La cité des enfants perdus (1995, in French with English subtitles) is a haunting, touching, bizarre dreamscape of a movie. The story is weird and convoluted with side plots and characters spiralling in and out. As in, there's: a midget, a talking brain floating in a fish tank, scary conjoined twins called (collectively) "the Octopus," assassin fleas and a child-stealing religious cult of one-eyed cyborgs ... all adding up to one nightmarish fairy tale.
At the core, an extremely creepy mad scientist, himself a scientific creation cloned in a lab by a mysterious figure, has been kidnapping children in order to suck the dreams out of their heads. He himself was created unable to dream and the flaw has aged and maddened him. Unfortunately, all the stolen children's dreams do him no good - they are nightmares because he's so dang creepy. He needs a child who is not afraid of him and finally finds one boy: the adopted little brother of a simple circus strongman ("One," played by a Cro-Magnonesque Ron Perlman). One is of course bound and determined to find his "petit frere" (note: I believe that part of the reasoning behind making One sort of a simpleton was to keep Perlman's French to a minimum). In the course of his search, he befriends little Miette (the lovely Judith Vittet, who doesn't seem to have done much acting after this film), an orphan thief wise beyond her years.
This movie is what Terry Gilliam might have made if he was French. Since I've loved 90% of the Gilliam movies I've seen (Brazil and Time Bandits are way, way up there in my list of all-time favorites, but The Brothers Grimm left me cold), I was unsurprised to find that I loved The City of Lost Children too.
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