August 05, 2004

The Dancer Upstairs

Communist revolution is at the core of this John Malkovich-directed story of an unnamed nation in South America. This was John's first attempt at directing and his rich film experience comes through. It's a very good story if a little far-fetched in what develops. Actually it's a lot far-fetched, but the film is still very compelling. My only real problem with it was the same complaint I have with many British films. I couldn't understand much of the dialog because of the thick accents of the actors, only this time the accents were Spanish instead of limey.

The film is quite suspenseful as Augustin Rejas; police detective, former lawyer, and son of a coffee farmer, is charged with finding Ezequiel, leader of an underground revolution-in-progress. Ezequiel fancies himself as "the fourth flame of communism" after Lenin, Mao, and Stalin. Ezequiel enlists the use of young children for suicide bombings and assassinations, and appears to have a mystical grip on the underclass who support him, the way "great" revolutionaries do.

What makes the movie far-fetched is Augustin's highly improbable chance connections to those who might lead him directly to Ezequiel, mainly his daughter's ballet teacher, The Dancer Upstairs. Naturally Auggie gets a major crush on this woman. His wife is cute but a bit self-obsessed. You can't blame him for looking around after seeing the wife in action. She couldn't care less about the assassinations and bombings -- she wants to get a nose job.

Javier Bardem is excellent as Augustin because of his evenness, not overplaying the part. He is a calm center in a story of chaos -- simply a cop solving a case. You get enough of his background to wonder why he doesn't support the revolution. The government seized his father's coffee farm when he was young. He was forced into public service by conscience. I didn't quite get his reason for going from lawyer to police officer. That speech thing again. If I come across this film on DVD, I will rent it and turn on the English subtitles.

Posted by Wayne at August 5, 2004 10:10 AM

I know what you mean about thick back-country British accents. Those films really need subtitles or maybe a complete dubbing in General American English

Posted by: Cinesnob at August 11, 2004 06:48 PM
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