IRIS ~ Cirque du Soleil’s Exhilarating Look Through the Eye of the Camera

My beloved father recently came to visit me in L.A.  Prior to his trip, as I’d been wanting to see it, I asked if he’d have any interest in seeing IRIS, the Cirque du Soleil show currrently running here, to which he gamely replied “Let’s go to the circus!” 🙂 And so we did!

IRIS, (a reference to the human eye and a metaphor for the camera’s lens) is Cirque du Soleil’s homage to film ~ a “Journey Through the World of Cinema”.  It is an audio-visual feast for the senses, fittingly being performed in the heart of Hollywood at the Dolby (formerly Kodak) Theater, the current home to the Academy Awards, just a stone’s throw from Grauman’s Chinese Theater and the Hollywood Boulevard Walk of Fame.  It is a beautiful theater in and of itself, and it is extra special to be IN the space where the Oscars are held.  It’s great fun to browse the larger-than-life black and white photos from Oscars past that adorn the walls outside the theater entrances…and it’s easy to imagine the buzz of excitement there when the halls are swarming with the film industry elite every February.

The rest of the year (and for the next 10 years to come!), it is home to the magical, mesmerizing ~ and magnificent ~ IRIS.  For anyone who has seen a Cirque du Soleil show, you know that Cirque takes “the circus” to a whole new level.  I’ve seen two other Cirque shows, including “O” in Las Vegas, (which is water-themed and also quite amazing), but this was my favorite yet.  While I acknowledge, film lover that I am, that the theme of this particular show may have had something to do with that, I’m confident one needn’t be a cinephile to fully enjoy and appreciate it!

It is a combination of many elements that serve to make IRIS the uniquely spellbinding spectacle it is.  Chief among them are the mind-boggling performers.  The level of strength, control and skill they exhibit is astonishing, whether they are working in conjunction with one another to build sculptural human towers with their incomprehensibly strong bodies, gliding through the air on swings or wires high above the audience, contorting their shockingly lithe bodies in ways you never dreamed possible (they may indeed be super-human ~ that, or their spines are made of rubber), or balancing the entire weight of their body on a 3″x5″ rectangle atop a post several feet off the ground.  It very often defies belief at the same time that it takes your breath away.  They make it look so effortlessly graceful, so deceptively easy (but we know better).  The acrobatics never fail to stun, stupefy and scintillate.  For the majority of the show, both my and my father’s eyes were wide with amazement, our jaws dropped in awe.  There are numerous sequences I could watch over and over.  Standouts include a set of trapeze-artist twins flying and swinging gracefully through the air above us, the Snake Women (see photo above ~ living versions of Gumby, if you recall his ability to bend into any imaginable shape), and perhaps my favorite of all, the Film Noir/ Rooftops segment that incorporates trampolines into a set of L.A. skyline rooftops that is some of the most captivating, innovative and energetic choreography I’ve ever seen. Continue reading

Monsieur Lazhar (Canada) ~ From the Heart, For the Heart

Monsieur LazharI fear no words can do this extraordinary film adequate justice.  A Foreign Language Film nominee for this year’s Academy Awards, it simultaneously filled (to the brim) and broke my heart.  Quiet and gently-paced, director and screenwriter Phillippe Falardeau’s film is an exquisite depiction of the universality of loss and grief.  None of us, no matter our age or circumstances, are immune to tragedy touching our lives.  Yet in that sobering reminder, there is also a message of hope, for through that shared experience is great potential for healing.

Monsieur Lazhar has fled his native Algiers (for reasons to which we become privy) for Montreal, Canada, where he is seeking asylum.  He convinces the principal of a grade school to hire him as the replacement for a well-loved teacher who has committed suicide in her classroom (the reveal of which is tastefully handled, so please don’t let that bit of information dissuade you from seeing this lovely and powerful film).

It is deeply moving to witness the relationships that develop between this kind, gentle, Monsieur Laznharpatient man and his classroom of students, as well as the ways in which they are ultimately able to help one another to cope and come to terms with the emotions they are each experiencing.  There is something so pure and honest about what unfolds between this teacher and his pupils ~ they all possess both innocence and innate wisdom in relation to their grief, regardless of age or experience.  And thus the lines between teacher and student are touchingly blurred.  Continue reading