Appellate Judge James A. Stewart never expected to find himself analyzing the dreams of a dead clown.
Our reviews of Cirque Du Soleil: Anniversary Collection (published February 8th, 2006), Cirque Du Soleil: Fire Within (published January 18th, 2005), Cirque du Soleil: Journey of Man (Blu-ray) (published June 18th, 2011), Cirque Du Soleil: La Nouba (published January 18th, 2005), Cirque Du Soleil: Midnight Sun (published March 21st, 2006), Cirque du Soleil: Solstrom: The Complete Series (published September 21st, 2005), and Cirque Du Soleil: Corteo (Blu-Ray) (published September 23rd, 2008) are also available.
"Cirque du Soleil began with a very simple dream. A group of young entertainers got together to amuse audiences, see the world, and have fun doing it."—Guy Laliberté, Cirque du Soleil founder and CEO, on its Web site
In the 1980s, you had to be walking down the right Montreal streets to see the Cirque du Soleil (Circus of the Sun), a group of young street artists, in action. Today you can catch a touring show, see permanent performances in Las Vegas or Orlando, or just pop a DVD into the player.
The latest, Cirque du Soleil: Corteo, delves into the life and dreams of a dead clown. You might think he's just sleeping, but they point out in the featurettes that, yes, he's dead. We see him lying in a bed at the center of the stage. He's in the middle of a dream, one that involves clowns (of course!), aerialists, dancers, and a ringmaster. In the chandeliers high above his head, trapeze artists representing the women of his life spin like memories.
On a circular stage painted with a maze pattern, perhaps reflecting the puzzles in the clown's mind, we see trampoline artists bouncing on beds like children, a parade procession with a funny surprise twist at the end, a comedy bit about golf with a ball that doesn't want to get hit, and other circus performances delivered with a touch of the surreal.
This DVD moves faster than life, with breaks in the action edited out seamlessly. The cutting between shots that take in the whole arena, medium shots of the action, and close-ups that capture the expressions of the performers and audience members are deft. Watching a tightrope walker high above the stage, you get a view you wouldn't have had if watching the Cirque du Soleil in person, since you can't get up there to see the expression on her face (and wouldn't want to anyway). One scene with a performer ascending a wobbly ladder features some classic audience reactions.
It's a stage performance, so you get the occasional glare of the stage or audience lights, some scenes bathed in blue or orange light, or the occasional scene that's too dark. The featurette about the filming pointed out that the stage lights were normal while the cameras were rolling, although the audience lights are brighter than usual. Care has been taken throughout in this DVD mastered in high-definition to avoid bleeding and other camera problems.
There's an occasional line in English with the Quebec pop-style music sung mostly in French. Everything's staged so that language is redundant, though.
The features provide some background on Corteo, but mostly add visuals of what goes on behind the scenes at Cirque du Soleil. The 45-minute "Through the Curtain: An In-Depth Look at Corteo" features comments from performers and others involved with the production, which they say is Cirque du Soleil's biggest touring show yet. "A Day in the Life of Corteo Artists" starts with a performing couple getting up for breakfast (at 11AM), but quickly turns out to be a backstage tour rather than a featurette focused on the couple. There's a short feature on the filming of Corteo and a lost scene with a lack of complete camera angles, suggesting that they never planned to use it. The photo gallery here is a moving montage of images from the rehearsal process. These extras are enjoyable, but don't seem to cast too much light on the hidden world of circus performers.
If you've seen the Cirque du Soleil on stage or on TV, you know what to expect. Corteo delivers their blend of circus acts, Felliniesque scenery, and mystical storyline that's fascinating and unusual, yet comforting enough to brighten a gloomy day.
Not guilty, although I want a full investigation of just how that dead clown died.
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• "Through the Curtain: An In-Depth Look at Corteo"
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