Friday, March 16, 2001

Invisible In the Magic Kingdom, part VI

At last, and as ever, damn everything but the circus—Cirque du Soleil, in this case. The style is emblematically European: there’s always more going on than can be comfortably perceived at once, and much of it is cheerfully, pointlessly surreal. There’s some intellectual riffing on the traditional motifs of clowning, much arrogant posturing, and pretension you could cut with a knife. It’s art for art’s sake, undeniably beautiful to look at but hermetic—dramatic imagery that seemed fraught with meaning but whose symbolism is too obscure to be properly representational.

When it’s not about animals or vaudeville, the circus is about the glorification of the human body and its abilities (which many people find in sports, though I never have). And when the troupe started pulling of Matrix-style running-up-walls tricks in real time, with no more high-tech effects than a trampoline, I started thinking: This is what it must be like to see superheroes. And when a ropy, bare-chested man in white jeans wrapped himself in Kieslowski-red silk and hurtled through the air above us, draperies billowing behind him like a cape, the connection was explicit: this was what it’d be like to see Superman for real. (Requires QuickTime)

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