THE DANCER UPSTAIRS
Review by Chastity Campbell
Starring: Javier Bardem, Laura Morante, Juan Diego Botto,
Elvira MŪnguez, Alexandra Lencastre, Oliver Cotton, Luis Miguel Cintra, and
Director: John Malkovich
Audio: 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround
Video: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Features: See Review
Length: 135 Minutes
Release Date: September 23, 2003
The Dancer Upstairs will do more than entertain you
for a few hours. This movie will
wrap its tendrils around you and hold on tight all the way through until the
very end, and by that time you will have come to realize that this experience is
not something that will ever leave your mind.
John Malkovich weaves a truly hypnotic and magical web
around you with his version of Nicholas Shakespeareís ďThe Dancer
Upstairs.Ē After listening to
Malkovichís commentary track, I could clearly see in my mindís eye how
passionate his approach to this film was. Even
though this is his first time in the directorís seat, he was able to take the
smallest of gestures and details to paint this dark story in vivid mental
The Dancer Upstairs is set in Latin America, during
the recent past. No time frame to
reference in this film, which allows you to expand your mind around the endless
possibilities that such a deep thinking movie evokes.
The story follows a straight and narrow policeman Agustin
Rejas played by Academy Award Nominee Javier Bardem as he attempts to apprehend
the leader of a terrorist movement that is threatening to overthrow the current
government through murder and hate crimes.
Corruption in the government hinders his investigation, as
the terroristís ideas continue to gain ground rapidly among the citizens.
Itís an uphill battle that will take all of the cunning, and
strategizing this former Lawyer turned Policeman has, to find and capture the
rebel leader Ezequiel.
Bardemís character has a really interesting contemplative
nature about him. Combine that with
a healthy dose of honesty and goodness (something Hollywood has been lacking as
of late), and you have someone you can get behind and root for as a leading man.
Despite the fact that there is a possible revolution going
on, and his wife would surely kill him if she found out, Rejas falls in love
with his daughterís ballet teacher played by the beautiful and talented Laura
Morante. You can see that in his
heart he knows itís wrong, yet he is drawn to her like a moth to the flame.
Shouldnít his instincts as a police officer kick in and warn him all is
not right where the dancerís concerned?
Iím not entirely familiar with the works of Laura Morante.
I can say that her portrayal of the mysterious and exotic dance
instructor Yolanda was breathtaking. She
will wind you in with her smile, and capture you with her laughter, just as she
does the easy going Rejas. Donít
be fooled, for she, too, has her part to play, which is one of the many things
about this film that helps to make it shine.
There is a scene in this movie that I will label as one of
the most disturbing scenes in cinema history for me personally.
The events depicted in this movie are disturbingly similar to current
situations around the world today. In
a time where terrorism is in the news on a daily basis, I can understand why
some people would find this movie hard to watch.
However, if you can get past that aspect of this film and focus on the
main character and his struggle to push through all the layers of society and
life that are hindering his progression as a person and individual, then you
will find a film that is definitely worth taking the time to see.
I have to mention the men and women who made up the
supporting cast of characters for this film.
From Rejas hyper and horny partner, to his sweet and innocent daughter,
you will find they all help to propel this film along with a smooth and easy
I will say that this is not a family friendly movie, and
the kids should probably be tucked away in bed before you ever go near the play
button. I do believe, however, that
once you are able to sit back and digest everything this DVD has to offer, you
will definitely not be disappointed.
Wide-open direct line shots help to frame this film in a
way unlike any Iíve seen before. The
directorís use of cooler colors and deep shadows illuminates the images on
this DVD in a way that helps make the viewer feel as though they are a part of
The DVD is formatted with a 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen transfer that is a bit intentionally dirty. To create certain realities itís often necessary to use the natural dirt and graininess of a film to help things along. I think this film has a late 70ís early 80ís appeal that wonít be lost on the viewer.
With beautifully balanced music beds and lively sound
effects, this DVD was an extremely nice audio experience.
The soundtrack resonated beautifully in the 5.1 Dolby
Digital Surround mix on this DVD. The
dialogue was balanced well in combination with sound effects and music beds.
Long stretches of silence were at times punctuated with a little bit of
white noise, but otherwise a very clean and well balanced mix.
The one and only real problem I had with this DVDís audio
was the actors themselves when voicing their lines. Some accents were very thick while others were barely there,
and when people start talking to each other very fast, you might get lost as to
what they are saying.
Utilizing the English subtitles from this DVDís audio
features might be something youíll want to try.
This DVDís features flowed like a ballerina across the
floor. Okay, bad punÖon to the
There is an audio commentary track which features director
John Malkovich and Javier Bardem, the filmís star. I really enjoyed listening to Malkovich go into detail about
this film for which he obviously feels very passionate.
There is a special feature titled ďSundance Channels
24 Frame News: Journeys with John Malkovich.Ē
This is a really quick look at John Malkovich, and a few of the things
that were going on in his head while making this film.
ďRevealing The Dancer Upstairs,Ē is a very
informative featurette that will educate you on this movie and the hard work
that went into it. You will also
get some key details about specific characters and what went into making them so
Two theatrical trailers for The Dancer Upstairs are
included, along with language options in English, Spanish, and French.
Subtitles are also available in English, and Spanish for those of us who
have a hard time with accents.
Interactive menus will allow you to easily float from one
feature to the next on your journey to unlocking this DVDís extras!