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Vintage Film Review: The City of Lost Children

city of lost children

The City of Lost Children is a French steam-punk fairy tale from the creative minds behind Amelie and Delicatessen. Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet it stars Ron Perlman, Judith Vittet and Dominique Pinon. The City of Lost Children is an unusual and imaginative Science-Fiction film that will appeal to fans of fairy tales and the surreal.


Krank and his unusual family were the product of a series of experiments by a long absent scientist, each of whom have a particular defect. Krank’s design flaw is that despite his great intellect he cannot dream. This has caused him to age far too quickly. He kidnaps children in order to extract their dreams for himself in an effort to become young again. So far it has not gone to plan.

One is a childlike circus strongman played by Ron Perlman. When One’s little brother is stolen he must team up with clever street urchin Miette in order to find him.  The pair must face many dangers in order to find the way to Krank and subvert his evil schemes.


The film is reminiscent in some ways of Metropolis, an early silent film by Fritz Lang which is said to be one of the first Science Fiction films. It did a great deal with drawn backdrops and creative sets. The film uses interesting and bizarre architecture as back drops to the action including most prominently, a disused oil rig  used as a base of operations for Krank’s schemes. Like many steam-punk works, the film cannot be said to be set in any one time, inhabiting a fantastical world with elements of many different eras. It is a unique flight of the imagination with a distinctly European feel.


Similar to Amelie, much is made of the use of colour with a strong emphasis on the contrast between green and red. This gives the film an eerie and magical look which matches the soundtrack perfectly.  Much like the world, the costumes are quite stylised and were actually provided by Jean-Paul Gaultier.


This is a world filled with interesting and unusual characters, though the acting can tend a little toward the theatrical.  However, much like the films of Tim Burton, this can be seen as being part of the tone of the piece. Much commendation must go to Judith Vittet who played a resourceful young Miette. Also to Dominique Pinon who plays seven different characters that frequently appear in scenes together, seamlessly.  Ron Perlman is also quite endearing as the innocent One.

Like many film journeys, there is not so much a plot as there is a sequence of events that leads the main characters to their final destination. This does not appear contrived though, more like a meditation on little actions causing greater ones and changing destinies. This also appears to be due to the style of the director.

In short, it is a delightful and bizarre journey filled with unusual situations, places and people.It takes elements of science fiction, steam-punk, fairy tale and the surreal to create a captivating and unique world.


Content Note: Though this film is rated R there is very little that might deserve such a rating.  There is some violence, though nothing too out of place in an adventure film.  There are two uses of mild profanity and a very short scene where several women run from a fire alarm, one of which is topless.  Another character smokes a hookah pipe at one point.

Photo Credits: Studio Canal/ Optimum World


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By on August 12th, 2015

About Elinor Cackett

Elinor is a writer and semi-recent graduate of English and Creative Writing at Aberystwyth University. She has been writing ever since she could hold a pen but her love affair with fiction started when the entirety of David Eddings’ 'The Belgariad' was read to her at age four. She currently has a couple of books and half a dozen short stories on the go. She spends her free time writing, analysing media and knitting very colourful scarves.

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