I'm currently under the weather again, and I woke up sick way too early this morning. Being unable to go back to sleep, I turned on the PS3 and started browsing Netflix. To my surprise, I found Alex de la Iglesia's The Last Circus staring back at me from the "More Dark Movies" suggestion tab. Holy shit! I've been wanting to see this movie forever, since the first time I saw the trailer. I was hoping to be able to catch it in a theater somewhere, and had no idea the dvd was already released. Blame that on the fact that I've been relying too heavily on Twitter for my movie, horror, gaming, and comics news. Sure it's convenient to have everything in one place, but when people don't keep things updated, I tend to miss out. I mean, it's not like at my age I can be expected to actually remember to check up on all the shit I think looks cool and want to check out, yanno?
When The Last Circus begins, it's 1937 and Spain is in the middle of it's Civil War. The Spanish army, marching through a small village, interrupts a performance by two clowns, forcing them to take up arms and join the march. Reluctantly, the clowns join them, take up weapons and when they are attacked by a band of rebels, one of the clowns almost single handedly takes out the entire group all by himself with a machete. All while still wearing his clown suit and makeup. The movie then fast forwards to 1973, and the clown's son Javier is following in his father's footsteps as a Sad Clown looking for work in a traveling circus. His first day on the job he meets Natalia, another of the circus performers, who is married to the circus' Happy Clown Sergio who is a violent, abusive drunk. Javier and Natalia strike up a friendship, and eventually fall in love. Tired of Sergio's abusive behavior, Javier sets out to rescue Natalia from her husband, all the while she is torn between her love for Javier and her lust for Sergio.
As matters begin to get more and more complicated, Javier begins to descend into madness. After a confrontation with Sergio leaves him hospitalized, he escapes the hospital with the intention of killing Sergio. He attacks him, beating him nearly to death with a trumpet. Believing he's finally rescued Natalia, Javier is distraught over her compassion for her husband. He escapes the police and flees to the woods. Things get even crazier and eventually Javier returns, in full clown garb, armed to the teeth looking to exact his revenge on Sergio and Natalia.
I really want to get more into the plot, but I don't want to spoil any more than I already have. Wow, that's all I could say when The Last Circus finally ended. It's nothing short of amazing. It's incredibly well made, well acted, well shot, well written, everything about this movie is fantastic. Javier's transformation from the cowering Sad Clown, to the insane instrument of destruction he ultimately becomes is amazing to watch because of the wonderful performance of actor Carlos Areces. Antonio de la Torre turns in an equally good performance as Sergio, who is without a doubt the villain of the movie, but at the same time is a guy dealing with his own demons, and it's hard not to feel just a little sympathetic for the guy, asshole that he is.
The design and overall look of the movie may be it's biggest asset though. The costumes are brilliant, I loved the style and tone of every character. The circus vibe in itself is cool, but having it set in the 70's gave it even more of a greasy, gritty, brightly colored polyester feel. It is one of the most entertaining films I've seen this year and I really wish I had stayed more on top of it so I could've seen it sooner, possibly on the big screen.
I've not seen any of Alex Iglesia's other work, but rest assured after watching The Last Circus, I'll be looking into his other films. I'm planning on starting with The Oxford Murders and going from there. If anybody out there who is familiar with his stuff has any suggestions, please pass them along. I haven't been this impressed with a movie since The Loved Ones. If you have a Netflix account, definitely watch this movie as soon as possible. If you don't have Netflix, do whatever you have to do to see it, you won't be disappointed.