One of the many odd things that film distributors do when promoting international releases in Japan, is to appoint some random Japanese celebrity who has nothing whatsoever to do with the film to act as its “ambassador” is Japan. The duties of such a position might extend as far as narrating the Japanese version of the trailer, but are usually limited to making an appearance at the Japan premiere of the film. Aya Ueto, one of the most popular celebrities in Japan, became the representative of the new Cirque du Soleil film, which also opened this year’s Tokyo International Film Festival. The fact that she would appear for a few minutes to announce the film guaranteed that tickets would sell out instantly and be resold for many times their face value on Yahoo auctions. The fact that I wasn’t able to see the film in the festival probably made me more interested in seeing it than I would have been otherwise, and I decided to actually go so far as to buy a ticket to see it after it’s general release in Japan, which still ahead of the rest of the world.
I am not one of the (literally) 200 million people who have bought a ticket to a Cirque du Soleil show, and I know almost nothing about the troupe save that they started in Canada and are wildly popular in Japan. The “original story” of the film is basic, and almost completely free of dialogue. Starting appropriately enough at a traditional big top circus, a girl meets a trapeze boy and it is love at first sight. When noticing her in the stands makes him fall from the rafters, they are cast into an alternate world where everything conspires to keep them apart. The girl, played by the lovely Erica Linz, is treated to beautiful diversions that she cannot take part in, while the boy is forced to sweat and toil.
The acrobatic performance by the countless secondary characters are very impressive and beautifully filmed. This was the first time in the age of digital 3D that I thought the technology was put to good use. But glimpses of spotlights and stage scaffolding at the edges of some of the larger-scale numbers really worked to break the continuity of the story. It was only when I sat through the closing credits that I realized that the original story was largely made by stringing together routines from Cirque du Soleil shows in Las Vegas. This was a bit of a disappointment, but it was still an enjoyable viewing experience.