blank'/> Cinema Reviews: The Dance of Reality - Welcome back Jodorowsky!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

The Dance of Reality - Welcome back Jodorowsky!

Welcome back to cinema, Alejandro Jodorowsky.

Financed largely through crowdfunding, this is the realization of one of Jodorowsky's autobiographical novels "La Danza de la Realidad". I haven't read the source material (Was only available in Spanish back when I was reading Jodorowsky's novels) so I don't know how the film compares, but I have read both "The Spiritual Journey of Alejandro Jodorowsky" and "Psychomagic" - the latter detailing the therapeutic technique he developed combining psychology, shamanism with a focus on active symbolic acts.

The film begins with ruminations on the scourge/blessing of money, and then young Jodorowsky and his tyrant Father at the circus, in scenes which appear to open the film with a flourish of spectacle, and remind the world where we left off with Jodorowsky (In this case Sante Sangre, which these scenes visually resemble. I wont count The Rainbow Thief, his actual last film, because I doubt even he would). It creates a sense of continuity with his film making and doesn't feel self indulgent.

What could have been self indulgent, especially for an autobiographical film, is the device of Alejandro (as himself) appearing in the film, relating to and often directly manipulating his younger self. Thankfully Jodorowsky is simply too inventive for this to occur; he keeps his appearances brief and his comments add another layer of poetry to the film. He even interjects at one point to place a gun in his Father's hands, possibly suggesting his recognition of shared violent impulses with his Father or to remind us that this film is Jodorowsky's therapeutic act upon Jaime, Alejandro is guiding this therapeutic journey.

It must be said here that Brontis Jodorowksy's (Alejandro's son) performance as Jaime is excellent, an explosive force of anger, frustration, self-loathing and sensitivity. His passion onscreen is palpable and the level of expression in his body and movement is impressive.

Twenty-three years on the bench have not dulled Jodorowsky's film making one bit. I challenge you to find another modern film maker who fills his films with the sheer force of life that is on display here.

Invention, spectacle, spiritualism, violence and passion are the hallmarks of Jodorowsky film making, however violence and spiritualism take a back seat here, and the relationships between Father, Son and Mother take precedence. It really is a story of redemption and therapy for Jaime Jodorowsky.

So what's new film technique wise here for Alejandro? Well, in the 70's and 80's he didn't have access to computer generated imagery - but before you go fretting about an excess of lazy CGI, ala Lucas, know that it used sparingly and for dazzling effect. It's not the greatest CGI in the world but is used to create a huge wave and hundreds of flapping fish attacked by seagulls on Chilean shores. In opening scenes young Alejandro throws a rock into the sea and is admonished by a figure representing the tarot image of The Queen of Cups: "You silly boy, one stone can kill all the fish in the sea", which it does for spectacular impact.

Steadicam shots now punctuate this film, whereas static or dolly shots were his preference in the 70's. There are also a few helicopter shots, a resource Jodorowsky presumably didn't have access to before.

The bold color schemes and art direction are back, use of masks and elaborate costuming, as well as the inclusion of amputees and other marginalized figures like transsexuals and little people.

The potentially annoying device of Alejandro's Mother singing all her dialogue was actually a joy throughout, and heightened the passion and melodrama. A mere Brechtian device (I.e. designed to take you out of the performance to focus your thought on the text or meaning) no doubt borrowed from Jodorowksy's theater days, but here feels fresh and surprising.

Inventions like this permeate the film: another sequence features Jaime rolling stockings over two upturned mannequin legs on a tabletop, becoming aroused and then launching into the implied image of intercourse with a woman on her back. This is effortless visual invention, evocative and filled with the virility that is another hallmark of Jodorowsky's film making.

But his sensitivity is also on display here: the haunting look of young Jodorowsky in the blonde wig tying him to his Grandfather (Who his Mother believes he is a reincarnation of), Jodorowsky cradling his younger self and stopping him from throwing himself off a rock into the sea, even the moment of tenderness from the despot towards his ailing horse moves us with its unexpected gentleness.

There is so much crammed into this film experience that I can't possibly hope to do it justice here. Jodorowsky films have always been the most filling, satisfying cinematic meals and I pray we'll get a few more before he leaves us - much like he does at the the film's conclusion, bending out of sight behind the figure of death on a boat which recedes from view.

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