The Last Circus

The Last Circus (2010)
NZ International Film Festival

One of those odd films with a completely bonkers beginning, a sensible middle, and a bonkers end. Modern Spanish films are often accused of being obsessed with Franco’s reign (1936-1975 and kind of a big deal, not an easy subject to avoid) but The Last Circus critiques this awkward period of modern history with gleefully violent satire, interlacing real events (the assassination of Luis Carrero Blanco in 1973, recreated with documentary precision) with the tale of a deranged Sad Clown who looses his father in ridiculous circumstances during the Spanish Civil War and becomes obsessed with a masochistic trapeze artist, the partner of the sadistic Happy Clown who keeps the decrepit circus running.

Clips from Spanish light entertainment shows and unkind ’70s fashion only adds to the horror, like interspersing shots of a gunbattle with clips from Play School. It could never be accused of subtlety, and maybe the protagonist goes off the rails a mite too completely (there’s a squirmful sequence involving caustic soda and a flatiron) but this film is certainly a lot of fun in an ultimately depressing way. Making a New Zealand version (centred around 1981’s controversial Springbok Tour and featuring Rob Muldoon?) would probably be grounds for imprisonment.

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