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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

SXSW Film Roundup - Day Four

By David Massey

I was all set for a day of tableaus with the latest film from Alejandro Jodorowsky ('The Dance of Reality'), Wes Anderson's 'The Grand Budapest Hotel', followed by a midnight horror described as a cross between 'Scream' and 'Glee' (‘Stage Fright’). After the privilege of a Q&A with Jodorowsky, I booked it to the Paramount Theater 2 hours early and the ‘Budapest’ queue was already wrapped the length of 4 city blocks. It was another great day and I met some amazing people but, I'm afraid, I won't be conveying any insider tidbits from Mr. Anderson’s Q&A.

'The Dance of Reality' (directed by Alejandro Jodorowsky)

If you're familiar with Jodorowsky's films ('The Holy Mountain' / 'El Topo') you are already aware that your chances of fully understanding the menagerie he presents is futile; whole books can and have been written in an effort to deconstruct his symbolism and celebrate his imagery. It's very easy to focus on the humor and find distraction in the surrealism of his films – that was always the initial draw for me - but his ambitions are of substance with meanings often relevant only to the director himself. The seed of this film is an autobiographical story of the Jodorowsky’s early childhood in the isolated coastal city of Topopilla, Chile where he experienced alienation as displaced Ukrainian Jew. Jodorowsky insists that reality is a subjective concept and he immediately describes his setting as a circus with an overbearing father who dresses as Stalin and a mother whose lines are entirely delivered in operatic sing-song. 

Jodorowsky explains that he simply hasn’t been inspired to make another film for the last 23 years
The film is as much about his father’s journey through life as it is his own and the performances are so passionate and over-the-top that, along with his vivid pallet of colors, there is a ‘cartoon’ quality to the experience. All whimsy aside, this is one of his most cohesive narratives and he refers to ‘The Dance of Reality’ (his first film in 23 years) as a therapeutic endeavor – or ‘psychomagic’ – intended to heal residual, family-related psychological distress. Films made for an audience of one will always be a challenge but it’s an absolute privilege to be allowed a peek into the mind of such a unique artist.

‘Stage Fright’ (directed by Jerome Sable)

So that you know, there is a film out there about a summer camp for kids that’s owned by Meat Loaf, with fully choreographed song and dance numbers – including lines like ‘I’m gay, I’m gay but not in that way’ - and a kabuki-masked, falsetto-screaming, guitar-squealing, knife-wielding slasher who hates musical theater and wants to kill the cast of a make-shift production of  some such copy-right-friendly version of ‘Phantom of the Opera’. The gore was vivid, the laughs were steady, and I honestly don’t think I need to report anything else to help you decide if this one is for you; it definitely has an audience and made for a very strange Midnight Picture Show.

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