Chilean provocateur Alejandro Jodorowsky's long-awaited seventh feature, The Dance of Reality, begins on a surprisingly conventional note for a director commonly associated with extreme eccentricity. It's an autobiographical coming-of-age saga, with distinct echoes of Fellini's Amarcord (1974), in which a young Alejandro (Jeremias Herskovits) grows up in a seaside Chilean village under the tutelage of his voluptuous, histrionic mother Sara (Pamela Flores, who sings all of her dialogue in the style of operatic arias) and his brutal, disciplinarian father Jaime (Brontis Jodorowsky).
The symbolism in the early passages is arresting but lucid; it shows the young Alejandro caught up in a spiritual identity crisis, torn between embracing chthonic severity†(personified by Jaime) or Olympian sexual liberation and artistic freedom (embodied by the earthy Sara). Everything that we see in the opening act -- including the village cripples and freaks, who populate one frame after another and are often covered in fluorescent body paint (echoes again of Fellini, this time of his Satyricon) -- are directly tied to this mythical tension inside of young Alejandro. We recognize not only Jodorowsky's trademark surrealist imagery throughout, but also his startling Grand Guignol humor, which is seen in a hilarious flashback sequence involving a torchbearer's violent death and a mock religious rite that has Jaime undergoing a scatological cure for the Black Plague.
What we can't quite anticipate is Jodorowsky's decision to detour the narrative into a tangential substory involving Jaime's assassination plot against Chilean general Carlos Ibanez del Campoís beloved white stallion, his subsequent regression into a homeless person on the streets of Santiago, his torture by the Nazis, or any of the other seemingly capricious events that ensue. The film grows increasingly anecdotal from the moment of the horse story's inception, but a willingness to wander is one of the famous pleasures of the director's work; even when this picture meanders, it is mercifully never boring. At more than two hours, there are numerous memorable sequences, such as Jaimeís surprisingly earnest and touching encounter with a kindly old carpenter who helps rescue him from skid row. Thereís also a trip to an ebullient church congregation where the aggressive praise hymns lead to ugly consequences -- bringing out Jodorowskyís familiar irreverence and recalling not only the Russian roulette sequence from El Topo, but the spiritual masochism of Luis Bunuelís Simon of the Desert.
There are also dozens of images throughout with an indelible potency -- from the sight of Jaime's bare upper body painted with the Chilean flag to a nude, blackened Alejandro and Sara embracing one another in an erotic Freudian dance. What it all means is open to interpretation and lies beyond the scope of this review, but Jodorowsky fans will likely spend years obsessing over and analyzing this movie -- and most will find it to be a worthy successor to the filmmaker's prior body of work.
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- Released: 2013
- Rating: NR
- Review: Chilean provocateur Alejandro Jodorowsky's long-awaited seventh feature, The Dance of Reality, begins on a surprisingly conventional note for a director commonly associated with extreme eccentricity. It's an autobiographical coming-of-age saga, with distin… (more)