Friday, April 22, 2016

Show of Shows (2015) Tribeca 2016 (updated with Ariela's thoughts)

Show of Shows is a nostalgia trip to a time not so long ago. A collection of footage from circuses, carnivals, amusement parks and rodeos he film is a kind of trip to a grand show in 75 minutes but without the crowds.

Made up of footage culled from various sources including features, shorts and home movies the film is structured so as to be a day at the show. It begins life in and around a circus before the crowds arrive. We watch as the performers prepare, the tents are erected and the crowds arrive. From there is becomes a series of performances cut together, dancers, death defiers, dangerous animals, elephants, fights of various sorts, clowns and finally the cheering audiences. Until the end there is no sound other than the music of Georg Holm & Orri Páll Dýrason of Sigur Rós, Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson, Kjartan Dagur Holm

This is a frequently hypnotic piece of filmmaking, especially in the first half where the rhythms of images perfectly match the rhythm of the music. Watching the film I found myself drifting off to another time and place. Somewhere around the time the section on elephants begins the hypnotic spell ends and the film becomes slightly less magical as the need to be “all inclusive” over takes the art.

I really like the film a great deal. Admittedly much of my love is due to the score which is by members of Sigur Ros, a group I am a fan of. I doubt that the film will ever get a regular run in theaters, since it is more an art piece than anything, but at the same time I suspect it would be richly rewarding as an installation or a special event at a museum where the right audience would get in tune with its specialness.
Ariela also saw the film and I wanted to add her thoughts:

I love all timey carnivals and the old sideshows so I was excited to see Shows of Shows.

I loved the first part where the film showed the vaudville, "freak shows", dancers. I loved the Sigur Ros music that went along with the acts so perfectly.

However, after the vaudville clips, there was a lot of old circus footage. Horrible horrible animal cruelty. I kept hoping and expecting that set would be over soon but it just kept going. I finally left the theater. I'm not sure if I've ever left a theater before the movie ended. Sitting around watching old footage of circuses was too upsetting for me.

I must also note that I counted and that 9 people left the theater before I did, though of course their reasons could have been different than mine.

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