Prepare yourself for my single most cliched description ever: CITY OF LOST CHILDREN is a stunning visual masterpiece. There. I said it. This film is absolutely amazing. The set design paints an incredible fairy tale world set in a dreary industrial wasteland. While many of the elements reflect our reality, they are twisted Expressionist interpretations of a world wrought in iron and steel recalling METROPOLIS or THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI. A circus strongman sets out on a quest to save his little brother, who has been kidnapped by a mad genius that intends to steal the young boy's dreams. Like Peter Jackson, Alex Proyas, or Guillermo del Toro who were to follow, Jeunet and Caro beautifully marry the incredible sets and miniature work with groundbreaking computer imagery in such a way as to make them indistinguishable from one another. The strange and colorful characters feel like they escaped through Caroll's looking glass, creating a virtual Wonderland in a bleak futuristic society. Ron Perlman's efforts as the dull but courageous strongman may easily be his best performance, and he is joined by an equally talented cast including the gifted Judith Vittet, who plays his young sidekick Milette. To truly enjoy this film, one must fully succumb to the fantasy, since the narrative can sometimes become disjointed, and often follows a dream logic where different scenes and ideas bleed into one another without complete cohesion. I would go so far as to say that CITY OF LOST CHILDREN outdoes the masterful compositions in both DARK CITY and PAN'S LABYRINTH through its astonishing visual stylization. For an adventure into a fully realized realm of fantasy that crossbreeds German Expressionism with the darkest of the Grimm's fairy tales, CITY OF LOST CHILDREN becomes an absolute must see!
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