Dance of Reality
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The Dance of Reality, written, produced and directed by Alejandro Jodorowsky is a mystical autobiography of Jodorowsky s childhood, blending his personal history with metaphor, mythology and poetry. The film reflects the director s view that reality is not objective but rather a dance created by our imaginations. After its world premiere at Cannes in 2013 and US premiere at SXSW in 2014, the film has received universal praise from all media outlets including the New York Times which hailed it as a near masterpiece and a NY Times Critics pick, the Los Angeles Times, Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, RogerEbert.com, Vulture, Film.com and indieWIRE. It opened in theaters on May 23rd as the #1 independent film in the country and is now Certified Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes with a score of 93%. Considered the father of the Midnight Movies, Jodorowsky is best known for his films, El Topo (1970) and The Holy Mountain (1973), which have since become cult classics.
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I think a lot about the deaths of the artists I love and who are still alive. Because I am a greedy consumer, but also because I sympathize with the unavoidable artist's ambition for immortality in the form of a lasting legacy, I think especially, "Will we receive more before that sad, sad, inevitable day?"
It's always surprising. William S. Burroughs hung on a long time without, to my mind, ever churning out a Great Last or even Great Latter Day work. Thomas Pynchon on the other hand...every time I count him out he churns out another piece that breaks new ground and that I (almost always) love right away. Some artists such as Hunter S Thompson or David Foster Wallace or Franz Kafka leave behind impressive, often incomplete works published posthumously.
And then there are those who just disappear. I'm thinking of Robin Williams here. Can you imagine what joy it would have been to have a wizened 90-year-old little Robbin poking fun at the undoubtedly bizarre realities we have in store down the road for us?
So what a relief, joy, and incredible fulfillment it is to have a genius like Alejandro Jodorowsky,--whose few-and-far between films have been compared, not unjustly I would say, to Shakespeare. For what did Jodorowsky create in El Topo if not a Hamlet for the post-modern world? Was Holy Mountain not a grand Tempest tale, Fando y Lis a Romeo & Juliet for the Post-Hiroshima world as seen from the eyes of the "Global South", and Santa Sangré a story of a Latin American McBeth, full of Mexican blood and Chilean brood and devouring himself in a Borges labyrinth where the Minotaur wears mighty Argentinean horns?--to have such a talent turn out a work so vibrant and true as The Dance Of Reality.
Knowing Jodorowsky, loving him, I was ready for anything. What I didn't expect was such a pure, stiff dose of Magical Realism. Why had I never drawn that connection before? Certainly, none of Jodorowsky's works up to now would fit comfortably next to a work of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and yet as though one great magician arriving by independent path and means upon the same enchanted grove where his late companion has just passed from this world, the great Tarot master Jodorowsky deals out a Maor Arcana of images that would fit perfectly into any GGM fiction.
A corpse that hisses at a small child that there is no God.
A mother who never speaks but only sings extemporaneous opera, and who covers her son's naked body in shoe polish, when he is afraid of the dark.
A father who leaves his family behind and goes off to assassinate a dictator in his moment of greatest humiliation and pathos--weeping at the corpse of his most beloved horse--only to find his hands petrified into numb claws that never want to open again. The dictator offers the father two huge fistfuls of money to go away and never recall to mind again the terrible moment of defeat; when the tyrant rides off in his limo, the wind blows all the precious bills out of the crumpled fists that cannot shut. Then when the Nazis invade Chile, the failed assassin father, still totally estranged from his family, attempts to salute the incoming invaders but cannot straighten his fingers, and is publicly beaten, then tortured in private.
And the other thing I didn't expect.
Yes, the boy is young Alejandro J himself, a part shared with the real Alejandro who appears, looking like an especially tired and yet extraordinarily alive Prospero, again and again at the young Alejandro's side, invisible to him, but holding him back at that crucial moment from falling off the edge of a sheer Chilean rocky overhang into the roiling tide below. No doubt a genuine memory, and a beautiful image of the future coming to the rescue of the past which, in its simplicity, strikes that exact spiritual bullseye that the El Topo era Jodorowsky, laden down with an immense arsenal of all the world's arcane symbolism and mythologic archetypes, sweated great Faust droplets of perspiration as he toiled down desert burrows and up steep edges of Holy Mountains, without ever having hope of reaching.
Will there be another pomegranate seed dropped in the great abalone shell of Jodorowski's grand opus (which includes not only films but novels and live performances and thousands of panels of comics, all of which I hope one day to have the opportunity of exploring) before he is gone? I certainly hope so, but this piece is so magnificent, and fits so well with the arc of all his films (probably including The Cravat and Tusk) that a Jodorowsky fan can't be blamed for walking away from this one with a truly rare and miraculous sense of completion.
In Jodorowsky's second to previous picture (1989's "Santa Sangre," one year prior to 1990's "The Rainbow Thief") Alejandro was chronicling all the dark energy around him in the world, exorcising it into a painfully depressing and yet beautiful film filled with horror and sadness-- "Santa Sangre" is a horror film in the truest sense of the word. But this time around, in "The Dance of Reality," Jodorowsky chooses to take a bad situation (his childhood, as he put it) and 'rewrite it,' because it's important to know that 'the past can be changed.'
The film takes place in Tocopilla and tells two stories: One of Jaime Jodorowsky, Alejandro's abusive, atheistic and Stalinist father and his quest to assassinate Carlos Ibáñez-- where Jaime goes down a surprising spiritual path to salvation and the tale of young Alejandro, first at the hands of his terrible father, then on his own spiritual journey in the hands of his mystical mother, who speaks only in operatic vocals. What Jodo has done here is make the absolute best of a bad situation, he took all the anger and fear of his childhood and made it into something beautiful! It's a wonderful movie, and I'm tempted to say it's Jodorowsky's best to date, even over "El Topo."
As always, the direction is amazing, everything is meticulously prepared yet has an apparently random take, the acting never seems wooden or stiff, but natural and flowing like water. The use of colors is dazzling, especially on Blu-Ray! The music and sound is unlike anything I've heard in any other recent film and for such seemingly small movie it produces big emotion, evoked through metaphoric storytelling blended with autobiographical points of view. I particularly liked how Alejandro Jodorowsky played himself guiding himself as a child, how he was like a ghost from the future, as all things, past, present and future are connected.
"The Dance of Reality" is a spiritual journey. It's the antithesis to the negativity and horror of "Santa Sangre," as well as the antithesis to the cold modernity of widespread atheism-- I was touched how anti-religious Jaime was only to find salvation in the hands of a kindly person which leads him down a path to redemption. How much truth there is to the real story I do not know, but it's not important, it's a movie that shows that no matter what religion you follow, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Taosim, Hinduism or Buddhist or whatever, they're all part of the same Universal Consciousness, all things are connected and Jodorowsky plays that idea beautifully.
If you're a fan of Alejandro Jodorowsky's films, pick this one up immediately!