Saturday, May 3, 2008

Grand Disaster: Inside an Underground Circus

My string of niche documentaries continues with Grand Disaster: Inside a Underground Circus, which is so niche that it doesn't even appear to be on IMDB. It's nice to know that's still possible.

It's about a small (twelve-person) circus getting on a bus and going on tour for the first time. And it's Seattle's Circus Contraption, which makes it really cool. See, I love Circus Contraption. I guess I'm a Circus Aficionado at this point, since I've gone to a lot of circuses, from the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Greatest Show on Earth Extravanganza to several Cirque du Soleil shows (I actually saw one this week, in fact. If anyone asks, Corteo is great!) down to the local independent circuses. You know, the ones that are a little bit rougher than Teatro Zinzanni. Seattle has a great independent circus scene. I'm getting off-point, so I'm going to try to regroup and start a new paragraph.

Circus Contraption is a local Seattle circus, and they're great. They've got kind of an archaic sleaziness that makes "underground circus" make sense. And their band is really good, like a less shrill Tiger Lillies. I mean, I like the Tiger Lillies and all, but there's no denying that the falsetto can get kind of annoying when there's not a show to go with it.

So, you've got Circus Contraption. And back in (I think) 2002 or so they bought a bus and a truck and took the show on tour. And I say that's a good idea, because you're not really a circus if you don't travel. The Pickle Family Circus (kind of the spiritual ancestors of this whole indie circus movement, and also responsible for a lot of the actors in the Popeye movie, which I also love) used to travel, right? So everyone should travel. And then the usual things happen. The truck breaks down, people get on each other's nerves, somebody quits, the bus breaks down, somebody else quits, and the circus shuts down and cancels plans for another tour.

So it's kind of a downer of an ending. It seems to be saying that there's no point in running away and joining a scruffy little circus.

Of course, the story didn't end with the movie. In fact, Circus Contraption is doing fine. They've got a new show opening later this month, and I plan to enjoy it. The documentary's a lot of fun, but I don't guarantee you'll be able to find it.

No comments: