The tiresome “ohmygod, clowns are so creepy” trope is about as worn-out as the holes in the big, floppy shoes one associates with these face-painted goofballs, but watching The Clowns, one begins to understand that the meme is rooted in truth. Yes, this is a G-rated, made-for-TV look at clowns, but it’s also one written and directed by Federico Fellini, which means you’re gonna get, to quote the DVD box, a “sex-crazed hobo, a midget nun [and] a mutilated Mussolini disciple.” The 1970 film is making its Blu-ray debut and, as with all Fellini works, the crisp resolution adds hugely to the experience, bringing spectacular contrast and color saturation to the director’s fever-dream set pieces. Of particular note here is the inclusion of a beautiful (if small) 50-page booklet filled with Fellini’s production notes and sketches. (available now)
Special Features: Fellini short, visual essay, booklet
Over the last couple of years (and especially since the introduction of robot sidekick Geoff Peterson), The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson has harkened back to the ragtag days of “let’s see what we can get away with” David Letterman, maintaining freshness by mining gold from Ferguson’s unrehearsed, anarchic riffage. So it’s especially disappointing that this stand-up special taped before a Nashville crowd proves so thoroughly stale. From bits referencing Fabio’s roller-coaster goose collision (the subject of much late-night fodder in 1999) and Siegfried & Roy to an extended anecdote regarding Titanic, the material often feels like something Ferguson dug out of a drawer. Still, the comedian’s cultivated personality is a winning one, and old jokes or not, any extra time in his presence sans sandman at the door is appreciated. (available now)
Special Features: Featurettes
Speaking of Fellini and his clowns, this week brings nothing short of a masterpiece by one of the Italian maestro’s present-day devotees. Spain’s Álex de la Iglesia may not be disciplined enough ever to become a household name in America like his Mexican peers Guillermo del Toro and Alfonso Cuarón, and thank goodness for that. His latest surrealist opera is a mind-blowing study in filmmaking excess, an elaborate fascism metaphor in which a father-son clown act is torn apart during the Spanish Civil War when the father is forced to execute rebels. He encourages the son, Javier, to go on performing. Decades later, we find a grown and portly Javier (Carlos Areces) in a traveling show populated by a sexy trapeze artist, Natalia, and her psychotic husband, the troupe’s lead clown, Sergio. A wonderfully sick love triangle ensues, leading to a breathtaking (though exhaustingly extended) climactic fight to the death above the Valley of the Fallen, a gigantic underground basilica that currently holds dictator Francisco Franco’s remains. Yeah, it’s that fucking insane. It’s also one of the best films of the year. (available now)
Special Features: Featurettes
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