Clownwise makes for a quiet funny drama.
Clownwise makes for a quiet funny drama.

Oskar, Max, and Viktor were a celebrated clown trio in Czechoslovakia 30 years ago. At the height of their popularity Oskar leaves the group to seek fame and fortune elsewhere in Europe. The breakup was not on the best of terms, and now Oskar is coming home.

Life has taken its toll on the men. Max, a sly Oldrich Kaiser, has fathered two children with a much younger wife who has just been diagnosed with colon cancer. A robust Jiri Labus plays Viktor, whose wife and former clown partner, delicately played by Kati Outinen, is now suffering with Alzheimer’s. Oskar, a dignified Didier Flamand, returns with his younger partner and lover, played by an effervescent Julie Ferrier, in an attempt for a reconciliation with the wife and child he left behind.  Anger, resentment, jealousy and confused memories also contribute to the likelihood that a reunion will not happen.

Director Viktor Tauš and cinematographer Milan Chadima keep a sense of whimsy in the staging of scenes and the juxtaposition of Petr Ostrouchov’s light and fun score over the serious scenes highlights the absurdity of life.

The screenplay by Petr Jarchovský manages to avoid leaning too heavily into showbiz clichés and the communist favoring of certain artists adds an interesting story element. The actors give deep heartfelt performance – sad clowns indeed – and there are as a many scenes that move you, as there are that make you laugh.

While the film tends to meander and the story lurches a couple of times in unexpected directions, overall it makes for a quiet funny drama.

Clownwise (Klauni).  Finland, Slovakia, Luxembourg, Czech Republic, 2014.  Directed by Viktor Tauš.  Screenplay by Petr Jarchovský.  Visit http://viff.org for showtimes.