The Dance of Reality is satisfying and exquisite

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Directed by Alejandro Jodorowsky. Starring Brontis Jodorowsky. In Spanish with English subtitles. Rating unavailable.

If there’s a tinge of finality to his first movie in 24 years, Alejandro Jodorowsky at least appears to be coming back and going out on an entirely satisfying grace note. The Dance of Reality instantly asserts itself as a signature piece by the octogenarian mystic, with his usual array of grotesqueries—a phalanx of limbless miners here, a graphic obsession with urination there—enclosed in a warmth that, in the end, makes an even greater impression than the film’s dazzling, candy-coloured surrealism. Most affecting of all might be the appearance of the man himself, embracing and protecting his childhood self (Jeremías Herskovits) in a handful of key scenes. Set largely in the tiny Chilean seaside town of Tocopilla where he was (partly) raised, The Dance of Reality is Jodorowsky attempting to make peace with the traumas of his youth, symbolized most potently by his passionate and conflicted brute of a father, Jaime.

Jodorowsky’s son Brontis plays his own grandfather here, and the performance—courageous enough to endure some close-up testicular torture in one scene—is truly great. Jaime’s path gradually overtakes the movie, as he goes from hard-nosed Communist bent on assassinating Chile’s president, Carlos Ibáñez del Campo, to a palsied pilgrim identical, presumably by design, to El Topo himself. (Fans will note that the six-year-old Brontis played opposite his dad in Jodo’s 1970 cult classic of the same name.)

In the more stubborn version of reality, Jodorow­sky’s father made no such journey, and we can be fairly sure that his mother (Pamela Flores) didn’t communicate entirely in an operatic soprano. In The Dance of Reality, however, the filmmaker’s unbuttoned imagination finally finds some resolve in the wisdom of his age. It’s stirring where his previous films have felt like mind-blowing pranks, and you might find yourself choking back tears as its final exquisite image fades to white.

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