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Laugh, Clown, Laugh

The Last Circus (2010)

Diego López Calvín/Tornasol Films

Staking an immediate claim as the most delirious cinematic fever of whichever year it may eventually see the light of day, "The Last Circus" is unhinged. Directed by Álex de la Iglesia in a style which knows no restraint, it sets off at a mad sprint through a borderline-tasteless allegory of the Spanish Civil War and then just barrels straight ahead. It lassos echoes of the country's subsequent history into an overheated and baroque revenge tragedy, in which a pair of disfigured amoral circus clowns blaze away at each other with automatic weapons until narrative logic is a distant memory. None of which should be taken as a complaint.

As the escalating mayhem unspools in front of your disbelieving eyes, there seems no option but to upgrade Mr. de la Iglesia from maverick stylist to the top flight of gifted film-directing nutters. There are wonderful, daunting sights in "The Last Circus," rich expressionist images of power, pity and terror. There's also a nightclub devoted to "Kojak," over which the image of Telly Savalas looms like a benevolent god.

Many of the loopiest moments involve slim, sociopathic, woman-hating clown Sergio (Antonio de la Torre) inflicting grievous bodily harm on rotund, reticent, passive-aggressive clown Javier (Carlos Areces). Sometimes they take a break and inflict it on other people, notably the lithe trapeze artist Natalia (Carolina Bang), who is the third point of a triangle of romantic lunacy. Once or twice, they let it all hang out and inflict it on themselves. One suspects that they are constantly inflicting it on Spain.

It all leads to a Gothic showdown at a great height overlooking General Franco's tomb, which, although it's an easy mark for any film with killer clowns, makes me want to see Christopher Nolan booted from the Batman franchise and Mr. de la Iglesia installed — especially if he brings composer Roque Baños and his huge symphonic pastiche of Jerry Goldsmith and Bernard Herrmann with him. Hopefully he might also bring the stupendously named Ms. Bang, who can certainly live up to her billing.


Opens on Aug. 19 in Manhattan.

Written and directed by Álex de la Iglesia; edited by Kiko de la Rica; music by Roque Baños; production design by Eduardo Hidalgo; costumes by Nieves Sanchez and Paco Delgado; produced by Gerardo Herrero and Mariela Besuievsky; released by Magnet Releasing (United States). In Spanish, with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 45 minutes. This film is rated R by M.P.A.A.

WITH: Antonio de la Torre (Sergio), Carlos Areces (Javier), Carolina Bang (Natalia), Santiago Segura (Father Stupid Clown), Fran Perea (National Soldier) and Sancho Gracia (Colonel Salcedo).


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