Monday, May 16, 2016

2016 Cannes Marathon: The Dance of Reality


(Played as Part of the Director’s Fortnight at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival)



Written and directed by Alejandro Jodorowsky that is based on his own novel, La danza de la realidad (The Dance of Reality) is the story of Jodorowsky’s own life living in a Chilean coastal town near the desert as he copes with his surroundings. A mixture of coming-of-age narratives mixed in with elements of surrealism, the film is an exploration of a boy who deals with the world around him as well as his own family. Starring Brontis Jodorowsky, Adan Jodorowsky, Jeremias Herskovits, Pamela Flores, and Cristobal Jodorowsky. La danza de la realidad is a visually-astonishing and enchanting film from Alejandro Jodorowsky.

Set in the small Chilean coastal town of Tocopilla during the 1930s, the film revolves around the life of a young Alejandro Jodorowsky who tells his own life story about his childhood and life with his parents. With Jodorowsky appearing as himself and provide commentary about moments in his young life, it is a coming-of-age story where the young Alejandro (Jeremias Herskovits) deals with not just becoming a man but also in finding himself as he is raised by his strict, Communist father Jaime (Brontis Jodorowsky playing his grandfather) and his kind and graceful mother Sara (Pamela Flores). Jodorowsky’s screenplay doesn’t just create a surreal interpretation of his own childhood where he admittedly does embellish things a bit for dramatic purposes.

At the heart of the story is young Alejandro’s relationship with his parents where the boy deals with the two sides of what they believe. Jaime, who is a Ukrainian-Jewish man, is a firefighter who tries to prove his bravery and masculinity where he would eventually go into a major character arc for the film’s second half. An arc that would lead to a journey of his own as it relates to humanity and faith while the young Alejandro spends time with his mother as he copes with his own fears. Especially in the third act as doesn’t just deal with the loss of a friend from the film’s first half but also in the prejudice and ridicule his father faces for who he is. It would be a moment where father and son finally come together but also a moment that would be crucial to Alejandro’s own upbringing and view into the world.

Jodorowsky’s direction is spellbinding in not just for the fact that he shoots the film on location in Tocopilla as well as other parts of Chile. While some of the imagery and the way he portrays the town and such is definitely inspired by the works of Federico Fellini. Jodorowsky’s take on Fellini is more in the line of surrealism as well as creating something that is odd in some of the characters that the young Alejandro would encounter. Especially as it plays into that idea of faith and whether God exists or not along with questions of identity in not just the young Alejandro but also in Jaime. Jodorowsky’s usage of wide and medium shots capture the town of Tocopilla as it is a character of its own in a world that is very rural and ordinary but also has a sense of life in its colors and a few ceremonies where Jodorowsky does create something that is lavish but also very homegrown.

The direction also play into these gorgeous images as it relates to the world the characters encounter whether it is a scene involving people infested by the plague or a contest for dogs wearing costumes. It adds to a world that is strange but also somewhat disconnected in what Jaime sees in the latter where he would try to kill Chile’s then-president but has a plan that would eventually shape his view on humanity. Even as Jodorowsky knows when to not go for anything weird but also be confrontational in the reality that is seen as it relates to people who are poor and feeling disenfranchised. Still, Jodorowsky displays a sense of hope that Jaime and young Alejandro would encounter but also a melancholia that the old Alejandro would feel towards the film’s ending as it play into what he faced in his childhood. Overall, Jodorowsky creates a rapturous yet heart wrenching film of a boy coming of age in Depression-era Chile.

Cinematographer Jean-Marie Dreujou does amazing work with the film‘s cinematography in the way many of the colors are captured in many of the film‘s locations along with some gorgeous lighting for some scenes set at night. Editor Maryline Monthieux does excellent work with the editing in its usage of jump-cuts and other stylish cuts to play into some of the drama and strange moments in the film. Art director Alisarine Ducolomb does fantastic work with the look of some of the sets including the shop Jaime runs as well as some of the look of the town and places that the characters would encounter. Costume designer Pascale Montandon-Jodorowsky does brilliant work with the costumes from the blue-like suit that young Alejandro wears to the very straight-laced clothes of his father along with some of the lavish clothes in the strange characters they would encounter.

Visual effects supervisor Ekkarat Rodthong does superb work with the visual effects in creating moments that add to some of the mystical and surreal elements of the film that the young Alejandro would encounter. Sound editor Sandy Notarianni does terrific work with a lot of the sound work that is presented on film including some of the raucous moments as well as the eerie scenes where Jaime works as a horse groomer for the president. The film’s music by Adan Jodorowsky is wonderful for its mixture of ambient and folk-based music to play into the world of Chile while music supervisor Jon Handelsman creates a soundtrack that includes some of the music that was played during the Depression as well as some classical pieces by Johann Sebastian Bach.

The film’s incredible cast include some notable small roles from composer Adan Jodorowsky as an anarchist who wants to kill the president that Jaime knows, Cristobal Jodorowsky as a strange philosopher named Theosophist who would give the young Alejandro some ideas about faith, Andres Cox as the president’s horse groomer Don Aquiles that Jaime would befriend and learn from, Sergio Vargas as an old carpenter Jaime would meet and find hope in, and Bastian Bodenhofer in an excellent performance as Carlos Ibanez del Campo as Chile’s then-right wing President who is seen as this cruel leader until Jaime sees an unexpected display of humanity that would trouble him. Jeremias Herskovitz is brilliant as the young Alejandro as a boy trying to find his identity as well as deal with his father’s demands along with elements of faith and reality. Pamela Flores is fantastic as Alejandro’s mother Sara as this woman who always sings whatever dialogue she is given as she is this woman of faith who shows her son the ways of the world where there is hope. Finally, there’s Brontis Jodorowsky in a sensational performance as his grandfather Jaime as a communist eager to prove his worth where he is tested by his own will only to deal with the realities he encounters as it’s a performance that requires a lot as Brontis delivers and more.

La danza de la realidad is a spectacular film from Alejandro Jodorowsky. Featuring a great cast that include his own sons including Brontis playing his grandfather as well as dazzling visuals and touching themes on the idea of family and growing up. The film is definitely strange in terms of the surrealism that Jodorowsky puts in but it’s also very accessible in how he puts in a lot of personal touches to a story that means a lot to him. In the end, La danza de la realidad is a tremendously ravishing film from Alejandro Jodorowsky.

Alejandro Jodorowsky Films: La Cravate - Teatro sin fin - Fando y Lis - El Topo - The Holy Mountain - Tusk (1980 film) - Santa Sangre - The Rainbow Thief - (Endless Poetry)

Related: Jodorowsky's Dune - The Auteurs #59: Alejandro Jodorowsky

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