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Reviews & Ratings for
The Last Circus More at IMDbPro »Balada triste de trompeta (original title)

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28 out of 42 people found the following review useful:

Wonderful, beautiful and tragic!

Author: ruskiman-3-602750 from Moscow
16 March 2011

A magic tale of terror, dark humour and tragedy!! I think that this film is like a mix of Rodrigues, Jarmush and Kusturica... gripping and strong whilst dark, random and ghastly at the same time. Romantic and disgusting in one film. de la Iglesia beautifully makes the whole film look like a circus performance with all characters exaggerated to the point that even Franco looks like a clown. Though I appreciate that this film is probably not for everyone, I think that it's an original and interesting portrayal of, amongst other things, love and war during horrors of Spanish civil war - an interesting contrast to del Toro's "El Labiirinto del Fauno"!

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16 out of 20 people found the following review useful:

Outrageous film with odd characters , surreal imagery and twisted plot

Author: ma-cortes
9 August 2011

Alex De la Iglesia is an excellent Spanish director . He had much success as "Accion Mutante" , " El Dia De la Bestia" , "Perlita Durango" and ¨La Comunidad¨ , among others . De la Iglesia is back with a tragical comedy about two Spanish clowns of the 70s . Here deals with a homage to dark humor and Spanish history from the Civil War until the 7os . In the film there are comedy, tongue in cheek, humor, horror, action, drama and is pretty entertaining . It's an exaggerated drama/comedy giving the perfect tone through the entire film , you can either follow it or just wander about the ridiculousness of every single minute . Some may regard this kind of dramatic comedy dull or dumb , but the truth is its the most simple, minimalistic, rawest, and pretentious comedy you will ever watch . As the shy Javier (Carlos Areces) and the violent Sergio (Antonio De La Torre) are two clowns who reach the heights of success with their circus show , but eerie events and an acrobat woman (Carolina Bang , partner is director Alex De Iglesia) turning them into deadly enemies . However, the hate between them grows as fast, and as much, as their horrible faces .

The picture blends thrills , suspense, tension as well as an intriguing script full of dark comedy , drama and exciting situations . Packed with scenes of absurd nature, this story is a fantastic farce, as we follow the ridiculous careers of a pair of clowns whose destination is dictated by a fateful love , rather than by their own decisions . The film works on various levels and is constantly reconfigured , however contains some embarrassing , contriving moments and also certain excess . Strong performance from three protagonists , Areces , Bang , De La Torre and excellent plethora of secondaries as Manuel Tejada , Gracia Olayo , Enrique Villen , Manuel Tallafe , all of them usual actors in ¨Pluton BRB Nero¨ series produced by Alex De Iglesia . Interesting screenplay Alex De La Iglesia who usually writes his films and bears remarkable resemblance to ¨Dying of laughter¨ or ¨Muertos de Risa¨ also with two comedians -Gran Wyoming and Santiago Segura , Alex's fetish actor- who reach the heights of success with their spectacle, becoming them into huge enemies . Atmospheric and dark cinematography by Kiko De La Rica with a good camera work . Suspenseful musical score by Roque Baños . The motion picture is well directed by De La Iglesia . He's a cool director has got much success as ¨Accion Mutante¨, ¨Crimen Ferpecto¨and ¨Oxford murders¨, and winner of several Goyas (Spanish Oscars), however his movies have not yet reached box office in USA, but he has strong followers . Nonsense, ridicule , laughters , absurdity , terror , disturbing scenes .. and many other issues ; you can find everything in this movie . The movie is a lot of fun, especially for those who know the historical period . This is without a doubt a thrilling and thought-provoking movie to be enjoyed for dark humor buffs and Alex De Iglesia fans.

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14 out of 19 people found the following review useful:

A full-on surreal psychotronic black-comedy

Author: Red-Barracuda from Edinburgh, Scotland, UK
20 June 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

In 1937 a circus clown is drafted into battle against fascist forces in Spain. He wears his full clown outfit as he wades through the enemy soldiers hacking at them with a machete. Years later in 1973, his son carries on the family tradition and becomes a clown too – the Sad Clown. In the circus he works at he comes into contact with the sociopath Smiling Clown and his beautiful girlfriend, Natalia, the trapeze artist. Very soon, violent jealousies erupt between the clowns and a maelstrom of insane violence ensues.

It's difficult to say if there is an underlying message in The Last Circus. The Spanish Civil War is a backdrop, as is Franco's Spain but to be perfectly honest, if there is a message, it's lost in the mayhem. But this doesn't matter because the movie works best if you take it at face value. It's a Felliniesque melodrama about violent clowns fighting over a gorgeous girl. The tone of the film alternates radically and without warning between funny and vicious. Sometimes they overlap, like when the Smiling Clown beats the Sad Clown to a pulp with a fairground hammer, in doing so hitting the winning bell; he is dragged away from the battered body of his victim while shouting 'I want my teddy!'. This sort of juxtaposing of extreme violence with silly comedy is something that happens throughout The Last Circus and may very well leave some viewers baffled. But for fans of cult cinema this approach should not be much of a problem I would venture. The Last Circus does seem to show again that when it comes to surrealism, the Spanish sure know how to deliver. From the start this is evident. In the incredibly great opening credit sequence we have military style drums hammering away while we are bombarded with an over the top array of bewildering imagery – from black and white photographs of Civil War Spain, to a still of Raquel Welch in One Million Years B.C. juxtaposed immediately with a gruesome shot from the Italian gore-fest Cannibal Holocaust. It's one of the most arresting credit sequences I can ever remember seeing – thematically it's difficult to say what it means but it terms of visual artistry it's terrific.

Acting personnel all do excellent work in bizarre roles. But special notice needs to be made for Carolina Bang for also being quite ridiculously attractive throughout – it's quite easy to see why she has driven these psychopathic clowns to such crazed distraction. Director Álex de la Iglesia has to be given credit too for bringing all this madness to the screen with such style and verve. He has created a film here that in all honesty is very difficult to categorise in terms of genre – there's a little bit of war, quite a lot of comedy, a good deal of melodrama and a host of extreme gruesomeness; but it does not fit into any one genre very well at all, in truth this is one of the things that makes it good. If I had a criticism it would be that the final third loses a little impetus but that's mainly because the opening two thirds is so wild and strong. The Last Circus comes highly recommended for fans of psychotronic cinema.

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19 out of 29 people found the following review useful:

The movie Tarantino wished he'd made

Author: Agnelin from Madrid, Spain
25 September 2011

"Balada triste de trompeta" (Sad trumpet ballad, in Spanish -I have no idea why they translated it as "The last circus", as it's much poorer) is none short of a masterpiece, in my opinion. It is also a 100% Spanish film, meaning it is a tragicomedy, a totally Spanish genre and it also expands between two crucial moments of Spain's recent history, full of tragic events -the Civil War, the killings, Franco's repression and dictatorship- but also full of grotesque details, situations and characters that were real and now, in retrospect, feel utterly ridiculous, much more so than they were at the time -e.g. when the dictator went hunting, they really prepared the prey for him so that he would look as a great hunter- or are just seen as a byproduct of the times that Spain had to live. Director Alex de la Iglesia also cares to sprinkle the movie with historical events that are apparently disconnected to the main story -like the assassination of Franco's hard man and presumed heir as the new tyrant, admiral Carrero Blanco- but which I believe serve a function to the main metaphor that this movie is.

The movie starts in 1937, in the heat of the Spanish Civil War. A clown is recruited by force to fight with the Republican side, and manages to slaughter quite a lot of Franco's men. His young son, Javier, is traumatized by the whole event and later, in 1973, we meet him again as the new recruit in a circus, the Sad Clown. He can only be the sad clown because he is sad himself, and cannot make children laugh. They pair him up with the Funny Clown, a ruthless but charismatic man called Sergio, who turns out to be the partner to a beautiful trapeze artist, Natalia. Javi falls in love with Natalia and thus starts a rivalry between the two men for the love of a woman, with unforeseeable consequences.

The narration is so filled with colorful characters, crazy comedy, crazy violence mixed with comedy or with surreal elements, historical references, and an underlying sense of tragicomedy, and it is so excessive and full of surprises, one can't help but keep watching, much as it is over the top in many an occasion. You can enjoy the movie at face value and ride the wave of the story for what it is, but you can also watch this movie as a summary and insight into the recent Spanish history and how Spain seems doomed to always be split in two, similar people, brothers, always rivalling and even hating each other, seemingly beyond reconciliation, connecting episodes of sheer senselessness and absurdity with spine-chilling episodes of hate and violence, and all of it boiling down to a tragedy that you can only laugh at because it makes no sense.

I'm not surprised that Quentin Tarantino himself was so taken with this movie, and I wouldn't be surprised if an adaptation of this movie was made soon in an American context.

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12 out of 19 people found the following review useful:

Well.... it's... uhm... interesting.........

Author: ( from United States
19 May 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Okay, so it's about these two clowns — the Happy Clown and the Sad Clown — and the woman between them. The Sad Clown's father and grandfather (and who knows, great- grandfather maybe) were all clowns, so it just follows that he will be as well.

But here's the thing: don't bother watching the trailer, because it has zip to do with the film. If anything, it addresses things that happen in the first ten minutes and pretty much ignores the rest. If you went by the trailer, you'd think this was about some crazy circus clown who goes around killing people — well, yes, but the trailer is pretty much about the main character's father, not the character himself.

But the script is just a hysterical mess, meandering from psychological thriller to slasher film to political allegory and back again, such that by the time you get to the end, you really no longer care about these three and their incredibly messed-up lives (or, in one case, death). And getting to that end requires, at times, the patience of Job: a very strange scene in a well that seems put in there for some kind of... well, I'm not sure what it was in there for. Then, shortly afterwards, when (SPOILER) Sad Clown burns his face with acid and an iron... you just sit there wondering what drugs the writer/director had and where you can get some.

It's suggested that you should read this as a political allegory: the Happy Clown as Franco, the Sad Clown as the Republicans, the Girl Between Them as Spain, left broken in half and hanging by a thread. It's a stretch, at best, but given how utterly whacked this thing is, I suppose that works as explanation as well as anything else.

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13 out of 21 people found the following review useful:

Send in those soulful and doleful and schmaltz-by-the-bowlful clowns!

Author: ninjas-r-cool from Canpuna
30 May 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Less than 10 minutes into A Sad Trumpet Ballad, we're shown the spectacle of a machete-wielding clown in a dress striding forth into a regiment of Spanish civil war soldiers, hacking open throats left, right and centre, his big comical shoes taking him forward through the shower of jugular sprays as he keeps on swinging. It's an amazing sequence of brutal, surreal imagery. As a moment of absurd revisionist history, it makes Inglorious Basterds seem overly safe and unambitious in comparison. It's one of the coolest things I've seen so far this year. And it's not even the best part of the film.

After this short prologue, we're whisked from 1937 to 1973 where we find that the main character of the film is the clown's son. He joins a circus hoping to follow in his father's footsteps, but the tragedies of his childhood have left him unable to make anyone laugh. So he becomes the sad clown, destined to continue a life where the jokes are all on him. His counterpart, the happy clown, is as confident as the sad clown is pathetic. A savage brute of a fellow, prone to unexpected violence, he keeps everyone in line with fear. He's also ploughing the sh!t out of the super hot trapeze girl and ensuring she doesn't stray by dishing out the occasional beating. When she takes a fancy to our main character, then these two clowns are set for a violent confrontation. Reeeeeal violent.

So there's a touch of Freaks to the plot, but apparently it's also intended to parallel the events of the Spanish civil war. I know nothing about Spain except that it has nice beaches and inattentive bartenders, so this side of the story went over my head. If I were to guess with my limited grasp of Spanish history, I'd say the happy clown is meant to represent Franco, the sad clown is the Republicans and the trapeze girl is Spain itself. That could be a load of balls though. Fortunately, you don't need to understand it on that level as there's plenty more to enjoy. Let's face it, history is boring as sh!t when compared to psychotic clowns, so put the subtext on the back-burner and just enjoy the show.

Did I mention the violence yet? One of the main complaints for the movie at festival screenings is that it's "too violent". I don't know what that phrase means, so I looked it up on and it still seemed like pure gibberish to me. From I can gather it means "too much awesomeness". Something like that anyway. But yeah, it's got plenty of nasty stuff happening. Structurally it's messy as hell, constantly changing tone and tightrope-walking between genres, from war movie to historical drama to dark comedy to romantic melodrama. But by the time the final third rolls around, we're into a full-bore, take-no-prisoners nightmare of madness and mutilation - a pure freak show.

Some may be put off by the total lack of sympathetic characters (the trapeze girl in particular is especially unlikeable) or the constant barrage of unpleasantness. But for me, the sheer level of originality and visual creativity more than makes up for any shortcomings. Nowadays, the retro throwback trend has made it fashionable to rape the corpse of post-modernism with nothing more than a lazy wink-at-the-audience to justify the lack of originality, so it's especially pleasing to see a movie acknowledge its influences and then expand on them. Gutsy filmmaking all-round from a director who's willing to push the art-form into territory we haven't seen before.

It's in my top 3 for 2010. Check it out

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5 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

"Freaks" meets "Santa Sangre"

Author: foosie-2 from United States
19 October 2011

If you have seen any film by Alex de la Ingelsia, then you know that no two of his films are alike, that they contain a lot of humor and arresting images, and often a lot of graphic gores, and are the product of a very original mind. THE LAST CIRCUS is no exception. There are images in this film that will stay with you for years.

The settings are many and varied, beginning with the Spanish Civil War in 1937 and winding up in 1973 on a War Monument that includes a giant cross and statues for an ending that will bring to mind Hitchcock's NORTH BY NORTHWEST. Along the way there is a nightclub dedicated to Telly Savalas called Kojak!

Pedro Rodríguez has created two very different special effects makeups, one of a man who has self-mutilated his face with acid and a hot iron, and another by man who has had his face slashed with a grappling hook and then stitched back together by a veterinarian. Rodríguez is someone whose future work bears watching.

The setting for much of the action is a traveling circus reminiscent of FREAKS crossed with Alejandro Jodorowsky's SANTA SANGRE. Clowns have always been pretty creepy anyway, but you will never look at them the same after this film.

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8 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

Laugh Clown Kill

Author: Billy_Crash from United States
5 February 2012

Laugh clown kill

A sad clown falls in love with a starlet – and challenges her misogynistic lover in post-war Spain.

The logline above is far too simplistic for this multi-genre and multi-thematic film. Written and directed by Álex de la Iglesia, best known in the US for his 2008 feature THE OXFORD MURDERS, brings us a monster mix of mayhem that spans from the Spanish Civil War to 1973. Sort of like Tim Burton on a lot more acid.

Soft-spoken Javier (Carlos Areces) survives the war to become a sad clown in a low budget circus. In the show, he plays second banana to Sergio (Antonio de la Torre), the happy clown who is ultra-hostile off stage and keeps the other performers walking on edge due to sudden tirades and extreme violence. His lover is the lithe Natalia (Carolina Bang) torn between Sergio's rage and the safety of Javier. Okay, that sounds like straightforward romance plot number one – but it doesn't come close. This tale engages war, politics, drama, comedy, horror and romance while exploring themes regarding obsession, response to trauma, politically induced Frankensteinian creations, and the failure of dreams within a fascist state. Fascism, whether it is Franco's or Sergio's, is the running thread that holds this wild fantasy together.

Kiko de la Rica is the photographic genius that created one amazingly vivid cinematographic ride that even in the daylight never seems pristine or dreamy enough. The world is always tainted – darkened – by something from the edges as well as within the hearts of the characters, and his skill brings this to light frame after frame.

The acting is absolutely brilliant and riveting, with Areces and de la Torre going toe to toe at every turn. I can only imagine how mind-numbingly drained the performances had left them. Then again, how could any actor in the film not embrace the quirky and enigmatic characters created by Iglesias? None of the characters were run of the mill or plucked off the shelf like so much Hollywood drek.

However, though this falls under the realm of horror, I sincerely doubt many fans of the genre would embrace the movie. This is not because horror aficionados are stupid and only adore slasher films, but this is one of those movies that could easily make someone question the very definition of the genre. And with a multi-faceted feature such as this, horror plays a role, like a character, and does not permeate the tale.

Regardless, there's something for everyone in THE LAST CIRCUS, and if you like freaky films that defy description, you should enjoy this riveting feature.

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10 out of 16 people found the following review useful:

Fears of a Clown

Author: David Ferguson ( from Dallas, Texas
28 August 2011

Greetings again from the darkness. Here's hoping I don't get booted from proper society for admitting a strange fascination and enjoyment from the latest directorial effort by Spanish cult favorite Alex de la Iglesia. The film is assembled with unequal parts: political parody, black comedy, dark horror, bizarre action and an even more bizarre love triangle. All of that and some of the freakiest clowns you will ever see! I am not really familiar with Mr. De La Torre's previous work but evidently he has quite a following in Spain, though he has found extremely limited success in the U.S. with The Day of the Beast. Neither am I an historical expert on the Spanish Civil War or the regime of Generalissimo Francisco Franco, both of which are targets of the director's true feelings. Still, the movie is such that it kept me engaged and even enthralled the entire time ... especially in Act I.

The film begins in 1937 when a faction of the Republican Army crash a kids' circus performance and force the performers to join in the crusade. One of the clowns leaves behind a young son as he picks up a machete and destroys a platoon almost single handedly - while still in women's clown costume! It is a visual I have yet to erase from my memory.

Forward to 1943 and the clown is forced into servitude constructing the famed Valley of the Fallen. His son tracks him down and is given "revenge" as the only redemptive action by his father. Flash forward to 1973 and the young boy is seen joining a traveling circus as the "sad clown". This circus troupe is run by the ruthless and sadistic "funny clown" who is clearly the filmmakers representation of Franco. The foreshadowing scene comes in the initial meeting between the two clowns as 'funny' tells 'sad' if he weren't a clown, he'd be a murderer. "Sad" responds "me too". Let the mayhem begin! The rivalry and violence escalates as Javier, the sad clown, is lead on and falls for the acrobatic girlfriend of Sergio, the funny clown. As the story moves forward both Javier and Sergio become more grotesque and violent in their attempts to capture Natalia the acrobat. It all ends with a breathtaking climb and operatic duel atop the memorial in the Valley of the Fallen.

There is no way to describe the trip from machete clown to the tragic dance atop the cross. It is a mash-up of Inglorious Basterds, Freaks, Machete and Phantom of the Opera. Additionally, there are countless homages to classic films through the years and a nearly operatic feel to the story and some scenes. Singer Raphael's version of "Ballad of the Sad Trumpet" plays a role, as does a crumpled trumpet. I certainly see this one becoming a regular on the midnight movie circuit, and rightfully so. It has everything a viewer could possibly want ... provided they are in a mindless stupor and looking for the best available violent clown movie currently showing!

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16 out of 28 people found the following review useful:

Alex de la Iglesia, the Spanish Fellini.

Author: David Traversa from Argentina
9 May 2011

To watch this movie and enjoy it one must suspend all judgment.

It doesn't pretend to show us scenes of everyday living, or the girl next door shopping at the supermarket.

It deals with the same magic world that García Márquez deals with in his exotic novels. Marvellously created world. As thrilling as any Fellini movie. The circus world is the perfect setting for developing this view, between fantasy, nightmares and awful reality.

The pacing is relentless, a thousand things happening during the 120 minutes or so, all of them linked within the main story and showing a whole range of human emotions among the three main characters: The Smiling Clown, The Sad Clown (his sidekick) and the beautiful trapeze girl, the object of jealousy, fury, rancor between the two clowns.

Every scene is visually baroque in essence, since action takes place in the foreground but also in the background, with secondary characters.

There is a full color palette, dazzling as an old kaleidoscope making all sorts of beautiful patterns that change in front of our eyes delighting us continuously.

The acting is superb, from the principal actors to the last extra. The delivery of the lines in Spanish is done at full speed, clean as a whistle and sharp as a cracking whip by all the actors.

The digital effects perfect. Top entertainment from beginning to end. What a SEN-SA-TION-AL movie!!!

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