Monday, June 02, 2014

The Dance of Reality

Alejandro Jodorowsky and producer Michel Seydoux hatched this movie when reunited during the shooting of Jodorowsky's Dune, and as I was writing the review I started wondering just how much doing one movie that looked back into Jodorowsky's personal history pushed them to do another. Did they opt not to go the science fiction route either because it was expensive or because they had just set themselves up with a great big hypothetical comparison? Or did it spring from specific recollections? There's a sequence in JD where Alejandro is describing how he envisioned his teenage son Brontis playing Paul Atreides, and wound up having the kid do martial arts and other physical training for a year or so. It's not hard to imagine someone pausing during the interview to point out how nuts and maybe cruel that was only to have Alejandro point out that when he was eight, his father made him go to the dentist without anesthesia after slapping a tooth out of his mouth to prove how tough he was, which led to other stories which led to a screenplay.

And then, of course, he casts Brontis as the father so he can do all that stuff to the young actor playing his father, putting a whole "soon is father to the man" context to it. Elsewhere in the movie, Brontis's Jaime is a major prick to the characters played by two of his brothers. I suspect the Jodorowsky family is a weird one. To be expected if some of what we see in the movie can be believed; there's a couple of scenes that will probably make the more straight-laced people in the audience squirm.

Still, while watching one, I remembered a story that Million Year Picnic proprietor Tony Davis tells about a time when Jodorowsky was doing an appearance and somebody asked how he could have something happen, and he said he didn't feel constricted by our American concept of... what's the word?

"Morality?" the guy asked, sarcastically.

"Yes! Morality!" Jodorowsky responds, pleased to have the right word.

(Tony tells this story much better than I do, obviously; he's also got a great Jean "Moebius" Giraud one to go with it.)

The easiest reaction to that is the amoral artist who thinks he's more sophisticated than anyone else, but I don't think there's much of that in Jodorowsky; all signs are that he's a big-hearted man who is nevertheless completely unafraid of writing something creepy and off-putting it if makes for a strong metaphor. This is the guy who cheerfully talked about raping Frank Herbert to adapt Dune.

Gotta say, considering that this is probably the closest Jodorowsky has ever been to the mainstream with two reasonably accessible movies in theaters, it's kind of frustrating that Humanoids is pricing the latest graphic novel they're releasing of his - Final Incal with Ladronn and an earlier version of the story by Moebius - at $100 for a 200-page hardcover. I like the Incal series, and it's a nice-looking edition, but that's going to have to drop to about half the price for me to get it.

La Danza de la Realidad (The Dance of Reality)

* * * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 31 May 2014 in Landmark Kendall Square #2 (first-run, DCP)

I wouldn't necessarily expect Alejandro Jodorowsky to be particularly prone to nostalgia; the director, writer, and "psychomagician" has, throughout his career, favored the grandly imaginative and metaphysical to the mundane to an extent that few in any medium can approach. Seeing him do something so directly based upon his own childhood for his first movie in nearly a quarter-century is initially enough to make one wonder if he has succumbed to the tendency many old men have to idealize their youth. Fortunately, he's gone and made an Alejandro Jodorowsky movie, and if it's his last (he is 85, after all), its a good one.

That age means he was born right around the start of the Great Depression, which hit Chile, where Ukranian Jews Jaime (Brontis Jodorowsky) and Sara (Pamela Flores) settled a few years before the birth of their son Alejandro (Jeremias Herskovits), as hard as any place. So they live in Tacopilla, where the parents operate a lingerie store and Jaime despairs over how Sara coddles Alejandro out of her belief that he is the reincarnation of her dead father, dosing out his own brand of tough love in response.

There's a gag to that - Brontis is the real-life Alejandro Jodorowsky's son - and the nature of Jodorowsky's body of work makes it all but impossible to guess whether the filmmaker is professing a very real belief in reincarnation or just having a wink at the audience. This is doubly true given that Alejandro appears on screen and delivers narration, explicitly in-character as the man that young Alejandro grows into. There's another son playing someone who could slot in as a father/teacher, with one more also in the film and composing the music for good measure. Again, there may be nothing to this - Jodorowsky has been making movies with his family for so long that he may not be able to conceive of making a film without them in central roles.

Full review at EFC

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