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DID YOU READ

“Circo,” Reviewed

“Circo,” Reviewed (photo)

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Circus life
Under the big top world
We all need the clowns to make us smile
Through space and time
Always another show
Wondering where I am
Lost without you
— “Faithfully,” by Journey

Those Jonathan Cain lyrics kept flashing through my mind while I watched “Circo,” a melancholic documentary about the slow dissolution of a Mexican circus family. To the folks in the stands, the circus is excitement and thrills. To the men, women, and children who run that circus it’s a job, and not an especially glamorous one, either. Like Steve Perry sang, there’s always another show, and that grind takes its toll.

The family grinding away is the Ponces who have operated the Circo Mexico for decades. Three generations of Ponces work the circus; patriarch Don Gilberto inherited the life from his own father and his three siblings each have their own traveling circuses as well. Though Gilberto runs the business, most of the day-to-day operations are handled by his son Tino, Tino’s wife Ivonne, and their children, who put up the tents, care for the livestock, and perform in the nightly shows. Everyone has to do their part. The younger children put on bootleg “Rugrats” masks and totter around while the older kids perform tightrope and contortionist acts.

Tino’s children are very talented. But they’re also illiterate. Life on the road teaches you how to handle wild tigers and hang gracefully from ropes, but doesn’t provide much time for reading or math lessons. Tino can fix a truck engine but can’t quite figure out how to write his own name. And prospects for the Circo Mexico aren’t great. Their family-run operation isn’t impressive enough to play major cities, so they travel the backroads, performing to dwindling crowds in tiny villages. Debt’s piling up. Director Aaron Schock makes it plain: despite the best efforts of the Ponces, this way of life is coming to an end. And they might not be preparing their kids for when that day arrives.

The Ponces initially look like a charmingly close-knit family, but they’re eventually revealed as a dysfunctional troupe to rival the titular clan from “Capturing the Friedmans.” It’s hard not to draw comparisons between the younger family members and the Circo’s zoo animals, who are caged up, dragged from town to town, and trotted out to perform against their will. And really all the aspects of the circus reflect metaphorically on the Ponce’s problems, from the tightrope Tino walks between his family’s and his wife’s desires, to the contortionists who literally bend over backwards to fit their elders’ expectations, to the “Globe of Death” that ensnares Tino’s brother Tacho even when he tries to make a new life away from Circo Mexico. Schock teases out all these connections with clever visual juxtapositions.

In some ways, “Circo” reminded me of Darren Aronofsky’s “Black Swan;” it is another meditation on the sacrifices artists make for their craft and their audiences. The Circo Mexico continues to bring pleasure to thousands of people in Mexico, at the expense of the misery of many who operate it. There is something undeniably beautiful and undeniably sad about that. Tino really is balanced precariously between two losing positions: if he leaves the circus, he makes his wife happy but dooms his parents to poverty. If he stays, his kids won’t know how to do anything else when the circus inevitably shuts down. There are no easy answers in “Circo,” just sad realities and dreams slowly dying. But even as those dreams fade, the Ponces endure. And why not? With nowhere else to turn, they don’t stop believing.

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Final Countdown

The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at IFC.com

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Rev Up

Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.



Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…