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Circus - Movie Review - 2010

Life Beneath The Big Top

About.com Rating 5 Star Rating


Circus - Movie Review - 2010

Big Apple Circus performer Sarah Schwartz in 'Circus'

This comprehensive, colorful and thoroughly entertaining epic documentary about the Big Apple Circus is enchanting, thrilling and so up close and personal that you can almost smell the grease paint, sweat and Tiger Balm.

On The Road With The Big Apple Circus

Circus, a six hours, six episodes epic documentary, follows the famous, highly acclaimed Big Apple Circus and its personnel on its 2008 touring season, from rehearsing and setting the show in Upstate New York to completely revising it before its first performance in Virginia, then through the most important and longest (three month) annual run at the plaza at NY's Lincoln Center, to difficulties in Queens and triumphs in other cities.

We see how the tent rigged in calm weather and with high wind conditions, in downpours and snowstorms, by a winsome team of quirky, dedicated techies. The performers, one more fabulously skilled than the next, strive for perfection while dancing on the tightrope, high flying from one trapeze to another, executing impossible tricks on galloping horses or doing triple twists over a narrow handheld balance beam. The tricks are extremely dangerous, even life-threatening. Clowning is a big part of Big Apple Circus' appeal, and three clowns working solo or together invite kids from the audience to enter the ring for their interactive clowning antics.

Behind the scenes, we meet circus kids of various ages, and learn about their aspirations to follow their parents into the ring -- or move on to other careers. Everyone has a compelling story, and the intimate profiles the filmmakers present of performers and crew reveal the joys, challenges, romance and loneliness of circus life.

Change Is In The Air

In the final episode, Big Apple Circus co-Founder Paul Binder hands over the position of artistic director to his successor, Guillaume Dufresnoy, the next generation to carry the Big Apple Circus' traditions into the future. The tour ends with a very emotional finale. Everyone heads off for a much needed break, or to look for their next job.

The series is magical and moving, beautifully shot, and the music is perfect. It's a perfectly satisfying experience, whether seen in six successive sittings or all at once. PBS had a superb interactive Circus Website, where you can follow up on your favorite performer and learn more background about the Big Apple Circus' past and future.

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Film Details:

  • Title: Circus
  • Directors: Maro Chermayeff and Jeffrey Dupre
  • Release Date: November, 2010, on PBS
  • Running Time: six hours
  • Parental Advisory: Content advisory for parents
  • Country: USA
  • Locations: U.S., including New York State, Virginia, New York City and elsewhere
  • Language: English
  • Production Company: Show of Force Films
  • Distribution Company: (DVD) PBS
  • Official Website
  • Trailer

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