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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
Cirque Du Soleil: La Nouba (2003)

"Here anything is possible: dreams become reality and talent turns the ordinary into the extraordinary."
- back cover blurb

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: November 08, 2004

Director: David Mallet

Manufacturer: Richmond Studios
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 01h:29m:52s
Release Date: November 02, 2004
UPC: 043396090545
Genre: special interest

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A- B+BA- B

DVD Review

The world of the French-Canadian Cirque Du Soleil has expanded over the years from a relatively small arty traveling troupe of avant-garde artistes/acrobats into what can only be described as an extravagantly lavish and visually compelling entertainment spectacle, with not just a number of regularly touring shows, but a handful of stationary gigs. In fact, Cirque has three permanent shows running concurrently in Las Vegas, as well as the long-running show highlighted on this two-disc set, which is based out of Walt Disney World's Downtown Disney.

La Nouba, like all of the loosely-themed Cirque shows, is a surreal mish-mosh of concepts that are often hard to decipher without the help of a program. Is there a story here? There must be, in some arty way, but if you're at all concerned about understanding the narrative flow you're missing the point, and all that matters little because a Cirque show succeeds easily without a the help of broad, cohesive clarity; it is really all about the constant explosion of music, color and showmanship that melds together bits of theater, performance art and vaguely traditional circus acts. It's almost like some kind of legalized acid trip, with such a heady rush of visuals and sound that it verges on a kind of alt-arty excess that if it weren't so damn mesmerizing it would be bordering on being overwhelming.

With La Nouba, there are many of the same type of acts that have been featured in most of other traveling Cirque gigs, and it is that air of familiarity that tends to blend all of the various shows together. That isn't meant to take away from the sheer skill and dexterity involved, though once you've seen a stage transform into a mass of hidden trampolines the initial whimsy is a bit diluted. For example, once again there is a performer who dangles and spins from a pair of long, colorful lengths of fabric, wrapping his arms and body, often unfurling like some kind of human top. Likewise with yet another trio of young Asian girls who each spin and flip a twirling top-like device suspended on a string between two sticks in an act that is so hypnotic to watch that despite having seen it on a handful of Cirque tours, it is still mesmerizing.

Amidst the usual batch of clowns (who here teeter more on performance art than traditional clownery) and gravity-defying trapeze, gymnast and wire acts, all properly Cirque-d in colorful outfits that seem less circus and more theater, are one or two more modern touches that seem out of place in the otherwise otherworldly environment. A pair of BMX-style bikers put on an impressive-looking act that seems just a bit wonky, but it never quite matches the flow of the other performers, and ends up sticking out like the proverbial sore thumb.

David Mallet's direction for this DVD, an unenviable task for a show as large, colorful, and hyperkinetic as this, relies on a lot of quick cuts, and tries to take in too many different elements at one time. A few clever camera angles, such as the one inside a huge rolling wheel or beneath a trampoline, are interesting, but I often wished the cameras would pull back and let me take the whole experience in, rather than isolating on the reaction of a given performer (or worse, the dreaded audience reaction shot).

Those few minor nitpicks aside, La Nouba is an ingeniously slick, polished show, certainly just as good as any of the recent Cirque tours, and it is full of their trademark creative visuals and atmospheric music. Mallet's direction is a bit rushed and hurried in spots, but enough of the grandeur and imagination shines through to make up for it.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.78:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Columbia TriStar has issued La Nouba in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, in a transfer that was mastered in high definition. There is an inherent soft edge to the whole presentation, which ends up revealing an overall noticeable lack of sharpness. The rich, vibrant colors—certainly a key element of the whole Cirque experience—are rendered beautifully under full lighting, though sequences with minimal lighting are peppered with fine grain and the occasional bit of compression-related blocking issues.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: Audio is available in either Dolby Digital 5.1 or 2.0 stereo, with language not really being an issue because there is no formal narration or introductions, though all of the singing (which provides more atmosphere than narrative) is done in French. The 5.1 track, where the score elements really come to life, delivers the expected deep bass wallops and offers more an immersive presentation, with audience applause rising up out of the rear channels to capture the feel of being there live. In comparison, the stereo track is far less effusive and expansive, and you understandably will lose some of the musical depth somewhat that the 5.1 track provides.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 13 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring Fire Within, Solstrom
11 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Gladiator style 2-pack
Picture Disc
2 Discs
2-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: As with previous Cirque releases, the second disc contains the extras, and this one follows the pattern of allowing some of the performers to tell their story, however briefly.

In-Depth Interviews (perhaps a misnomer of sorts) gives a handful of key acts two or three minutes to talk about their role in the show, and it gives the viewer the chance to see them without makeup. Most of the comments are vaguely interesting, but Michael Deschamps, who plays Balto the clown (though subtitles refer to him as Balthazar) generates the most human interest. Deschamps informs us that his sad-faced clown partner is deaf in real-life, and so he cannot hear the audience reaction or applause. The acts covered are:
The Green Bird (02m:49s)
Power Track (03m:19s)
Cycles (03m:19s)
Flying Trapeze (02m:44s)
The Walker (03m:07s)
Trampoline (03m:24s)
Balto (03m:05s)
Artistic Director (02m:37s)

Les Cons (04m:59s) is a slightly longer version of the In-Depth Interviews, here focusing solely on the quartet of white-faced clown-like creatures who are recurring comic observers during La Nouba. Meet The Musicians (14m:17s) is self-explanatory, and offers a backstage look at the performers of the intricately evocative score that permeates La Nouba. Things wrap with an automated Photo Gallery (04m:16s), a collection of assorted images that due to the broadly visual content, end up being a step or two above the typical caliber of DVD photo galleries.

The performance is split into 13 chapters, one per act.

Extras Grade: B


Final Comments

Nothing can really compare to seeing a Cirque show live, but as with most of the previous DVD releases in the series, La Nouba works pretty hard to replicate the experience—even if some of the acts seem a tad familiar.


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