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 funny and is only equipped to play the role of the Sad Clown. He finds work in a circus where he befriends an outlandish cast of characters, but as the Sad Clown he must take the abuse of the brutish Happy Clown Sergio, who humiliates Javier daily in the name of entertainment. It is here that he meets Natalia, a gorgeous acrobat, and abused wife of Sergio. Javier falls deeply in love with Natalia and tries to rescue her from her cruel and violent husband, unleashing Sergio's jealousy. But Natalia ...Written by
Fofito plays Manuel, the clown of the opening scene. In credits, his character appears as Payaso listo (Clever Clown). Luis Varela plays the veterinary (whose name isn't cited during the movie), but in credits appears as Manuel (Veterinario) [Manuel (Veterinary)]. See more »
When Andres is arrested, he says "maderos" to the policemen, but this word was not yet used at this time. He shoould have said "grises" (grey) because this is the color of the police uniform - only years later would it become brown. ("Madero" is log or piece of wood, which is why people called policemen "maderos"). See more »
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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