Sunday, August 12, 2012

life is a mad circus

Review of (or, rather, a first attempt at figuring out):

Balada triste de trompeta (The last circus), Spain 2010, Alex de la Iglesia

based on DVD imported from France, as film was not released in UK.

I love Alex de la Iglesia’s knack for absurdity, and I don’t normally mind his over-the-top violence too much, as it is clearly described as absurd, so it’s just actors messing about with ketchup, as far as I’m concerned. So I do make an effort to get to see his films, even if it's sometimes tricky around here.

I suppose this one is about trauma handed down from the generation of the Spanish civil war to the next one, along with cultural traditions and the jobs of circus performers. Very normal in one way, but also completely pointless once you start to question it. As in the previous films I saw, there were lots of absurd details I liked in this film too, but I was somehow missing a positive element to balance it out. As the only female protagonist is variously beaten by one clown and kidnapped by another (just like in real life, come to think of it), I was missing a positive character, like the prostitute in 800 balas. The only relief we're getting here is the realisation that our real lives aren't quite as mad as the mad circus shown here.

Still no reason to censor it, as de la Iglesia clearly has meaningful things to say, even if he expresses them in unusual ways. For instance, the satirical depiction of Franco and his people will have been more meaningful for the domestic (and older) audience than for a foreign observer of post-Franco Spain like me. I'm looking forward to seeing what he will (one day) make of the absurdities of the current economic disaster that has befallen Spain.

I was intrigued to see the film uses a Spanish version of Je l’aime à mourir, by Francis Cabrel – wondering whether that’s what inspired Shakira to use it in the concert for the Live from Paris DVD. The film was released in Spain on December 17th, 2010, and the song showed up in the Paris concerts of June 13th and 14th 2011. You do the maths.

cover of the French DVD, which I ordered from It doesn't have English subtitles though. There is a US edition available as region 1 DVD, under the title "The Last Circus"

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