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The Dancer Upstairs More at IMDbPro »

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Excellent Political and Social Commentary

Author: eung555 from New York, New York
4 February 2004

This film is entrancing and intriguing. Others here have described the pace as slow, but I prefer to think of it as well paced and well measured. The characters are real and unlike the acting that you would see in a Hollywood-style production, the characters exhibit emotions that are true. For instance, when Lt. Rejas enters into the shanty town with his drawn pistol, his hands are shaking and his actions are jerky, unlike the Rambo-esq confidence exhibited by the standard movie cop. Laura Morante as Yolanda is enchanting and hauntingly beautiful. The unstated attraction between the two lead characters is palpable in the film. All of this, though, merely enhances a wonderfully illustration of and commentary on the relationship between the rule of law and the rule of man (or the military in this case) in South America.

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Good movie (especially for a first time director)

Author: Yuri van Geest ( from Rotterdam, Netherlands
16 January 2004

In short, a very interesting movie. Why? 1) Good combination of different genres (comedy, thriller, mystery, romance, drama, documentary etc.). 2) Good acting 3) Good music (Nina Simone enchants) 4) Interesting story (real life, depth, actuality)

OK, I understand some critics related to this movie. Most are true but still, the movie leaves its mark when you leave the cinema.

The movie has some strong similarities with the directing and films of John Sayles (see Long Star, Men with Guns etc.). Great that there are more Sayles like directors around these days.

Looking forward to the other upcoming Malkovich movies!


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3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

A Great Movie. More a love story than about war.

Author: MovieLover5 from Hollywood
27 January 2004

It's about the love of a man for Culture. As expressed through his love of justice and his daughter in the end. It has excellent sense of reality, of what it's like to be a detective. It's very insightful in that way. Malcovich's directing of the Actors is Outstanding, the nuances and realism is shocking and sublime, you really haven't seen anything like it yet. His attention to detail is amazing.

I really wish there was a movie about the Shining Path. I also wish, although it's not Malcovich's way, that we could have seen two torture scenes, one from the Rebels and one from the Police, just to inject the reason for the passion. Something along the lines of that famous scene in Romero where the young art student is abducted by a death squad, gang raped and has her tongue cut out and then, bloodied taken to a 1 kilometer wide, 400 foot deep garbage dump outside San Salvador- that kind of attention to historical detail I'd like to see in this type of film. I mean, the Shining Path and Peruvian gov't were in a very nasty war and both the love and the hate should have been further developed. And the Malcovich jabs at shallow, materialistic women we really not needed, but they help with Malcovich's gay male orientation, so, in that respect, I can see why he needed them in there. But they were a bit immature and trite and took away from the core issues: Which are a impoverished people fighting the stinking rich.-And both sides losing. Malcovich is a long way from expressing the pure pain, love and emotion of the Peruvian mountain peasants, and a long way from the filth of poverty and the garbage dumps. He was a long way from Jennifer Casolo and what she witnessed in El Salvador or Peru. And neither does it really get into where Guzman came from and who he was truly working for-which is a bit naive and uneducated.

I gave the movie a 10 because it's so much better than Hollywood. But I have a feeling John Malcovich (in this stunning work of Direction) flew in on Air France and had a Croissant on some Lima outdoor cafe.

I think Malcovich and the writer need to get their noses in the filth of oppression and poverty a little bit more before they write about the Shining Path. Where is the Obscenity of oppression, John.

But Everyone, do see this film, if you have a heart and emotion.

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3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Painfully slow and predictable

Author: arouet from Los Angeles
5 May 2003

This movie has a good look and good dialogue, but the plot sinks it. It just never goes anywhere and there is not one surprise in the entire movie. Certainly, it tries to be intelligent with references to Kant and political ideas, but that is not enough to save it from mediocrity.

It is advertised as a tense thriller, yet there is nothing thrilling about it at all. If anything, it is a botched romantic drama. It unexpectedly falls apart in the last 15 minutes with strange behavior by the lead that is hard to explain, much less fathom. If you are looking for any sort of twist, don't waste your time- it never comes. Everything here is precisely as it seems.

I'm amazed Malkovitch is involved in this. Perhaps on paper, it works better than on screen. At any rate, it's the plot drags it down. Malkovtich needs to look for a better screenwriter.

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3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

WARNING, SPOILERS Malkovich's Directoral debut Disappointing

Author: JacquiQ from Southern California, Drat it!
16 April 2003

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The Dancer Upstairs was somewhat interesting in a very depressing poverty-stricken-Latin-American-country-presented-in-an-overblown-manner sort of a way... the too-long, lingering looks (several times!) at hanging bloody dead dogs, the many close-ups of people (including children) being destroyed by explosions and/or numerous gunshots, at the many types of degradation. It's about a revolution (tho we learn nothing about that, 'cept that THEY like to kill things...) but the movie was more about the (unrequited?) love that a married policeman has for his daughter's dance teacher and his resulting emotional despair. The only saving grace of the movie was the intensity of the star, who has that rare ability to hold your undivided attention in long close-ups. We feel his turmoil; he has lost his moral compass...

I expected more of John Malkovich's debut as a Director... and was severely disappointed in the results. I gave it 5 out of 10... and most of that for Javier Bardem's depiction of Rejas.

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4 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Pretty good, but

Author: Blaine Dixon from United States
6 October 2005

Pretty good, but..., 12 January 2003 7/10 Author: cyberpix says....

>"I may be called a language extremist, but I was very disturbed by the >fact that they were all speaking English. Yes, Malkovich speaks English, >as most of his potential public. But still, there is no reason for >Spanish-speaking actors in a Spanish-speaking story set in a >Spanish-speaking country to do so !!!"

Are you disturbed by so many English Speaking films set in English speaking countries that are dubbed into Spanish?

Why am I required to post ten lines when cyberpix got his posted with less than ten lines?

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4 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

a shallow film by a pretentious "director"

Author: Rogermex from United States
26 May 2003

A classic case of undue hype. It's difficult to itemize all the different ways that Malkovich blew it. The film is not dramatically gripping at all. Most of the scenes are night scenes or otherwise shot in darkness, probably so as to look arty but not throw too much light on the "director"s ineptitude. One of the central characters, Yolanda, appears to be in some conflict about the police investigator's romantic interest in her, but the nature of the conflict is not dramatically sensible even at the end. The ditzy glamor-obsessed wife is just that - a stereotype of a glitzy, glamor-obsessed wife. In fact most of the characters are just "cardboard" caricatures. The gratuitous scenes of gory mayhem are indeed just gratuitous scenes of gory mayhem. I have no problem at all with violence in films. But Malkovich is just cynically tossing off stuff that he thinks is "shocking." How the hell did he find a leading man chosen because he looks like a perfectly-coifed Raoul Julia? And why do we need that? Come to think of it, has there ever been a police character in any movie with such dark pits of sunken eyes as that police chief? The investigator gets a note from Yolanda at the end, and rushes off in his car. Directed to "act" heartbroken by a stunned look and doe-like eyes, he ends up confirming that the dramatic theme is his infatuation with his own daughter. Uh huh. Deep. Let's get back to Malkovich. This is making me nauseous all over again like after leaving the movie. John really ought to stay in his place, as a weird, "fascinating" screen presence himself. In interviews he has virtually bragged about how much stage directing experience he has. God bless you, John. (And John, I know you are reading this, because you are too much of an egomaniac not to read it.) But you sold and pushed a really cheesy attempt at directing a film "drama," and somehow got people to market it with colossal hype. Frankly, I'd offer this up to Crow and Tom Servo if they were still at it.

[By the way, there is a cute little scene in the middle of the movie. Traffic is all congested after a terrorist attack. In the middle of the traffic chaos is what appears to be the local schizophrenic gesturing absurdly like a traffic cop. Notice the size and body. We can't see his face because of a funny hat. I'd bet a box of donuts that Malkovich thought (auteur touch!) that he should put himself in a little walk-on cameo, with the "joke" that he is "directing" in the center of all the complexity around him.]

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4 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

involving but unsatisfying

Author: aphor from Chicago, IL, US
16 May 2003

This is a dark, terrible, sometimes dry, sometimes oversaturated, view of a story from an aloof but vulgar perspective. I'm sorry Mr. Malkovich, but it at least failed in the edit. Apologetically, it could have been a technical constraint, but the cinematography was often too tight, leaving the viewer with tunnel vision in the attempt to share the actors' scenes. The story was also zeroed in on a narrow slice of the subjects' history so that it was difficult to connect with the characters. The exposition of the thriller plot was too disconnected, and I found myself not caring how things ended up. I was searching for the dimension of the film that received the most artistic attention.

What this movie triumphed in, as I was able to appreciate, was costume. I never had any trouble figuring out why anyone was where they were in a shot, doing whatever they were doing because the costume told me who they were, and the connections were seamless in that dimension. Also, the cinematography at times was too gorgeous. Making a trailer would be easy work. The dull points starkly bored me, and the rich points overwhelmed me. The depiction of violence was appropriately disturbing. The lack of any real character development was disheartening. The dullness of the nonviolent shots made me wonder if Malkovich had a clear idea of how to expose anything else in the story.

Maybe part of his intention was to dehumanize everyone a little bit so that the viewer could struggle for a sense of compassion for the characters, but there wasn't enough going on in every scene and I failed to suspend my disbelief that these were real people experiencing real drama. I saw beautiful actors, acting beautifully, but I didn't feel involved. As a viewer, I felt separated from the story, like I was on the outside looking in, with bad seats, wondering if I just missed something. There's good stuff to see, but it doesn't hold together.

Give me more medium shots, and pan around the set so I can get more of the characters' perspectives to establish each set. Tell me more about the people involved in the drama. Show me how the drama is changing those characters. Give me more, but the costume, casting, setting, and some of the arty shots like the dancer between the opposing mirrors and the cutaways of the first hanging dog discoveries were all just right. Don't overdo any of that stuff.

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5 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

awful irresponsible portrayal of latin America

Author: ajarifus from Peru
7 July 2004

Okay, maybe Malkovich didn't intend to make a historical movie, but the references to the case of sendero luminoso, the terrorist movement in Peru, are obvious, and some degree of fidelity, if not with the story itself at least to the Latin American reality might have made it better. This portrayal of Latin America as a 'banana republic' is awful, clichéd and, I'd say, also irresponsible. There's a scene were Laura Morante is walking down a market street, and in the back there's soldiers pointing machine guns at pedestrians and making them lie on the ground to search them. Where's that??? It's as clichéd as the images in the last James Bond movie, where Cuba is portrayed as a place where there's dancers dancing salsa in every corner. But this pretends to be a good movie. Come on, it's awful. But apart from the story itself, I thought that as a movie it was also really bad, boring and, again, full of clichéd moves in the story (the romance between the dancer and the policeman, for instance, was that necessary??). The characters were shallow as was the story in general.

One last thing: having Spanish speaking actors speak in English in a movie that is supposedly set in a Spanish speaking place??? Why?? It would have worked much better if they'd have spoken Spanish and have the movie subtitled. Anyway, I don't recommend it.

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5 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

This is the best slow movie you will see all year.

Author: jdesando from United States
24 May 2003

This is the best slow movie you will see all year. The devilish-eyed, manic actor John Malkovich direct his first feature, `The Dancer Upstairs,' with mature visual depth and some character development only a bit faster than the movement of 31 glaciers I recently saw in Alaska. You won't take your eyes off of Javier Bardem either (`Before Night Falls') as Augustin, a former Latin-American lawyer turned investigator trying to find Ezequiel, a revolutionary leader causing mayhem with symbolic atrocities meant to destabilize the new government.

Bardem, who memorably played Cuban poet and novelist Reinaldo Arenas in `Before Night Falls,' is completely different here as a slightly clueless cop with strong intuition and a feeling for his daughter's ballet teacher (the `upstairs' dancer) that complicates his marriage and profession. Malkovich sets the pace to the character's measured approach to his case and his life, the latter memorably occupied by a frivolous wife obsessed with her looks. Slow as Augustin is, I couldn't help but feel that Malkovich sacrificed modern quick-cut noir for old-fashioned reality depicting the difficult and elusive tracking of a master criminal.

But Malkovich kicks into high action, cross cutting gear when Augustin is close to capturing Ezequiel, and the director gently presents an irony, otherwise known as a plot twist, that perfectly represents the naïve detective (he and the ballet teacher play a game at a cantina that shows how wrong our first impressions of character can be) and the insidious corruption of even the most virtuous in volatile Latin countries.

In addition to the delicious character creation, the director shows the disquieting effects of martial law, forcing an American audience to think quietly about the long-term effects of Ashcroft/Rumsfeld terrorist detentions. Costa-Gavras's `State of Siege' has a part in the film and serves as a touchstone for Malkovich's success. Malkovich doesn't have the master's energetic indignation, but he does have his Graham-Greene ability to show flawed heroes saving themselves from destruction in a boiling climate by watching, waiting, and surviving.

`The Dancer Upstairs,' written by Nicholas Shakespeare from his novel, is a delicate dance of intrigue whose rewards are waiting for those who wait to find out that `The fourth stage of communism is just a big fat man in a cardigan.'

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