PIFF Pick: The Last Circus

This International Film Fest flick delivers politically portent clown-on-clown violence.

February 23, 2011

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For the last leg of its impressive two-and-a-half-week run, the Portland International Film Festival has partnered with area colleges and CineLit, to curate a showcase of films en español. Among the titles, Black Bread humanizes the struggles of post-war rural Spain, Revolución and Chicogrande tackle the Mexican Revolution, and Hermano is the Venezuelan submission for “Best Foreign Language Film” Oscar. Culturephile can’t catch them all—though we suggest you do. Jonathan Banasky was able to take in The Last Circus, and file this review:

Balada Triste de Trompeta (The Last Circus) has everything you would expect from a foreign film: sex, romance, betrayal, action, and of course, what would a good piece of art cinema be without machine gun-toting clowns? Of all the imaginative films coming to town in this year’s PIFF, I defy you to find one as bizarre, grotesque, disturbing, and entertaining as Alex de la Iglesia’s historical black comedy.

The movie follows Javier, a sad circus clown who falls in love with his boss’ girlfriend. The three end up in a love triangle that spirals out of control, resulting in one clown’s machine gun rampage, among other equally as ridiculous clown-on-clown violence. The film intertwines historical facts of Franco’s fascist regime with absurd fiction, creating an allegory representing the clownish nature of fascism and its effect on Spain.

Political symbolism aside, this movie is absolutely insane, yet you cannot take your eyes off it. Every shot is artfully crafted with a pulpy, comic book feel and every scene sways between hilarious, horrifying, and downright strange. The Last Circus may not be for everyone (especially those of us with lingering childhood clown issues), but de la Iglesia’s film is truly original and unlike anything you will find in American cinema.

The Portland International Film Festival runs through the 26th. For more upcoming arts events, visit PoMo’s Arts & Entertainment Calendar, stream content with an RSS feed, or sign up for our weekly On The Town Newsletter!

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