Thursday, March 31, 2016

In THE FLIGHT FANTASTIC, filmmaker/trapeze lover Tom Moore gives us The Flying Gaonas

Not much of a circus fan, TrustMovies knew nothing about the famous mid-20th Century first family of the trapeze, The Flying Gaonas. But he is awfully pleased that theater director Tom Moore, of 'Night Mother and Grease (how's that for diversity?) -- who, with his new film, THE FLIGHT FANTASTIC is now a fledgling documentarian -- has brought that family to our attention. These guys (and a few gals, too) are worth knowing about and particularly seeing in action up in the air.

Mr. Moore, who, from the only photo we were given (at right), is clearly an aerial lover himself, and this comes through in frame after frame of his documentary, which,as well as offering up a lot of history of the trapeze (and trampoline), spends quite a bit of time watching these amazing athletes do their stuff in the air. If the doc takes a little time finding its footing, hang on a bit and you'll be in for one hell of an airborne ride. Begin-ning with a memorial, the movie cuts to the grounds where the Ringling Brothers Circus once stood and which, today, houses the Gaonas family's trapeze school.

We view students in action at the school, and after a time watching them miss their marks makes us appreciate all the more the wondrous timing and grace of professional trapeze artists. ("If you make everything perfect," notes one Gaonas during the course of the film, "nobody will realize how difficult it all is." Which is why trapeze artists sometimes deliberately miss their mark.)

With the help and cooperation of the Gaonases, Moore has assembled an enormous collection of archival footage -- of the family (in the early days, above, and at the height of its career, below) of course, but also of trapeze history, which turns out to be every bit as fascinating as the aerialists themselves.

In fact, the most delightful extended segment has to do with another trapeze artist and his flying family of a generation earlier: Alfredo Codona, (shown below)at a kind of hero for Tito Gaonas, who (unless this story is apocryphal) discovers Codona's quite decorative grave site while walking through a graveyard in Inglewood, California. The filmmaker tells this Codona tale as if it were a silent film, in which the story and the style fit perfectly. Were the rest of the movie as good as this section, The Flight Fantastic would be a classic.

As it is, it's still very good. with memorable aerial shots, a fine family story, and especially extended sections on how the Gaonas family brings trapeze art into the lives of so many people -- including some kids with cancer and other debilitating diseases who experience the trapeze in their own, quite moving manner. (One of these sections brought sudden and unplanned tears to my eyes.) Trapeze therapy evidently can work surprisingly well -- on a wide array of people and on various problem scenarios.

We also learn in another extended section how the famous 1956 movie Trapeze figured in the lives of the family and acted as a strong inducement for Tito (above, center) and his crew to learn and exhibit ever more amazing aerial feats.

All in all, the documentary should prove a treat for trapeze lovers and a welcome surprise for anyone, like me, who is new to the art/sport.

The Flight Fantastic opens this Friday, April 1, in New York City at the Cinema Village, where there will be Q&As held during opening weekend. Elsewhere? Not sure. But perhaps as word-of -mouth builds, we'll see the film opening in other cities, too.

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