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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Cirque du Soleil - La Nouba
Cirque du Soleil - La Nouba
Columbia/Tri-Star // Unrated // November 2, 2004
List Price: $28.96 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Matthew Millheiser | posted November 1, 2004 | E-mail the Author
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The Program

Cirque du Soleil has pretty much established itself as the premier traveling circus in the Western world, and with good reason at that. The Montreal-based organization brings together some of the finest physical performers in the world, divides their shows into different themes, and paints the entire surroundings with a veneer of theatrical artistry, music, production values and showmanship. They cull styles and influences from around the world, often using themes from Africa, Asia, Europe, and beyond. This lends the entire affair an aura of charm and magic that resonates strongly with International audiences. The fact that their entire troupe is composed of human beings and has never ever used animals for entertainment gives them credibility as a "socially responsible" organization.

Cirque du Soleil spreads their unique brand of performance art through four resident acts (La Nouba at Walt Disney World's Downtown Disney near Orlando, O at The Bellagio in Las Vegas, Mystere at Treasure Island in Las Vegas, and Ka at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas) and six touring acts (Cirque 2005, Saltimbanco, Quidam, Dralion, Varekai, and Alegría). Each show is developed around a theme, and in La Nouba the represented theme is a journey throughout the landscape in which the conceptual and the subconscious are made tactile. It is a universe in which dreams and nightmares coexist side-by-side, interacting with each other to create broader, grander portraits. The colorful "circus people" mix with the drab, grayscale urbanites to expose a world of harmonious contrasts, in which all possibilities are infinitely attainable.

Or so they say. Honestly, the theme could be nothing more than the Objectivist joys of slicing cantaloupe, or about how much Golda Meir loved Brazilian nuts. In the end, it's all just an excuse to sling together some of the most amazing displays of grace, coordination, music, movement, and athleticism ever put on display. And, like most of their efforts, La Nouba is replete with clowns, dancers, contortionists, gymnasts, jugglers, singers, and the same guy who flies around the stage hoisted by what seems to be two giant elastic strips. I think he's in every last damn show of theirs. He's like the Michael McDonald of the Cirque du Soleil Universe.

Cirque du Soleil: La Nouba is, without a doubt, a most worthwhile chapter of the entire Cirque du Soleil "saga". It remains the first show of theirs that I ever saw live, and it remains my favorite. The acts are extraordinary, the music is trippy and mood enhancing, and the set designs and production values are nothing less than top-notch. But like any dynamic live performance, a home video reproduction simply cannot do justice to it. One of the most remarkable aspects of any Cirque du Soleil performance isn't just looking at what's going on center stage; there's many other things going on as well that tempt the eye and bend the ear. The frenetic, quick-cut editing of the video doesn't help either. The editor wasn't content on letting the camera linger on any one activity, allowing the grace and fluidity of the scene sink in, but rather chopped up the presentation to allow the scene to be covered from a variety of angles and viewpoints. This hurts the presentation, and ultimately leaves the viewer at home somewhat less impressed by the entire performance. That's not to say I disliked watching Cirque du Soleil: La Nouba, but I would have preferred it greatly if they stuck to a few great vantage points rather than trying to cover two dozen of them with varying degrees of success.

The DVD

Cirque du Soleil: La Noubacomes in a lovely 2-disc set, with the performance on Disc One and the extras on Disc Two.

Video:

Cirque du Soleil: La Nouba is presented in a widescreen aspect ratio of 1.78:1, and has been anamorphically-enhanced for your widescreen-viewing excellence. The resulting video transfer is good, but problematic. On the plus side, colors are strong, deep, and rich. The Cirque du Soleil shows are always a bombastic sensory experience, with brightly colored performers and skin-tight outfits, prancing and leaping about in deeds that seem to defy several laws of Newtonian physics. Anyway, the colors look great. Image detail is decent. There's not a lot of sharpness here; this was shot on high definition video rather than film. The main problem is the excessive mosquito blocking and digital noise. Simply put, this is not a sharp, smooth looking transfer, but a muddled, noisy one, especially during darker scenes. Close-ups and lighter shots look fine, but those deeper, shadowy scenes betray a weak transfer.

Audio:

The audio is presented in both Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0. The 5.1 soundtrack is obviously the more expansive one, with more dynamic range, LFE punch, surround activity, and slightly discrete soundstaging. Still, I preferred the 2.0 track, as it sounded like the more balanced and natural of the two. With the 5.1 track you get more of a theater-like feel, and it's perfectly acceptable and enjoyable. Yet the 2.0 soundtrack just seemed "right", in comparison. Your mileage may vary, I suppose.

Extras:

As previously mentioned, all of the extras are contained on Disc Two. We start out with In-depth Interviews, which feature interviews with several performers from show. Included in this section are The Green Bird, Power Track, Cycles, Flying Trapeze, The Walker, The Trampoline, Balto, and Artistic Director. All in all, these interviews run about twenty-five minutes in length.

Moving right along, the next section is entitled Les Cons. The word "con" is immediately defined as "an amusing character dressed in white who appears is La Nouba." Carrying on in that tradition, this video presents a brief, 5-minute backstage look at the Con performers from the show. Meet The Musicians is a fifteen-minute video featuring interviews with the singers, musicians, and composers that comprise the sonic backdrop of this extravaganza. The music of Cirque du Soleil is a large part of its appeal, and I'm glad to see them get their moment here.

Photo Gallery is a four-minute video segment featuring a "slide show" of photographs taken from the show, with a musical accompaniment to keep it from seeming too much like a slide show. Cirque du Soleil Promos are basically trailers for Cirque du Soleil product, featuring La Nouba Preview, Fire Within DVD, Solstrom DVD, Cirque on DVD, and Cirque Club. And finally, we have DVD Credits.

Final Thoughts

The video quality is not disastrous, but its easily a disappointment. Still, given the quality of the show and some nice supplements to boot, I'm still going to recommendCirque du Soleil: La Nouba . It's really an incredible show, and if you've never seen it (and aren't planning on visiting Walt Disney World anytime soon), you really should give this disc a whirl, especially if you're a Cirque Jerk like me!

As always, no DVD can adequately convey what a Cirque du Soleil is experience is like. For more information about their shows and when they might be stopping by your local township, check out their website at http://www.cirquedusoleil.com . And tell 'em Jeff Schwartz sent ya!

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