Tairo (Tairo Caroli) is a lion tamer in a small circus traveling through Italy. The circus is struggling and Tairo is struggling with him. His elderly animals aren’t all that strong anymore and he probably won’t get new animals. And then Tairo loses his talisman, a piece of iron he got from Arthur Robin (Arthur Robin) who was once crowned the first black Mister Universe and now works in a circus himself. Hoping to get his luck back when he gets a new talisman from Arthur, Tairo sets out to find him.
Mister Universo tells a fictional story with real people and this blend of documentary and fiction becomes pretty magical. I really loved it.
Covi and Frimmel make movies that approach the same line as Ulrich Seidl’s documentaries, only from the other side, if you will. Maybe it’s a specific of Austrian filmmaking. But in any case, I like the mix in both cases. Covi and Frimmel chose an excellent setting and even though the story of Tairo’s lucky talisman and the subsequent search didn’t happen outside of the film, the film gives us an interesting look at an actual circus and what happens behind the scenes there.
Despite all the realism, Covi and Frimmel do include some narrative frills and work their story’s themes. Especially the symbolism around the topic of “swimming against the current”, doing things differently, not getting simply pulled along by the tide was handled very well. And they do visit characters from their earlier film La Pivellina which was also nice.
The movie moves a little slowly and after a festival that was already pretty intense, I was rather tired, so I actually fell asleep for a bit in the second half, but that is really no fault of the film, just my condition and stamina (or lack thereof). It just means that I will have to watch the film again when I’m not exhausted.
As I like the way Covi and Frimmel approch film in general and the people they shoot with in particular, I’ll be glad to. Especially since the result is a sensitive, sweet and respectful film in an interesting setting.