Review: The Dancer Upstairs

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The Dancer Upstairs
The Dancer Upstairs by Nicholas Shakespeare
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Underwhelming. I love the movie, seen it many times. I discover a lot of books that way, by loving a movie. Unlike most book lovers, I don’t buy into the myth that the book is “always” better. Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t. In this case, the movie was better.

What a story! Now that I know the author was inspired by a true story, about the manhunt for the “Shining Path” revolutionaries, now I’m interested in that true crime story. We always think of “revolution” as a positive thing, especially in America. But we forget that revolution and terrorism are the same thing, two words describing the same events from conflicting viewpoints. When a revolutionary slits a politician’s throat, is that a beautiful sunrise of new ideas, or coldblooded murder? To tell the story of a failed revolution from the point of view of the cop hunting them down puts this question in perspective. To constantly reinforce the corruption of the government he’s supposedly protecting adds a layer of complexity to the story. Is he loyal to his crooked superiors? Could the revolutionaries be right? Or does he merely abhor violence?

Sadly, this is a profoundly moving and original story, told in flat, ordinary language. It is very seductive and compelling, especially towards the end, but with no sense of flair or lyrical style. Perhaps some are attracted to that kind of unpretentious terse language. For me, the movie captured what the author didn’t, that deep emotional component between the words, and I have to just leave it there.

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Victor A. Davis has always loved reading and writing short stories. He is an avid hiker and even when away from the world of laptops and wifi, keeps a pocket paperback and a handwritten journal to keep him company on trail. He is the author of two short story collections, Grains of Sand and The Gingerbread Collection. Join his Mailing List for special announcements about upcoming works.