The story of Detective Agustin Rejas, a man clinging to the hope of an impossible love in an impossible world. Tracking Ezequiel, a delusional anarchist who incites the downtrodden masses to join in his brutal revolution against the fascist government in their unnamed Latin American country, Rejas finds solace in his sense of self-respect and the joy that his daughter and wife bring him. Then he meets Yolanda--his daughter's soulfully beautiful ballet teacher--a woman who sparks his long-forgotten passions and represents all that is good and all that is corrupt in their troubled country. But she, who appears to be a shelter from the storm, may in actuality be the storm's eye. Ultimately, as the revolution intensifies and the net closes around hunter and hunted alike, the dancer's truth will prove as elusive as the revolutionary's cause and the detective's peace.Written by
Sujit R. Varma
I would expect a movie directed by John Malkovich to be intense and specific. The Dancer Upstairs is that. It is a political movie that while popular in Europe, does not tend to draw well in the United States. Too bad.
The story tells the tale of a lawyer who has left the law looking for a better system. I don't know that becoming a police detective is that much better, but it serves the story. The story is set in a nameless Latin American country -- which also suits the story line.
Detective Lt. Agustín Rejas (Javier Bardem) has left a law firm where he was a junior partner, to join law enforcement -- with a conscious. He can give a break to a traveler whose papers are not quite right and he can be relentless in his pursuit of a terrorist.
Rejas has been victimized by the politics of his country. His father lost his coffee farm to the soldiers. His view of the judicial system has seen a rapist become president of the country. But still, Rejas finds joy in his beautiful dancer daughter and his wife -- who has a political mission of her own. Then he meets the free spirited dance instructor for his daughter.
Rejas works in a corrupt society where the fiscal corruption goes hand in hand with the moral and political corruption. The central government is all too ready to suspend civil rights and to put military law into effect. The military killing innocent people is fine as long as it suits the party.
Rejas attempts to live the just life and must deal with the corruption the best he can. This conflict is the heart of the movie. As he says, he has feelings about his father losing his farm and he is the Gary Cooper type.
Javier Bardem is excellent in the pivotal role. Juan Diego Botto does a very credible job as Detective Sgt. Sucre. Laura Morante is intoxicating as dance instructor focal point of the story.
I give this move a 9 for great story and suspense, excellent direction and fine acting. There is no sex and very brief nudity. The violence does tend to be horrific and there are depictions of cruelty to animals -- both central to the plot. This is far less than the typical Jason or Chainsaw movies gore.
I consider this an excellent direction debut for John Malkovich and look forward to his next feature film effort. It feels like Malkovich will fill a role similar to Robert Redford in films he has directed.
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