When it comes to working in any field, taking a 23 year break from working on your craft will, theoretically, leave one rather out of step and “rusty.” Imagine Lebron James taking over two decades off and trying to come back into an NBA event. Imagine any Duke Ellington stepping away from music for almost a quarter of a century and then trying to get back into sonic shape.
Well, that’s what beloved cult auteur Alejandro Jodorowsky has done, as he is back after a 23 year hiatus with not only a brand new film, but one of his very best to date.
Entitled The Dance Of Reality, Jodorowsky (who also produced the picture) has taken to the world of autobiography for this new feature. At least superficially, the film tells the tale of a youngster named Alejandro (Jeremias Herskovits, an absolutely fantastic discovery if I do say so myself), a boy growing up in 1930s Chile. Under the ever oppressive watch of his father and local Communist leader (played by Brontis Jodorowsky, the filmmaker’s son, in a wonderfully layered turn) he is tasked with trying to constantly prove himself to be a real man. Be it being tickled and unable to laugh or getting a procedure done without having his mouth numbed, various set pieces here directly deal with Alejandro being forced to prove his manhood to his father, a man who is so intriguingly painted here that we discover that his own bravado is nothing more than a deeply seeded mask covering up his own insecurities. Then there is his mother (Pamela Flores) who doesn’t speak a single word during the film, instead, opting to sing every line of dialogue who asks her son to wear a wig to keep the memory of her father alive, in what can only be described as the best and most distilled example of this film’s breathless absurdism.
More an example of Jodorowsky’s Fellini influence than really an extension of a film like El Topo, the film is, and thankfully so, far more personal an endeavour than those great genre classics. Not without its surreal and absurd, the film is at its best when it deals directly with the personal and political themes that he has seemingly had his cinematic fire lit once more to discuss. The picture opens with Jodorowsky, who himself is a presence in the actual film as some sort of saintly guide for our narrative lead as he grows up in Tocopilla, waxing poetic about the power of money, but the film isn’t about something so physical and tactile. Instead, a breathtaking look at everything from masculinity to the power of a child’s imagination as a weapon of great strength, Jodorowsky’s latest is one of his most personal and aesthetically charming.
Sure, there are touches of his typical surrealism throughout. Ranging from a battle with limbless war veterans all the way to the mother figure here urinating on her possibly unconscious husband, the film is decidedly Jodorowsky in just about every way. The photography is lavish and beautiful, and the sequences here are impossible to turn away from. Breathlessly designed and decorated, Dance Of Reality is a typically gorgeous work from a director who is rarely mentioned as the top notch craftsman that he truly is. Brazenly surreal and absurd, Jodorowsky’s latest is yet another example of just how strong an artist, and how assured a voice, the director truly has, even nearly a quarter century since he last picked up a camera. Welcome back, sir. You’ve been missed.