What does a dyed-in-the-wool surrealist conjure up after 23 years away from making features? Octogenarian cult-movie maestro Alejandro Jodorowsky ("El Topo," "Santa Sangre") keeps it all fleet, funny and weird in "The Dance of Reality," but this time in the service of an explicitly autobiographical meditation on his childhood in the coastal Chilean village of Tocopilla in the early 1930s.
Shy, young Alejandro (Jeremias Herskovits) — at times nurtured through the story's twists by the physical presence of Jodorowsky himself, narrating — lives with his voluptuous, opera-aspiring mother (soprano Pamela Flores, singing her dialogue) and autocratic Stalin-worshiping father (Jodorowsky's son, Brontis).
Jodorowsky's obsessions are still in force: spirited amputees, circus performers, blood, alchemy and buffoonish authority. But it's a generously reflective eye he trains on the stunted dreams of his eccentric parents, especially an ill-fated (and mightily extrapolated, apparently) attempt by dad to assassinate Chile's president.
At times exquisitely attuned to the commingling of the bitterly funny and tragic, and at other times an eye-roll-worthy collection of ready-made fetish videos (Flores is one brave avatar of outré sexuality), "The Dance of Reality" is nonetheless proof that the legendary provocateur is still a font of out-there invention. We may never get the man's adaptation of "Dune" — the famously aborted 1970s venture chronicled in a recent documentary — but fans should eagerly accept his "Amarcord."
"The Dance of Reality"
MPAA rating: None.
Running time: 2 hours, 10 minutes.
Playing: At Landmark's Nuart, Los Angeles.