directed by Sophie Blondy
starring Iggy Pop, Denis Lavant, and Natacha Régnier
Director Sophie Blondy takes us back to those glorious years when European cinema stood in stark contrast to American corporate movie making. This intensely personal drama plays out on a windswept beach in some sort of time warp. The Zanos circus is small as are it audience and profits. Lead by the evil alcoholic Heroy (Tchéky Karyo) the troupe only has two clowns: the thalidomided Flix (Hervé Chenais) works with dreamer Elliot (Lavant). Then we meet magician Zéphyr and his aide Lilas (Bruno Putzulu and Laura Favali) who mastered one decent levitation effect. Tarot reader Zohra (Béatrice Dalle) and a blonde ballerina Angèle (Régnier) compete for Elliot’s affection, this is the principle driver in this small, portable soap opera. We see love, passion and sleeping around, but Elliot has something special – a conscience that wordlessly manifest itself to him in the form of ex-punker Iggy Pop. When Heroy withhold pay from his troupe, a rumor begins that he is wealthy leading to a murderous plot. Heroy survives, but the circus crumbles.
The plot is excellent, the cast well-chosen and all able to keep up an illusion the circus is a plausible business. Director Blondy expansive film explores both the intimate relations as well as the wild, lonely beaches. When Mr. Pop’s conscience does its guilt thing, the scenes alternate between a razor sharp hyper-reality and a pure black and white high contrast soft focus world, blurring the line between Elliot’s realty and his fantasy world. The circus itself lacks any backstage romanticism; these people live in small, decrepit trailers, and the entire camp looks as if it might blow away on the prevailing wind. Zahor spews Eastern European jealousy while Angela seem too pure to be in this tiny mobile world. Heroy leads by brutality and somehow keeps the crew together until they actually revolt. Most impressive is the audiences in the tent, they are small but the children seem enthralled by the low grade circus acts and minimal spectacle. They form the conduit in and out of this insular world, and it’s shocking when Zahor takes the circus stage in jealous rage, barking at the audience and driving them away as if they are responsible for her own failed love life.
Partly mystic, yet supremely grounded, the agony of Elliot’s hard decisions and his love of Angeline bind this story in your memory. A solid cast, an artistic sense of film esthetics, and a story real enough to draw you in are all the things we miss from those days of furious art cinema. No CGI here; just solid writing, inspired acting and classic film methods that make a story resonate better than any of today’s exploding superhero epics ever will.