sun 15/09/2019

DVD: I Clowns | reviews, news & interviews

DVD: I Clowns

DVD: I Clowns

Fellini's rarely seen circus special

A disturbing spectacle: the circus comes to a small Italian town

Circuses were a regular touchstone for Fellini, and clowns, as this 1970 TV movie confirms, their troubling core. I Clowns’ first 25 minutes are a dry run for Amarcord’s raucous flashback to Fascist Rimini. Beginning with the boy Fellini woken in the night by a circus's arrival, his camera takes a ringside view of the hoarse bluster and escalating mania of a Twenties show, orchestrated by clowns who frighten Fellini. His observation that their grotesquery was in those days common in Italian small towns allows an aside into sketches of such characters: a horse-drawn carriage driver, huge like a Chaplin villain, who brawls outside a railway station run by a short, fuming tyrant, gurning barflies, jaundiced Fascists and mentally askew figures of pathos and fun. This is 100% proof latter-day Fellini.

When the maestro himself appears, to lead his film crew in a documentary search for the “faint, heartbreaking traces” of the old clowns, he finds them in crumbling Paris theatres, cramped trailers and old people’s homes. The first reel’s rich nostalgia isn’t recaptured, and the veterans' vague memories reveal less than the recreation of alcoholic clown archetype Jimmy Guyon's sanatorium escape to laugh himself to death at the circus.

As a Christmas Day TV treat in Fellini's homeland (in black-and-white; its vivid colours could be seen at cinemas days later), this is a minor but appealing memento of a time when he was a mass phenomenon, a self-conscious ringmaster showman who described the Italian soul. This duel-format DVD/Blu-ray of a film rarely available on home video includes an over-academic, well-illustrated booklet, and a similar video essay.

This is a minor but appealing memento of a time when Fellini was a mass phenomenon


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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