Crash Analysis: THE LAST CIRCUS (2010, Spain/France)

Laugh clown kill

A sad clown falls in love with a starlet – and challenges her misogynistic lover in post-war Spain.

The logline above is far too simplistic for this multi-genre and multi-thematic film. Written and directed by Álex de la Iglesia, best known in the US for his 2008 feature THE OXFORD MURDERS, brings us a monster mix of mayhem that spans from the Spanish Civil War to 1973. Sort of like Tim Burton on a lot more acid.

Soft-spoken Javier (Carlos Areces) survives the war to become a sad clown in a low budget circus. In the show, he plays second banana to Sergio (Antonio de la Torre), the happy clown who is ultra-hostile off stage and keeps the other performers walking on edge due to sudden tirades and extreme violence. His lover is the lithe Natalia (Carolina Bang) torn between Sergio’s rage and the safety of Javier. Okay, that sounds like straightforward romance plot number one – but it doesn’t come close. This tale engages war, politics, drama, comedy, horror and romance while exploring themes regarding obsession, response to trauma, politically induced Frankensteinian creations, and the failure of dreams within a fascist state. Fascism, whether it is Franco’s or Sergio’s, is the running thread that holds this wild fantasy together.

Kiko de la Rica is the photographic genius that created one amazingly vivid cinematographic ride that even in the daylight never seems pristine or dreamy enough. The world is always tainted – darkened – by something from the edges as well as within the hearts of the characters, and his skill brings this to light frame after frame.

The acting is absolutely brilliant and riveting, with Areces and de la Torre going toe to toe at every turn. I can only imagine how mind-numbingly drained the performances had left them. Then again, how could any actor in the film not embrace the quirky and enigmatic characters created by Iglesias? None of the characters were run of the mill or plucked off the shelf like so much Hollywood drek.

However, though this falls under the realm of horror, I sincerely doubt many fans of the genre would embrace the movie. This is not because horror aficionados are stupid and only adore slasher films, but this is one of those movies that could easily make someone question the very definition of the genre. And with a multi-faceted feature such as this, horror plays a role, like a character, and does not permeate the tale.

Regardless, there’s something for everyone in THE LAST CIRCUS, and if you like freaky films that defy description, you should enjoy this riveting feature.

3.5 out of 5 stars

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