The 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.