12 posts categorized "Magical Realism"

July 14, 2017


ENDLESS POETRYThe second installment in Alejandro Jodorowsky’s promised five picture cycle of filmic memoirs harmonizes with the theatrically heightened tone and style of “The Dance of Reality” (2013). This succession of films marks Jodorowsky’s return to filmmaking after a 23 year hiatus after his 1990 film “The Rainbow Thief,” a film he disowned due to conflicts with the film's British producers. 

“Endless Poetry” continues the narrative line of “The Dance of Reality.” A pubescent Alejandro (Jeremias Herskovits) is growing up with his parents in Santiago, Chile. While the mother Sara (Pamela Flores) operatically sings all her lines, Alejandro’s brutish father Jaime (Brontis Jodorowsky) accuses his poetry-obsessed son of being gay when he discovers him reading aloud from Federico García Lorca’s poem “For the Love of Green.” You'd be hard pressed to find a more lovely poem. The die is cast that Alejandro must escape the clutches of his parents if he is to follow his dream of becoming a poet.

The casting seamlessly shifts to a twenty-something Alejandro (played by Jodorowsky’s younger son Adan) fearlessly taking a running start at his chosen profession of words by following his red-wigged muse Stella Diaz (also played by Pamela Flores in dual roles). Stella insists on holding Alejandro’s crotch whenever they go out in public, but not allowing “penetrative sex” because she is awaiting an unknown mystic to descend from a mountain to part with her dubious virginity. Rejection and suffering are to be celebrated.


The episodic narrative tears a page from John Cheever’s “The Swimmer” when Alejandro and his latest poet friend go on an adventure walking across town in a straight line that takes them through people’s homes. The effect is an operatic trail of personal growth informed by visits from Jodorowsky himself where he advises his younger incarnations about the big picture of life. “I’ve sold my devil to the soul.”

"Life does not have meaning, you have to live it!”

Such is the pragmatic nature of Jodorowsky's nurturing, if poetically expressed, ideologies. Pedantic perhaps, but filled with undeniable passion. 


Alejandro Jodorowsky is the most euphoric filmmaker of our time. His transgressive artistic sensibilities form a focal point of pure artistic intentionality that the viewer can either accept or reject, embrace or shed. Either decision will lead the viewer to a personal place of artistically directed balance. You don’t get that from watching the latest “Spider-Man” movie.

Not Rated. 128 mins. (B+) (Four stars — out of five / no halves)

April 08, 2013


The Tin DrumContext is everything. Though often mistaken as a black comedy, Volker Schlöndorff’s bold adaptation of Günter Grass’s abstractly autobiographical 1959 novel is an exemplary model of European magical realist cinema. The first of Grass’s “Danzig Trilogy” is set from World War I through World War II in Poland’s free city of Danzig, which is invaded by Nazi Germany. The picaresque narrative is one of surreal emotional and psychological displacement as seen through the eyes of a ferocious child. The young unreliable protagonist Oskar (David Bennet) is one of the most enigmatic, if tormented, characters ever put on film.

In the face of the volatile wartime situation that surrounds him, the three-year-old Oskar — “anchored between wonder and illusion” — throws himself down a flight of stairs in his parents’ grocery store apartment in order to deliberately stunt his growth. From that moment on, Oskar’s mind and inner physiology develop but his body does not. He is an impish boy with feral eyes set in an oversized head. His mother compensates for Oskar’s bizarre condition by providing him with a lacquered red-and-white tin drum that she replaces as he repeatedly breaks them over time. The bright drum that perpetually hangs on a rope from his shoulder is an effective symbol of Oskar’s fierce individuality and of his self-appointed position as a mascot for the multicultural pressure cooker of Danzig as shared by German civilians, Jews, Kashubians, Nazi soldiers, and Poles. Oskar is a talented drummer — which is revealed when he sits under a bandstand playing syncopated counter-rhythms to those of a Nazi military band.


Still, Oskar’s greatest defense mechanism, alongside his concealed maturity, is his alarming ability to break glass with the sound of his shrill yell. However charismatic Oskar’s outward appearance, his demonic alter ego presents an effective warning to society at large that he is not to be messed with.

Oskar’s sparse narration fills in significant exposition about his disguised maturity. Of a Nazi building-burning attack on synagogues and Jewish businesses, Oskar says, “Once upon a time, there was a gullible people who believed in Santa Claus. But Santa Claus was really the gas man!” The murder of the Jewish toyshop owner (Charles Aznavour) who sold Oskar’s trademark drums arrives with a poignant sense of loss.

The casting of an 11-year-old David Bennet in an otherwise insurmountable role is the key to the film’s success. Half a boy, and half a man, Bennet’s ingeniously steely portrayal efficiently sidesteps every pigeonhole that Grass’s outré plot offers up. When Oskar makes love to his father’s teenaged housekeeper, the exchange of corporeal affection momentarily replaces the sickening mood of obsequious Nazi propaganda and familial loss that Oskar endures with detached stoicism. Oskar survives while those around him perish. However efficient the Nazi war machine, Oskar outsmarts his desperate situation. He is a refugee hero. Oskar’s will to live eclipses all else. It is something he, and only he, controls.


COLE SMITHEYA small request: Help keep Cole Smithey writing reviews, creating video essays, and making podcasts. Click on the button to pledge your support through Patreon, and receive special rewards!


Click Here to Pledge Your Support Through Patreon

November 20, 2012


Colesmithey.comInfuriating, insulting, and bathed in patronizing condescension, “Beasts of the Southern Wild” is a magical realist movie unclear on the concept. Granted, magical realism is perhaps the most demanding film genre second only to black comedy, but director Benh Zeitlin and playwright/screenwriter Lucy Alibar screwed the royal pooch on this one.

The “beasts” of the film’s title are the ignorant and socially inept residents of a Louisiana Delta island community known as the “Bathtub” that lies outside of a hurricane-protecting seawall. The island sits barely above the water level. It contains a desperately impoverished group of illiterate people living with an unintentional death wish.


Six-year-old Hushpuppy (Quvenzhane Wallis) lives in abject squalor alongside her wildly abusive father Wink (Dwight Henry). Single Wink is such a threat to his daughter that Hushpuppy lives alone in an elevated mobile home. The tiny girl uses a blowtorch to light the stove upon which she cooks her own meals. Social services would have a field day.

Lucy Alibar woefully attempts to channel Maurice Sendak (think “Where the Wild Things Are”) by including a group of giant deadly boars that Hushpuppy communes with in the movie’s most abstract moment. A Katrina-styled storm obliterates Hushpuppy’s Bathtub home. Survivors build a shelter amid the rubble for the few remaining residents to reside. Wink demands his daughter undergo a rite-of-passage that involves “beasting” a crab — smashing it open and sucking out its juicy white meat. You may never want the eat crab again.


Crammed with child-endangering situations and wrongheaded social logic — Hushpuppy gets more responsible child rearing from a prostitute cook than she does from her dad — the PG-13-rated movie is seemingly made for no audience. The little girl is repeatedly bullied into action lest she be regarded a “pussy.” I would posit that that precious epithet be applied to the filmmakers' lack of effort toward crafting the movie. “Beasts of the Southern Wild” is one of the worst films to come out of 2012.

Rated PG-13. 91 mins. (F) (Zero Stars - out of five/no halves)

Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

This website is dedicated to Agnès Varda and to Luis Buñuel.

Get cool rewards when you click on the button to pledge your support through Patreon.

Cole Smithey on Patreon

Featured Video

SMART NEW MEDIA® Custom Videos



Throwback Thursday

Podcast Series