Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away
In the early 1900s Florenz Ziegfeld was a Broadway impresario who made a name for himself by producing stage shows filled with beautifully costumed actors and expansive production numbers set to the works of the day's most prominent composers. You didn't go to Ziegfeld's Follies for story or intrigue, you went for the extravagance, the beauty, the pizazz.
Today's modern equivalent is an acrobatic phenomenon called Cirque du Soleil. Its montage of gymnastic wonders and exotic visuals has spurred sales of a reported 100 million tickets through its various live world-touring shows. And with Worlds Away, segments from six Cirque productions ("O," "KÀ," "Mystère," "Viva ELVIS," "Zumanity" and "The Beatles LOVE") have been woven together in a high-flying spectacle that's swinging into the movie house.
A Girl and Her Flyer
The tenuous story that ties all those parts together is that of a young woman named Mia who one night comes upon an old traveling circus. She wanders this tattered amusement park scanning its run-down carney booths and tents devoted to a bearded lady, a fire-eater and a sword-swallower. But then a handbill catches her eye, and she hurries in to see "The Aerialist"—a handsome highflier with just enough skill and just enough twinkle in his smile to impress a wide-eyed, small-town girl.
Then her love-at-first-sight dreaminess tumbles into a full-fledged dreamland when the Aerialist misses a midair leap and crashes headlong to the ring below. Because instead of hitting solid ground, both he and his pretty admirer are sent sliding down a mystical rabbit hole into an alternate reality of moonlit sands and vast multicolored show tents—each populated by a cast of impossibly talented acrobats, gymnasts and contortionists who flip, tumble and soar through fantastical realms as Mia searches for her missing crush.
Now, I've already hinted at the fact that this story is a rather one-dimensional fantasy tale. But as soon as Mia encounters a puppet-like clown ringmaster who swings wide his loose-jointed arms and sends quite literally an acre of curtain fabric swirling off into the shadow-shrouded heights, well, you can't help but be captivated by the sumptuous, surreal sights that flash and swing before the camera's 3-D lens.
Synchronized swimmers, catapulting aerialists, double-jointed contortionists, trampoline-bouncing superheroes and fire-twirling jugglers are but a few of the vivid and color-splashed acts that lead up to a final towering, breathtaking aerial ballet … and film-closing kiss between Mia and her finally found Aerialist.
The Family and Its Night Out at the Movies
The soundtrack includes a variety of exotic-sounding music from around the world mixed with recognizable tunes from Elvis and The Beatles. So there's very little to worry about when it comes to the music. And there's no foul language in the limited dialogue. There are a few oddly bizarre visual images such as a man casually chewing an unlit cigar and reading his newspaper while his feet and the chair he's sitting in go up in flames. And "evil" warlords are defeated by wire-suspended Asian "martial artists." Cartwheeling clowns fight off wall-climbing baddies in intricately choreographed "clashes."
The costumes—from zebra-striped bodysuits to brightly colored unitards to electrified flashing bodices—many times look as if they've been painted on and can feel a bit revealing with so much close-up and slo-mo camera work capturing the physical action. And some of the performances, including that of a female gymnast who executes backflips and flexible contortions in a water-filled bowl, carry a certain sensuality with them.
How much sensuality? Only a tiny bit more than Olympic-level synchronized swimming or ice skating or gymnastics.
This creative and quirky celebration of the near impossible is a mix of outlandish imagination and incredible skill, not salacious pop starlet-style concert moves and jiggles. And it's all captured with an engaging cinematic extravagance, beauty and, well, pizzazz.