La Cité des Enfants Perdus (City of Lost Children), directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, was one of the most exquisite movies I saw in the ‘90’s. I was so excited about that movie I went to it countless times because I dragged everybody I knew to go see it.
I didn’t even realize it was steampunk. I didn’t even know what steampunk fantasy was. All I knew was that this movie was a fairy tale, and very much an adult story.
Without giving too many spoilers, the villain is kidnapping children to steal their dreams because he’s aging quickly. He steals the petit frère (little brother) of the strongman named One, who is determined to get his petit frère back.
The strongman teams up with a thieving orphan named Miette in his quest to save this child that can’t stop eating. Of course, the hero who saves petit frère from doom is Miette.
Other features in the film are the brutal and malevolent army of Cyclops, who kidnapped petit frère and the clones of a mad genius who all argue over which one is l’Originale!
It was set in an alternate world of the past and the future, with intricate movie sets, Victorian technological elements, simple yet effective costumes, and moody atmosphere.
This film is dark and creepy and mysterious and stunning. If you’ve never seen it, rent it and project it on a wall. It should be seen on a big screen.
My partner took me to it recently because Portland loves to feature movies from former times. It struck me how dated this film was. At the time it came out, the direction and cinematography was revolutionary. I had never seen anything like it.
As a parent, my partner had a hard time with the movie, but she admitted that she would have loved it before giving birth. As a mother, it freaked her out.
But what had gotten me so excited in the 90’s was that this amazing film was a fairy tale. And that gave me permission to write them.
In the 90’s, I was more of a wannabe than a writer. I talked about this dream of being a writer all the time, as I floundered from job to job. The only problem was that I didn’t know what to write about.
Like most recent college graduates who had taken creative writing courses, I was filled with this yearning desire to write “The Great American Novel” or “The Poignant and Heartbreaking Coming of Age Story.”
I had no idea what Great American Novel I had in me, and Coming of Age was a concept I didn’t fully understand. Do we come of age when we first start having sex?
In my search for what to write so I could be a writer, I had taken the Writer’s Program at UW, Seattle with Margaret Grossman, Jack Remick, and Robert Ray as my teachers.
I learned a lot, and Margaret was one of the most inspiring writing teachers I’ve ever had. I took her in the first capsule.
But the program ended on a very sour note for me on the last day. Jack and Robert gave me an outline they made up for my first novel that bore no resemblance to what I had written. I had made an attempt at a mystery. They were right that I had no business trying to write mysteries. But I didn’t see how handing me my first plot would help me grow as a writer and figure out what I will write.
So between the lofty ideals of the Great American Novel, the Coming of Age Story, and the formula outline of a novel my teachers made up for me, my spirit was broken and I wasn’t even inspired enough to suffer the writer’s block of no inspiration.
And then that amazing remarkable movie came out. I absolutely loved it, and the right direction to my path gained some clarity.
When I finally found my voice as a writer, “Ella Bandita and the Lone Wolf” came out effortlessly. It was an adult story and very much a fairy tale.