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The City of Lost Children is a dazzling fantasy adventure from Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro, creators of Delicatessen. They bring their surreal vision to the story of Krank, a tormented scientist who sets about kidnapping local children in order to steal their dreams and so reverse his accelerated ageing process. When Krank’s henchmen kidnap his brother, local fisherman and former circus strongman One (Hellboy’s Ron Perlman) sets out on a journey to Krank’s nightmarish laboratory, accompanied by a little orphan girl called Miette.

With stunning visuals from Darius Khondji (Se7en), costumes from Jean-Paul Gaultier and a haunting score by David Lynch collaborator Angelo Badalamenti, The City of Lost Children cemented Jeunet and Caro’s reputation as film-makers with a unique vision.
(Taken from the official synopsis.)

Video


Argh! What happened? I was looking forward to watching The City of Lost Children in high-definition, but my initial excitement quickly turned to disappointment when the opening credits appeared. Perhaps I should have tempered my expectations given the film’s chequered UK release history. I mean, the original Entertainment in Video DVD release was so bad I took it back to the shop for a refund the same day and imported the US release. While not quite as calamitous as said EiV disc, Studiocanal’s Blu-ray edition is most definitely a missed opportunity. From what little I’ve been able to learn from online sources Junet had a hand in creating the underlying master, or at the very least approved the HD transfer. If this really is the case he has intentionally (and drastically) altered the look of the film, at least in comparison to the US DVD release.

The biggest problem with the image is plainly evident from the screen captures below. Some fairly extreme black crush is in evidence throughout, completely obscuring many of the wonderful design elements. The video also looks to have been subjected to noise reduction in a misguided attempt to remove grain and subsequently sharpened to make it look less ‘fuzzy’. In reality it has the effect of making it look like a very old master from the format’s early days. Granted, detail is better than the DVD release, but there’s not as much of an improvement as there should be. Compression is adequate but far from remarkable, with noise and banding visible in various scenes. Changes to the colour palette are also quite obvious, with the previous earthen tones making way to more stylised green hues, although said colour changes actually work fairly well.

The same Internet searches that yielded minimal information about Junet’s involvement also revealed that this HD master is currently the basis for all Blu-ray releases of the film. As such, while it’s a disappointment it’s also the only option at this moment in time. It definitely offers advantages over the DVD versions in some respects, and I must conceded that it looks better in motion than in static shots, but it still falls some way short of what is expected for a new Blu-ray release in 2016.

Audio


From what I understand, the other available Blu-ray releases from Sony (US) and Warner (Japan) feature French DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 and 5.1 tracks respectively. The UK also receives the 5.1 treatment, along with a Master Audio 2.0 track in English.

The French 5.1 track is a solid effort, with strong dialogue rendition and some effective use of the surrounds for atmospheric elements. It’s not a particularly dynamic track, but to be fair that’s in keeping with the on-screen action. Although you’ll hear rain, the sound of the ocean, general crowd chatter and more throughout, the surrounds are more often than not employed to breathe life into Angelo Badalamenti’s haunting, melancholic score. There are a couple of livelier moments, particularly during the film’s climactic scenes when the sub is put to use reinforcing an explosion, but this isn’t a track you’ll be using to demo your set-up. With that said everything is free from distortion and fidelity is generally very good, so I have no real complaints to speak of.

Extras


The disc includes a reasonable amount of bonus material, although none of it has been created especially for this Blu-ray release (it’s mostly archival interview stuff in standard-definition). Even so, there are some interesting features on offer, with the commentary being the pick of the bunch.

  • Audio commentary by Jean-Pierre Jeunet
  • Making of featurette
  • Interview with Jean-Pierre Jeunet
  • Interview with Jean-Paul Gaultier
  • Original trailer and teaser trailers
  • DVD copy

Overall


Although not my favourite Junet feature, The City of Lost Children is an entertaining picture featuring some tremendous performances (Judith Vittit chief among them), fantastic set design and wonderfully elaborate costuming courtesy of Jean-Paul Gaultier. It’s slightly odd, arty style might not appeal to everyone, but I found it visually reminiscent of something like Park Chan-wook’s I’m a Cyborg and Alex Proyas’s Dark City, the latter of which also took inspiration from the work of Terry Gilliam. Of course it also shares many traits with Junet’s other works, so if you’re a fan of those and have yet to see The City of Lost Children you should have some idea of what to expect.

As for the disc itself, if I’d seen it a few years ago I’d probably have been more forgiving, but when you have low-budget 70s exploitation films being released with superior visuals to a film such as this it really puts things into perspective. It’s not a total train wreck of a transfer, but it does make me lament for what could have been. Thankfully the audio elements are fine and the bonus material, while not terribly plentiful, is mostly enjoyable. On balance I think this package is still a worthy purchase for fans, but videophiles might be left feeling short changed.

* Note: The images below are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.

 City of Lost Children, The
 City of Lost Children, The
 City of Lost Children, The
 City of Lost Children, The
 City of Lost Children, The
 City of Lost Children, The
 City of Lost Children, The
 City of Lost Children, The


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