Cannes Film Review: ‘The Great Mystical Circus’

Cannes Film Review: ‘The Great Mystical Circus’

As the surprise box-office success story of the last six months or so, Michael Gracey’s “The Greatest Showman” indicated that contrary to the film’s sniffy critical reception, there is indeed an audience for glitzy, period-inflected, fanfare-filled stories of life beneath the Big Top. But its word-of-mouth slow build to moneymaking, cult-spawning juggernaut status is unlikely to be replicated by Brazilian veteran Carlos Diegues’ return to the directing fray with “The Great Mystical Circus.”

After a decade spent nurturing other talents from the region (including an associate producer credit on Kleber Mendonça Filho’s superb “Aquarius”) Diegues, a Cinema Novo pioneer with such titles as “Bye Bye Brazil,” “Ganga Zumba,” and “Quilombo” under his belt, essays his own take on circus maximalism, but delivers a magical realist misfire; an uncomfortably soapy high-wire act that stumbles right out the gate and never stops tumbling.

Based on a poem by celebrated Brazilian polymath Jorge de Lima,

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