Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Last Circus -- AKA Balada Triste de Trompeta (2010)

Fear 2/5
Gore 3/5
Entertainment 5/5
Creepiness 4/5

Well the year is winding down kiddos and I'm crossing the last remaining films off of my 'must-see' list. Cross another one off with the well received horror/dark comedy feature The Last Circus. Extremely bizarre but ultimately heartbreaking, it tells the story of a do-gooder, life-as-a-performing-clown guy, who wants nothing more than to carry on the family legacy and entertain little children.

Our film begins with a bit of history, featuring the sideshow antics of two clowns as they're entertaining kids literally in the middle of war as the Franco regime is in full swing in Spain during the 1930's. Their show is interrupted as a man is recruited by the rebel army himself, clown costume, face paint and all, given a gun and asked to storm a stronghold along with a group of other soldiers. With no choice but to comply and unleash his own clownish hell, he becomes a legend, defying the work of Franco's army but ultimately coming under capture.

His son, through it all, is unwavering in his devotion to his father. But the imprisoned father instructs him to strike out and make a life of his own, carrying out the tradition of the family as a performing clown. But there's only one problem: he's not very funny and due to the ordeals he's faced thus far in life, he is not properly equipped to play the role of the funny clown. Rather, he must play the role of its opposite, the sad clown which is meant to always be a sidekick but never the star of the show.

Fast forward a few years, and now we see the young man (named Javier) as he's taken the job of the sad clown with a local traveling circus. He comes under the instruction of a man that plays the role of the happy clown, with a lot of relish and bravado along with a mean hand. He's very particular about his act and he expects all to follow his way or to hit the highway. Javier, being the subservient type that he is, obliges and pledges his allegiance to him and the group at large.

Things for Javier soon come into question as he falls for the funny clown's girlfriend, a beautiful woman who's an artist of the high flying type. The funny clown is revealed to be a ruthless bastard in real life as well, a hardcore drunkard who flies off the handle at a moment's notice and has no qualms when it comes to putting his woman in check and throwing her across a room. Despite the fact that she knows it's a bad fit, she's addicted to the sex and spontaneity of her abusive boyfriend but has a soft spot for Javier, his kindness and the feeling of security that comes with being around him.

So by this time you're probably thinking to yourself 'What the hell does this have to do with horror?' Well Javier snaps one day, takes a musical instrument to the abusive happy clown's face and beats him so badly, that a miracle at the hands of the circus' animal doctor saves him and puts his face back together. Javier goes into hiding for awhile but eventually comes into contact with the same men who kept his father captive and a bit of vengeance is extracted. In the end, he eventually comes back into contact with the performer he'd fallen for. But a tragic ending occurs when he duels the disfigured boyfriend who refuses to relinquish his stranglehold on the woman.

Quirky, insane, funny, horrific, but ultimately entertaining, The Last Circus is a phenomenal piece of cinema. It has a lot of heart despite it's Greek-like tragedy quality and a not so happy ending.

You can currently check out the film via Netflix's streaming feature.

Cortez the Killer


Sir Phobos said...

Well, guess what I just added to my instant queue.

This sounds pretty fucking awesome.

The Film Connoisseur said...

I've been meaning to see this one, Alex de la Iglesia is a phenomenal director. The Day of the Beast is one of my favorite horror films from Spain. Looking forward to finally checking this out, it reminds me a bit of Alejandro Jodorowskys Santa Sangre, which is kind of like a horror movie...but then again not, and it also takes place with the circus as a backdrop, highly recommend that one by the way.

Emily said...

I liked it, but just couldn't fully embrace it. At some point after the initial crazified clown, I kind of lost my emotional attachment to it and somehow got a little bored, which is insane when this much is going on in a film. I LOVED the visuals and even more so, Iglesia's use of sound. I saw it in the theater and the final act of violence (SNAP) sent out a universe scream around me.

CS said...

The film is so twisted yet so entertaining. It is like Tim Burton and Quentin Tarantino had a baby and it was this film. Loved it.

Planet of Terror said...

@Sir Phobos, let me know what you think about it.

@TFC, this was the first film I've seen from him. Going to check out The Day of the Beast ASAP. I like de la Iglesia's style. And Santa Sangre is still a film on my 'have never seen but have always wanted to' list.

@Emily, I was hoping to get a comment from you. I know how much you just love clowns ;)

Really? You got bored?? I know it took awhile to get going but when it did, holy crazy!

@CS, that is the PERFECT description. I couldn't agree more.

The Man-Cave said...

Holy eff does this look awesome. Clowns with machine guns??!! How has this not been done before?

Emily said...

See PoT, I was the reverse. I loved the opening hour or so. It was, shockingly enough, the manic transformation that lost me.


Once he went into Travis Bickle mode, I was still on board but then he goes on a 'rampage' but never seems to actually do anything. So then he didn't *seem* that scary, for one thing. They get to the top of that monument and the scene just goes on and on and on. Maybe it just needed ten minutes shaved off somewhere along the line. I *liked* the film, but I feel like I should have loved it.

Planet of Terror said...

@The Man Cave, I know right? Next I want to see some mimes with machetes.

@Emily, I see your point. He didn't go all out cuckoo for cocoa puffs. But maybe that's the point. Despite turning savage in the woods and scarring his face, deep down inside, he knew he couldn't be a ruthless killing machine. Glad you still dug it though.

O. C. P. said...

I haven't seen this movie, but I would like to point out that the Franco's dictatorship only began in 1939, after a failed coup attempt in the summer of 1936 against the democracy that lead to a civil war, so the clowns are actually recruited by the loyalists to fight the rebels (fascists).