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Reviews & Ratings for
The Dancer Upstairs More at IMDbPro »

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3 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

The first and only film directed by John Malkovich

Author: ma-cortes
6 July 2004

The movie centers upon investigations to find a terrorist brain . The starring is Javier Bardem who makes an excellent interpretation , the support cast is good : Juan Diego Botto, Elvira Minguez ,Natalia Dicenta , among others .

The yarn talks about Alberto Fujimori and his time . In 1990 is elected President of Peru. In 1992 carried out a state's coup and he ruled over steadily , fought against the terror and vanquished ¨Sendero Luminoso¨ terrorists and imprisoned to the chiefs . In 2000 he runs away to Japan framed of corruption as his assistant Montesinos . The flick specially deals with difficulty to discover the black hand to run the awful murders mostly placed on Ayacucho.

In the film there are thriller , drama, action , suspense , love , but is a little bit boring . Direction by John Malkovich is slow-moving , Alberto Iglesias's music is nice but downbeat , Jose Luis Alcaine's cinematography is good . John Malkovich is better acting than filming.

Rating : 6/10 average .

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3 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

a shallow film by a pretentious "director"

Author: Rogermex from The Zone
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 8 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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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Marxist and Maoist revolutionary action turned terrorist

Author: Dr Jacques COULARDEAU from Olliergues, France
19 September 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

In 2002 we are at the turning point of out understanding of what violence used for political objectives is: not revolution at all of any type, just plainly terrorism. But in These years of the beginning twenty-first century we were inheriting a whole set of misconceptions and deeply rooted movements all over the world that had been inspired by various brands of Marxist revolutionary tactics and strategies from the past. If you add to this set of Marxist or Maoist revolutionary movements the newly constituted al-Qaeda movement on a completely different ideological line but borrowing the methods of the previous movements plus some more spectacular ones, you have the situation around 2000-2002.

But it is a turning point in history that some will try to use to their political and electoral benefit if not profit, particularly in the USA. These radical theories and uses of violence to impose a change that is then, if not at once, hijacked by some power hungry people or movements are coming to an end. The world has changed and the technology of information and intelligence collecting and processing has changed so much that there is practically not one single spot in the world where anyone, not to mention a movement of any kind, can hide for long periods of time. If Bush had not tried to force history in Iraq after Afghanistan things would be a lot better today, but as I said before some could not resist playing politics with history. That will not change the outcome but that will slow down the process.

This film is dealing with that anti-terrorist action that has to be managed case by case, one after the other. There is not one single method for all cases but there must be one specific method for each case. Here we are in the Andes, probably in Peru where the fight is against the Shining Path Rebellion that organized hundred of small terrorist actions with a limited underground apparatus and a very limited number of leaders totally isolated or rather insulated against any security intelligence, or at least, so they say or think.

The method in this case is to track these leaders and little by little surround them and take them in one single operation; As soon as the movement is totally beheaded it peters out because there is no second line commanding unit that can take over.

Totally different would Al-Qaeda be because the top leadership has several hierarchical layers and it has been decentralized in the world with several regional, at times even local leaderships. To behead the top movement does not stop it because a new well trained leader steps into the shoes of the lost leader. And in the world the various regional branches are autonomous. Then they have to be weaned and their weapon or ammunition supplying routes have to be dried out or destroyed. It takes more time. Gaddafi's regime was brought down and he was a main provider of weapons to a whole set of movements and countries around Libya, but the arsenal was not destroyed or captured and then it moved across the desert and reappeared in Algeria, in Mali, now in Chad and Central Africa, probably in Sudan too, though it does not seem to go further. This explains why destroying the arsenal, chemical weapons first, of Syria is important. If it fell in extremist hands it might be used in any reckless way.

If you take the case of Sri Lanka, nothing was possible when the ceasefire was broken in 2006 if the sea was not under control. The USA provided the Sri Lankan government with the information that enabled the armed forces, navy and air force to sink all the ships that were supposed to supply the LTTE, an old Maoist-inspired movement. Then they had to control the sky and that was done by the destruction of the only important air strip the LTTE had. Planes and pilot training were provided by Ukraine and Russia. It was also necessary to have some satellite surveillance to track all movements and concentrations of vehicles and personnel on the ground, under the canopy of jungle vegetation. Though it has not been so far acknowledged, it is probably China who provided that support. And yet it took three years to defeat LTTE terrorism.

In Nepal the Maoist movement re-entered the political arena with a compromise that eliminated the feudal monarchy. In Myanmar the military dictatorship had to be pushed aside and democracy reestablished. That was done in a couple of years this time with strong international support of not pressure. In these cases it is the economic incentive that was the motor of such changes. The Chinese need to close up the violent Maoist movements in the world that are incompatible with their policy, their public image and the main commercial routes they want to re-open: the one across Tibet needs peace in Nepal. The one through Myanmar needs democracy there.

In the same way some entrenched communist, or ex-communist regimes have to open up to market economy to simply survive or remain independent. Laos is changing because of the enormous amount of electricity they now produce and mostly export, which gives them the money they need to develop the economy. Vietnam has to move fast along that line to follow the trend in Asia and to be at the spear head of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Even Thailand has been obliged to find a compromise to stabilize their politics.


That's what is behind this film, at least one case, and it is interesting to see it since the Shining Path Rebellion has been defeated in the meantime. So enjoy the film. The sound is not very good due to the cultivation, of some rather fake English accent to sound realistic in Latin America.


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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Scenes from a dictatorship

Author: paul2001sw-1 ( from Saffron Walden, UK
5 October 2008

You've got to give John Malkovich credit for his directorial debut: instead of making some corny, expositionary thriller, he instead made this stylised, impressionistic film that eschews conventional causality and contrivance in favour of showing us just a scattering of glimpses at an elusive story. And the piece definitely has an atmosphere, but watching it, one has the feeling one might have at an art gallery, the images are powerful but lack connections, and the closed characters also give little away. The fact that the drama takes place in an unnamed South American country, and one whose inhabitants speak English in a (presumably deliberate but still bewildering) variety of accents maybe doesn't help; that in the absence of specifics, this is a story taking place in a country of the mind. It's still an intelligent and occasionally beguiling film: but I'm not convinced of the substance behind the effect.

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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

A qualified success

Author: snake77 from Portland, OR
6 January 2004

The Dancer Upstairs is an extremely well done film. John Malkovich shows he is a talented director, ably moving along the story while never neglecting subtlety or nuance. The film is a very thinly veiled and lightly fictionalized account of the pursuit and capture of the leader of Peru's Shining Path terrorist movement. Javier Bardem gives yet another powerful performance as a Peruvian policeman given the mighty task of finding the terrorist leader.

This is a very mature and thoughtful film, and has a great deal of resonance in these times of global terrorism. Bardem's character has to constantly balance his desire to catch the terrorist who he clearly dislikes against the clumsy directives of a corrupt government who he also clearly dislikes. This is one of the central themes of the film, and it is presented in a very balanced and sophisticated way. Bardem's character also falls in love with a ballet teacher and dancer, who I think was meant to represent to him (and to the viewer) a kind of humble ethical purity that makes sustained struggle against corruption both personal and political worth maintaining.

The movie is paced well and the cinematography is excellent. Special attention was also obviously given to the music, and it fits very well into the feel of the story.

Given the overall excellence of the movie, I really had only one complaint. Malkovich uses Spanish speaking actors in all of the major roles, but the actors speak and most of the dialogue is in English. However given that these actors speak English as a second language they are often very hard to understand. My solution to this dilemma was to turn on the English subtitles on the DVD. This made a huge difference in my enjoyment and understanding of the film and I would suggest doing it if you are able. If you're not, you may miss out on some important dialogue and have a lesser appreciation of this fine first effort.

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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

A unique,innovative, & allegorical look at the roots of terrorism.

Author: Ken Brown (brown-20)
16 October 2003

Excellent photography, fresh and dynamic soundtrack accent this transcendental study of power, politics, terrorism and love within the context of a vaguely defined south American culture. Bold and refreshing soundtrack editing punctuate an almost surealistic stream of images to produce a breathtaking action-mystery-intregue plot. I saw it a week ago and I am renting it again tomorrow.

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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Not entirely a pretty picture ...

Author: dkennedy3 from Melbourne, Australia
29 June 2003

We saw a pre-release viewing of this film, knowing nothing of its setting or context beforehand. To quickly learn that it was based in an unstable South American country was quite unexpected. In a cast of what we might call 'typical Latin Americans', we soon form an affiliation with Augustin, the local police lieutenant, and a thoroughly likeable fellow. We join him in his quest to search out 'Ezequiel', a criminal revolutionary of rapidly growing notoriety, being witness to a number of his ghastly atrocities along the way - another aspect of the film for which we were not really prepared. A more comfortable element enters the plot when Augustin meets the ballet instructor of his daughter's dancing class, and he doesn't let us down. The perfect gentleman - so seemingly foreign in his local environment - we empathize with him and the dancer, as the relationship develops and shows signs of progressing beyond the purely Platonic. The two vastly contrasting ingredients of violence and romance continue throughout, binding us increasingly into their intrigue. When the inevitable twist arrives, it is debatable whether it is Augustin or the movie-goer who is the more shattered at its revelation. We are saved from walking away with a nasty taste in the mouth by the policeman's wife and daughter, who color their final scenes in a quite agreeable manner. A rather captivating, good average film, worthy of a rating between 7 and 8 out of 10.

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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Didn't know Malkovich is a Romantic

Author: saint999 from New York
6 June 2003

This movie has many faults but don't let them keep you away. It

has flavor, interesting faces and visual effects, it has scenes that

are arresting, uncomfortable, gruesome, romantic. It would have

been a great movie if only the whole were as good as the parts.

Javier Bardem is a just man trying to live a good life in a corrupt

and violent society. He is a policeman investigating a revolutionary

group which is comitting terrorist acts. The government declares

martial law and suspends ........ unfortunately this is just used as

background for a romance which is a lot less interesting. Bardem

and the dance teacher who fascinates him have chemistry and

they are great to look at, and I was amused when the Femme

turns out to have a separate identity and agenda. But that is old hat

even though it was well done. I was much more curious about the

other characters with great faces white, indian and mixed that

came and went so fast. I was much more interested in how you'd

finally understand that incidents of violence all fitted together , were

an undeclared revolution. Why would? who were?

I was frustrated and you will be too.

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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

SPOILERS: Intriguing, disturbing, thought-provoking

Author: Crystal
4 June 2003

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I saw "The Dancer Upstairs" just last weekend at the Grand Cinema in Tacoma. I went to the movie having no idea what it was about, and that definetely made the experience better, so don't read on if you don't want a few spoilers.

The first twenty minutes of the film were extremely confusing for everyone in the audience (which is all I heard about in the bathroom afterwards). They quickly draw you into the story, though, which is about a violent revolutionary, Ezequiel, in Latin America, and the cop who tries to track him down. The movie turns down many paths, which all converge at the end. Ezequiel is elusive and cunning, and extremely brutal, with hidden followers of all types willing to wear backpack bombs to furthur their political agendas. The cop, though married, is infatuated with his daughter's dance teacher, and they start a sort of romance that is interrupted when he finally catches Ezequiel in the apartment above hers. He tries to protect her from Ezequiel only to discover that she was part of the violence and murder the entire time.

The cop, though he has said throughout the movie that he wants to practice law that is not corrupt, uses his new power as the captor of Ezequiel to free the woman he's blindly infatuated with from a life sentence without parole. She writes to him telling him to stop contacting her, that she lives "only for the revolution." The creepiest part is also one of the most beautiful. The cop leaves the meeting where he finegles the woman's freedom in a hurry to his daughter's dance recital. He watches, smiling as she dances the same dance that her teacher had also danced while the cop watched during their romance. This is where the movie ends, in a sort of prophecy that by freeing the woman, the cop has sealed his daughter's fate to be either a part of the revolution or at least direly affected by it. I don't know if I was the only one who put this together, but it was beautifully subtle.

I liked this movie, and the ending was very realistic and bittersweet. Someone wishing to be morally guided and do the right thing ended up doing the exact opposite of what they set out to do, screwing up other people's lives because of their bad decisions. The cinematography and storyline together kick ass.

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