Tuesday, 8 July 2014
City of Lost Children (1995)
There's a sequence, about 75 minutes into this film, with a wonderfully over the top sequence of coincidental events that rescue the heroes from a very sticky situation. That was pretty much the moment when I decided that I really liked the film, rather than just quite liking it.
Of course, that was about 15 years ago, the first time I saw the film. So I approached this with some trepidation, as more than once a film I enjoyed in my 20s has turned out to be not terribly good.
However, I'm pleased to say I still quite enjoyed this, though probably not as much as back then. For one thing, I knew the convoluted sequence of happenstance was coming, which meant it didn't have the same "Oh! That's cool!" impact. For another, the hints of romantic interest from an 11 year old girl toward a grown adult were more pronounced than I remembered, which was a little icky. At least I didn't see any sign he had a similar interest in her, because that would be really icky.
The plot is that a (probably mad) genius created a series of flawed clones and other test-tube grown humans, then vanished. The most intelligent of these creations cannot dream, and is aging rapidly because of it. In order to combat this, he has his henchmen kidnap children in the hope he can steal their dreams. Unsurprisingly, the children tend to have nightmares after being dragged off by this freakish collection of steampunkish goons, which doesn't do our villainous not-so-mastermind much good.
The film really kicks off, though, when the goons grab the three-year old brother of circus strongman 'One', who sets off to recover his brother and is soon joined in his quest by Miette, the 11-year old girl I mentioned above. One's not the brightest tool in the shed, whereas Miette is an Artful Dodger type, so she's more or less the brains of the operation as they tangle with the cyclopean henchmen of the villain, run from a nefarious conjoined twin, and fall afoul of a man with a magic flea.
This is a somewhat surreal film, in case you hadn't guessed. Most characters are deformed in some way, and the sets are quite highly stylised. There's also a considerable amount of scatalogical humour. It seems the film-makers think poop is quite amusing.
If you don't mind the film's occasional forays into toilet humour, and the fact you'll need to read subtitles (unless you speak French, at least), then this is a pretty good steampunkish science fantasy; not a bad achievement given that it predates the term 'steampunk'.