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Laramie Movie Scope:
The Last Circus (Balada Triste)

A strange love triangle with two unfunny clowns

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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December 17, 2011 -- This strange film involving four clowns and an acrobat sounds like the setup for a joke, but it turns out not to be very funny. It is more tragic than comic, with clowns killing people with a machete and machine guns. One clown acts like Quosimodo during a desperate climb. This is not a movie for people who are afraid of clowns.

The film starts out with two clowns performing on stage in front of an audience of children during the Spanish Civil war. Their performance is interrupted by militia men fighting Franco's troops. The clowns have no interest in fighting, but are forced to fight anyway. One clown is handed a machete. He asks if he can change clothes. His commander tells him to stay in his clown outfit. It will scare the enemy, and he does scare the enemy. The clown (played by Santiago Segura) reluctant to fight moments before changes his mind for no reason at all and becomes a savage killer, mowing down the enemy with the machete.

The idea of a character suddenly changing his or her mind for the convenience of the script happens often in this film. The characters charge off in all directions at once. Their actions often make no sense at all, at least in terms of their past actions. The killer clown is captured, but his son, Javier (played by Carlos Areces as an adult and two other younger actors at different times of his life) tries to rescue him to no avail. Javier's father tells him he has seen too much sorrow in his life to be a happy clown. He will have to play the part of a sad clown.

The story skips ahead years to a time when Javier takes up his father's occupation and becomes a sad circus clown. He falls in love with the beautiful acrobat, Natalia (Carolina Bang). The only problem with that is that Natalia's boyfriend is a very jealous and abusive man, Sergio (Antonio de la Torre) who is also a clown, a happy one. He catches Javier with Natalia and beats Javier almost to death, putting him in the hospital. Here is where the story goes wild. Javier, who was a very mild-mannered man up to this point, suddenly turns into a savage, escapes from the hospital and beats Sergio with a trumpet so badly that he almost dies.

Instead of putting Sergio in an ambulance and sending him to the hospital, the circus people put him on an elephant and take him to a veterinarian, for no good reason at all. Javier runs off and lives in the woods like an animal, eventually becoming a retriever like a hunting dog. Javier bites the hand of Franco himself. After this, things get really wild with a King Kong-like scene of the clowns climbing a giant Christian cross while trying to kill each other. Like I said. It makes no sense at all, but some critics have given this strange, surreal film positive reviews for some reason. Not me. It was just too nonsensical for me. It also had a very unsatisfying resolution. I rate this a C. This is in Spanish with English subtitles.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2011 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)