Review: The Last Circus DVD

STUDIO: Magnolia | DIRECTOR: Álex de la Iglesia | CAST: Carlos Areces, Antonio de la Torre, Carolina Bang, Manuel Tallafe, Alejandro Tejería
RELEASE DATE: 10/18/2011 | PRICE: DVD $26.98, Blu-ray $29.98
BONUSES: featurettes, behind-the-scenes footage
SPECS: R | 101 min. | Foreign language comedy-drama | 2.35:1  widescreen | Dolby Digital 5.1/DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 | Spanish with English subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

The Last Circus movie scene

Carlos Areces takes the concept of clowning around to shocking extremes in The Last Circus.

The Last Circus, the latest film from Spain’s in-your-face fantasist Álex De la Iglesia (Day of the Beast, Dance With the Devil) has cult movie written all over it.

Despite references that range from The Hunchback of Notre Dame to David Lynch to Fellini and beyond, The Last Circus remains stunningly original and thoroughly compelling throughout, and it will likely find an enthusiastic audience among the director’s small but devoted following. It may even spark some interest in those looking for something wild who aren’t familiar with De la Iglesia, who has been making movies for some 20 years now.

The story begins in 1937 during the Spanish Civil War and centers on a circus clown who is taken prisoner by soldiers and forced into years of labor. His son Javier (Carlos Arecas) grows up to follow in his father’s footsteps, taking a job towards the end of Franco’s regime as a “sad clown” with a travelling carnival. There he falls in love with Natalia (Caroline Bang), the circus aerialist, even though she is married to the abusive Sergio (Antonio de la Torre, Volver), who performs as the “happy clown.” The rivalry between the two harlequins over the beautiful Natalia becomes nastier and nastier, leading to some disturbing violence.

The Last Circus is beautifully filmed and wonderfully realized, with writer-director De la Iglesia juggling genres, characters and inside references brilliantly. This is not your basic “Wacky Clown Movie,” as the director finds time to salute his influences, offer a bizarre-o love triangle, present grotesquely memorable characters (as well as the gorgeous Ms. Bang), deliver some scary violence and add some political commentary to boot. Yes, Generalissimo Franco even makes a cameo performance.

Why this film flew beneath the radar is anyone’s guess (though it did receive exposure on video-on-demand and a very limited theatrical release), but Magnolia’s gorgeous-looking rendering makes up for it.

Among the bonus features on the DVD are an impressionistic visual effects montage and a solid, 15-minute featurette. The making-of piece finds the filmmaker talking about how he constructed his movie like a jigsaw puzzle, arranging and re-arranging various images that he had pondered for a long time but hadn’t imagined being in one film until he put them all together.

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About Irv

Irv Slifkin has been reviewing movies since before he got kicked off of his high school radio station for panning The Towering Inferno in 1974. He has written the books VideoHound’s Groovy Movies: Far-Out Films of the Psychedelic Era and Filmadelphia: A Celebration of a City’s Movies, and has contributed film reportage and reviews to such outlets as Entertainment Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter, Video Business magazine and National Public Radio.