The picture begins with an awful, brightly coloured, sentimental animated film about a cheerful little elf skipping around in the forest. Suddenly, this movie is stopped in its tracks by Snicket himself in an Italo Calvino sort of way. If you want to see that movie, go to the next cinema in the multiplex or, if you are on a plane, switch to another channel. What he has in store for us is a tale of real-life misery, shot in desaturated colours in a world where sorrow and terror lurk. This is funny, arresting, postmodern stuff and we feel we’re in good hands.