The Last Circus

Movie Information

In Brief: Calling this complex and disturbing work a horror film doesn’t do it justice — at the very least it’s art-house horror — but that’s as near as you’re likely to get to pinning it down. It is neither practical, nor particularly advisable, to try to offer a detailed plot synopsis of The Last Circus. It starts during the Spanish Civil War — in fact, like many Spanish films, the war and the Franco regime hangs over it heavily in both a literal and metaphorical manner. A circus troupe find themselves — well, once they dispense with the bearded lady—dragooned into fighting against Franco. This includes "happy" clown Andrés (Enrique Villen) — who at the time of his conscription is in drag to boot. He wants to change clothes, but is told, "A clown with a machete? You’ll scare the shit out of them." That proves more or less true, and Andrés manages to slash his way through a whole regiment before being caught and imprisoned. This, however, is merely the overture, since the bulk of the film concerns his son, Javier (Carlos Areces), who years later becomes a "sad" clown in a rundown circus where he draws laughs by being brutalized by "happy" clown Sergio (Antonio de la Torre). Sergio also brutalizes his wife, the aerialist Natalia (Carolina Bang, whose name appears to actually be just that), with whom, of course, Javier falls in love. As a setup, it’s as old as the hills — or, at the least, as old as a Tod Browning picture — but, oh my, the blood-drenched lengths to which it goes are hard to overstate.   The Thursday Horror Picture Show will screen The Last Circus Thursday, Nov. 12, at 8 p.m. in Theater Six  at The Carolina Asheville, hosted by Xpress movie critic Ken Hanke.
Genre: Surreal Horror Romance
Director: Álex de la Iglesia (Witching and Bitching)
Starring: Carlos Areces, Antonio de la Torre, Carolina Bang, Manuel Tallafé, Alejandro Tejerías
Rated: R



That summary doesn’t do service to the film’s innate and troubling strangeness. While I couldn’t quite bring myself to give Álex de la Iglesia’s The Last Circus a spot in the top ten films of 2011, it was a very near thing, and I ended up giving it its own category as “The Damndest Film I Saw All Year.” It was certainly that. Maybe the easiest thing to say is that if you’ve ever wanted to see a demented machine-gun-wielding clown (who has permanently made himself up with the aid of acid and a hot iron) in an ice-cream van chase after his trapeze-artist lady love, this is the movie you’ve been waiting for. If Tod Browning, Luis Buñuel, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Pedro Almodóvar and Guillermo del Toro all dropped acid and compared notes, this film might be the result. Roll that around in your mind for a while — if you dare. My guess is you have to either be Spanish, or to unusually well-versed in Spanish pop culture and the political history of the country to fully process the experience. And even then…

The Thursday Horror Picture Show will screen The Last Circus Thursday, Nov. 12, at 8 p.m. in Theater Six at The Carolina Asheville, hosted by Xpress movie critic Ken Hanke.





About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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