Sony // 2006 // 101 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Gordon Sullivan // September 23rd, 2008
Corteo is a timeless and poetic celebration in which illusion teases reality.
Cirque Du Soleil: Corteo is another filmedperformance from those infamous circus-influenced tricksters, Cirque Du Soleil. For the uninitiated, Cirque Du Soleil began in Montreal, Canada, and now has resident theaters in a number of big cities (including Orlando and Las Vegas) as well as numerous touring shows based on fairytales, myths, and magic. This time out, the show tells the story of a clown, Corteo, who dreams of his funeral. Along the way he sees angels, gymnastic pillow fights, a high-wire act, and a truly impressive whistler. All of this is played out on a wildly imaginative (and technically impressive) stage in front of a live audience.
Let me get this out of the way: Corteo (like all the other Cirque Du Soleil performances I'm aware of) is a triumph of stagecraft and human acrobatic talent. All of the performances are choreographed to make the audience gasp, then laugh, and then gasp again. Watching Corteo, I was impressed because there was so many moments where I saw skits that included movements I never would have even thought of, let alone orchestrated with a dozen people. However, this choreography would be useless without top-notch acrobatic performers to make it a reality. Everyone in this show is on the top of their game. From juggling to dancing, all the performers give off an air of total competence. More than that, they managed to do these amazing feats will staying in character. I was especially amazed that all the performers seemed to be "on" throughout the entire production. The camera didn't catch a single performer who wasn't in character, despite the difficulties of their acrobatics.
My praise of Corteo ends there, for two reasons that are endemic to this disc: length and camera movement. Watching the show at home, it felt just a little too long, as if each section went on just an extra beat or two, and 101 minutes is a long time for a show with a very limited plot. However, from my experience seeing shows like this live, the sheer detail of the show can be engrossing for two hours easily. This leads to the show's second downfall: camera movement. Because this show was filmed, viewers have to be content with what the video director wants them to see. When viewed live, it's easy to get engrossed in details (even while ignoring the main action) so that the show flies by. Yes, the presentation captures the main action well, but doesn't allow the audience to absorb the full spectacle.
I have another minor quibble with the music. Much of it (including the main theme) is very moving, obviously inspired by Italian instrumentation. However, some of the sections featured music that bordered on world music lite. Considering how much passion and energy the performers put into their scenes, the least the music can do is match that spirit. Sometimes it did, but sometimes I noticed a bit of cliché creeping in.
Right away Sony warns fans to lower their expectations of the look of Corteo. The back of the box claims (in all caps no less), that "The performance film utilizes low light photography and other facts that contribute to the overall grain structure. This visual style has been retained for this high definition presentation." This seems like a bit of CYA on Sony's part. Yes, during some of the darker scenes a bit of noise creeps into the blacks, but overall this is a very impressive visual presentation. The stage is often bathed in multicolored lights, and each skit has its own color scheme. All are reproduced well on this Blu-ray disc. The colors are bright, and well saturated without excessive bleeding. While the picture doesn't seem soft, there is a noticeable lack of textural detail in some shots. There is even less to complain about with the film's audio. Although dialogue can be difficult to hear (performers are wearing wireless mics which sound muffled occasionally), the important sound effects and music come through with surprising clarity. The clarity is so surprising that it made me wonder how many of the instruments we see on the stage are being played in real time. The extras are all focused on the backstage aspects of the show, and appear to be ported directly from the previous DVD. While we get to hear from the performers and some of the crew, I was left wanting just a little bit more insight into the specifics of the show.
A note for parents: with the exception of the Las Vegas show, Cirque Du Soleil is known for being an all-ages show. Although this disc is unrated, I would suspect it would get a PG if submitted to the MPAA. There's nothing risqué or vulgar in the show, but parents should be aware that the story centers on the death of a clown, so if any prospective young viewers have issues with death or clowns, this isn't the show for them.
While I found Corteo a little long for one sitting, I'll be returning often to specific scenes so as to marvel at the staggering amount of human ingenuity and acrobatic skill.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (Widescreen)
* TrueHD 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 101 Minutes
Release Year: 2006
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* "Through the Curtain: An In-Depth Look at Corteo"
* "A Day in the Life of Corteo Artists"
* "Filming Corteo"
* "Teatro Intimo"
* Photo Gallery