Sep 18, 2014

The Dance of Reality

Despite the fact that most of his films are in some way autobiographical, Chilean-born auteur/movie metaphysician, comics writer/artist, and spiritual guru Alejandro Jodorowsky (Fando y Lis, El Topo) has rarely made reference to his Ukrainian-Jewish origins in his cinematic works aside from fleeting esoteric references to the cabbala in The Holy Mountain (1973), at least until recently. Indeed, for his first feature in well over two decades, The Dance of Reality (2013) aka La danza de la realidad—a film based on the director’s 400+ page ‘psychomagical autobiography’ of the same name— Jodorowsky depicted his uniquely unhappy, if not equally magical and fantastic, ‘coming-of-age’ as a Ukrainian Jew who had the rare experience of growing up in a small and destitute Chilean town and suffering the emotionally and physical brutality of his sadistic and highly hypocritical Stalinist storeowner father. Quite obviously the director’s most overtly personal, intimate, and even ‘sentimental’ work to date as a film where the filmmaker and self-proclaimed “atheist mystic” makes random abrupt appearances throughout the film where he attempts to console his younger self in what some might describe as a bittersweet mix of nostalgia and self-pity, The Dance of Reality is somewhat predictably the product of a much tamer and less hysterically hermetic Jodorowsky, even if it features a middle-aged Amazonian-like woman with meaty bosoms urinating on her husband and a talking burnt corpse that is covered with maggots and snails. Sort of like a deranged Disney coming-of-age flick that turns into a spiritual quest halfway through as directed by a Chilean Fellini who had the grand misfortune of being the sole Jewish boy in a remote area inhabited by savage Indian boys who were not too sympathetic to his ‘mushroom-shaped’ circumcised cock, Jodorowsky’s latest film may not be the great long-awaited masterpiece that his fans have been eagerly expecting since his last excellent effort 1989 Santa Sangre (Jodorowsky directed The Rainbow Thief in 1990, but he ultimately disowned the film because his artistic freedom was taken away by executive producer Alexander Salkind, whose wife penned the screenplay), but it certainly offers a potent glimpse of the artist’s extremely vulnerable naked soul, so it is only fitting that the 84-year-old posted a video of himself naked to promote the film. Easily the most idiosyncratic and pleasantly unhinged autobiographical film by an auteur filmmaker since belated German dandy Werner Schroeter’s totally impenetrable penultimate work Deux (2002) aka Two, Jodorowsky’s cinematic journey may have been shot on kitschy digital video and features absolutely aesthetically repugnant CGI special effects, but there is no mistaking the artistic integrity of the mensch that created it. Starring the director’s own son Brontis Jodorowsky (who is best known for playing Jodorowsky’s naked son in El Topo) in the role of the director’s father, the film may feature cliché Freudian overtones, but it is unquestionable that it is an innately anti-Hollywood work, as a celluloid spiritual quest in the spirit of what Aldous Huxley described as the, “Perennial Philosophy.”  Indeed, on top of being autobiographical, the film pays tribute to the fact that all religions share a single universal truth, thus demonstrating the director's lifelong obsession with arcane knowledge and all things relating to the spiritual and metaphysical.  Shot on location in the director’s hometown of Tocopilla and set in 1930s depression era Chile, The Dance of Reality is part political-thriller, part Fellini-esque fantasy, part absurdist comedy, part culturally confused allegory for Jewish assimilation, and part grotesque freak show, but it is also 100% Jodorowsky and that is certainly what matters most. 

 Young Alejandro Jodorowsky (Jeremías Herskovits) is a strange and severely sensitive little boy who lives a nightmarish yet fantastic and magical life with his unhappily married Jewish-Ukrainian parents Jaime (Brontis Jodorowsky) and Sara (Pamela Flores) in Tocopilla, Chile, which is a third world hellhole that is mostly populated by half-crazed mestizos, Indians, and cripples.  Jaime is a diehard Stalinist who, despite his ostensible hatred of capitalism and affinity for dressing like a commie dictator, owns a successful bourgeois shoe and clothing store called “House of Ukraine” where a portrait of Joseph Stalin absurdly hangs on the wall as if it where a religious icon like a cross or a portrait of Christ. An unrepentant atheist true believer whose life philosophy is “you die and you rot” and who berates his son anytime he demonstrates an interest in religious matters, Jaime is ultimately a spiritual cripple and aggressively nihilistic materialist who uses communism as a sort of pseudo-religion.  Indeed, while he never outright says it, Jaime seems to think that a communist overthrow of the Chilean government will lead to him becoming a bolshevik god.  A former boxer and rope-climber for the local circus, Jaime hates the fact that the locals think of him as a weak foreign Jew who has no real love for the poor (indeed, during one especially scene, Jaime hatefully attacks a homeless cripple whose hands were blown off in a mining explosion), so he wants his seemingly effeminate son Alejandro to toughen up and forces the boy to cut off his big viking-like blond mane, which he inherited from his maternal grandfather, hence why his mother Sara—a spiritually-inclined woman who literally talks to god and sings in an operatic fashion every time she opens her mouth—strangely refers to her son as her “father,” at least until he gets a haircut.  To the chagrin of Jaime, Sara thinks that her father has been reincarnated via her son.  Indeed, after his marvelous mane is murdered via non-haircut (the barber simply pulls a wig off the boy's head!), mother Sara calls poor Alejandro a “traitor.”  Indeed, after tragically losing his glistening golden locks, Alejandro is forced to be a tough son as opposed to a whiny momma's boy.  After teaching his son to overcome pain by various methods ranging from being tickled with a feather to being smacked in the face to the point where he cracks a tooth, Alejandro is given the honor of becoming the “mascot” of the local fire department, which his father belongs to, but when the little lad witnesses the burnt corpse of a firefighter at the sight of a burned down home and later hallucinates seeing the corpse talking to him during a funeral ceremony for said burnt corpse, he disgraces his padre by fainting and not awaking for two entire days. Indeed, after Alejandro's pathetic display at the funeral ceremony, two of Jaime’s firefighter comrades mock him by remarking that, “Even dressed up as a fireman, a Jew is a Jew,” thus inspiring the Judaic Stalinist to go on a journey to deliver water to countless crippled refugees to prove his supposed dedication to the proletariat, but when he arrives, the poor people kill and eat his donkey and give him the plague, which is only cured when his wife Sara urinates on his face and bare toso. Ultimately, Jaime decides that killing Chilean president Carlos Ibáñez del Campo (Bastian Bodenhofer) will be the best way to prove his manhood and demonstrate his dedication to Chile and the commie cause.  Of course, as a bourgeois-bred kosher capitalist, Jaime will ultimately fail in his dubious mission to liberate the masses via senseless assassination.

 Jaime belongs to an underground Stalinist terrorist group—a curiously eclectic collection of cripples, beatniks, homos, lardos, trannies, and other social defective untermenschen that rather symbolically meet in whorehouses and masonic lodges (indeed, aside from the fact that brothels reflect some of the worst elements of capitalist exploitation, some believe that Freemasons were responsible for funding various communist revolutions)—and with his pinko cronies he attempts to figure out the best way to assassinate Ibáñez. After learning that the President loves his horse more than anything else, Jaime figures out his enemy’s ‘Achilles heel’ and leaves his family to carry the assassination out, but a problem arises when one of the member of his commie clique, ‘The Anarchist’ (the director’s rocker son Adan Jodorowsky, who played young Fenix in Santa Sangre), pulls a gun on him and says a foreign Jew should not have the right to kill the Chilean leader. After learning that the Anarchist wants to avenge his journalist father, who was executed by Ibáñez’s men for writing unflattering things about the dictator’s regime, Jaime agree to help his comrade carry out the assassination. Somewhat absurdly, the Anarchist attempts to assassinate Ibáñez at a dog show where canines are judged by how they look in goofy clothing, but Jaime stops him right before he shoots the dictator at close-range. After stating, “I don’t want to live in a world with dressed up dogs,” the Anarchist commits suicide by shooting himself with the same gun that he planned to assassinate the dictator with. For ostensibly risking his life to save him, President Ibáñez honors Jaime’s request to be his personal horse trainer. Indeed, since the original horse trainer Don Aquiles (Andres Cox) plans to retire, Jaime is sent to train with him before he dies (Aquiles later has Jaime bury him alive). While Jaime loves the beautiful white stallion ‘Bucephalus,’ he decides to poison the horse by encouraging it to eat poisonous yellow flowers as a way to get Ibáñez to come by the farm in the middle of the night so that he can shoot him, but when the Stalinist gets the opportunity to kill his supposed oppressor, his hands become paralyzed and he literally loses his mind. From there, Jaime will go on a Christ-like spiritual odyssey that will teach him how to be a humble man and loving father. 

 After Sara covers Alejandro's body with black paint in what is easily one of the strangest and most perverse blackface scenes in film history, the boy is able to get over his fear of the dark.  Indeed, Sarah is a born healer with a spiritual touch and like with her son, she will ultimately save her husband Jaime from his seemingly malignant spiritual sickness. Sara also helps her son get over his fear of mestizos after being beaten up for being a Jew by stating to him, “Out with Pinocchio. Out with the Jew. Out with the nose and white skin!” and subsequently telling Alejandro that he is invisible. Indeed, after Sarah goes to the bar where Alejandro was beaten up, strips off all her clothes, and walks around the place like she owns it, no one touches the scrawny Jewish boy again. With the help of an eccentric and heavily tattooed shaman that resembles a Hindu sadhu named the ‘Theosophist’ (played by the director’s son Axel Jodorowsky, who played the adult Fenix in Santa Sangre), Sara and Alejandro are able to send Jaime a message telling him to come back home. When Jaime receives the message, he snaps out of his amnesia and finds himself in a dilapidated shack in a third world ghetto lying next to a crippled midget who later explains to him that she found him half-starved wandering the streets. Flattered by the fact that Jaime seemed unaware of her glaring deformities and short stature, the crippled midget made him her live-in lover. Upset that Jaime’s memory has come back and that he will no longer want to have sex with her, the midget commits suicide via hanging and the Stalinist is blamed for the death by the locals, thus he is forced to immediately flee from the shantytown. 

 After being tormented by seemingly rabid Catholic schoolgirls and being treated like a lowly beggar, Jaime happens upon a building called “Sacred Wood Carpenters” where he meets a humble old Christian carpenter named Don Jose who helps him to rehabilitate his paralyzed hands by teaching him to make wooden chairs that will be given to a local Catholic Church. When Jaime and Don Jose give 26 wooden chairs that they created to the Catholic Church, they are warmly honored by the priest and congregation. During the festivities, Don Jose unexpectedly drops dead and Jaime becomes so touched by the experience that he cries and gives away all his money to the church to help pay for Don Jose’s funeral. With nowhere to go, Jaime hits the streets and sees Nazi brownshirts parading down the block yet despite being a Judeo-Bolshevik, he decides to warmly salute the Chilean fascists. When a SS officer beats Jaime for supposedly disgracing the fascist salute by doing it with a crippled hand, the lapsed Stalinist becomes a true ‘man of steel’ and beats up an entire brigade of brownshirts and forces the SS officer to hail Don Jose. After beating the Latino Nazis, Jaime is arrested by Ibáñez’s secret service men and undergoes grueling torture, including receiving electrical charges to his genitals, but luckily he is saved by a group of commie resistance fighters just before one of his tormentors puts a bullet in his brain. As it turns out, due to public uprisings, Ibáñez decided to relinquish his power and flee to Argentina. With the help of the communist resistance fighters, Jaime manages to get back home to his family, but Alejandro and Sara are saddened to see that their once proud and stoic Stalinist is now a weak, broken, and crippled untermensch that looks like a poor man’s Jesus and cries like an autistic little girl. With Sara’s spiritual guidance, Jaime begins to learn the error of his ways. After Sarah says, “you found all you admired in Ibáñez in Stalin. And here you are…You are the same as they are!,” a guilt-ridden Jaime cries out in terror and shoots a portrait of himself where he looks like a commie dictator, which causes a fire that burns his portrait, as well as portraits of Ibáñez and Stalin, thus ritualistically ridding himself of his old commie dictator self. In the end, Alejandro and his family leave Tocopilla, though the memories that the filmmaker received there never left him as he describes at the conclusion of the film. 

In the book Anarchy and Alchemy: The Films of Alejandro Jodorowsky (2007) by Ben Cobb, Alejandro Jodorowsky is quoted regarding his rather complicated origins: “My parents were Russian…I was born in Chile…the [Chilean] children didn’t accept me because I was ‘Russian’…the young men didn’t accept me because I was a ‘Jew’…the French didn’t accept me because I was a ‘Chilean’…the Mexicans didn’t accept me because I was ‘French’…the Americans think I am ‘Mexican’…after ten years, I will move to another planet. They won’t accept me because they will think I am an ‘American’.” Indeed, it is quite apparent while watching The Dance of Reality that Jodorowsky is a born eccentric and perennial loner and that he did not fit in anywhere, including Chile and especially his own family home (interestingly, the director decided not to include his much resented elder sister as a character in the film). Jodorowsky even went so far as more or less rejecting his Jewishness and opting out of following in family tradition, remarking in Cobb’s book in broken English regarding his decision to quite college: “I realized the scientific way or the logic way, rationalism…was not my way. My way was imagination. My father…was a businessman [who] want to have a child who can be in the university. Like all the Yiddish…they start to sell shoes and the second-generation [become] psychoanalysts. I didn’t want to do that.” Additionally, Jodorowsky would also later criticize the ‘Jewishness’ of Hollywood and Spielberg by remarking in an interview with Bright Lights Film Journal: “I like pictures that are honest. Like some Hong Kong pictures — those filmmakers are honest thieves, they are making business, and they are so honest about it, it's fantastic. But, say, Spielberg is not honest. I hate Spielberg, because none of his movies are honest. His violence is ill, it's not honest. He shows an ill violence, as though he was the father of history. He hates Jews, because he is Jewish. He is making business with that, with Europe. He is fascist, because America is the centre of his world. If I can kill Spielberg, I will kill Spielberg.” Indeed, love it or hate it, there is no denying that The Dance of Reality is honest filmmaking from one of the most idiosyncratic auteur filmmakers that the artistic medium has ever produced. 

 If you're tired of seeing countless hokey holocaust films and period pieces where Jews are depicted as morally righteous god-like beings who were persecuted by Europeans simply because they are Jewish, checkout Jodorowsky's film and learns that many Jews of the 1930s were not commies simply because they cared for the poor stupid goyim, but because they resent strong gentile leaders and opulent Aryans and want to rule over white gentile cattle.  Ironically, it is only when antihero Jaime lives like Christ that he is able to get over his Hebraic megalomania, thus make The Dance of Reality pure heresy to Zionist supremacist types.  Speaking of megalomania, Jodorowsky recently met with revolting negro rapper Kanye West, who apparently considers the filmmaker one of his greatest influences and even modeled the aesthetic of his ‘Yeezus Tour’ after the filmmaker's counter-culture classic The Holy Mountain.  If Jodorowsky receives the gracious respect of a uniquely untalented yet stinking rich neo-minstrel entertainer like West, one would hope that someone will give him the money to make his long-awaited El Topo sequel, Abel Cain aka Sons of El Topo, as The Dance of Reality may be a worthwhile effort for an old artist reminiscing over his life, but he still has yet to create his last great masterpiece. Aside from being one of the greatest, if not the greatest, films of 2013, Jodorowsky's coming-of-age is a visceral attack against Hollywood and its soulless and materialistic weltanschauung of deracinating globalist anti-cultural and philo-Semtic hegemony.  Notably, the director publicly stated that he hoped the film would lose money and intentionally made the film through donations without the backing of studios. While it might seem like some sort of sick joke that the Jewish director is featured at the beginning of the film taking about money while gold shekels falling from the sky and into his hands, Jodorowsky makes it quite clear what he thinks of monetary matters when he remarks: “Money is like blood, it gives life if it flows. Money is like Christ, it blesses you if you share it. Money is like Buddha, if you don’t work, you don’t get it. Money enlightens those who use it to open the flower of the world, and damns those who glorify it, confounding riches with the soul...There is no difference between money and conscience. There is no difference between conscience and death...There is no difference between death and wealth.” Indeed, like Christ, Jodorowsky understands the moneychangers all too well, which, as depicted in the film, is something he learned at an early age via his abusive father, thus making the film a sort of metaphysical cinematic expression of what transformed the auteur into the uncompromising artist that he is today. 

 While it would be easy to describe Jodorowsky as a ‘self-loathing Jew’ after watching a film like The Dance of Reality where the boy protagonist is literally exorcised of his Jewishness by his mother, I like to think that the cinematic shaman transcended his Judaic roots as an anti-materialistic/anti-Marxist Hebrew that seems to have recognized that his ‘Ātman’ (one's ‘inner-self’ or ‘true self’) is identical with his ‘Brahman’ (‘transcendent self’).  Of course, the director's father failed to obtain this level of spirituality maturity, hence the great misery he suffered as depicted in the film. Indeed, The Dance of Reality makes the perfect comparison piece to French-Polish Jew Jean-Pierre Mocky's similarly surreal and darkly humorous ‘folk horror’ flick Litan (1982), which depicts religion, especially Catholicism, as the most malignant and deadly of diseases.  As the films demonstrate, while Jodorowsky got over his spiritual sickness as a mere child and grew to become a deeply devout practitioner of the perennial philosophy, Mocky seems plagued with spiritual retardation for eternity.  Indeed, while it may sound absurd, it seems that Jodorowsky's rather unconventional childhood as a Jewish boy who suffered regular cruelty from mestizos who mocked his circumcised cock was, in the long run, one of the best things that ever happened to him.

-Ty E


Het Gaybo said...

Indeed it was, otherwise we would`ve never seen El Topo, The Holy Mountain, or Santa Sangre.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

Jodorofsky is for this site what Heather O`Rourke is for me.

A.D. Flowers said...

I bet Jodorofsky leaves it another 20 years before he makes his next film, by then he`ll be 103, he has that air of invincibility about him, like he knows hes gonna` live forever.