The Dance of Reality (2013) | Alejandro Jodorowsky’s fantastical autobiography is a transformative experience
It’s been a long wait between films for Chilean film director Alejandro Jodorowsky (something like 25 years), but it’s been worth it – especially as it has given the 86-year-old auteur the chance to layer this fantastical autobiography with the same mystical elements that he has been studying for over past 60 years, and which he brought together in his magnum opus The Way of Tarot.
Self-realisation, creativity and healing are the cornerstones of that profound study (of which I am a student), and Jodorowsky’s ‘psychomagic’ system is what also drives The Dance of Reality (aka La danza de la realidad), which re-imagines the young Alejandro’s unhappy childhood in the Chilean copper-mining town of Tocopill during the 1930’s.
Transformation is key to all of Jodorowsky’s creative endeavours and this comes to play big time in The Dance of Reality through the character of the father, Jaime (played by Alejandro’s oldest son Brontis), a stern disciplinarian who idolises Stalin, but who is just as much the tryant as his nemesis, Chile’s right-wing dictator, Carlos Ibáñez del Campo (Bastian Bodenhofer), whom he sets out to kill.
Jaime’s journey is all about the destruction of the ego, and this is manifested in the paralysis of his hands when his assassination plan fails and Jaime is propelled on a path of enlightenment and, after many surreal setbacks, finally back into the waiting arms of his family: young son Alejandrito (Jeremías Herskovits) and wife Sara (played by Chilean opera soprano Pamela Flores, who sings all of her lines).
Now, Jodorowsky could have portrayed his dad as a truly repulsive character, but instead gives him humanity – he’s both comical and sympathetic, and Brontis plays the granddad he never knew superbly. Jamie’s adventures – which sees him being rejected by his anti-Semitic peers, cast out of a shanty-town after the death of the hunchback dwarf who rescues him from the streets, and being tortured by the secret police – all lead to his rebirth (just like Jodorowsky’s gunfighter El Topo, the thief in The Holy Mountain and Fenix in Santa Sangre). It also serves to help Jodorowsky heal his own wounds in the process.
Jodorowsky’s films are always loaded with symbols, requiring multiple viewing to catch them all, and his latest opus is no exception – with death (both the mortality and metaphysical kind) being key. One scene that sent a shiver down my spine and still haunts me even now is when Jodorowsky steps into the action to stop his younger self from committing suicide. It certainly struck an unconscious nerve within me (or was it a memory), and thus proof positive of the transformative power of Jodorowsky’s cinema. A sequel, Poesia Sin Fin (Endless Poetry), which follows the artist’s quest for inner truth, is currently in production. I can’t wait.
The Dance of Reality (aka La danza de la realidad) premieres on Film4 at 1am on Tuesday 19 January 2017, and is also available on Blu-ray from Artificial Eye in the UK
Reviled on its release for its perversity, decadence and attack on the bourgeoisie, 1973’s La Grande Bouffe went on to win the prestigious FIPRESCI prize after its controversial screening at the Cannes Film Festival that same year.
Four friends – Marcello Mastroianni (Fellini’s 8½), Michel Piccoli (Belle de Jour), Ugo Tognazzi (Barbarella) and Philippe Noiret (Cinema Paradiso) – retreat to a country mansion where they determine to eat themselves to death whilst engaging in group sex with prostitutes and a local school teacher (Andréa Ferréol, The Tin Drum), who seems to be up for anything…
Better known as Blow Out, this dark lurid satire, whose message is we are slaves to our appetites (whatever they may be), is just as repulsive and shocking as it was on its original release. Watching the reputed actors wallowing in the film’s excess and fart-filled chaos is sure to give many indigestion, but it remains very much a 1970s French arthouse curio and visual feast. If this doesn’t put you off rich French cuisine, then I’d be really surprised.
Arrow’s new edition (a first for Blu-ray in the UK) comes loaded with a host of new extra features, including a 1975 French television profile of Marco Ferreri, behind-the-scenes footage of the making of La Grande Bouffe, a Cannes news report, trailer, and a collector’s booklet.