The Last Circus (Balada triste de trompeta) (2010)
Who’s in the mood for something weird?
Unhinged Spanish filmmaker Alex de la Iglesia (Perdita Durango) returns to form with The Last Circus, a breathtakingly bizarre look at a Big Top love triangle set in Franco’s Spain.
Describing the story in much detail would risk giving away too many of the astonishing images. A boy loses his performer father to conscription in Spain’s civil war, and decades later, with Franco’s reign’s end in sight, he follows in pop’s clown-sized footsteps and joins the circus. There he falls for another clown’s woman, and stuff gets nutty.
Iglesia’s direction slides from sublime, black and white surrealist history to something else entirely. Acts 2 and 3 evolve into something gloriously grotesque – a sideshow that mixes political metaphor with carnival nightmare.
Like Tarantino, Igelsia pulls together ideas and images from across cinema and blends them into something uniquely his own, crafting a film that’s somewhat familiar, but never, ever predictable.
The Last Circus boasts more than brilliantly wrong-minded direction and stunningly macabre imagery – though of these things it certainly boasts. Within that bloody and perverse chaos are some of the more touching performances to be found onscreen.
Carlos Areces and Antonio de la Torre soar as the clowns at odds over the love of an acrobat (Carolina Bang, in another of the film’s wonderfully fresh performances). Areces’s tortured Sad Clown versus Torre’s sadistic Happy Clown – it’s a battle to the death in one of the more entertainingly garish political allegories in Spanish cinema.