Weekend Review: The City of Lost Children

J’ai fait un rêve étrange
(I had a weird dream)

Wild jackals couldn’t drag us to see Gods of Egypt, so we’re reaching back to 1995, and one of the great fantasy / SF nightmares in cinematic history, The City of Lost Children. Disturbing, hilarious, and crazily inventive, the film landed at 138 in your ranking of the Greatest SF Films.

Title: La cité des enfants perdus

Directed by Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Written by Gilles Adrien and Jean-Pierre Jeunet

Ron Perlman as One
Judith Vittet as Miette
Daniel Emilfork as Krank
Geneviève Brunet and Odile Mallet as the Octopus (la Pieuvre)
Dominique Pinon as the clones
Jean-Claude Dreyfus as Marcello
Rufus as Peeler
Joseph Lucien as Denree
Mireille Mossé as Martha
Serge Merlin as The Chief of the Cyclops
Jean-Louis Trintignant as the voice of Uncle Irvin
Ticky Holgado as Ex-acrobat
Marc Caro as Brother Ange-Joseph
Mapi Galán as Lune
Briac Barthélémy as Bottle
Pierre-Quentin Faesch as Pipo
Alexis Pivot as Tadpole
Léo Rubion as Jeannot
Lorella Cravotta as Woman
Ham-Chau Luong as Tattooed Man

Available from Amazon, Blu-Ray and DVD.


A sideshow strongman and a world-weary street urchin join forces to find the strongman’s adopted brother, one of several children kidnapped by a body-modifying cult to serve a mad scientist’s dream.

High Point:

The film has a human story at its heart, but most people recall its bewildering set pieces: the inventive method used to obtain a key, for example, and the Butterfly Effect created by a single tear.

Low Points

I really like this film, but I acknowledge that its deliberate weirdness often obscures the story, and some viewers will find the first half more frustrating than engaging.

The Scores:

Originality: 4/6 The influence of Terry Gilliam, steampunk, classic fairy tale/quest literature, and the Gothic tradition seems clear enough, but this film twists its component parts in brilliantly inventive ways.

Effects: 6/6 The film features a then-groundbreaking mix of practical effects and CGI, and they still look good.

Acting: 6/6 Ron Perlman spoke almost no French when hired to play the part, and nevertheless makes it a convincing One. Eleven-year-old Judith Vittet gives such an incredible performance I was surprised to learn she had so few subsequent acting credits. Reportedly, however, she chose other pursuits to acting. Her character recalls, just a little, Zazie, the protagonist of Louis Malle’s Zazi dans le Métro, the terribly odd comedy that became a cultural phenomenon in early-1960s France.

Production: 6/6

Story: 5/6 The plot, like the world in which it has been set, is stylized. Even given this fact, the number of odd happenstances that allow events to proceed becomes a little tiring. Overall however, The City of Lost Children holds together remarkably well.

Emotional Response: 5/6 Imagine that Terry Gilliam directed a late Tom Baker-era Doctor Who, penned by French surrealists and made, inexplicably, with a budget. You watch it while coming off a really strong post-op opoid. When you return to your senses you realize the story actually does work.

That’s kind of like the effect of this film.

Overall: 5/6

In total, La cité des enfants perdus receives 37/42

One reply

Comments are closed.