Buff Review Show: Cesser De Voler Mes Rêves, Vous Naine
Or “Stop stealing my dreams, you dwarf”.
Anyway, preamble first. Unfortunately Bridesmaids was sold by the time I got to the front of the queue, so my sister and I froze our proverbials off in a showing of Transformers 3. A showing which might as well have taken place in Iceland, because it was a tad chilly to say the least. So I have to wait a little while to get to Bridesmaids, but Transformers review will be up for the weekend.
Here is a belated review request for a friend, who suggested I give this a watch and possibly review it!
La cité des enfants perdus (City of Lost Children)
Well where on Earth do I begin with this one? Our film begins with an unfortunate man named Krank, who cannot dream, and thus in his wisdom kidnaps orphans from “The City” to steal their dreams. He lives out in the middle of a mine-riddled, puce-green sea in what can only be described as an oilrig inspired by . With him is his high-pitched dwarf-wife, Mademoiselle Bismuth, his six cloned sons, who seemingly shared one brain at creation, and a talking brain in a tank whom is probably voiced the French Alan Rickman, whom also suffers from chronic headaches. Are you with me so far?
Good. Ron Perlman plays a simple, yet incredibly strong, former whale hunter turned circus performer named One. Krank’s men have taken his younger brother, Denree, who will be put into the dream-deprived scientist’s dream-machines. One must journey, with his sidekick, a young girl by the name of Miette, to the City of Lost Children- Krank’s domain. This is another one of Perlman’s stranger roles, and is a good twist on his old favourite of playing “the big guy”. I mean he is 6’4” and built like an orangutan dressed as a tank, but it is nice for him to vary it up a bit. He also speaks French throughout (what with this being a French film) although he more grunts it than speaks it, which is part of his character more than Perlman’s inability to speak the language. In fact he does incredibly well, as I know he has spoken Spanish in another foreign film whose name has escaped me.
I am a fan of foreign films, so I knew what to expect going into this (somewhat). The settings and characters throughout are wonderfully surrealistic and generally bizarre. Along the way One and Miette come across some evil Siamese Twins (known as The Octopus), some assassin fleas led by an organ grinder, Krank’s army of “Cyclops” (more men who can only see with their strange steam punk monocle device) and a squad of wailing, suave French kids.
As with any film, in particular foreign film, the necessity to concentrate throughout (mostly on the subtitles) is ever present. This isn’t as dialogue-heavy as a lot of foreign films can be; Perlman’s dialogue is stunted and simplistic throughout as is befitting his character. He reminds me a lot of the character Lenny from ‘Of Mice and Men’, but perhaps a handful of brain cells smarter. In fact One is a real ‘Frankenstein’s Creature’. If you crossed Lenny with Terminator with Rupert the Bear I think you’d be in the right ballpark. It’s almost a shame you have to spend the entire film watching the bottom two inches of the screen, because there is a lot to be missed from the characters and the settings. This is a film that requires a second or third viewing. Failing that, viewers should be fluent in French.
The stories of our heroes, One and Miette, as well as the story and goings-on with Krank and co. on the oilrig, blend nicely as we progress through the odd fantasy-meets-steam-punk world created by famous French directing team Jean Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro. The camera angles create a different look, compared to a lot of the films out in that era, but the editing is so smooth you barely notice the crossing of stories. I found much of it captivating, and at any opportunity I could get I would try and focus less on the text and more on the scenes set before me. To the film’s benefit, it uses very little CGI, especially during a period when the technology was in it’s very early days, and was being misused left, right and centre by many a film crew.
The true message behind City of Lost Children is this desire for a family. Krank has his scientifically formulated, mismatched family of clones and experiments, but it is not quite right. Then there is the touching story of One searching for his little brother, and the journey he and Miette embark upon. When the film focuses on this theme is when I find it at it’s most poignant. The fantasy thrills and quirky visuals are great, but there is never a case with this film of the style smothering the substance. It is also quite relieving that the film doesn’t turn into a fantasy version of Oliver, although the orphans are much reminiscent of Fagin’s and of kids from the classic book and musical. Every time you feel that there is something familiar about the film, we are treated to another zany location, or some curious piece of dialogue. Again, the balance struck here between the artistic and the necessary is in perfect equilibrium.
This is not a film everybody is likely to love. I had never heard of it until very recently, and am looking into finding a copy of Jean Pierre Jeunet’s debut film ‘Delicatessen’ to watch. It was his debut piece, and has received mixed reaction over the years, with some claiming it is one of the strongest directorial debuts on it’s kind. Now that sounds like something I need to see! But please enjoy ‘City of Lost Children’, as it is another one of those rare gems that crops up every so often. Just not very frequently in 1995!