In THE DANCER UPSTAIRS, director John Malkovich does a slow-motion Costa-Gavras
(Z). An intriguing political drama that gets murkier by the minute, it is set
in the capital of an unnamed South American country.
The low energy production stars Oscar nominee Javier Bardem (BEFORE NIGHT FALLS)
as Captain Rejas, a police detective on the trail of a mysterious revolutionary
known only as Ezequiel. Ezequiel sees himself as the fourth Communist prophet
after Marx, Lenin and Mao.
When Ezequiel's terrorist followers aren't slaughtering government and military
officials, they busy themselves with signage. All over town, they hang dead
dogs with signs attached. Along with a "Long Live President Ezequiel!" the
signs include a mish-mash of bizarre political slogans: "When I hear the word
'culture,' I reach for my pistol," and "Guns make us powerful. Butter will only
make us fat."
Since Captain Rejas and his team are having no luck in tracking down the
terrorists, the country's president declares martial law. The longer the movie
goes on, the slower it gets, and the more it is obvious that its sympathies lie
with the terrorists, subtlety painting them as idealistic warriors against the
The best part of the movie is the haunting music by Alberto Iglesias and Pedro
Malgheas. Individual orchestral instruments wail at each other soulfully.
With better pacing and more cutting, THE DANCER UPSTAIRS could have been more
than just sporadically fascinating. But, as released, watching it will wear you
out like eye fatigue from dirty eyeglasses.
THE DANCER UPSTAIRS runs way too long at 2:09. It is rated R "for strong
violence, and for language" and would be acceptable for most teenagers.
Copyright © 2003 Steve Rhodes