In a hospital on the outskirts of 1920s Los Angeles, an injured stuntman begins to tell a fellow patient, a little girl with a broken arm, a fantastic story of five mythical heroes. Thanks to his fractured state of mind and her vivid imagination, the line between fiction and reality blurs as the tale advances.
With a plan to exact revenge on a mythical shark that killed his partner, oceanographer Steve Zissou rallies a crew that includes his estranged wife, a journalist, and a man who may or may not be his son.
In a futuristic city sharply divided between the working class and the city planners, the son of the city's mastermind falls in love with a working class prophet who predicts the coming of a savior to mediate their differences.
Krank (Daniel Emilfork), who cannot dream, kidnaps young children to steal their dreams. One (Ron Perlman), a former whale hunter who is as strong as a horse, sets forth to search for Denree, his little brother who was kidnapped by Krank's men. Helped by young Miette (Judith Vittet), he soon arrives in La Cite des Enfants Perdus (The City of Lost Children). Written by
Opening film at the 1995 Cannes Film Festival. See more »
The words from The Original that Miette remembers in flashback (after she receives Uncle Irvin's dream message) differ slightly from what The Original actually said, although the point of the message is still the same. See more »
I've got a migraine!
Irvin, you know all about feelings. Won't you try to help me? Won't you explain why all those children only have nightmares?
Because you are their nightmare. You could persecute all the children in the world, but there's one thing you'll never have.
Because you believe you have one? You don't even have a body. The one who created us made us all monsters.
No Krank, you're wrong. You are the only monster here.
Be Quiet! He is the only one ...
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"City of Lost Children" is a beautifully-realized if derivative dark fantasy in which a mad scientist named Krank, aided by a half-dozen clones, a midget woman, and a brain in a tank, abducts children to his offshore lab so he can steal their dreams. Seems he's unable to have any of his own. A sideshow strongman, played by a radiantly fit Ron Perlman, goes in search of his little brother, who has been taken by Krank's goons. Perlman, in another of his growing gallery of bizarre roles, is a perfect example of why I like character actors better than big-name stars. And how many languages does he speak, anyway? French here, Spanish (and English, of course) in "Cronos"; polyglot in "The Name of the Rose"; what next?
The strongman, named One, enlists the aid of Miette, a homeless, streetwise girl who, along with her fellow urchins, is part of a ring of thieves employed by a pair of sinister female Siamese twins named the Octopus. (Watch carefully how these evil twins smoke a cigarette. There are more weird characters per square inch in this flick than anywhere else outside a Heironymus Bosch painting.) Miette is played by Judith Villet, whose gonna-be-a-great-beauty looks, her air of intelligence and experience beyond her years, make her a sort of Gallic Natalie Portman.
Anyway, that's the plot: rescue little brother from the mad doctor. The images are the thing: with its rendering of a bleak, low-tech retro-future, "City" looks more like a Terry Gilliam movie than "Twelve Monkeys" does! And it slyly slips in ideas and images from other sources, to good effect: Krank himself is as much of the mad-doctor stereotype as is the character in "The Nightmare Before Christmas"; his outlandish electro-headgear is similar to that used in Disney's "Merlin Jones"; a nightmare on the loose swoops low along the ground through streets and alleys as a trail of green mist, improving on a similar image from "Bram Stoker's Dracula"; there's a confrontation in dreamland a la the "Elm Street" series; and while the idea of a brain in a tank isn't a new one, this is the first benign one I've ever seen. Familiar or not--and I'm thinking also of "The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T"--"City of Lost Children" is still engaging, enjoyably weird, fantastic and funny, helped greatly by the fact that One and Miette are so endearing. The pace is a tad slower than it might have been. But this is, after all, a French movie.
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