Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Movie and DVD Reviews: The best and not-so-best movies available on DVD, and whatever else catches my eye.

Mimsy Review: City of Lost Children

Reviewed by Jerry Stratton, October 22, 1999

I never liked that blue cage.

Special features

Cast Information3
Commentary Track6

This French movie is filmed like a portrait in four dimensions. The disk includes both the anamorphic widescreen and the pan and scan version, as well as a commentary by the director and Ron Perlman. A beautiful movie, well worth seeing.

RecommendationPossible Purchase
DirectorsJean-Pierre Jeunet, Marc Caro
WritersGilles Adrien, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Marc Caro, Guillame Laurant
Movie Rating7
Transfer Quality8
Overall Rating7
  • Enhanced Widescreen
  • Pan and Scan

One thing I noticed about the soundtrack is that it is very sparse, and effective because of this. There is much more “quiet background” on this movie than there is in most movies. White space is, I think, as important in sound as it is visually. Interestingly with regards to the soundtrack, the song over the credits (“Who will take your dreams away”) is by Marianne Faithfull, and is in English. It was a bit disconcerting after an entire movie in French to hear English being sung.

And speaking of the French in this movie, the dialogue is very simple, as befits a fairy tale. If you know French, but not very well, you’ll find yourself picking up a lot more of the dialogue in “Lost Children” that you would in other movies. Of course, there is also the subtitles and there is a dubbed track in English (and Spanish).

Overall, this is a fairly simple fairy tale. Ron Perlman’s character’s ward, Denree, is kidnapped, so he teams up with a street urchin to get Denree back. But the background is very complex. (Perlman claims still not to understand it.) There is an evil genius kidnapping children to steal their dreams. But he can’t get them to dream: for him, they only have nightmares. An almost elf-like collection of clones (all played by Dominique Pinon) wait on the evil genius. The story plays on this resemblance with one very effective Santa Claus (Pere Noel) scene where the evil genius tries to convince the children that he is St. Nick. Meanwhile, the mad scientist who created all of those characters hides out in a submarine beneath the waters of Paris.

The imagery and visuals on this movie are striking. The world is both bright and dark at the same time, and not clashingly so. It is a mixture of child-like innocence and the drudgery of adulthood. “One”, Perlman’s strongman character, is stuck between those two worlds.

There was a deleted scene mentioned that I would have liked to see, but they couldn’t find it. It involved a child.

I panicked a bit when I got this disk in the mail. The packaging doesn’t mention the director’s commentary! This is a very good movie, but not a great, great movie, and I probably would have returned it without this. But rest easy, the director’s commentary is on the disk. I think it might have been better had they let Jeunet speak in French, and then provided a translated track or subtitles. It isn’t that his English was bad, it was quite good (Ron Perlman said Jeunet’s English was better than his, and he didn’t have an excuse because he’s American), but he didn’t think so, and was a little embarassed by it. He also had an assistant there to help him with translating words here and there. (Sometimes I think non-English speakers say that their English is poor just to make English speakers feel inferior!)

I was surprised to hear the word “Aliens” pop up often during the commentary. Jeunet also directed “Alien: Resurrection”, joined by Darius Khondji on cinematography and actors Ron Perlman and Dominique Pinon. That was a surprise and makes me almost want to see the movie now.

I strongly recommend that you see “La cité des enfants perdus” if you haven’t seen it yet. You’ll probably want to buy it, but you will at least want to rent it. This is a very good, very fun, emotional movie.

Recommendation: Possible Purchase

DirectorsJean-Pierre Jeunet, Marc Caro
WritersGilles Adrien, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Marc Caro, Guillame Laurant
ActorRon Perlman
Spoken languagesEnglish, French, Spanish
SubtitlesEnglish, French, Spanish
Special FeaturesCast Information, Commentary Track, Sketches, Trailer
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