Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro had worked together on a number of award winning short films with the former focussing on the performances and the latter on the visuals to great effect. But 1991 saw their first feature film ‘Delicatessen’ which took the film world by storm winning 4 Cesars and its huge success gave them the clout to make their ten year long gestating project The City of Lost Children and even when it was greenlit it still took four years to get to the big screen.
It was worth the wait with the film’s story following Krank, a tormented scientist who sets about kidnapping local children in order to steal their dreams and so reverse his accelerated ageing process. When Krank’s henchmen kidnap his brother, local fisherman and former circus strongman One (Hellboy’s Ron Perlman) sets out on a journey to Krank’s nightmarish laboratory, accompanied by a little orphan girl called Miette (Judith Vittet).
It is a visually stunning film that owes much to the paintings of De Chirico and realized for the screen with a number of talents at the top of their game that included Oscar-nominated cinematographer Darius Khondji (Se7en, Evita), costumes from Jean Paul Gaultier (The Fifth Element) and a haunting score by Angelo Badalamenti (Twin Peaks, Mulholland Drive.) featuring Marianne Faithfull all edited together with the use of matte paintings, CGI and a stunning studio set. Production designer Jean Rabasse won the prestigious César in 1996 for his stunning work on this film, while the film was nominated for the Palme d’Or at the 1995 Cannes Film Festival. It’s little wonder that THE CITY OF LOST CHILDREN cemented Jeunet and Caro’s reputation as filmmakers with an utterly unique vision although it was overlooked by the Oscars
The cast are great none more so than the cast of children who are endearingly adorable and this 4K restoration, and making its UHD debut is stunning that brings out the detail in shots as well as enhancing the colour palette of the film makers. For fans of the film this is something of an essential buy being a combination of archive features (making of and a Behind the scenes where a camera shy Caro in silhouette discusses the film) with the new – a subtitled commentary by Jeunet alone who from the off admits that Caro hates doing commentaries, that said Caro comes out from the shadows to do a new interview with Jeunet about the film and they are an enjoyably engaging duo.
The directors went their separate ways after this with Caro doing his own things whilst Jeunet embraced Hollywood and made Alien Resurrection in 1997 applying his individual style but ultimately and despite the film’s title ironically bought a temporary end to the franchise until 2012’s Prometheus. He soon returned to France. He was not the only one as the digital special effects designer Pitof also went to Hollywood and helmed the 2004 film Catwoman with Halle Berry and its disastrous reception saw him also return home to France
But The City of Lost Children remains the highlight for many of those involved in bringing the film to the screen and along with Delicatessen remains Jeunet and Caro’s best films.
Further disc reviews: David Lynch’s ‘Mulholland Drive’
Related interview: Film maker Mark Cousins talks about his film, ‘March of Rome’
Here’s The City of Lost Children trailer……
The City of Lost Children is available on 4K UHD, Blu-ray & DVD from 3rd April 2023