The City of Lost Children is another glorious slice of weirdness from the marvellous duo of Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Western audiences might also know Jenuet as the director of Alien Resurrection, though the bulk of his work remains in his homeland.
I first encountered his talents in the sublimely bonkers Delicatessen – a post-apocalyptic cannibal comedy about the landlord of an apartment block who occasionally serves his tenants up in little paper bags when they either can’t pay the rent or just prove to be too annoying for him to want to deal with.
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But we’re not here to talk about that. We’re here to discuss the film that came out four years later and rather than cannibals we have a tale of mad scientists, circus strongmen, clones, and brains in jars. La Cité des Enfants Perdus, to give it its original French title, is the story of a scientist called Krank, who has been kidnapping children in order to steal their dreams in the hope that they will help him cure his premature ageing. He’s assisted in this by a number of clones (all played by Dominique Pinon – Amelie, Delicatessen), a dwarf called Martha, a brain in a jar called Irvin, and a weird group of cyclopean cyborgs that have this real hellish, apocalypse-cult thing going on.
Following the kidnap of his “little brother” by the cyborgs, the strongman known only as “One” (Ron Perlman – Hellboy, Blade II) sets out to track down the cyborgs and rescue his little brother. Along the way he’ll encounter a group of child orphan thieves controlled by a pair of evil conjoined twins, a circus performer with trained assassin fleas, and an amnesiac diver who lives beneath the harbour.
This new Studiocanal Blu-ray release looks simply gorgeous, and this new restoration a thing of beauty for the eyes, with deep blacks and vivid colours, every detail of the set and costume design laid out for viewers to enjoy. It sounds great as well, with both French and English soundtracks available for those who don’t want to deal with subtitles, though the original French version is definitely the superior offering here. Angelo Badalamenti of Twin Peaks fame is responsible for a musical score that is whimsical, playful and menacing, veering from simple accordion melodies to shrill, piercing strings.
There’s a decent selection of special features on offer, with one strange and irritating omission. For those who own the DVD or previous Blu-ray release, the only new feature on offer is an interview with the directors, Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro. Other than that, all the other features are as previously released: a commentary track from Jeunet, a making-of featurette, a behind-the-scenes featurette, and an interview with Jean-Paul Gautier who provided the costume design for the film.
However – and this is where we get into that omission mentioned earlier – there are a few things that aren’t here that are available on the older versions of the film, and on the recently released Sony Classics UHD release. Namely the second commentary track with Ron Perlman and Jean-Pierre Jeunet, and the theatrical trailers/teasers. The US version has these, why don’t we? Why does the UK, once again, get an inferior release? Now, it could be argued that we should be grateful that we’re getting a stand-alone release of this film at all, as in the US it’s only available as part of the 11 film Sony Pictures Classics box set, which retails for nearly $180.
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But to have a release that is both inferior to the American version and misses out on features available on previous releases? It’s insulting, and simply unacceptable in this day and age. There seems to be little reason why this version lacks previously available content, and the Sony version proves there’s no technical reason why it can’t be on the disc. All in all a great release of a wonderful cult movie, but one that carries with it a hint of disappointment that it could have been better.
The City of Lost Children is out now on 4K UHD, Blu-ray, DVD and Digital from Studiocanal.