The Last Circus (Balada triste de trompeta) Directed by: Alex de la Iglesia Cast: Carlos Areces, Antonio de la Torre, Carolina Bang Running Time: 1 hr 45 mins Rating: R Release Date: September 9, 2011
PLOT: Javier (Areces) follows his dream of becoming a clown like his father was before being pressed into fighting in the Spanish Civil War. He falls in love with a beautiful acrobat named Natalia (Bang). But her boyfriend is his boss, Sergio (de la Torre), a popular clown with rage issues.
WHO'S IT FOR? Do you like unusual films? Something along the lines of The City of Lost Children or Oldboy? See this.
EXPECTATIONS: I reviewed this trailer for the site a few months ago. It was pretty much what I expected, minus the zombies.
ACTORS: Carlos Areces as Javier: The adult Javier enters the film, looking like a lovable loser. He's a bit overweight, staring dreamily at Natalia, a girl he can never have. Right off, I thought I knew where the film was going. When Javier goes from avoiding violence to encouraging it, things take a bizarre turn. It's a credit to Areces that you follow his character's weird plot changes. The back story helps, too. By the time I got to the insane finale, I wasn't sure what I thought of Javier, but I believed him. Score: 8
Antonio de la Torre as Sergio: Sergio's the very successful "happy" clown in the circus. His popularity gives him the right to run the show more or less. So it's not great that he's a violent drunk who no one will stand up to. He beats his girlfriend, but she's so turned on by his bad boy behavior that she stays with him. De la Torre plays a guy who's hard to have much sympathy for, but he does it without making him a monster or going over the top. This is impressive because of the crazy stuff that happens to his character in the latter half of the movie. Score: 7
Carolina Bang as Natalia: I expected Natalia to be a typical dream girl, pretty and sweet but unobtainable. She's a lot more savvy than that. I liked that her character was knowingly making bad choices. In one of the opening scenes, she's beaten, left bleeding and unconscious in a restaurant while everyone else at the table pretends nothing just happens. It's an insane situation, and her compliance makes it even crazier. That she ends up seeming the sanest one in this love triangle should tell you something about the movie. Bang adds depth to a character who's hard to quantify. Score: 8
TALKING: Even in translation, the overriding crazy in this film shines through. Characters are admirably direct in their assessment of their situation and others. It's hard to judge the dialogue of a film in translation. But since I got what was going on and thoroughly enjoyed myself, I'll say it worked well. Score: 7
SIGHTS: At times beautiful, ridiculous and really colorful, the film is a feast for the eyes. It's a cliché, but works in this situation. Really, any film that centers on a circus probably would be, there's so much to see. But de la Iglesia clearly knows how to give a film its own visual language. If nothing else, the way the finale is shot would give the movie major points. Score: 9
SOUNDS: There aren't many musical montages, more like lots of machine gun fire. So not much to report. Score: 6
BEST SCENE: The end. I said to myself, I'm watching two homicidal clowns fighting on top of a giant cross, I may never see anything that tops this.
ENDING: Two disfigured, homicidal clowns fighting on top of a giant cross. Makes me wonder if the whole film wasn't built around trying to reach this moment. It's as amazing as it sounds.
QUESTIONS: How do you come up with the idea for a movie like this? Could clowns be more scary?
REWATCHABILITY: I would absolutely see this film again.
When this film opened at the Hollywood Theatre in Portland, I knew I had to see it. The trailer looked incredible. I've been fooled by a good-looking trailer before, but I still had hope. This time, my faith was rewarded. The Last Circus is balls to the wall the whole film. It goes from the battlefields of the Spanish Civil War to a circus in the '70s in moments. Comedy and drama are mixed, events just whiz by. This doesn't mean I can't grasp them, just that I'm actively engaged and wondering what next. Early on, it becomes clear that this isn't a film for anyone who fears clowns. An opening scene has a clown with a machete cutting enemy soldiers down in a way that would haunt my dreams if it didn't get weirder from here. Javier goes from being the kind of underdog you expect to root for, to certifiably insane, and then continues to move on from there. I'm not saying it's perfect, but if you admire novelty, I'd give this a try. This is the circus movie I've been waiting for since seeing Freaks.
FINAL SCORE: 8/10