From the Chicago Reader (March 1, 1988). — J.R.
Except for The Red Shoes, this shot-by-shot rethinking of a dance performance by the Emile Dubois Dance Group, choreographed by Jean-Claude Gallotta and directed by Raul Ruiz, could be the greatest dance film ever made. Running only 65 minutes, the 1986 film is as much a sensual workout as Ruiz’s Life Is a Dream is an intellectual one; its celebration of pure physicality and movement is as exciting for film lovers as it is for dance enthusiasts. Using a Welles-inspired cinematography of wide angles, deep focus, shadows, silhouettes, and tilted perspectives, Ruiz and his gifted cameraman, Acacio de Almeida, join the spirited group of nine dancers not as detached observers or as competitors but as collaborators in the deepest sense of the word. Working through a continually mutable stage decor until the performance reaches a grand climax in the open air, by the sea, the film is almost as arresting aurally as it is visually, thanks to its natural sounds, music, and nonverbal utterances, all of which are superbly integrated with the physical movements. An exhilarating masterpiece, and in many respects Ruiz’s most accessible work of the 80s. (JR)