Cirque du Soleil’s Journey of Man

(An IMAX 3D experience)

Just as a train and a tent are the perfect ways to transport and display the circus, IMAX is the perfect theatrical vehicle for the imagination alchemists of Cirque du Soleil. Journey of Man is a place where nonsensical clowns become instincts, multicolored joy is friends with yellow fear and love balances on a lily pad in an eternal Renaissance fountain.

If you haven’t heard of this entertainment phenomenon yet, Cirque du Soleil is a nontraditional performance theater which originated in Quebec in 1984, and now performs and influences worldwide. It combines dance, music, acrobatics and circus arts, then wraps them up inside lush colors and costumes pieced together from all your fondest fairy tales. Its mission statement is: “Invoke, provoke and evoke the imagination, the senses and the emotions of people around the world.” And the troupe has done just that, with dripping-yellow bungee-jumping sprites inside a redwood forest, comedians with Peter Max color intensity, and a marble man and woman, balancing upon each other as a truly breathtaking physical metaphor for marriage.

This film comfortably moves through space and timelessness by utilizing a boy transported through the stages of human development, with Cirque du Soleil acts illustrating the steps. Voice-over narration, speaking in abstractions and symbols, creates a poetic thread throughout and in between the visuals; still, the journey through the stages of man is a relatively clichéd, contrived framework. But that’s OK. After all, this is IMAX, which is still enjoying its own early childhood, where sound and visuals override a need for a substantial story.

The novelty of this expensive and limited film-atrical experience usually satisfies viewers enough by propelling them into roller coaster effects (often forcing you to close your eyes or throw up). But with the mastery of Cirque du Soleil behind it, Journey of Man doesn’t have to rely on cheap thrills (or a story line either); the intense imagery and precise physical movement stand on their own. Add IMAX to this picture, with its wrap-around, six-story-high screen and 3-D effects (yes, you get to wear space-age glasses!), and you end up with magnified, magnificent eye poetry.

Make sure you get there in plenty of time to park and get a good spot in line.

Showing exclusively at Henry Ford Museum & Greenfield Village’s IMAX Theatre (20900 Oakwood Blvd., Dearborn). Call 313-271-1570.

Anita Schmaltz writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].

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