'The Show of Shows'
'The Show of Shows'

All the world’s a circus, in the entertaining The Show of Shows, and all the men and women troupers and tumblers. Icelandic director Benedikt Erlingsson’s let’s-bung-in-everything documentary is a silent movie in all but name. Musical accompaniment, without dialogue or over-voice, embellishes the compendium of clips about physical showmanship through the ages.

It even looks like silent cinema: flickery vignettes, mostly in black and white, from danger-defying big-top stunts to high-wire acts between mountains or skyscrapers, not excluding chimps’ tea parties, a knife-throwing mother in a park peppering blades around her own small daughter, and a cornucopia — or pornucopia — of stripteases.

It’s a rich, at times delirious record, if also oddly sanitised. In the dangerous stunts no one has an accident or even looks as if they might. Shouldn’t we have been made to sense that ever-present possibility? Isn’t the pact with peril, and the bated breath we spectators bring to it, the point and essence of this form of showbiz?

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