What’s So Funny About a Clown With a Machete?

The Last Circus (2010) by Alex de la Iglesia

The Last Circus (2010) by Alex de la Iglesia

When clowns are the main characters in movies, you can almost bet they aren’t going to be very funny (He Who Gets Slapped, La Strada, The Comic)…especially in a film by Alex de la Inglesia; this is the fantasist who gave us such outlandish spectacles as Accion Mutante (1993), Perdita Durango (1997) and 800 Bullets (2002). Similar in tone to his pitch black farce Muertos de Risa (1999), in which a two-man comedy act self-destructs in a bitter, homicidal rivalry, de la Inglesia takes this basic conflict and pushes it further into bloody madcap surrealism in The Last Circus (Spanish title: Balada Triste de Trompeta, 2010). It opens in the midst of the Spanish Civil War, circa 1937, as a circus clown, wearing a dress, is interrupted in the middle of his comedy routine and forced into service by the militia. Armed with a machete, he single-handedly massacres scores of Nationals before being captured by the opposition. Before he is executed, he is allowed to give some parting advice to his son Javier, who is so traumatized by the experience that it marks him for life. Though Javier vows to continue in his father’s line of work, he is incapable of playing the happy clown and finds his niche as a sad clown instead.    Continue reading

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Hitchhike Into Darkness: Tomorrow is Another Day

Publicity still from TOMORROW IS ANOTHER DAY (1951) with Ruth Roman & Steve Cochran

Publicity still from TOMORROW IS ANOTHER DAY (1951) with Ruth Roman & Steve Cochran

Released in 1951 by Warner Bros. and often considered a film noir by some film buffs and critics, the little known TOMORROW IS ANOTHER DAY is a hard-to-peg but exceptional B-movie that proves to be something of a shape shifter in the genre department. The title is bland but also deceptive in the sense that it calls to mind a completely different and inappropriate reference – Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind. The movie is also not true noir because, by general consensus and tradition, a noir can’t have a happy ending yet the two main characters – a bitter ex-con and a gold digging taxi dancer – are archetypes from a noir universe who try to flee their circumstances and still find redemption in the end. Along the way, the film (which airs on TCM on Thursday, January 17, 2013 at 11 pm ET) effortlessly morphs from one cinematic convention to another, starting with a social reform drama (shades of Heroes for Sale or I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang) in the gritty Warner Bros. tradition before detouring into noir. Then the tone quickly changes as the movie moves from the city to the rural backroads, becoming first a road trip/pursuit thriller of the paranoid kind, then a romance of thwarted lovers and finally an ethnographic slice of Americana that introduces a migrant worker subculture and the socio-economic hardships that come with it a la The Grapes of Wrath.        Continue reading