The Dance of Reality
(Chile, France 2013 130m) DVD Screener
p Moisés Cosío, Xavier Guerrero Yamamoto, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Michel Seydoux d/w Alejandro Jodorowsky ed Marilyn Monthieux c Jean-Marie Dreujou s Adan Jodorowsky
a Brontis Jodorowsky, Pamela Flores, Jeremías Herskovits, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Bastián Bodenhöfer, Adan Jodorowsky, Axel Jodorowsky, Andres Cox, Alisarine Ducolomb, Francisco Pizarro Saenz de Urtury, Felipe Pizarro Saenz de Urtury
This review originally appeared in El Agente Cine in Spanish, and later in the film journal La Fuga in its 2014 edition. Now I translate it to the English language.
There’s no human being like Alejandro Jodorowsky. Whether you like or not the way in which he realizes his multiple incursions into art, the mysticism, the tarot, or any of the other things that he’s going to dedicate his time to in the future, it’s simply impossible to compare him to any other person who is in the public sphere. And it’s not because he is completely unique, but because his personality is schizophrenic and animated enough to turn into something memorable, and how he manages to create new currents and wavelengths based on established forms of communication (his revolution with Panico Theater, El Incal, Psychomagic, etc).
His cinema follows a similar path, in some way influenced by the cinematic currents that impacted him more, like surrealism, gore, among many others, it finally manages to merge all those visual or thematic elements in some kind of substance influenced by the world vision that the director delivers to everyone of his works, a mixture of masters, wizards and witches that have brought him to the knowledge of his own self, and even if he tries to inculcate that way of life that he has found to explain his own biography and being, it doesn’t really matter if he manages to permeate us, because we are mostly left with a cinematographic work (and beyond) that is unmistakeable, it is his essence what we are drinking when we see work like ‘El topo’ (1970) or ‘The Holy Mountain’ (1973), it is his world vision, and that’s something that no director has managed to imitate: the clear and absolute conception of the universe that is behind something like, for example, ‘La danza de la realidad’ (2013).
And it is in this last film that we see something like the ‘behind the scenes’ of all that cosmogony created through years by the director, because it is in this autobiographic film about his infancy in Tocopilla, where he manages to introduce himself as a complex being, that has received the experience of multiple people across his life, which left him with the lessons that we can see in the phrases he throws in interviews or his daily tweets. In some way we can see part of the process that lead him to explain and comprehend his own biography, mainly basing it in the life that his parents lead, as well as some little snippets of future events (represented by the apparition of Jodorowsky himself in some kind of ‘adult-elder-sage’ version) that bring perspective to some of the most incomprehensible passages, or those filled with the surrealism that only Jodorowsky nowadays can manage to conjure.
But here is where I want to propose something. Alejandro Jodorowsky maybe the only filmmaker that until this moment has managed to put to the screen something close to the Latin American magical realism. Not because of the supernatural elements that sometimes appear and leave the spectator speechless, but his insistence on genealogy, with the place where all the problems come from, a burden from generations past, like how the Buendia curse manages to explain the disappearance of his descendants and Macondo, here it’s the personal history of the parents of young Alejandro who comes to explain the personality, his formation, his decisions, the way in which he seems to exorcise everything evil and sick that could’ve come from the external exchange of the roles that they play, of the exaggerated natural force.
Because finally, like any other thing done by the 85 year old director nowadays, is a therapy, a catharsis, some kind of personal sanation, that if manages to do something for the audience, great, but it’s mostly about concealing his own demons, and he makes it explicitly by adapting one of his own books, as well as giving a special treatment to those autobiographical moments, and then giving the role of his father to his own son, Brontis Jodorowsky, giving him the opportunity to the son to punish the father for any mistake that he had committed, but at the same time it’s not in a direct way, but through a surrogate body, and also in the form of a child, who also he has to take care of. Any psychologist would feast on the repercussions of something like that, but at the same time the director himself doesn’t deny them, but forces them in uncomfortable ways.
There’s a sequence, maybe one of the most controversial of the film, where the mother of Alejandro undresses and completely paints her son black, so he isn’t afraid of the darkness, to then herself undress and hide, only for her son to find her, and ear her, in a game that is never not innocent, but that in our heads becomes something much more perverse, specially due to the voluptuous figure of the woman.
Others might say that in some way the director can’t see beyond his own bellybutton during the whole film, but here I feel that there’s a connection with the country that saw him grow and with its history, much more than in any other film that he has directed so far, it is at the same time the most personal and the most compromised with something that is never actually something that he speaks too much about: the recent history of Chile. Even if it takes place in another era, during a good chunk of the film, it revolves around the figure of Carlos Ibáñez del Campo, his dictator-like presence, the surrounding sounds of the upcoming second world war, the political landscape, murders and thoughts, meetings and illegalities, communism and other things in that style, but the most disturbing moment is when the father is incarcerated and systematically tortured in ways that seem too well known nowadays, aside from being completely out of time regarding the era that is being portrayed. Maybe this is the way that Jodorowsky found to talk about the dictatorship in Chile.
Even though it’s not absent of elements that may cause discomfort or even laughter (the humor even though quite ridiculous, it could be characterized as silly sometimes), it all comes together as some part of trance state, in which one has to enter to find the value and enjoyment in the acting of Brontis Jodorowsky, as well as most of the cast, with a stringing performance adequate to the effects, the colors and the way in which the ideas are captured in the screen. There’s an order and at the same time a beautiful demarcation of certain specific moments, which remind of hagiography paintings, and that manage to put a reason to consider him among the best visual artists alive today, even if he has a brief filmography. If this is his last film, it would be the best farewell he could ever have, it’s filled with the same mortal weight as well as renovating language that ‘La noche de enfrente’ (2012) of Raúl Ruiz had.