“The Dance of Reality”
Starring: Brontis Jodorowsky, Pamela Flores, Jeremias Herskovits
After a 23-year hiatus from making feature films — his last was “The Rainbow Thief,” a work-for-hire film from 1990 starring Peter O’Toole and Omar Sharif that he disowned after it was completed — Chilean director Alejandro Jodorowsky makes a striking return to filmmaking. Arriving on the heels of “Jodorowsky’s Dune,” the recent documentary about the visionary filmmaker’s audacious attempt to make the most outlandish science fiction movie of all time, “The Dance of Reality” promises to attract a new generation of audiences hungry for his individual brand of anti-commercial cinematic art.
Dubbed an “imaginary biography,” “The Dance of Reality” presents a metaphor-filled cinematic version of “psychomagic,” the tarot-derived therapy that Jodorowsky developed to cure himself after the death of his third son Teo. Here, with the help of his three adult actor-sons and his costume-designer wife Pascale, Jodorowsky reconciles his troubled relationship with his impoverished hometown of Tocopilla — a mining town on Chile’s Northern Coast known by locals as “the devil’s corner,” that rejected him because he was Jewish — and with his callous parents, whose mistreatment of him as a child left deep psychological scars.
Jodorowsky presses his astute anti-imperialist stance during a personally delivered exposition that introduces the film. Gold coins fall and clink around him in slow motion to a peppy jazz tune, as he compares money to blood (“it gives life if it flows”), and to Christ (“it blesses you if you share it”), before describing how money “damns those who glorify it.” “The is no difference between money and conscience,” or between “conscience and death.” Finally, he proffers there is “no difference between wealth and death.”
With long blonde hair, a prepubescent Alejandro (Jeremias Herskovits) visits a circus with his father Jaime (played by Brontis Jodorowsky). Jaime is a former circus performer still remembered by a couple of obnoxious clowns for his boxing ability. Jaime berates Alejandro for his shyness, which Jaime interprets as evidence of his son’s lacking masculinity.
Alejandro’s mother Sara (Pamela Flores) runs a lingerie shop. She sings all of her lines in an operatic soprano voice that lends aural and visceral counterpoint to the film’s atmosphere. The movie is an epic opera of surreal dimensions.
A series of inadequate displays on the young Alejandro’s part precipitate Jaime abandoning his family in an attempt to assassinate the country’s fascist military leader General Carlos Ibanez. Jaime, a card-carrying communist and fierce supporter of Stalin, believes that doing so will cure his country’s failings.
Steeped in allegory, and informed by Jodorowsky’s hard-won transformative sense of storytelling as a healing art form, “The Dance of Reality” is a loving film that dares to reconstitute atrocious familial, social and political trespasses as violations to be forgiven in the interest of altering reality.
The cinema of Jodorowsky is an all-encompassing expression that exists to liberate. As an audience member, you enter into an adventure of consciousness that shows you everything. Hopefully, “The Dance of Reality” will usher in more films from a brave filmmaker whose imagination, inspiration and execution is pure. CV
Cole Smithey — The Smartest Film Critic in the World — has covered every aspect of world cinema since 1997. His reviews and video essays are archived online at www.ColeSmithey.com.