Judge Brett Cullum is suffering from an overdose of clownage.
Our reviews of Cirque Du Soleil: Anniversary Collection (published February 8th, 2006), Cirque Du Soleil: Corteo (published April 24th, 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: 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.
Amid this waking dream, you'll find clowns, ballerinas, trapeze artists, and so much more.
How do you feel about clowns? I have several friends who live in mortal terror of them, and they should give La Nouba a wide berth, on DVD and anytime they find themselves in Orlando. This show is clowns. Clowns in all white, clowns in bird costumes, clowns with big red noses and floppy shoes. It's all clowns all the time. If you love them, chances are this is the Cirque Du Soleil experience for you. La Nouba is a show permanently located on the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando—and this DVD was filmed there live in 2003. Cirque Du Soleil usually does not utilize traditional clowns in their shows (only the acrobats sport white-face). Sure, they have clownish characters in all their shows, but most of the time they are not the Barnum and Bailey's "red nosed white-face in a tacky suit and big shoes" kind most of us grew up with. Well, La Nouba gives you plenty of the Ringling Brothers brand of clown mixed in with all the world class acrobats you expect from a Cirque production.
The show itself is a handsome, stunning affair. What seems like a cast of hundreds of performers storm the stage, and immediately you feel the circus world fighting against the industrial trappings of a city. Yes, its the clowns versus the urbs at the top of the show. And guess who wins by the end? La Nouba is densely decorated with ever-changing immaculate sets and swirling lights that must really dazzle the eyes of audiences lucky enough to catch it live. Acrobats perform on German Wheels, bicycles, trampolines, high wires, scarves, and chair stacks throughout the show. They are amazingly talented performers in gorgeous costumes moving through well-painted sets accompanied by wonderful musicians and singers. Clowns watch and comment on their every move, and provide interact entertainment to the delight of the audience. It's dizzying; it's a feat of well-run crackerjack choreography that all of this gels into a single show. It's definitely Cirque du Soleil. There is no dialogue, only a vague hint of a plot (mostly concerning a maid who longs to escape her drudgery in the arms of a clown), and excellent production values.
My biggest beef with the DVD format for Cirque shows is they seem a substandard way to actually see them. La Nouba suffers from being too extravagant and busy. The camera jumps from one two-second shot to the next so quickly you may find yourself getting eye strain trying to keep up. In a live performance this would be immersion in a dense world of fantasy, but on television it seems like a really bad MTV entry for a New Age group. The performers are excellent, but a scarf act doesn't work when you are not in the room. Tightropes are only appropriately impressive if you are looking up from an audience rather than from a camera at the same level. And dozens of clowns constantly moving around works only if you have depth perception to paint the right stage picture.
And then there is the matter of the overly grateful audience. When you are surrounded by thousands of giggling clapping people in a theatre you gleefully join in and applaud everything. Yet when they are transmitted over five speakers and a glowing screen in your living room you feel they are imbeciles who annoy you to no end. I kept thinking they would clap for a clown that shot some flatulence in their general direction. The applause breaks are frequent and come every minute or so for anything that happens onstage. And the camera mercilessly keeps showing them with goofy "I'm at Disney World" grins plastered on their faces. They are having the time of their lives, but I feel cheated sitting in my apartment watching it all second-hand in high definition from my futon. No clowns or acrobats in my place, dammit!
The transfer is great, and the sound is impressive. Cirque has high standards, and they certainly are met with the technical specs of the DVD. It's all digital glory in that department. The picture is high definition and has no problems. Sound is impressively well rendered, and the music pours out in a sonic wave. Menus are cleverly animated, and feature…um…clowns. Nicely, they have enclosed a second disc loaded with special features like interviews and glimpses backstage. The extras are where the package beats the live performance, because finally we get a better vantage point than the tourists. I almost would recommend the second disc over the actual show, or suggest watching it first so you can appreciate what you are about to see. A lot of work goes into these extravaganzas, and most people have no clue what is invested by the cast to provide something as expansive and demanding as La Nouba.
La Nouba the DVD makes an awesome souvenir if you have seen the show, or might be a great way to get an inside look into a Cirque show if you sit through the second disc. Otherwise, it's an okay way to see the show but not ideal. Cirque is planning on releasing a television series, Solstrom where they have adapted acts specifically for the small screen. Solstrom features the trampoline act you will see here, but the editing on this version is near incoherent. Adapting the shows for the film medium and shooting them on sets makes more sense than these futile attempts to tape the live performances, which seem to suffer in the transfer from stage to screen. In comparison, some of the other Cirque shows were better taped than this one; I think its a matter of scope. La Nouba is too big and too ambitious to make it into your living room. Dozens of clowns just don't cut it on television—which seems to be a one-clown medium.
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