith and Sushi-X had a somewhat more positive reaction; though they noted the same key flaws as other critics, they focused more on how well the game recreated the world of the film, with Smith commenting, "The cinemas are done well, and the rendered city gives the impression of really being in [a] dirty, semi-futuristic alternate reality." However, their co-reviewers Dan Hsu and Crispin Boyer called it "A unique game that masochists should check out" and "heavy on atmosphere but lean on fun", respectively. GamePro's The Rookie concluded, "If you're determined to play, take an evening to rent both the movie and the game to see which goes first, your eyesight or your sanity."
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