Film review: The Dance of Reality

Filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky looks back at his childhood in a surreal and unique way, even if it does all become a bit much for Michael Joyce.

The cinema of Alejandro Jodorowsky is brief (seven films) and really only amounts to his weird counter culture efforts in the ‘70s – El Topo a transcendent Spaghetti Western that was a massive cult hit; Holy Mountain, a mystical quest movie that was a massive flop; and his version of sci-fi classic Dune which was never made. His is one of the most twisted filmographys in all cinema, full of violence, amputees, nudity, depravity, animal cruelty and mumbo jumbo that suggests he has pillaged every belief system going. In his 80s, he’s made his first film in 23 years - a surreal, magic realist look back at his childhood.

Set in Tocopilia, a small seaside village in the Chilean desert, the young Alejandro has to deal with the villagers’ antisemitism and his parents: the buxom mother who only communicates through opera and the Stalinist father, a reactionary communist who hates the poor and is obsessed with making a man of his son. The message of the film seems to be See, This Is Where All That Weirdness Came From.

It is a unique, funny, dazzling, crude pantomime of a movie and all a bit much. Jodorowsky was never a man for restraint, but it doesn’t quite have enough energy or invention for its running length. It will irritate many but it’s worth wading through the indulgences because he is a rare and precious talent. He’s not a film maker who will spend hours sifting through classic shots or studying film theory, but one that has a remarkable (if hit and miss) visual imagination that means he can usually come up with something worth pointing a camera at.

Rating 3/5 stars


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