Sunday, April 21, 2013

Two "Circus" Stories

Philippe Dionnet "Yo Yo" 1965.
The films of French director (and circus clown) Pierre Étaix, made in the1960s, were lost to American audiences until recently; Turner Classic Movies aired a few of his features and early shorts just this month, and soon they will be released on Criterion.  His films are reminiscent, to me, of Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd, and of his contemporary filmmaker Jacques Tati; and there is a touch of his influence, I think, in the films of Jean-Pierre Jeunet.  Surreal little visual gags lead to melancholy, then joy.  "Yo Yo" follows the life of a circus clown from riches, to rags, then back to riches again.  It's beautiful.
Gina Lollobrigida, "Trapeze," 1956.
Another circus film, this one produced by and starring Burt Lancaster as a grizzled veteran of a trapeze act, slightly lame, who sees potential genius in young Tony Curtis.  Tony at first seeks Burt out to teach him the difficult "triple" leap on the flying trapeze at his one ring circus act in France; Burt then sees Tony, and his skill, as his ticket back to the big time with Ringling Brothers.   Gina is the woman who wants in on the act, and is the center of an in interesting love triangle.  After failing to get Burt to love and invite her to join the group, she turns her attention to Tony, who falls for her.  But Burt can't help but fall for her, even if doing so will ruin the act.  It's a fun, melodramatic film with some good period details of 1950s Paris and over-the -top performances appropriate for a film about the circus.

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