Watch This section features movie suggestions based on new releases, premieres, current events, and, sometimes, our irrational whims. This week’s schedule: With Hugh Jackman’s Reminiscence set to hit cinemas and online, we’re reflecting on past sci-fi noirs.
The City Of Lost Children (1995):
Because Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s greatest high-profile hit has been 2001’s Amélie, many people still see the French director as a purveyor of warm whimsy and whimsical romance. But the picture is essentially an outlier in his career, having received a slew of Oscar nominations and a mind-boggling $174 million profit despite eschewing many of his hallmark, alienating features. The customary filthy textures, deep dark-fantasy landscapes, and jerry-rigged contraptions from Terry Gilliam’s worst nightmares all took a break in Amélie, but Jeunet’s cunning authorial touch showed through in the unusual suicide jumper plummeting from the sky. Though his involvement with the rom-com made his work more accessible, he nevertheless filtered its marks through a morbidly antic sensibility that was unmistakably his own. The City Of Lost Children, set in a foetid soundstage muck-land populated by steampunk cyclopes and fumbling clones, takes place closer to Jeunet and co-director Marc Caro’s native environment while adopting the same fun, unique approach to a new genre. A fantastical story about a mad doctor (Daniel Emilfork) snatching street urchins to steal their dreams since he can’t produce any of his own, utilizing a horrific extraction apparatus reminiscent of the film’s clanging analogue equipment, is the default setting. (After all, what better way to recover a key from the other side of a door than with a rat attached to a magnet?) Within that framework, however, there is an opportunity for adventure, slapstick humour, and a mystery that wisely borrows from noir history, with motifs and themes reinterpreted via Jeunet’s bug-eyed viewpoint. There are no mournful sax solos or voiceover narration; simply the bone-deep world-weariness of a wayward spirit navigating a senseless, perplexing underworld.
In place of a sleuth, we have the carrot-topped carnival strongman One (a laconic Ron Perlman), who becomes entangled in all of this when his adoptive younger brother (Joseph Lucien) is kidnapped for the heinous experiment. One and his moppet sidekick (Judith Vittet) pursue the child through a Hammettesque tangle of heel turns and Dadaist reversals of fortune involving an amnesiac diver, a major scalp tattoo, hyperintelligent fleas, and a sentient brain in a jar dubbed Uncle Irvin. The Kind One isn’t all that hard-boiled, but he plays the role of the principled patsy drawn into a conflict bigger than he realises, landing himself between the conjoined-twinned bosses of a junior crime syndicate (the women are collectively referred to as “The Octopus”) and the lunatic thinning their roster admirably.
Some scenes, such as the one when the action is paused to allow one to become soused at a seedy pub, wear this spirit of tribute on their sleeve. More frequently and discreetly, Jeunet expresses his view of noir through melancholy emotional currents, in keeping with the genre’s initial sorrow for squandered life. His films are filled with lost and lonely characters who are surrounded by death and are prepared to go to ridiculous lengths to alleviate their fear by connecting with someone else. For all the care devoted to the beautiful surfaces—Jeunet and Caro’s technical prowess, Darius Khondji’s evocative photography, Jean-Paul Gaultier’s shabby-chic costuming, Angelo Badalamenti’s groaning string arrangements—the strength behind this artistic miracle stems from its sad edge, which is belied by the inventive mischief. Clattering trinkets clog the screen, but it’s how they can be misused for avaricious, sadistic ends that distinguishes this as a Jeunet film—a genre unto itself. The City Of Lost Children is currently available on Amazon Prime. It can also be rented or purchased digitally. Go ahead and view the movie. We are sure you’ll love it.
Source: AV CLUB