"Alegria" is a Spanish word meaning joy, elation and jubilation, and that's the defining characteristic of this film. Narratively, it could be described as early Fellini lite swathed in MTV-like compositions as a street mime goes through a physical and emotional rejuvenation after falling in love with a circus girl.
Well-received at the 10th annual Nortel Palm Springs International Film Festival, "Alegria"'s most joyous tents may well be on the festival circuit and big-city art houses, where its elliptical structure and abstract acrobatics may have its most receptive audience appeal.
Billed as "a film event inspired by the Cirque du Soleil," "Alegria" is not a traditional narrative, although it borrows heavily from "Oliver Twist" and perambulates around Fellini territory with its focus on outcasts and circus performers. In this high-wire saga, forlorn street mime Frac (Rene Bazinet) lays down on the train tracks to end it all but, amazingly, is saved by 11-year-old Momo (Clipper Miano
), who takes him to his circus troupe. There, Frac experiences an immediate emotional resuscitation: He falls in love with lissome performer Giuletta (Julie Cox).
Indeed, so affectionately transparent are the film's Fellini trappings that it could easily be renamed "Giuletta of the Circus", not in small measure because Cox's lilting performance as the circus girl is, perhaps, the film's dramatic high point, while Frank Langella
is captivating as a Fagan-like despot. Certainly to further address the nebulous narrative is to miss the essence of "Alegria" -- its essential excellencies and character come through its movements, colors and splendid costumes.
Director Franco Dragone
, who has directed the Cirque du Soleil since 1985, has fashioned a swirling, entrancing film of visual treats. Like a multi-ring circus, there is always something going on in Dragone's lively frame, in part because of the expert technical contributions. Costume designer Dominique Lemieux's eye-popping plumery and production designer Ben Van Os' moody trimmings add to the viewing joy.
Co-producers: Rudy Barichello
, Stephane Reichel, Alexandre Heylen
, Hans de Weers
Director: Franco Dragone
Screenwriter: Rudy Barichello
Director of photography: Pierre Mignot
Costume designer: Dominique Lemieux
Production designer: Ben Van Os
Editor: Jean-Francois Bergeron
Frac: Rene Bazinet
Fleur: Frank Langella
Giuletta: Julie Cox
Marcello: Heathcote Williams
Momo: Clipper Miano
Old Taps: Brian Dewhurst
Little Box: Jade Fafieanie
Deaf Clown: Sergei Chachelev
Running time -- 93 minutes
MPAA rating: PG