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The Last Circus (2011)



Average Rating: 6.7/10
Reviews Counted: 30
Fresh: 23 | Rotten: 7

The Last Circus is an uneven but winningly insane blend of hard violence, sex, black humor, and social satire.


Average Rating: 6.2/10
Critic Reviews: 10
Fresh: 8 | Rotten: 2

The Last Circus is an uneven but winningly insane blend of hard violence, sex, black humor, and social satire.



liked it
Average Rating: 3.5/5
User Ratings: 5,633

My Rating

Movie Info

1937, Spain is in the midst of the brutal Spanish Civil War. A "Happy" circus clown is interrupted mid-performance and forcibly recruited by a militia. Still in his costume, he is handed a machete and led into battle against National soldiers, where he single handedly massacres an entire platoon. Fast forward to 1973, the tail end of the Franco regime. Javier, the son of the clown, dreams of following in his father's career footsteps, but has seen too much tragedy in his life - he's simply not

Oct 18, 2011


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All Critics (30) | Top Critics (10) | Fresh (23) | Rotten (7) | DVD (2)

Basque director Álex de la Iglesia's exotic, surreal, hilarious, bloody and utterly explosive grand opus.

October 1, 2011 Full Review Source: Toronto Star
Toronto Star
Top Critic IconTop Critic

From the far-too-teeming brain of Spanish writer/director Alex de la Iglesia, The Last Circus is a bizarre, surreal, grotesque, fascinating, demanding, disappointing and ultimately exhausting political allegory that plays like a waking nightmare.

September 30, 2011 Full Review Source: Globe and Mail
Globe and Mail
Top Critic IconTop Critic

For those with a taste for the subversive and outrageous, run, don't walk.

September 23, 2011 Full Review Source: Miami Herald
Miami Herald
Top Critic IconTop Critic

You're left with the vague recollection of an interesting movie you were watching before you got kidnapped and subjected to over an hour of torture porn starring a fat, sadistic clown.

August 24, 2011 Full Review Source: New York Observer
New York Observer
Top Critic IconTop Critic

If you like your baroque sex and violence with a side dish of heavy-duty symbolism ... put "The Last Circus" on your must-see list right now.

August 19, 2011 Full Review Source:
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Take Fellini, Tarantino and "Taxi Driver," throw 'em in a cage with a lion, and you'd get this strange, wild trip.

August 19, 2011 Full Review Source: New York Daily News
New York Daily News
Top Critic IconTop Critic

If Tod Browning, Luis Buñuel, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Pedro Almodóvar and Guillermo del Toro all dropped acid and compared notes, this film might be the result.

March 7, 2012 Full Review Source: Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)
Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)

This strange film involving four clowns and an acrobat sounds like the setup for a joke, but it turns out not to be very funny.

February 2, 2012 Full Review Source: Laramie Movie Scope
Laramie Movie Scope

Quizás una forma - la mejor que encuentra el director, o la que mejor le sale - de decir que el franquismo era una comedia hilarante y una tragedia sanguinaria al mismo tiempo.

January 13, 2012 Full Review Source: Uruguay Total
Uruguay Total

a sensational surreal horror/comedy fairy tale co-written and directed by Basque auteur Alex de la Iglesia

November 29, 2011 Full Review Source: Mark Leeper's Reviews
Mark Leeper's Reviews

Unhinged black comedy that serves, for better or worse, as a heavy-handed allegory of Franco's Spain.

November 26, 2011 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

All in all, it's a visual, aural and visceral kick in the ass.

October 4, 2011 Full Review Source:

In much the same way Brian Wilson is said to have locked himself in his room after hearing Sgt. Pepper, every hack slasher-filmmaker in Hollywood should watch The Last Circus and call it quits.

September 30, 2011 Full Review Source: Jam! Movies
Jam! Movies

It's not a pretty picture, but it is a hellaciously gorgeous and original film.

September 16, 2011 Full Review Source: Austin Chronicle
Austin Chronicle

The Last Circus is simply amazing. It's the kind of titanic tour de force you don't see in today's cookie cutter cinema.

September 11, 2011 Full Review Source: PopMatters

There's a lusty depravity in play here, and a wild verve informs the film, but it's not particularly coherent, and after time the sloppiness of the technique wears you down more than the little perks of audacity manage to lift you.

September 8, 2011 Full Review Source: Oregonian

The emotional aberration and physical disfigurement, the violence different in feel from the US crew-cut variety, the revenge, the bursts of sick humor, do not meld well here.

August 19, 2011 Full Review Source: ReelTalk Movie Reviews
ReelTalk Movie Reviews

Bizarre, shocking and surreal, Last Circus is a significant film set against tumultuous political contexts; I wish they kept the orginal Spanish title, Sad Ballad.

August 18, 2011 Full Review Source: EmanuelLevy.Com

Audience Reviews for The Last Circus

Fun and grotesque in the right way, with a strong vibe of classic horror cinema. The problem is that the second half switches gears with such an agressive force that it forgets completely about the characters, and just turns them into vicious psychopats for no good reason other than having a series of over-the-top sequences. I enjoyed this, but the lack of a proper transition damages the impact of the story.
December 31, 2011
Tsubaki Sanjuro

Super Reviewer

This is playing US festivals under the title THE LAST CIRCUS, though I like the literal translation of the Spanish title (A SAD TRUMPET BALLAD) better. A sad clown and a happy clown fight for the love of a beautiful trapeze artist; they go insane with passion and beat the greasepaint off each other. It's an allegory for the Spanish Civil War, but mainly its a gruesome, bloody b-movie action/melodrama that provides sporadic chuckles and thrills.
June 14, 2011
Greg S

Super Reviewer

During the Spanish Civil War, the Republican Army is so desperate for soldiers that they resort to drafting circus clowns, but not so desperate that they include bearded ladies. One such clown(Santiago Segura) so impresses the loyalists with his killing with a machete that he earns their respect and is spared from the firing squad. Sadly, he dies in a jail break engineered by his son Javier(Jorge Clemente). Decades later, Javier(Carlos Areces) gets to fulfill his father's wish when he is hired as a sad clown by a circus where he works with Sergio(Antonio de la Torre) who regularly beats his wife Natalia(Carolina Bang), a trapeze artist. And apparently Javier is the only person who notices...

"The Last Circus" is yet another movie that starts promisingly enough(even the opening credits are cool) before going completely haywire. The problem here is that the movie is content at just throwing ideas at a wall to see what sticks.(I thought the clown car analogy would have been too obvious.) The Spanish Civil War is an important event that is brought up, forgotten and then returned to in a Dickensian delusion of grandeur. A horror movie set in a circus would not have been such a bad idea but the movie lacks the courage of its convictions to fully go grand guignol, instead going for something more like an origin story or a debate as to who is really the monster.
December 12, 2012
Walter M.

Super Reviewer

*** out of ****

"The Last Circus" left me feeling shocked, bewildered, alienated, disgusted, repulsed, humored, and perhaps even speechless. In all honesty, I don't know if a few big words can truly describe this mind-boggling hit of cinematic acid; but I'll try as hard as I can to write a sufficient review for a film that is, by all necessary means, almost too different to critique through the standards of film criticism. There's a chance that for movies like this one; new rules are in need of inventing.

But wait. Surely this isn't the first time someone's gone out of their way to make something so outrageous and strange. Indeed, it isn't. There's a special place in cinema reserved for the visionary button pushers; the pretentious filmmakers who aren't afraid to express their artistic vision and allow it to run completely wild - free of filters, censors, and among other things, the great big sponge known as Hollywood. "The Last Circus" doesn't quite earn its place among these movies - and it's director, Alex de la Iglesia, doesn't quite belong there with the other daring filmmakers of classic cinema - but it has the right to be weird, and weird it is.

The first thing that catches your eye when it comes to the film's marketing campaign is the picture of an evil-looking clown armed with what appears to be machine guns. And that's just a taste of what de la Iglesia has in store for us not too far down the road. He sets his film in 1937, when the Spanish Civil War is still taking place, and his focus is set primarily on one very big source of entertainment in those harsh times; circus performers. And in this case, clowns are most important of all.

The protagonist - if there really is one by the end of this twisty, warped story - is Javier (Carlos Areces). He was traumatized by the imprisonment of his father, a circus clown, when he was of a young age. It was then that Javier accepted the fact that his childhood had been taken away from him by the war itself; and it was time to move on. He grows up and finds a job in the family business, as a sad clown. Due to his lack of a real childhood - filled to the top with rainbows and butterflies and fatherly affection - he is deemed incapable of making children laugh. He doesn't mind his position in the circus, that is until he meets his new boss.

The antagonist is Sergio (Antonio de la Torre). As I said, he is Javier's employer. And he's also an abusive tyrant of the physical and verbal variety, a heavy drinker, and when forced into action, quite the determined sadist. Here's a boss so utterly repulsive that he might not even be permitted entry into the casting calls for "Horrible Bosses".

Sergio is married to the gorgeous Natalia (Carolina Bang); whom Javier secretly lusts after. Natalia notices this and takes a liking to the sad clown; soon, they are going places together by night, and their romantic bonds gains strength. Sergio, meanwhile, notices this and becomes increasingly pissed. He takes his anger out on Natalia most of the time; and if she isn't around, anyone else who is gets a beating. Javier can't stand his employer's misogyny and abuse; causing him to commit an irreversible act. I shall not say what that act is; although let's just say it doesn't end well, and it isn't particularly pretty either. But then again, in a movie like this, what is?

De la Iglesia has great, radiant visual style; his film is a beautiful festival of colors drenched in ugly, although sometimes discreetly funny violence. Think of the film like a bad car crash; you can't look away - oh, no. The performances, the direction, and the dark sense of humor are all far too desirable for that; and by the time we're sucked in, it's too late to turn back. While "The Last Circus" isn't what I'd call a fun film - nor is it one that falls under my definition of "entertaining" half of the time - it's got style, and it's got grace. So in the words of Tom Jones, I guess that makes it a winner.

Some will love it; some will hate it. There's no way that I would ever consider this film to be a great one; but there's an essence about it that I find oddly beautiful. I acknowledge the fact that Iglesia sees himself as a predecessor to surrealistic mastermind Alejandro Jodorowsky; and I acknowledge that as a filmmaker, he lacks the said man's empathy for his characters and passion for his philosophy. But he's got something different all-together; something that separates "The Last Circus" from every other film I saw last year. I admire when a filmmaker can treat me to something new and exciting; even if it is on an emotional scale, a mixed bag. So why shouldn't I greet "The Last Circus" with the praise that it rightfully deserves. Come my friends; join me. This is not one you're going to want to miss.
January 6, 2012
Ryan M
Ryan Marshall

Super Reviewer

    1. Natalia: Nadie quiere ser gracious. [no one wants to be funny] Tienes que creer me. [you have to believe me] I amo payaso triste...[I love you sad clown]
    – Submitted by Alex M (2 years ago)
    1. Javier: I'm a sad clown. I'm not funny.
    – Submitted by Chris P (3 years ago)
View all quotes (2)

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Foreign Titles

  • Mad Circus - Eine Ballade von Liebe und Tod (DE)
  • The Last Circus (Balada triste de trompeta) (UK)
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