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THE DANCER UPSTAIRS

In a fictional South American country that bears more than a passing resemblance to Peru, an idealistic police officer pursues an elusive guerilla leader.

CAST: Javier Bardem, Laura Morante, Juan Diego Bott, Elvira Mingez, Alexandra Lencastre, Oliver Cotton, Abel Folk, Wolframio Sinue, Marie-Anne Verganza, Luis Miguel Cintra

DIRECTOR: John Malkovich

"John Malkovich's ‘The Dancer Upstairs’ was filmed before 9/11, and is based on a novel published in 1997, but has an eerie timeliness in its treatment of a terrorist movement that works as much through fear as though violence…this is not a docudrama; it is more concerned with noticing the ways in which terrorism takes its real toll on a nation's self-confidence…Bardem, who was so demonstrative as the flamboyant writer in ‘Before Night Falls,’ now turns as subtle and guarded as--well, as John Malkovich. It is typical that when he falls in love with Yolanda (Laura Morante), his daughter's ballet teacher, both he and she are slow to realize what has happened and reluctant to act on it." --Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

"‘Dancer’ echoes its director's own deportment as a performer, alternating silky smoothness with burlap coarseness. Though Mr. Malkovich stays entirely behind the scenes, he creates a languorous but gripping story of people fighting to stay a step ahead of hopelessness. And his trademark confidence is displayed by his insistence on a slowed rhythm to demand audience attention…Mr. Bardem's performance is different from anything he's done before…he underplays so intelligently that when he finally releases a hint of pleasure — watching his daughter's dance recital, he is as lost in happiness as she is in concentration — it's shocking because we get to see how much pent-up emotion Rejas possesses." --Elvis Mitchell, The New York Times

"It's sober, deliberate, self-consciously mysterious and no fun at all. One could also conclude from the plodding pace and meticulous attention to the humdrum of police work that Malkovich has been living in France too long. There's a patronizing air about it, a sense that if we're bored by its studied sullenness, we're not worthy of it. But boring it is." --Jack Mathews, The New York Daily News

"Javier Bardem, the star of ‘The Dancer Upstairs,’ is that rare modern performer who personifies heroism...What separates ‘The Dancer Upstairs’ from the usual run of movies about obsessed lawmen is that Rejas isn’t simply a monomaniac; he actually has a life. When he takes an interest in, say, his daughter’s dancing lessons, the moment doesn’t seem icky…John Malkovich, making his directorial debut, does less well with the more overtly political aspects of the film… Malkovich is attracted to the idea of making a Costa Gavras–style thriller—he even has the guerrillas watching ‘State of Siege’—but his scenes of insurgency seem rather perfunctory. They’re bulletins from another, more incendiary kind of movie. ‘The Dancer Upstairs’ is at its best in the interludes between explosions." --Peter Rainer, New York Magazine

"It's mostly a political thriller, contingent on a love story. It's kind of noirish, subtly humorous and intermittently confusing…Javier Bardem grounds this changeable film with a superlative performance that is quietly charismatic and effortlessly weighty… Although Malkovich has a good eye for composition and a deft way with rat-a-tat dialogue, ‘Dancer’ sags in a few too many places. --Megan Lehmann, The New York Post

"John Malkovich's directorial debut, based on Nicholas Shakespeare's 1997 novel, seems uncannily timely, given its focus on the pathology of terror and the price of ignoring a people's will…where Malkovich goes right is with Bardem, whose Agustin Rejas is a Latin-American Arkady Renko (the hero of Martin Cruz Smith's ‘Gorky Park,’ ‘Red Square’ and ‘Polar Star’), the incorruptible man resigned to corruption…What Malkovich needed was to indulge himself a bit more in the conventions of the thriller (such as creating actual thrills). But despite several implausibilities, his movie resonates." --John Anderson, Newsday