Trevor Johnston discovers that
French filmmakers Jeunet and Caro are weirder, wackier and more inventive in City OfLost Children, their follow-up to Delicatessen .
ank you! Zank you!‘ bleats mad Frenchman Jean-Pierre Jeunet, as he presses his nose to the carpet of his suite at London's Savoy. At this present moment in time. he's kowtowing. in true ll”ayne's World ‘we‘re-not-wortheee!' fashion to your own intrepid reporter. while celluloid compatriot Marc (‘arojoins in with a plaintive cry of. ‘Can we offer you zome monnaie!‘ Ah. that the life of the interviewer should be so easy all the time. All I did was tell them just how wonderful their new movie City Of Lost Children was. and alter the bashing this frolicsorne big-budget fantasy extravaganza received from the French critics when it premiered in Cannes. the wild 'n‘ crazy pair seem awfully chuffed that someone has taken this grandiose. magical. scary and utterly charming follow-up to l)e/ieate.vsen directly to their heart. .
Actually. if the previous half-hour or so is anything to go by. Jeunet and Caro are pretty sensible most of the time. talking about their work in a straightforward and decidedly unassuming way that might surprise those who revelled in the bed-springing. cello-playing. meat—cleaving manicness that was l)e/i(‘utessen. These same fans should prepare
themselves to be just as dazzled by The City Of
Lost ('hildren. an imaginative world on a much larger scale that draws on the realm of fairy tale and children‘s literature to weave its tale of evil
inventors. trained fleas and stolen dreams. If
they shared authorial billing on their first much-loved feature outing. this time round it’s Jeunet (the Antoine de Cannes would-be smoothie of the two) who's had most to do with guiding the actors through the stresses of l()() per cent storyboarded moviemaking. and Marc Caro (the Jean—Paul Gaultier eccentric cutie in the partnership) who masterminded the
‘We wanted it to be like a big toyhox. It
was like you’d open it up, spill all these
things out on the tloor,and just see this
thing and this thing and that thing that you really wanted to play with.’
‘Direetion Artistique‘. tnaking the storyboards a visual reality. Asked the old chestnut ‘what would you take to a desert island." their complementary interests in people and technology soon became apparent.
Jean-Pierre Jeunet: ‘Ornelia Muti. Claudia Schiffer and Pamela Anderson. In that order.‘
Marc Caro: ‘A solar panel. my computer. some software. Oh. and if I‘m allowed more than three things. I‘d like a printer as well.‘
Although Jeunet mentions several times during our conversation his longstanding desire to make a porno movie on ice with the aforementioned Mrs Lee (nee Anderson). on City ()fLost Children he had to content himself with the equally imposing Ron Perlman. the great big gingerous lug of an actor you might have seen recently in the Mexican vampire chronicle Cronos (which was where they
CITY OF LOST CHILDREN FEATURE
spotted him i. llere. replete with hooped sweater. he plays a carnival strong man. One. who teams tip with a gang of street urchins and a brilliant.
if lazy. flea—trainer to thyy art the machinations of
a liagin—like pair of female Siamese twins and cross the sea to the distant oil—rig where era/ed scientist .\lichael limilfork is conducting bizarre experiments on one of their very young chums. hoping to transplant the infant‘s dreams into his own head and regain his youth and innocence.
first drafted some fourteen years ago when there was no way they were ever going to get the tnoney to make it. the ‘lll million franc budget (a French catne on the lh'lit'iitess'e/i‘s box office bonanza. and while
there are some familiar faces from the previous movie rubber-faced Dominic l’inon plays six (count 'em l cloned brothers who often share the screen at the same time it builds on their trademark .\larcel—(‘arne-on—acid settings to create even bigger collection of \‘y'eirdsy'ille bits and pieces. ‘\\'e wanted it to be like a big toybox.‘ reflects Monsieur ('aro. sunglasses propped on top of his bristly number one cut. ‘lt was like you‘d open it up. spill all these things out on the floor. and just see this thing and this thing and that thing that you really wanted to play with.‘
‘(‘hildren have a much more open spirit to jump into this universe.‘ adds his filmmaking other half. ‘:\nd l think adults wished they‘d stayed children to be able to do that so easily themselves. 'l‘hat’s what the movie's about. If you stop dreaming. you're old. you‘re dead.~
Few of us though. will ever get the chance to pttt our dreams on film on such a grand scale as here. where six months of filming entirely on studio soundstages followed two years of
City Of Lost Children: ‘grandlose, magical, scary, and utterly channlng’
writing and preparation. with another exhausting seven months of digital post- production still to come. The result has all the technical aplornb of a Bat/nun or a Judge [)redd but with an added extra in its playful sense of individualism and enticing eccentricity. ‘When you're so tightly storyboarded. you have to get your shots every day. otherwise you’re done for.‘ explains (‘aro. ‘I can't say it was a pleasure for either of tts to go through that pressure everyday. but you do get a certain satisfaction from knowing that you‘ve been there and done it. It‘s like rowing across the ocean — damn tough. but somehow it fulfils a need in you.‘
And the biggest nightmare“?
"l‘he three year-old kid.‘ says Jeunet. in a flash. ‘He just knew the power he had over tts. You can‘t direct a little kid like that. you have to play games and steal his expressions. Then you
find he just decides. “No. je suis Zorro aujourd‘hui”. and he won't do a thing you ask him.‘
('in ()f Lust ('hildren opens (II the Cameo, lfdi/I/iiiije/I. on Friday / and (ilusgmr' Film Theatre ()11 l’riduy 8.
The List 25 Aug-7 Sept 199515