×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Alegria

To fans of the Cirque du Soleil, the idea of a film based on one of its productions might seem as magical as the Cirque itself. Unfortunately, "Alegria" is nothing like the Cirque's show of the same name and turns out to be inaccessible, fluffy fantasy with lavish technical elements but with a story that doesn't gel.

With:
Frac - Rene Bazinet Fleur - Frank Langella Giulietta - Julie Cox Marcello - Heathcote Williams Momo - Clipper Miano Old Taps - Brian Dewhurst Little Box - Jade Fafieanie

To fans of the Cirque du Soleil, the idea of a film based on one of its productions might seem as magical as the Cirque itself. Unfortunately, “Alegria” is nothing like the Cirque’s show of the same name and turns out to be inaccessible, fluffy fantasy with lavish technical elements but with a story that doesn’t gel. Despite the international interest that no doubt attends its release, “Alegria” is unlikely to do much business but will be a noteworthy addition to the festival circuit.

Since its 1984 inception, the Quebec-based Cirque du Soleil has been seen by 15 million spectators on three continents. In its various incarnations, including “Alegria,” “Mystere,” “Saltimbanco” and “Quidam,” the Cirque has dazzled crowds with innovative spectacles. Blending light, music, humor, wildly colorful costumes and daring physical feats, its animal-free performances have helped redefine the circus.

If the Cirque du Soleil has any failing, it’s the thread of a plot clumsily woven throughout its productions that loosely attempts to connect disparate acts. Usually, however, the anemic storyline is easy to disregard because contortionists and acrobats are dangling before you.

In the new film, by contrast, veteran Cirque director Franco Dragone seems to have forgotten what people love about the Cirque: He plays up the sappy, sentimental narrative elements while all but eliminating the physical artistry.

There are a few shining moments — a contortionist in a fountain and a Christ-like trapeze artist provide breathtaking homage to famous Fellini vignettes — but they are few and far between.

Story revolves around a depressed mime, Frac (Rene Bazinet), whose chance encounter with a circus troupe changes his life and restores hope.

When he meets the enchanting performer Giulietta (Julie Cox), Frac falls instantly in love. But to get to her, he must win over her father Fleur (Frank Langella), the troupe’s leader, who refuses to let his daughter be swayed by Frac’s advances.

Meanwhile, deep in the heart of the mythical city, a Fagin-like taskmaster named Marcello (Heathcote Williams) captures young children and forces them to vend flowers on the streets. Only with the aide of Frac and Giulietta can the tenacious gamin Momo (Clipper Miano) lead his fellow prisoners to freedom.

The liberation of the children, who swap dirty gray rags for sparkling white duds and head off to the circus, is heavy-handed allegory that isn’t nearly as effective as it should be. Having left Marcello’s world of evil slave labor behind, the children are free to regain their innocence and joy in Fleur’s world of the magical circus. Production notes make a case that the film’s social mission is to educate viewers about the plight of exploited children around the world, but that message gets muddled in the elaborate production.

Frank Langella’s Fleur is the only character that rouses any real sympathy, especially when he delivers a moving speech on what it is like to be a performer. Most of the time, however, the actors are in the service of some larger technical scheme and as such give largely two-dimensional performances. Pierre Mignot’s production design and veteran Cirque costume designer Dominique Lemieux’s threads are striking, but both would have been better served by a stage performance than by this film. On that note, a better bet is the video “Alegria: The Truth of Illusion,” which documents the troupe’s 1994 production.

Alegria

Canada-France-Netherlands

Production: An Overseas Filmgroup presentation of a Lampo di Vita Films Inc./Mainstream/Egmond production with the participation of Canada Television and Cable Production/Telefilm Canada/Equity Investment program. Produced by Stephane Reichel, Alexandre Heylen, Hans de Weers. Co-producer, Rudy Barichello. Executive producer, Helene Dufresne. Directed by Franco Dragone.

Crew: Screenplay, Rudy Barichello. Camera (color), Pierre Mignot; editor, Jean-Francois Bergeron; music, Benoit Jutras; art director, Johnny Bolvin; production designer, Ben Van Os; costume designer, Dominique Lemieux; sound, Claude Kazanavicius; assistant director, Michelangelo Csaba Bolla; casting, Vanessa Pereira, Simone Ireland. Reviewed at the Palm Springs Film Festival, Jan. 10, 1999. Running time: 94 MIN.

With: Frac - Rene Bazinet Fleur - Frank Langella Giulietta - Julie Cox Marcello - Heathcote Williams Momo - Clipper Miano Old Taps - Brian Dewhurst Little Box - Jade Fafieanie

More Film

  • I Lost My Body

    French Animation 'I Lost My Body' Tops Cannes Critics' Week Winners

    “I Lost My Body,” a dark French animated film from writer-director Jérémy Clapin, has come up trumps in this year’s Critics’ Week program at the Cannes Film Festival, taking the strand’s top honor, the Nespresso Grand Prize. The film, which follows a young man’s severed hand as it struggles to be reunited with its own, [...]

  • Contract Placeholder Business WGA ATA Agent

    Talent Agents Blast Verve Agreement With Writers Guild

    The lead negotiator for Hollywood’s talent agencies has again blasted the Writers Guild and its recent agreement with the Verve agency — and cautioned other agencies against following suit. Verve defected from the major agencies on May 16 when it became the first sizable Hollywood talent agency to sign the WGA’s Code of Conduct. That [...]

  • Forest Whitaker

    Netflix Teams With Forest Whitaker on 'Hello, Universe' Movie

    Netflix and Forest Whitaker are collaborating on live-action family movie “Hello, Universe,” based on the 2018 Newbery Award winner and New York Times bestselling novel by Erin Entrada Kelly. Playwright and screenwriter Michael Golamco (“Always Be My Maybe”) will adapt the book. Whitaker and Nina Yang Bongiovi (“Fruitvale Station”) of Significant Productions will produce. The [...]

  • Lauren Ash44th Annual Gracie Awards, Show,

    Politics and New Abortion Ban Laws Dominate 2019 Gracie Awards

    Female empowerment was in the air Tuesday night as showrunners, writers and performers gathered at the 44th annual Gracie Awards to celebrate women breaking barriers and shattering glass ceilings within the entertainment industry. Sandra Oh, Patricia Arquette, Rachel Maddow and Connie Britton were among the honorees at the ceremony, which took place at the Beverly [...]

  • Spider-Man Homecoming

    Film and TV Productions Are Using Drones for Scouting Locations, Lighting and More

    Since a ruling by the Federal Aviation Administration in 2014 that cleared the use of drones in film and TV production, the acquisition of footage by these unmanned flying machines has become de rigueur for aerial shooting in cases when cranes or aircraft are impractical or unsafe.  As such, drones have been greeted enthusiastically not [...]

  • Filmmaker Maryam Touzani Talks About Her

    Filmmaker Maryam Touzani Talks About Her Cannes Debut, 'Adam'

    Debuting feature helmer-writer Maryam Touzani makes her Cannes bow with “Adam,” in Un Certain Regard. The Casablanca-set drama shows how a pregnant stranger changes the lives of a mother and her young daughter. What inspired your plot? When I moved back to Tangier after college, one day a young woman knocked on our door, looking [...]

  • Q&A With Juan Villegas on ‘Las

    Argentina’s Juan Villegas on ‘Las Vegas,’ Featuring at Cannes’ ACID

    CANNES – Buenos Aires’ director-producer Juan Villegas presented his debut “Saturday” at the Venice Festival and won awards at the Rotterdam and Sarajevo film festivals. “Suicidals” screened at San Sebastián. “Idleness,” his third feature, co-directed with Alejando Lingenti, screened at the Berinale. Produced by Salvador del Solar at Argentina’s Cepa Audiovisual and by Villegas’ production [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content