a film by Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet.

Daniel Emilfork, Mireille Mosse, Dominique Pinon, Joseph Lucien and Ron Perlman. Directed by Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Produced by Claudie Ossard. Written by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Marc Caro

In its most elementary form, you’ve seen this story before, in a hundred different guises, but I guarantee you haven’t seen it told quite like this. The French directorial duo Jenuet and Caro have created a truly resonant fairytale filled with bizarre imagery. It’s about what you’d expect if Hans Christian Anderson dropped acid, or if Terry Gilliam took to filming the Brothers Grimm.

In a nameless port city, a gentle giant (Ron Perlmann) loses his "little brother"--a child he found in a garbage can-- to the Cylcops. These twisted mutants, fitted with Borg-ish ocular implants, constitute a bizarre cult of the "Third Eye" and kidnap children from the streets. They sell these children to a soulless madman (played flawlessly by Daniel Emilfork, a human lizard if I ever saw one) who’s using some ungodly gizmo to capture their dreams and convince himself that he’s more than just a lump of flesh. Conducting his wicked experiments on an abandoned oil rig instead of a musty castle, he is aided by a dozen-or-so inept clones and taunted by a disembodied brain. Turns out all hese tortured creatures were cooked up in a beaker by a demented scientist who now scours the ocean floor for garbage--this is where the film assumes its subtle but impressive allegorical overtones.

With the help of a thieving little band of street urchins in thrall to a pair of pyschopathic Siamese Sisters, the gentle giant (a sort of idiot savant) has to figure all this out and make his way to the City of Lost Children to find his stolen little brother before the evil madman sucks his brains out. Along the way he’s confronted by Cyclops, assassins, a runaway cargo ship, minefields, the Siamese Sisters, and--get this--a trained flea fitted with cyber-prostheses and operated by an opium-smoking organ grinder. The ultimate drug-delivery system.

If you’re getting the idea this is one weird movie, you’re right. What’s more, it’s all filmed in a dark, visually challenging style, reminiscent of Terry Gilliam and Tim Burton, chock-full of eye candy, images of the horrific and fanstastic.

The movie’s in French with subtitles, but you’ll get so engrossed so fast it won’t matter. I gave up trying to find it at the video stores, and finally scored this gem through the Science Fiction Book Club. Give it a look.

Brazil meets Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang.

Sullydog approves.

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