It’s morning and a small shard of light has prickled across your face, tempting you to stir from a blissful night’s rest. You resist, snuggled in under a large, fluffy comforter because there’s still a chill in the air. The sun has not had enough time to bring warmth to the day yet and you’d rather wait it out than face the cold, harsh reality of a frosty morning.
But then a stray thought wanders into your consciousness… there’s something about this particular morning you’ve been waiting for. Slowly your eyes open and focus; blood begins to flow more freely as your heart begins to beat more strongly. Then it hits you: it’s no ordinary morning, it’s Christmas morning! A time for making snowmen, savoring a big mug of hot cocoa with melted marshmallow by a warm fire, snuggling into a big, warm sweater and… oh yeah! Presents!
Off the comforter is thrown and at once you bolt out of bed – cold or not – and rush downstairs to check under the tree and in your stockings hanging neatly over the fireplace for the wonderful things Santa may have brought you. What do you find? This year I found three special somethings from Cirque du Soleil in my stockings: The TORUK DVD, the LUZIA DVD, and the FLOWERS IN THE DESERT DVD.
Now, let’s unwrap our presents and take a quick peek into these new media offerings…
UPC — 4-00005-23445-3 Catalog — 523445 Video — 1.78:1 Wide screen Audio — English 2.0/5.1 Run Time — 81 minutes Region — 0/All
If you can imagine a Cirque du Soleil show that is creatively and freely inspired by the richness of Mexican culture in all its exhilarating spirit, then you’ve conjured Luzia – A Waking Dream of Mexico. Where rain predicts the future and light reveals the truth. Through its set design, costumes, acrobatic performance, and music, LUZIA (loo-zee-ah), fusing the sound of “luz” (light in Spanish) and “lluvia” (rain) – two elements at the core of the show’s creation – becomes a poetic and acrobatic ode to the rich, vibrant culture of a country whose wealth stems from an extraordinary mix of influences and creative collisions – a land that inspires awe with its breathtaking landscapes and architectural wonders, buoyed by the indomitable spirit and mythology of its people.
Filmed in Montreal in May, and released on November 17, 2016 on site in Toronto, the LUZIA DVD is an interesting conundrum to me: At once it’s a record of the live show we fans wanted, and yet the filming feels all over the place: disjointed, off, and wrong, like it’s a mere shadow of what you’ll experience live under the Grand Chapiteau. While this has been a criticism by many fans of many Cirque du Soleil shows recorded for DVD – Amaluna, Varekai, and Alegria immediately come to mind – this is the first time I’ve actually felt the filmed presentation did not live up to the full potential of its subject.
I personally have no issues with the way Alegria, Varekai, Kooza, and Amaluna were filmed, even though their run times vary wildly (Alegria is 90 minutes, Varekai is 112 minutes, Kooza is 120 minutes, and Amaluna is 108 minutes). I recognize this view places me in the minority of fans, but having seen those shows live again either shortly before or shortly after they were filmed presents a great souvenir from my time at each. This doesn’t mean the recordings are perfect… I wouldn’t mind a slightly longer Alegria, or perhaps a little edited down version of KOOZA (I could do without the extended pick-pocket/clown running-around scene with the confetti cannon fire, if you please.) That being said, coming in at just 81 minutes in length, the LUZIA DVD is TOO edited for my tastes.
While it comes as no surprise that most of the clown’s antics were removed to shave off some run-time (which was just fine with me, as many of his numbers run a bit long in the live show), many of the remaining edits served only to water down LUZIA’s acrobatic presentation. I mean, switching angles in the middle of a twist, dive, throw, or some other “trick” (although I am loath to use that word) is simply cinematography 101 – DON’T DO IT. I don’t know how many times I screamed out in frustration in the first five minutes alone, as the camera would cut right in the middle of a dive during the Hoop Diving act to switch angles. And what was with the choice of some of the angles anyway?
Blocking and angles did get better for the Adagio Quatuor act, but I felt there was something missing out of that routine. Cyr Wheel & Trapeze was a mess, in my opinion. Same for Hand-balancing, the filming seemed to sap all the fun and charm out of that presentation. And don’t even get me started on the Pole Dancing and Contortion numbers. During these acts it seemed to me the camera didn’t know where they should be focusing! A number of times during Contortion I wanted to kill them for the angles they chose – they were ridiculous! Some were so far away! As my friend Jose Perez reflected, “It’s like the people who recorded the show didn’t really watch it!”
For all my kvetching, Cirque, it IS nice to have a visual representation of the show I can enjoy at home, I just wish the editing team wouldn’t have made so many cuts and quick camera shots in this one, but what can you do? Maybe my feelings about it will change with future viewings. But one thought will not change: Luzia should have gotten a blu-ray release. Or at the very least, be available in High-Definition online! (But that’s a gripe for another time.)
Besides the show itself, the DVD also comes with one bonus feature, a 25 minute documentary on the creation of the show, entitled “The Story of an Encounter”. The Story of an Encounter was a web series that explored the inspiring love affair between Cirque du Soleil and Mexico, shining a spotlight on some of the creators of LUZIA, revealing their longstanding or budding love affair with Mexico and its people. The series also explored the protagonists’ individual roles and respective approaches in the creation of LUZIA. Everything you saw in the original web-series is available here.
At present the DVD can only be bought on site at the show, but I have it on good authority you can find one or two copies on eBay. Happy hunting!
UPC — 4-00005-23002-8 Catalog — 523002 Video — 1.78:1 Wide screen Audio — English 2.0 Run Time — 82 minutes Region — 0/All
Cirque du Soleil presents the cinematographic adaptation of TORUK-The First Flight, a multimedia experience inspired by James Cameron’s Avatar and imagined by Cirque du Soleil. TORUK – The First Flight envisions a world beyond imagination set thousands of years before the events depicted in the film. The word Toruk, in the Na’vi language, refers to the great leonopteryx, the mighty red and orange predator that rules the Pandoran sky. Central in Na’vi lore and culture, this fascinating creature is crucial to the Na’vi clans’ sense of destiny and interconnectedness – and is about to be ridden for the very first time by a Na’vi. Narrated by a “Na’vi Storyteller”, the show follows three young adults – Ralu, Entu, and Tsyal – and the first flight of the Toruk.
Before I progress any further I have to tell you something: unlike Luzia, I have yet to see TORUK live. Considering the upcoming touring schedule, it doesn’t appear that I’ll ever get the opportunity to do so. The DVD will likely become my only window into this live production, which I find a little disappointing. Seeing the movie four times in the theater, it’s safe to say I rather enjoyed AVATAR and its’ world. When Cirque du Soleil announced this show I was quite skeptical, but looking forward to seeing what they could do. Technologically, the show is a marvel; the projections look fantastic! But I was concerned that the human factor would be dwarfed by it all, lost in all the colorful eye-candy. I wasn’t wrong, but I also wasn’t right.
The recording started off well enough… the story’s set up from the Storyteller comes across loud and clear, and is quite visually impressive, but then he largely disappears and scenes seem to come and go without any kind of context. I got lost on Pandora and I almost never came back. Where were the main characters going? Where were they at now? And who did they meet this time? It wasn’t until I read through the new programme book again that I understood what was happening, which could have been alleviated if the Storyteller’s narrations had continued to be included along the way. I also find it unfortunate that TORUK was recorded so early in its run – at the premiere in Montreal – rather than later on, as the show went through a few changes afterward, bringing on a number of acrobatic additions that would have been very welcome in fleshing out what was on-screen. I also feel this release should have been given HD treatment via Blu-ray, for the colors alone. Scaling up the standard definition video of the DVD to HDTV proved problematic during many action scenes, especially those involving multi-colored props and costumes – the quality of the video degraded so much it looked like I was watching TORUK on a VHS tape; quelle horreur!
Cirque, we know there’s a High-Def version of the show because both 4K and HD versions were broadcast via bell Fibe TV1, so if you’re not interested in releasing a Blu-Ray of the show (which I can understand why you wouldn’t be interested), how about releasing this on your On-Demand page instead? Some of us would love to pay for a 1080p or higher quality version of the show!
Okay, moving on…
Like the Luzia DVD, the TORUK DVD comes with one bonus item – a 23-minute long documentary on the creation of the show. In “Toruk Takes Flight”, viewers will meet Michel Lemieux and Victor Pilon, the writers and directors of TORUK: The First Flight; Jean-François Bouchard, the show’s creative guide; Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberté; and the director of Avatar, James Cameron. Viewers will also go behind the scenes with several of the production’s main designers and performers and witness their struggles and uncertainties as the pressure builds towards the launch of this unprecedented multimedia experience. “Toruk Takes Flight” is directed by award-winning Montreal film maker Adrian Wills, who received a Grammy Award for Best Long Form Music Video for “All Together Now”, a documentary on the creation of another Cirque du Soleil show, The Beatles – LOVE. He also filmed LUZIA.
The TORUK DVD is presently only available on its tour.
FLOWERS IN THE DESERT DVD
UPC –- NONE Catalog — NONE Video — 16:9 Wide screen Audio — English 2.0 Stereo Run Time –- 84 minutes Region –- 0/All
One of the most enigmatic DVD releases for Cirque du Soleil fans is “Flowers in the Desert”, a special release from PBS films in late 2010 for viewers who gave $100 or more to their local PBS station. Copies of the DVD would appear on eBay from time to time, but at prohibitively high prices. But if you’re lucky enough to snag one at auction, you’ll find a wonderful collection of mesmerizing performances of Mystère, “O”, KÀ, LOVE, and Viva ELVIS, as well as small sneak peeks of Zumanity and BELIEVE. Although the materials for the package suggest all these segments were recorded in High Definition, upon viewing I find that not to be the case. Many times compression artifacting in some of the footage is so prevalent, it’s embarrassing. But, that being said, the visuals we do receive from this package are very, very welcome. Since many of the Las Vegas shows have not been fully recorded and released (no, documentaries don’t count), it’s good to have these elements for our viewing pleasures at home.
So, what will you find on this DVD?
• MYSTERE (12:10) – After a brief introduction into the world of Cirque du Soleil in Las Vegas, this segment features clips and long-views of the show’s arousing “Opening”, the “Bungees” (the Kunya Sobe segment only), “Hand-to-Hand” with the Alexis/Lorador Brothers, and a good run of the “Korean Plank / Fast Track / Trampoline” numbers.
• “O” (8:43) – Here you’ll find brief peeks at the show’s “Synchronized Swimming” number, and then longer views of “Bateau”, “Russian Swings”, and the show’s closing segments.
• KA (19:41) – This segment features a number of scenes from the show, including: “Pageant”, “The Storm” (aka The Boat), “The Deep”, an amalgam of “Archer’s Den” and “Flutes”, the “Slave Cage” (aka The Wheel of Death), and the “Final Battle”.
• THE BEATLES LOVE (20:24) – Featuring goodly portions of “Get Back / Glass Onion”, “Octopus’ Garden”, “Within You, Without You”, “A Day in the Life”, and “Sgt. Pepper (Reprise)” segments of the show, interspersed with documentary footage and interviews. Great stuff!
• VIVA ELVIS (17:16) – Here you’ll find “Blue Suede Shoes” in all its big shoe glory, “Jailhouse Rock”, “Heartbreak Hotel”, “Got a Lot of Livin’ to Do”, and “Hound Dog” scenes from the show.
Disappointingly, the last two or three minutes of the main event is all that is given to ZUMANITY and BELIEVE, with very little footage from either actually seen on-screen. The documentary suggests these two shows represent a darker representation of Cirque du Soleil and although PBS is not wrong, they’re also not entirely correct. Still, I can understand why PBS would not want to film and broadcast the sexy Zumanity, or the bizarre magical world of BELIEVE, as neither make for good family-friendly public programming. But perhaps to make up for this oversight, the DVD does contain three extra performances as a bonus (from the “extras” menu option on the main menu) – from KA: the “Wash Up on Shore” scene (5:49), from Mystere: “Aerial Cube” (5:16), and from “O”: “Aerial Hoops” (4:20).
Now that’s more like it!
Since this DVD was never wide-released publicly, its availability is spotty at best. Your best chance is to monitor eBay religiously and pounce on a listing for it as soon as it becomes available. Prices have been known to reach above $100.00 on the auction site, so be prepared to pay heavily for this DVD if you really want it!
And there you go, all the goodies in my Cirque Christmas stocking this year!