Bizarre: A Circus Story is part documentary, part performance art and whole spectacle. The latest project by filmmaker Meg Pinsonneault (Weird Pixel) tells the story of Master Lu Yi, heralded as the father of modern Chinese acrobatics, who’s also a beloved and revered teacher at the Circus center in San Francisco, CA.
Lu Yi’s life is as fascinating to watch as a trapeze act: he was recruited as a kid by an acrobatic group, named director of the Nanjing Acrobatic Troupe for over 30 years and even imprisoned afterwards during China’s Cultural Revolution. But it’s almost hard to tell how many ups and downs have marked the life of this jolly, charming family man at first sight. With the exception of some quiet emotional moments, he is the embodiment of perseverance, charm and devotion to teach what has now become his legacy.
This film also works as a balancing act, moving from real life scenes of Yi’s home and studio to gorgeously shot clips of performances by members of the circus community. Some of these sequences are nothing short of spectacular: from using super slow motion to capture colored powder thrown in the air, to highly detailed close ups of skilled athletes and entertainers mastering their respective arts. We see the inflamed veins on a contortionist’s face as she is holding a pose, and everything from muscles, dust, sweat and even tears showcased through inventive and stunning high end cinematography. The opening sequence alone is a phenomenal exercise on use of color, contrast and motion in unique and dazzling ways.
Charming, entrancing and inspiring, it shines as an insight into the life of a legend, and the many talents of the performers he inspired and trained. What motivates an individual to perform fiscally challenging (and sometimes even painful) stunts for the sake of a show? … Bizarre? Yes. Fascinating? Absolutely.
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