City of Lost Children, The (1995)

The City of Lost Children (1995), directed by Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet.

Weird, grotesque and wonderful, but borderline incomprehensible. I saw it years ago and remembered absolutely nothing about it. It's intricate enough to reward repeat viewings.

Circus strongman "One" tries to rescue his adopted little brother Denree who has been kidnapped by a group of mutant (?) one-eyed but biomechanically enhanced goons. They sell gangs of missing children to Krank out on an old oil rig. Krank wants the childrens' dreams (nightmares?) because he cannot have his own (?) so they are put into a dream machine for collection of their psychic emanations.

Krank's "family" consists of a little Mom, a passel of cloned doofuses, and a brain floating in an aquarium. The originator of the whole facility is mysteriously absent.

"One" is assisted by Miette (= "crumb"), a street-wise little girl thief who becomes attached to him.

It goes on and on with a comical nightmarish tone. Lots of gizmos and retro-gadgetry, for example trained fleas that deliver mind-manipulation serum while controlled by hurdy-gurdy music. The final big action sequence includes a virtual reality struggle inside the dream machine; this is truly bizarre.

We have something like a love story between Miette and "One". He eventually says he thinks of her as a little sister, which seems to satisfy her. Joking with him when he ties a string to her, she says "We must see that we don't become too attached". It reminds me of Leon: The Professional (1994), by another French director, when a wiser-than-her-years child bonds with a hulking, simple-minded (or just immature?) adult.

The French are sophisticated, sometimes uncomfortably so.

As always the director likes yellow-green color grading, extra green this time with a bit of blue-green for variety.

Angelo Badalamenti score. They played his music for Blue Velvet (1986) to set the mood while filming.

Available on Blu-ray with French audio, English dub track and commentary with the director and Ron Perlman. They admit the film is strange and hard to understand. Jeunet: "Particularly at the beginning". Perlman: "I never understood any part of it, then or now".

Jeunet says that because of this he got to do Alien: Resurrection (1997), not a well-loved film by fans of the series. The IMDB shows 19 names in common between the two movies, including Perlman, director Jeunet and his favorite actor, Dominique Pinon.