1937, Spain is in the midst of the brutal Spanish Civil War. A “Happy” circus clown is interrupted mid-performance and forcibly recruited by a militia. Still in his costume, he is handed a machete and led into battle against National soldiers, where he single handedly massacres an entire platoon. This absurd and disturbing scenario raises the curtain on a twisted tale of love, revenge, and psychopathic clowns that could only spring from the mind of filmmaker Álex de la Iglesia.
Fast forward to 1973, the tail end of the Franco regime. Javier, the son of the clown, dreams of following in his father’s career footsteps, but has seen too much tragedy in his life – he’s simply not funny and is only equipped to play the role of the Sad Clown. He finds work in a circus where he befriends an outlandish cast of characters, but as the Sad Clown he must take the abuse of the brutish Happy Clown Sergio, who humiliates Javier daily in the name of entertainment.
It is here that he meets Natalia, a gorgeous acrobat, and abused wife of Sergio. Javier falls deeply in love with Natalia and tries to rescue her from her cruel and violent husband, unleashing Sergio’s jealousy. But Natalia is torn between her affection towards Javier, and her lust for Sergio.
With neither man willing to back down, this twisted love triangle evolves into a ferocious battle between Sad Clown and Happy Clown, escalating to unbelievable heights in this absurd, shocking, irreverent and unforgettable film.
Info: Magnolia pictures@youtube
Cast: Carlos Areces, Antonio de la Torre, Carolina Bang, Manuel Talafalle, Alejandro Tejerias, Santiago Segura.
Writer-director: Alex de la Iglesia.
Producer: Verane Frediani, Gerardo Herrero, Franck Ribiere.
A Magnet Films release. Running time: 107 minutes. In Spanish with English subtitles.
“Over all, the film is incredible. In the oldest sense of that word, it is awe-inspiring and grotesque. Stunning and heartfelt. It is a love letter to a country, a time and a frowning clown singing mournfully about a weeping trumpet.”[Cole Abaius]
Take Fellini, Tarantino and “Taxi Driver,” throw ’em in a cage with a lion and you’d get this strange, wild trip. [Joe Neumaier, del Daily News]
The Last Circus, which in its native Spain was titled ‘Balada triste de trompeta’ after the famed song by Raphael
Because above all I love Alex de la Iglesia´s films ^^
Ups! It seems that I forgot to mention that one of my sources of information was the blog Puesta de Cine, which you may visit to get more information, though it is in spanish ^^ so as well as some of the image, so I´ll delete them ^^
And an article you may find of interest… I´ll copy them in here, as for experience, they soon are not available on the search engines.
Pick of the week: A killer clown takes on fascism
Spanish madman Alex de la Iglesia’s splatterific “The Last Circus” takes on Franco — and all of movie history
Maybe you feel like you’ve seen too many ultra-violent Spanish Civil War-related vengeful-clown horror-romance-comedies, and you’re just bored to death with that whole genre. It’s also possible, I suppose, that a movie as deranged and grotesque and spectacular as Álex de la Iglesia’s near-masterpiece “The Last Circus,” an overcooked allegory that’s been dialed to 11 in all directions, simply doesn’t appeal to you. But if you like your baroque sex and violence with a side dish of heavy-duty symbolism, and if the idea of an unholy collaboration between, say, Guillermo del Toro, Federico Fellini and William Castle appeals to you, then put “The Last Circus” on your must-see list right now.
De la Iglesia is a Spanish director of unhinged genre mashups whose movies are generally too trashy for the film-festival crowd and too European in sensibility for most Anglophone genre-movie fans. I keep thinking that he has to attract a global following at some point, in roughly the same way Japanese director Takashi Miike has and for roughly the same reasons. Amid the recent explosion of genre cinema in Europe, de la Iglesia stands out for his improbable fusion of old-school art film — I’ve already mentioned Fellini, but “The Last Circus” also bears the imprint of Bergman’s circus film, “Sawdust and Tinsel” — and grade-Z American splatter flicks. He had a minor art-house moment with the crime comedy “El Crimen Perfecto” in 2004 (the original Spanish title is funnier: “Crimen ferpecto”), and then made a sub-mediocre foray into English-language filmmaking with “The Oxford Murders,” starring Elijah Wood and John Hurt, in 2008. If you’ve seen earlier de la Iglesia films like “Day of the Beast,” “La Comunidad” or “800 Bullets,” you’ll be better prepared for “The Last Circus,” if that’s possible.
I don’t even know whether to tell you that “The Last Circus” is good or bad; it belongs to the Nicolas Roeg or Ken Russell 1970s tradition of way-too-muchness that seeks to tear down such distinctions and stomp all over them. I will say that it’s a mightily impressive production (with a reported budget of 7 million euros, pretty high by Spanish standards), grittily staged and handsomely photographed and full of exciting action scenes and effects, and that de la Iglesia is striving for something really big, like an exploitation flick that’s also a historical reckoning with the Spanish conscience. Whether you actually want to see a movie where a deranged circus clown clad in bishop’s robes disfigures his own face with a hot iron — that part is up to you.
“The Last Circus” begins in the late 1930s, with a splatterific battle sequence in which a ragtag militia band that features a circus clown named Andrés (Enrique Villén) takes out an entire platoon of Francisco Franco’s fascist soldiers. Andrés will die gruesomely in a prison camp, but not before counseling his young son Javier to seek vengeance. Then we leap forward to the bell-bottomed early 1970s, with the Franco dictatorship in its last, decadent years and Javier (Carlos Areces) as a pudgy, 40ish loser who has finally decided to follow his father into the circus. But Javier can’t play the happy clown who makes children laugh, the way his father did; he’s the sad clown, the permanent victim and butt of all the jokes. (I hope de la Iglesia approved the English title, but it lacks the resonance of the original, “Balada triste de trompeta” or “Sad Trumpet Ballad,” which refers to a Franco-era hit song sung by a clown in a movie.)
Javier signs up as a sidekick to the vicious, drunken Sergio (Antonio de la Torre), a clown and impresario who runs a low-rent Madrid circus that’s sliding toward bankruptcy. Sergio is married to the beautiful acrobat Natalia (Carolina Bang), whom Javier first sees descending from the sky like a heavily mascaraed vision of heaven. But if Natalia is an angel, she’s an intensely neurotic one, unable to tear herself away from the abusive man she loves but more than willing to toy with the affections of the inexperienced Javier, who is obviously puppy-dog smitten. We know where this is heading, or at least we think we do; de la Iglesia’s method is to take an archetypal situation, like this impossible romantic triangle, and then drive it off the cliff into utter insanity. (I haven’t yet mentioned Charlie Chaplin’s “The Circus,” another obvious influence.)
So, yes, there will be a series of violent confrontations between Javier, the noble-but-ineffectual Sad Clown, and Sergio, the violent-and-evil Happy Clown. The outcome of their battle over the woman they love is entirely predictable. But that still doesn’t account for the scene in which Sergio’s ruined face is stitched together by an unlicensed veterinarian so that he looks like a half made-up extra from “Dawn of the Dead,” or the section of the story when Javier lives naked in the forest on raw deer meat, at least until he is captured by the very same fascist officer who killed his father many years earlier. That all precedes the scenes when Javier personally bites the doddering Generalissimo Franco on the hand (while serving as a nude human bird-dog), maims himself with acid and the aforementioned hot iron, and goes on a killing spree through Madrid with automatic weapons and an ice cream truck. Or the final collision between Javier, Sergio, Natalia and a phalanx of fascist troops, staged atop the 500-foot cross built by Franco in the Valley of the Fallen as a memorial to the Civil War dead (or at least the ones he approved of). Whew! There will be a quiz, or rather the whole movie is a quiz with just one question: Are you nuts enough to enjoy this sort of thing?
This film has provoked extensive debate in Spain and among de la Iglesia’s fans about whether it’s a career-crowning masterwork (as it’s clearly striving to be) or a pretentious mess that rips off Hitchcock, Tarantino and Alejandro Jodorowsky, along with all the other filmmakers I’ve already mentioned and others I simply haven’t gotten to (Javier has a little bit of Travis Bickle in him, a little of Rupert Pupkin and maybe a little of Mark David Chapman). I feel pulled in both directions. Every frame of this film is invested with passion — passion for Spain, passion for life, passion for cinema — and amid the jaded, knowing cleverness of most moviemaking that makes it stand out. After half an hour I’d have told you that “The Last Circus” was one of the best movies of the year, and after almost two hours of de la Iglesia’s sensory onslaught, I was ready for it to stop. For good or for ill, you’ve never seen anything quite like this, and probably never will again.
‘The Last Circus’ (R)
By Rene Rodriguez | The Miami Herald
If you are the sort of person who finds clowns terrifying – and many people do – by all means steer clear of The Last Circus, or else risk being scarred for life. For everyone else — particularly viewers with a strong stomach and an appreciation for surreal humor that borders on horror — the latest film from Spanish wildman Alex de la Iglesia (Perdita Durango, The Day of the Beast) is a must-see proposition.
The movie begins in 1937 Madrid, when a troupe of circus performers is forced to take arms in the country’s burgeoning civil war, resulting in the bizarre sight of a clown in full makeup wielding a machete against national troops in a way that makes Jason Voorhees seem like a Girl Scout selling cookies.
Flash-forward to 1973, the waning days of the Franco regime. Javier (Carlos Areces), still scarred from witnessing his father’s horrific acts, is now a clown himself — a sad one, with a permanent tear streaking his face, because he saw too much violence and bloodshed as a child. Javier is portly and shy and meek: He harbors a crush on the beautiful acrobat Natalia (Carolina Bang), but she’s married to the monstrously abusive Sergio (Antonio de la Torre), a fellow circus performer and psychopath who hides his misanthropic nature beneath his clown makeup. Javier doesn’t dare act on his romantic impulses — he, like everyone else in the traveling circus, is terrified of Sergio — until the brute pushes things too far, awakening a savagery in Javier that knows no bounds. And like Pandora’s box, once Javier sets his demons loose, there is no way to put them back.
The Last Circus, which in its native Spain was titled Balade triste de trompeta after the famed song by Raphael, cleverly incorporates real-life incidents into its stranger-than-fiction narrative, including the 1973 assassination of Spanish Prime Minister Luis Carrero Blanco, who died from a car bomb so powerful it propelled his automobile onto the roof of a building (there is also an outrageous scene in which Javier meets Franco that is hilariously daring). But you don’t have to appreciate the historical contexts to revel in the outrageous ride The Last Circus delivers — a ride that recalls David Lynch’s Wild at Heart, only much more furious and demented, which says a lot.
You could accuse de la Iglesia of being a sensationalist, as he was with many of his previous films. There are several moments in the movie clearly intended to do nothing but shock and disturb, and the picture is relentless in its assault: Every time you think it couldn’t get loonier, it does. The comedy is so dark, many won’t find it at all funny at all, and some of the symbolism can be a bit much (the climax takes place atop a building shaped like a cross). But the film is lightning-paced, packed with awe-inspiring setpieces and utterly fearless. If you’re the sort who demands logic and plausibility from movies, The Last Circus is not for you. But for those with a taste for the subversive and outrageous, run, don’t walk.