Title: The Dance of Reality
Director: Alejandro Jodorowsky
Starring: Brontis Jodorowsky, Pamela Flores, Jeremias Herskovits
The year 2014 is proving to be something of an unlikely renaissance for 85-year-old surrealist filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky, who was the central subject of a documentary detailing his vision of a collapsed adaptation of Frank Herbert’s “Dune,” and now sees the release of his first film in more than two decades, “The Dance of Reality.” A deeply personal and characteristically weird curated trip through his recreated adolescence, this one-of-a-kind period piece is swollen with mythology, metaphor (political and social), visual poetry and elliptical tedium.
Jodorowsky was born in 1929 in Tocopilla, a coastal town along the edge of the Chilean desert, and it is here that the filmmaker returns for this autobiographical tale, which centers around the chaotic, uprooted existence of his domestic life. Jeremias Herskovits stands in for the young Jodorowsky, a boy who finds himself torn between his taskmaster father Jaime (Brontis Jodorowsky, the director’s son), a cold and oppressive communist who admires Stalin and order in all things, and the welcoming bosom of his mother Sara (Pamela Flores), who sings most of her dialogue in a booming operatic voice.
On a certain level, it probably makes just as much sense to make a list of some of the things that “The Dance of Reality” includes as to tackle any proper plot synopsis. Such a list includes: a musical number with amputees; a summoned tsunami; a vaporized scalp; feather tickle tests; panty-sniffing; a slaughtered donkey; golden showers; a dog dressed as a lizard; nuns playing classical music; copious nudity; magical stones that deliver messages by balloon; a somewhat uncomfortable game of nude hide-and-seek between mother and son that ends with them smearing black paint all over one another; masked extras who wander to and fro; narrated passages by Jodorowsky himself; a military assassination attempt; a priest who hands out tarantulas; and quoted Biblical scripture.
Jodorowsky’s film is fairly inscrutable in its plotting, and the bloated running time (130 minutes) assures there are long passages when it drags. Some of the symbolism seems heavy-handed and risible (a dwarf flogging a dollar sign) and some of its emotionally fraught holding forth (“Should I suffer the anguish of the sardines, or delight in the joy of the gulls?”) comes across as caricature of surrealistic grandeur as much as anything else. But for every bit that induces a hearty inward sigh and tips ever closer one toward writing the film completely off, there’s a moment of stirring and strange beauty that arrives out of left field. This is the definition of a niche appeal offering, but its amazing technical orchestration no doubt marks it as the work of a true cineaste.
NOTE: For more information on the film, visit its website at www.DanceOfRealityMovie.com.
Written by: Brent Simon