Friday, December 16, 2011

One A Week Reviews #50: The Last Circus

A true original, and the most fractured of fairy tales, reviewed for DVD Snapshot.

The Last Circus

Official Synopsis:

Javier, a Sad Clown, finds work in a circus where he befriends an outlandish cast of characters, including the brutish Happy Clown, Sergio, who humiliates Javier daily in the name of entertainment. It is here that he meets Natalia, a gorgeous acrobat and abused wife of Sergio. Javier falls deeply in love with Natalia and tries to rescue her from her cruel and violent husband, unleashing Sergio's jealousy. With neither man willing to back down, this twisted love triangle evolves into a ferocious battle between Sad Clown and Happy Clown, escalating to unbelievable heights in this shocking, irreverent and unforgettable film.

Our Take:

There's little more satisfying for moviegoers than a strong, meaty story told in a dazzling manner. Alex de la Iglesia's The Last Circus (Balada Triste de Trompeta) is some fantastically theatrical eye-candy that offers style and substance. Visually there's1973 fashions complemented with cutting-edge CGI and a modern horror aesthetic. It's coupled with politically-influenced social commentary you can imagine being current in the Seventies. Even those who can't stand subtitles should like this film.
(Seriously, keep reading...)

The Last Circus kicks off with a circus troupe hijacked into the army during the Spanish Civil War. The viewer needs to decide if they're in for the long haul once they see the Happy Clown lead the charge into a bloodbath with a machete and a rubber nose. Attention then turns to his son, Javier, who is directed to become a Sad Clown because of the pain in his life. Only through revenge can he become free to be a Happy Clown. 25 years later, Javier is joining a gypsy circus (one that sometimes threatens to echo the one in Freaks) making it's way through a ravaged area of Madrid. Aerialist Natalia can't help but be drawn to the gentle Javier over her brutal circus managing husband, Sergio the Happy Clown. She does, however, learn by the end of the film she has terrible taste in both men and wigs.

It's appropriate this there are moments of pitch-black comedy and exaggerated violence here as that's the historical tradition of the clown. When love-sparked violence drives both Javier and Sergio over the deep end, The Last Circus becomes a horrific fairy tale ending in a face-off between two Jokers with Natalia (desperately in need of a man-sabbatical) trapped in the middle.

There's not even a pretense of subtlety here. Hyper-real HD grittiness and CGI fantasy are both present from open to close. Everything is turned up to Eleven here, and even if you don't embrace it there's a smart integration of history and absurdity. With mad clowns, hapless stunt riders, musical numbers featuring Kojak, and pheasant hunting with Generalissimo Francisco Franco; in The Last Circus and you're bound to see something new.

Audio & Video:

The amazing visuals of The Last Circus are well served by a meticulously-produced Blu-ray that presents the films muted color palate and inky blacks handsomely without ever looking muddy. The presentation is 2.35:1 1080P HD Widescreen. Dts-HD 5.1 surround audio tracks are in English and Spanish, and both have a well-balanced mix, though the English dub's voices tend to be more muted than in the Spanish.

Special Features:
  • “Making of The Last Circus”: A fourteen minute making-of featurette
  • Behind the Scenes Segments: An additional seven minute making-of featurette
  • Visual Effects: A ten minute special effects featurette comparing the raw and processed footage of some of the over 600 special effects shots in the film
  • US and International trailers for this and other Magnolia Blu-Ray releases
  • 3 kinds of English Subtitles are available: a standard translation, SDH, and Narrative.


Style and substance, The Last Circus is a kind of mad, modern fairy tale that mixes crazed, broken-hearted revenge with stunner special effects. Dazzling and absolutely over the (big) top. Definitely worth a watch.

Overall Picture:
Movie: A-
Video: A
Audio: A-
Extra Features: B+

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