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Strange Circus 
Written by: on December 8th, 2008

Theatrical Release Date: Japan, 2005
Director: Sion Sono
Writer: Sion Sono
Cast: Masumi Miyazaki, Issei Ishida, Rie Kuwana, Mai Takahashi, Fujiko, Madame Regine, Tomorowo Taguchi, Hiroshi Ohguchi, Yûya Ishikawa

DVD released: March 6th, 2007
Approximate running time: 109 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Rating: NR
Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1 Japanese
Subtitles: English
DVD Release: TLA Releasing
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $19.99

Synopsis: A reclusive erotic novelist is forced to confront her past when her latest novel appears to be based more on fact then fiction.

“It’s almost like I was born on the execution stand, anyway. If not, I was born to my mother as she awaited Execution. I’ve been standing in for her there ever since.”

Strange Circus was written and directed by Sion Sono who’s other notable films include Suicide Club, Noriko’s Dinner Table and Exte: Hair Extensions. His films are known for their dark subject matter. The plot for Strange Circus is his most perverse to date with subjects like self mutilations, incest and suicide a theme that is prominent in many of his films. One of the most fascinating aspects of Strange Circus is how Sion Sono twists fact and fiction. By the end of the film one’s sense of what really happened has been totally eschewed leaving the story open for multiple interpolations. Was everything in this film a figment of the author’s imagination or was the story autobiographical? Who is Mitsuko and what really happened to her? Like a complicated puzzle the plot lays many traps along the way.

“Many execution tools are hidden all over the house. As I grew up, I began to notice the traps everywhere. If you don’t figure them out, you’re dead.”

Visually Strange Circus is a feast for the eyes with its eye popping use of colors and mirage like images that all lead themselves perfectly to the film’s underlying themes of deception and betrayal. The most striking moments visually are the scenes were the camera transforms Mitsuko into her Sayuri and vice versa. The performances in this film are utterly astonishing with no performance, even the most minor roles not lacking in impact. After a decade away from cinema Masumi Miyazaki would return to cinema taking on three roles Mitsuko, Sayuri and Taeko in Strange Circus. She creates intricate performances for each of the persona’s that she portrays. Other notable performances include Issei Ishida in the role of the androgynous Yuji and Rie Kuwana and Mai Takahashi, the two actresses who portrayed the young Mitsuko. Ultimately Strange Circus is a film that needs to be seen multiple times, to fully appreciate everything that lies underneath the surface.

The DVD:

Strange Circus is presented in an anamorphic widescreen that preserves the film’s original aspect ratio. Overall this transfers fares well as colors look vibrant, solid black levels and details look crisp throughout.  This transfer’s is unfortunately interlaced and not flagged for progressive playback.

This release comes with one audio option a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix in Japanese and removable English subtitles have been provided. The audio is in great shape sounding crystal clear and at times dynamic.

Extras for this release include trailer for Strange Circus and trailers for other films also available on DVD from TLA. The main extra include for this release is a sixty nine minute documentary titled “Strange Days”. This documentary has behind the scenes footage and comments from the cast and crew who discuss in depth Strange Circus. Overall TLA gives Strange Circus a well rounded DVD release that is highlighted by the exceptional making of documentary “Strange Days”.

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