Tuesday, September 27, 2011

This Week In Tickets: 19 September 2011 to 25 September 2011

I swear, this is not an "I want to get TWIT done quickly" reaction to falling so far behind before:

This Week In Tickets!

The company that I work for has been in the process of being acquired for the last what-seems-like-an-insanely-long-time, and last week there were folks from the new home office in Texas in town to get to know us. Which is nice, I guess, although I must admit to not really caring about the structure of the company beyond my manager in one direction, the other folks in my department in another, and the unit we pull data for in a third. So, yeah, this means extra meetings and a Wednesday-night "get-together" which was a cocktail hour and two-plus hours of eating food fancier than I usually go for. Sure, our table won the trivia contest, but... Well, some situations are more or less guaranteed to bring out the worst in me. Enforced socializing is one of them.

So, that means that there was no getting out early to get to potentially interesting stuff. It's kind of a shame, because there were actually a couple of movies I would have enjoyed seeing at the Boston Film Festival on Wednesday - pretty much the only day when the announced schedule had stuff that interested me. I would have been down for the last-minute closing night feature of Bunraku, but getting to a 6:45pm show in downtown Boston would have been tough enough if I'd caught the 5:08 bus out of Burlington, but of course a new problem reared its ugly head at 3pm and kept me late.

So no BFF for me, and I was surprisingly OK with that. My disgust from last year didn't really carry over; I just didn't have much interest in the schedule or feel much obligation to support the event even in a lean year. At least, I assume it was lean - I'd be interested to hear what it was like from anybody who was there. The line-up looked much less impressive than even last year, the website didn't talk up the parties and passes that usually seem to be the focus of the event, and the venue hadn't shown a movie since Jig played there for a week back in mid-June. That certainly seems like a recipe for a quiet festival.

Interestingly, I was having lunch with the Chlotrudis folks on Saturday, and apparently the idea of the smaller festivals pooling their resources to put together a major festival to rival Toronto and SXSW is kicking around. If this were to happen, I suspect that they'd want the Boston Film Festival name, but I suspect that getting hold of that would be difficult unless the event was in financial trouble. I wonder what the name would be worth in this scenario.

Anyway, after that lunch, I went back home and spent the rest of the weekend watching baseball, even though it was sort of torture. But, hey, there might not be much baseball left. So the only movie I wound up seeing this week was the midnight show at the Coolidge on Friday night (and I was probably pretty dumb to walk there in the rain). It had me kind of wiped out for the rest of the week, but at least it was a good one:

Balada triste de trompeta (Balada triste de trompeta)

* * * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 23 September 2011 in Coolidge Corner Theatre #2 (@fter Midnight Fresh Cuts)

Alex de la Iglesia's new movie certainly qualifies as a circus - it's filled with bright colors and daring displays that look joyful while also tempting the audience with sex and violence. This makes perfect sense; De la Iglesia's best work has always come in the form of polished chaos, so these particular big tops are a fine place for him to do his thing.

The first circus we encounter is in 1937, where a Happy Clown (Santiago Segura) is entertaining children as the occasional gunshot from the Spanish Civil War is heard in the background. The performance is interrupted as the Nationalist forces show up to draft every able-bodied man into the army, including the clown, who is thrown into battle while still wearing his costume. In the aftermath, he tells his son Javier that even though clowning is in his blood, he will likely never be able to play the happy clown; he's seen too much to be anything but the sad one. And, indeed, when we meet Javier (Carlos Areces) again in 1973, that's the job he's taken with a struggling circus, being the butt of the smiling clown's jokes. Of course, behind the scenes, happy clown Sergio (Antonio de la Torre) is an angry drunk, and Javier being attracted to his girl Natalia (Carolina Bang) doesn't help matters.

In other hands, The Last Circus might be a simple tragic love story, maybe avant-garde (the likes of Fellini certainly liked their circuses back in the day). But this is an Alex de la Iglesia movie through and through - his first without his usual co-writer, Jorge Guerricaechevarría - and it is just packed with his signature slick camerawork, bizarre characters, and pitch-black comedy. It's the sort of movie that scores big laughs throughout, although one may be reluctant to relate just exactly which gags got them; a lot of bits just don't work out of context. De la Iglesia's movies have always had a bit of an edge to them, but this one seems to have the cynicism much closer to its heart; there's a meanness to it that parallels the way circus audiences laugh at the Happy Clown tormenting the Sad Clown.

Full review at EFC.

The Last Circus

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