Cirque Du Soleil: Fire Within Lewis Cohen

Parents looking to dissuade their children from a life in the circus will want to know about this 13-part docu-dirge on the ever-popular Cirque and its members. The series follows eight performers as they go from auditioning to performing in the company's Varekai show, and there's nary a happy moment: the rehearsals crumble into disarray, elements are slapped together at the last minute and some of the subjects have their routines cut when they don't seem to be coming off right. Even when the Apocalypse Now mood clears, exhaustion and homesickness take the highs down and the gypsy living plays hell with personal lives until the subjects are battered shells who live only for the performance. Director Lewis Cohen is so wrapped up in the gruelling discipline and frictions with the puppet masters that he doesn't make much of a case for being in the show. Though there are plenty of reasons to watch the series — the constant strife and increasingly frantic efforts to salvage the sagging Cirque make for riveting television. I'm not sure I buy Cohen's morose stance — surely somebody other than the bean-counters are getting something out of the experience — but as a demystification of the showbiz mystique, it's pretty damned compelling. The bonus features are alas not so compelling: a reunion documentary is basically the principals standing around hugging each other and Q&A interviews ask dumb questions. But the extras are hardly the main event. (Galafilm/Creations Musca/DEP)