The artist and comic book designer, Marc Caro switched to filmmaking in the early 1980s and formed a writing and directing partnership with Jean-Pierre Jeunet which has produced two visually striking, complex and somewhat impenetrable features: "Delicatessen" (1991), a fantasy about cannibalism, and "La cite des enfants perdu/The City of Lost Children" (1995), a phantasmagoric fairy tale. Both were greatly enhanced by the visual and sound effects, production and costume designs and score. Caro and Jeunet divide the directing responsibilities with the former handling the artistic matters and the latter guiding the actors.
Jeunet and Caro initially formed their partnership after meeting at an animation film festival. Working together, they created a number of short films, music videos and TV commercials in which they developed their particularly surreal style. Their short, "Le Bunker de la derniere rafale/The Last Blast Bunker" (1980), traced the growing mental deterioration of soldiers trapped together underground with ultimately destructive results and marked the heralds of their future work: a devilish sense of humor and detailed production values. Together and separately, Jeunet and Caro went on to helm numerous shorts and music videos. In 1987, Caro oversaw "La Concierge est dans l'escalier" which served as the blueprint for "Delicatessen". Among his other notable efforts were "Les Tsars/The Czars" (1987), "Chroniques de la revolution" (1988) and the animated "K.O. Kid" (1995).
The debut feature of Jeunet & Caro, "Delicatessen", was hailed for its originality and the humorous way it tackled a taboo subject (cannibalism), but it suffered from a lack of a strong storyline. Nevertheless, the film's post-apocalyptic, monochromatic design, stark cinematography and inventive camerawork dazzled audiences and critics, who overlooked the weakness of its plot.
"La Cite des enfants perdu/The City of Lost Children" was an even wilder hybrid of comic strips, fantasy films and fairy tales, making references to Dickens and Mary Shelley and invoking features like Terry Gilliam's "Time Bandits" (1981) and "Brazil" (1985) and "The Wizard of Oz" (1939). Like "Delicatessen", the story was fairly simple, an evil scientist is kidnapping children so as to steal their dreams. But in the work of Jeunet and Caro, story is secondary to the film's look. The settings reflected an amalgam of 18th Century and futuristic designs, filled with odd bits of flotsam and jetsam. There is an underlying theme of being trapped--by circumstances, by others, by one's own desires and by society. Caro held responsibility for the artistic look of the motion picture. At the time of filming, "The City of Lost Children" had the distinction of including the greatest number of digital special effects, of the greatest length, ever created by a French production crew.
Known for their meticulous working habits and for not allowing the press to observe their production process lest their concentration be disturbed and their storylines become known to the public before release, Caro and Jeunet are heralded as filmmakers with a startling view of the future and a keen handle on the art of filmmaking.