An interesting essay in the current New Left Review repackages an old left complaint about filmic fantasy, its inherent "conservatism" as it "reduces" the audience to a childlike status. While this complaint has merit regarding many Hollywoodized fantasies (the entire oeuvre of Messrs. Lucas and Spielberg, as well as most horror films), a consideration of the best works of the above-named filmmakers says it isn't so. Childhood has many social disadvantages, like powerlessness, but its strengths include a freer access to liberating imagination than most adults possess. The City of Lost Children, in which an evil old man kidnaps youngsters to steal their dreamlife through technology, is a blunt statement of this point. The tots' liberators here are kids themselves: a lonely orphan girl and a childlike strongman. The film even ends in incendiary revolution; Tupac Amaru should do so well.
In retrospect it's quite fascinating just how many outstanding films of the fantastic deal with children's fantasy lives as their means of resisting adult tyranny: The Wizard of Oz is one well-known instance. The City of Lost Children is truly a modern classic that will repay many viewings. The only disturbing "flea with the ointment" in this picture is the news that Jeunet, sans Caro, has heeded the siren song of Hollywood and is set to direct Alien 4. Let's see him make something incendiary out of that!
-- Gregg Rickman
The City of Lost Children screens Friday through Monday, Jan. 10-13, at 7:15 and 9:30 p.m. (with additional shows Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 11-12, at 2 and 4:15 p.m.) at the Red Vic, Haight & Clayton. Tickets are $6; call 668-3994. It also plays Fridays at midnight at the UC Theater, Shattuck & University in Berkeley. Tickets are $6.50; call (510) 843-6267.