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Cirque du Soleil: Corteo

(2006) *** Unrated
102 min. Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

Cirque du Soleil is at it again, and the magic of Corteo—with years of international touring proceeding—has come home on DVD and now Blu-ray. Corteo is classic Cirque du Soleil, a multilingual paegant of music, dance, acrobatics, gymnastics, and clowning dressed up in rich costumes and bathed in fancy lights, the ingenious production design run with highly refined coordination.

"Corteo" (Italian for "cortege") refers to the festive cavalcade following the funeral of a clown (Italian stage star Mauro Mozzani). As usual, this show gives off a whiff of Fellini in its premise and its controlled chaos of interstitial dream passages, a dead man's reveries brought on by angels. Even if adult audiences meet Cirque du Soleil with jaded irony (oh, Cirque du Soleil—you and your clown funerals), the troupe always brings so much to the ring that any initial scoffing begins to seem churlish.

Here are acrobats flinging on chandeliers, "kids" bouncing on trampolines disguised as beds, juggling, highwire, teeter-totter, hoopwork, ladder stunts, and a large-scale act combining trampoline and trapeeze: defying gravity is creator-director Daniele Finzi Pasca's visual theme. The entertaining grandiosity also gives way to gleefully self-aware silliness, whether it's clowning (unfortunately, this show has no virtuoso mime routines) or a crackpot act (a human marionette, or a double-jointed dance with balls, ribbons, hoops, and rubber chickens).

The filmic direction is mostly unobtrusive (exception: hyperactive editing during the teeterboard act), bringing the viewer close to the oft-thrilling action. Beyond its crisp, colorful (including true blacks), and contrast-calibrated high-definition transfer from an HD source, Sony's Blu-ray special edition of Corteo is pumped up with Dolby TrueHD sound and fully-loaded with bonus features. "Through the Curtain: An In-Depth Look at Corteo" (45:22) is a terrific backstage documentary focusing on the vision of Pasca, the inordinate challenges of a production of this scale, and the hard work, heart, and frayed nerves of the production staff and ensemble.

"A Day in the Life of Corteo Artists" (10:44) zooms in a bit closer, while "Filming Corteo" (7:37) looks at the complicated process of shooting the big-top extravaganza. "Teatro Intimo" (7:52) is a bonus act cut from the feature but usually seen on stage, and a Photo Gallery (3:01) is actually a musical montage of said photos. On DVD, two promos are also included, for "Cirque on DVD" (4:49) and "Cirque Club" (0:32). Cirque fans can consider this a no-brainer addition to the DVD set Cirque du Soleil: Anniversary Collection—1984-2005.

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Aspect ratios: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen

Number of discs: 1

Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1

Street date: 9/23/2008

Distributor: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Review gear:
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer

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