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Tag Archives: black comedy


In 1991, the creative team of Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro introduced movie-goers to their nightmarish view of a post-apocalyptic world where troglodytes inhabited the underground and a butcher relied on apartment tenants to keep his meat cabinet full. Delicatessen, a bizarre black comedy, became something of a cult hit — certainly not everyone’s fare, but those who got it, loved it. Now, four years later, Jeunet and Caro are back, and, with their latest film, The City of Lost Children, it’s apparent that they have neither moderated their approach nor mainstreamed their vision. The City of Lost Children is as visually striking and daringly offbeat as its predecessor.

In The City of Lost Children, Jeunet and Caro have presented another gloomy world where “normal” life is no more. The film is saturated with atmosphere and features some of the most imaginative set construction of the year. The picture works in part because the film makers have taken the time and effort to frame a strange land where all their quirky characters can live and operate. Jeunet and Caro’s movie is thematically and stylistically inspired by such diverse sources as Frankenstein, Dracula, Brazil, Time Bandits, and The Wizard of Oz. Like Delicatessen, The City of Lost Children is characterized by dark, twisted humor, yet this movie is more of a fantasy than a macabre comedy.

The City of Lost Children relates dreams to creativity, youth, and wonder. The capacity to escape the rational world through imagination fuels not only the desire to continue living, but the need to make something out of one’s life. In this film, we are introduced the brilliant-yet-warped mad scientist Krank (Daniel Emilfork), who is aging prematurely because he cannot dream. In an effort to stay alive, he has begun capturing children to steal their dreams. One of the toddlers abducted by Krank is little Denree (Joseph Lucien), the brother of a simpleminded circus strongman named One (Ron Perlman). One is joined in his search for his brother by Miette (Judith Vittet), the nine-year old, wise-beyond-her-years leader of an orphan gang. Together, One and Miette seek to penetrate Krank’s fortress; elude his six cloned henchmen (all played by Dominque Pinon), the deadly Miss Bismuth (Mireille Mosse), Irvin the talking brain (voice of Jean-Louis Trintignant), and the scientist himself; and rescue Denree. It proves to be a difficult task.

While much of The City of Lost Children is surreal and strange, the film’s emotional center — the relationship between One and Miette — is nurtured with care and genuine feeling. Miette sees in One and Denree the chance for the family she has never known, although there are times when her intentions towards the older, child-like man seem more romantic than sisterly. It’s to Jeunet and Caro’s credit that they are able to present the ambiguities of this relationship tenderly, without ever injecting a hint of the sordid or perverse.

Daniel Emilfork is wonderfully frightening as Krank. Bald-headed and evil-looking, he evokes memories of Max Schreck’s vampire in the classic silent film Nosferatu. Dominique Pinon, who had the lead in Delicatessen, uses his unusual face and goofy mannerisms to good comic effect in turning the clones into the Six Stooges. Judith Vittet shows great promise from one so young in her appealing portrayal of Miette, and Ron Perlman is effective as the strong, silent One.

Like Delicatessen, The City of Lost Children won’t be to everyone’s taste. In fact, even though I thoroughly enjoyed Jeunet and Caro’s previous film, it took a while for me to warm up to this effort. The first forty-five minutes are poorly-paced and it’s easy to get lost down one of the script’s many dark, maze-like alleyways. The film tends to lurch along in fits and starts until Miette becomes established as a central character. From that point on, improvement is immediate and consistent. For those who enjoy the offbeat, The City of Lost Children is worth taking the time and effort to find.


A Film Review by James Berardinelli



Four Lions is a 2010 British black comedy film. It is the debut feature from director Chris Morris, written by Morris,Sam Bain and Jesse Armstrong.  The film is a Jihad satire following a group of  Jihadi homegrown Islamist terrorists from  Sheffield, England.


The film follows a group of young Muslim men living in Sheffield who have become radicalised and aspire to become suicide bombers. Two members of the group, Omar (played by Riz Ahmed) and dim-witted Waj (Kayvan Novak), go to a terrorist training camp in Pakistan.  The other two are Barry (Nigel Lindsay), who is a White convert to Islam, and Faisal (Adeel Akhtar), who tries to train crows to be used as bombers.  A fifth member, Hassan (Arsher Ali), is recruited by Barry while Omar and Waj are in Pakistan.  Although Omar’s visit to the training camp ends badly, he uses the experience to assert authority on his return to Britain.

The cell begins acquiring materials for making improvised explosives, but have a great deal of disagreement about what to target. In their debate, Barry wants to bomb a local mosque as a false flag  operation in order to “radicalise the moderates,” but Omar considers this idiotic.

After Hassan compromises their secrecy by allowing a neighbour into their safe house, the team must transport their volatile explosives to a new location. Faisal accidentally blows himself up after tripping over a sheep,   resulting in a row among the remaining four, who temporarily separate. They reconcile, however, and Omar decides to target the London Marathon.

Wearing various costumes to conceal their explosives — Omar as the Honey Monster; Waj as a man riding an ostrich; Barry as a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle; and Hassan as an inverted clown — they prepare to blow themselves up. Waj begins to express doubts about the rectitude of the plot, but Omar convinces him to go ahead. Hassan loses his nerve and tries to give himself up to the police, but Barry detonates his bomb using a mobile phone, killing him and alerting the authorities to the remaining three. The three split up and after a fiery confrontation with Barry, Omar realises he has led his unwitting friend, Waj, into something he does not want to do, and sets off to make him change his mind. Omar eventually contacts Waj via his mobile phone, but is attacked by Barry, who swallows his SIM card. However, Barry begins to choke on it, causing a passer-by to carry out the Heimlich maneuver and detonate his bomb. Meanwhile, Waj is cornered by police and takes a kebab shop hostage. Omar manages to borrow a phone and attempts to talk Waj down. However, his call is interrupted by a police raid in which they shoot a hostage after mistaking him for the bomber. With Omar’s call lost, Waj detonates his bomb as Omar rushes into the street. Distraught, Omar walks into a nearby branch ofBoots (a target that Faisal had suggested before) and detonates his own bomb.


Morris spent three years researching the project, speaking to terrorism expertspolice, the secret service, and imams, as well as ordinary Muslims, and writing the script in 2007.   In a separate interview, he asserts that the research predated the 7 July 2005 London Bombings:

“It was an attempt to figure it out, to ask, ‘What’s going on with this?’ This [the “War on Terror“] is something that’s commanding so much of our lives, shaping so much of our culture, turning this massive political wheel. I was wondering what this new game was all about. But then 7/7 hit that with a fairly large impact, in that we were suddenly seeing all these guys with a Hovis accent. Suddenly you’re not dealing with an amorphous Arab world so much as with British people who have been here quite a long time and who make curry and are a part of the landscape. So you’ve got a double excavation going on.”

The project was originally rejected by both the BBC and Channel 4 as being too controversial. Morris suggested in a mass email, titled “Funding Mentalism”, that fans could contribute between £25 and £100 each to the production costs of the film and would appear as extras in return.[7] Funding was secured in October 2008 from Film 4 Productions and Warp Films, with Mark Herbert producing. Filming began in Sheffield in May 2009.

Morris has described the film as a “farce“, which exposes the “Dad’s Army side to terrorism”.  During the making of the film, the director sent the script to former  Guantánamo Bay detainee Moazzam Begg. Begg has said that he found nothing in the script that would be offensive to British Muslims. The actor Riz Ahmed also contacted Begg, to ask whether the subject matter was “too raw”. When the film was completed, Begg was given a special screening and said that he enjoyed it.


The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2010 and was short-listed for the festival’s World Cinema Narrative prize. Introducing the film’s premiere Chris Morris said: “I feel in a weird way that this is a good-hearted film. It’s not a hate film, so I would hope that aspect would come through.”

The UK premiere took place at the Bradford International Film Festival on 25 March 2010 followed by a nationwide release on 7 May.

Despite its acclaim at the Sundance Film Festival, Four Lions failed to find a distributor in the US for nine months until finally newly formed Drafthouse Films picked it up.The film had a limited release in the US on 5 November 2010.[17]

Home media

Four Lions was released in the UK on DVD and Blu-Ray on 30 August 2010, and was released in the US 8 March 2011.


Critical response

Four Lions received mostly positive reviews. Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a “Certified Fresh” score of 81% based on 110 reviews with an average rating of 7.2 out of 10. The site’s general consensus is that its “premise suggests brazenly tasteless humor, but Four Lions is actually a smart, pitch-black comedy that carries the unmistakable ring of truth.”

The Daily Telegraph wrote Chris Morris evocations of the claustrophobic mundanity of the Muslims’ lives, their quarrelous banter, their flimsily pick ‘n’ mix approach to the Koran all feel painfully, brilliantly real.” The Daily Express rated Four Lions 4/5 and praised the performances in particular, calling the film “brilliantly cast with all the actors displaying sharp comic timing and both [Riz] Ahmed and [Kayvan] Novak also bringing out the touching humanity of their characters.”

Upon its screening at Sundance, The Los Angeles Times and The Hollywood Reporter gave the film extremely positive reviews, the latter describing the film as “a brilliant takedown of the imbecility of fanaticism” drawing comparisons with This Is Spinal Tap and  The Three Stooges.

Amongst the reviewers that gave the film negative and mixed reviews were Nigel Andrews of The Financial Times, who called the film a “spectacular miss”. The Guardian‘s Jeremy Kay, who wrote “as a satire on terror, Four Lions seems to be a missed opportunity”.  Andrew Pulver, writing for The Guardian, gave the film a more favourable review, stating that “Chris Morris is still the most incendiary figure working in the British entertainment industry.”

The UK premiere at the National Media Museum in Bradford was followed by a question and answer session with Chris Morris, Jesse ArmstrongSam Bain, three of the principal actors and two of the producers. Morris stated that he does not find the film at all controversial and that attempting to cause controversy is “one of the most boring things you can do”.

Box office

Despite an initial release on just 115 screens across the UK, the film saw impressive numbers at the box office on its opening weekend, generating the highest site average of all the new releases (£5,292) and making a total of £609,000. According to the Official Top 10 UK Film Chart (7–9 May 2010), Four Lions was placed at sixth behind  Iron Man 2,  Furry Vengeance,  A Nightmare on Elm Street,  Hot Tub Time Machine and  The Back-Up Plan. Due to its popularity, Optimum Releasing increased the number of screens showing the film to 200.

As of 8 August 2010, Four Lions grossed £2,932,366 at the UK box office.

As of 10 February 2011, Four Lions grossed $300,226 at the US box office, and $4,228,904 elsewhere, for a worldwide total of $4,529,130.


Time Magazine rated the film as among Top 10 movies of the year 2010.[31]

The lead actors, Kayvan Novak and Nigel Lindsay, were both nominated for ‘Best Comedy Performance in Film’ for the British Comedy Awards 2010. Kayvan Novak went on to win the award, thanking all his “brothers” — referring to his fellow actors in Four Lions.

At the BAFTAs 2011, Chris Morris won the award for ‘Outstanding Debut By A British Writer, Director Or Producer’. He beat competition from The ArborExit Through The Gift ShopMonsters and Skeletons.