Projections - Movie Reviews
With Jim Sabatini


The Last Circus

The Last Circus
Starring:
Antonio de la Torre, Carlos Areces and Carolina Bang


Rated: R 
Reviewed by: Jim  
Release date: August 19, 2011 Released by: Magnolia

There's a certain demented dynamism going for this mad art house dash of Spanish history with allegorical and metaphorical implications.
 
The Last Circus, set in 1937 then mostly in 1973 (in Spanish with English subtitles), stars Antonio de la Torre, Carlos Areces and Carolina Bang in what ambitious cobbles together tragic and comic elements with a high body count causing some needless viewer bewilderment.
 
Much of its style (not to be mistaken for stylishness) is the way intense helmer Alex de la Iglesia honors the Baroque period with a lavish lunacy from the power of love. The initial backdrop is Gen. Franco's era and aftermath as ultra-violent mayhem first ensues with a machete. Something that Danny Trejo would certainly smile at; de la Iglesia then consistently establishes a lurid, mordant expressionism with sardonically ominous surrealistic elements splashed in.
 
Perhaps The Last Circus gets a bit overheated in its perverse, political recipe in a lavish, loopy display under The Big Top (in sharp contrast to the more conventional Water For Elephants). Part of which is a nice homage to the series Kojak that starred lollipop-sucking private detective memorably played by Telly Savalas.
 
Here, the primary tension gains momentum from disparately and disfigured circus clowns. The "happy" one is misogynistic, slim, sociopathic Sergio (de la Torre) and the "sad" one is passive-aggressive, portly, reticent Javier (Areces). They end up being rivals for the affections of  the supple, alluring trapeze artist Natalia (Bang). For those into masochistic tendencies, this kind of keenly mounting of florid cinema is staked for those into the filmmaking mindset.
 
Evolving (or devolving) with symphonic vengeance, there appears to be a point to all the violent (and occasionally erotic) activity with a vertiginous climax at the aforementioned dictator's tomb. All the meretricious blazing does take its toll on any semblance of canny plotting as Spain feels the brunt of amorality and escalating terror that at least has a maverick fast-paced Gothic vibrancy to it. And, what can lasso those undaunted about getting more bang than expected for their bucks.

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