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The Dance Of Reality

Dir/scr: Alejandro Jodorowsky. France. 2013. 130mins

Everything you wanted to know about Alejandro Jodorowsky but never imagined asking can be found in The Dance Of Reality (La Danza de la Realidad), a joyously idiosyncratic exercise in imagined autobiography that revisits defining moments from his childhood in 1930s Chile. The first feature in almost quarter of a century from the veteran director of El Topo and Santa Sangre is a surprisingly witty, accessible magical mystery tour through his past that has cult potential in every baroque, eye-popping frame.

The Dream Of Reality is never dull and could attract new converts to Jodorowsky’s world as well as the old faithfuls.

It acts as both a summation of many things that have fascinated him (religion, mysticism, poetry, philosophy) and as a means of explaining their personal roots. Jodorowsky’s return should be enough to attract arthouse distributors to a film with more theatrical appeal than they might have feared, especially as it is frequently funny and usually intentionally. Jodorowsky has invented a therapy called “psychomagic” involving acts to ” heal family-related childhood psychological problems”.

The film may be his biggest healing act as it imagines the past as it was but with the addition of Jodorowsky on hand to offer some comfort and reassurance to his younger alter ago. It is also a family affair with his son Brontis on manic form playing Jodorowsky’s father Jaime.

The Jodorowsky childhood in Tocopilla appears to have been manufactured by a combination of Fellini and Monty Python. A dwarf appears in a succession of lurid costumes trying to drum up business outside his father’s store, limbless drunkards lie around the city centre looking for a fight and circus performers are everywhere. You almost want the Spanish Inquisition to appear but maybe nobody expects them.

The Python connection is even more apparent given that Brontis Jodorowsky bears a striking similarity to the young Terry Gilliam as Jaime, a Stalin-loving Communist who measures his son’s masculinity by the amount of pain he can withstand. His mother Sara (Pamela Flores) is a large-breasted lady who sings every line of dialogue with the passion of a great opera diva. In life, she dreamed of being a singer but never was.

In the film, she never stops singing and that is where Jodorowsky has put his imagination into play as he moulds and shapes true events into a more favourable light.

The young Alejandro (Jeremias Herkovits) has the flowing golden curls of a Mary Pickford, a boundless amount of compassion and a sense of being apart from the crowd that wins him no friends among his peers. His determination to win his father’s approval sees his locks shorn and his mettle tested in many ways as he is brutally told: ” God does not exist. You die and you rot”.

The film shifts in the second hour to focus more on the father’s spiritual and political journey towards enlightenment. A kaleidoscopic, sometimes chaotic torrent of striking images, comic exuberance and philosophical musing, The Dance Of Reality is never dull and could attract new converts to Jodorowsky’s world as well as the old faithfuls.

Production company: Camera One

International sales: Pathe International,

Producers: Michel Seydoux, Moises Cosio, Alejandro Jodorowsky

Cinematography: Pascale Montandon Jodorowsky

Editor: Maryline Montieux

Production designer: Anne Falgueres

Music: Adan Jodorowsky, Jonathan Handelsman

Main cast: Brontis Jodorowsky, Pamela Flores, Jeremias Herskovits

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