Wednesday, June 12, 2013

A Few Words on writer/director/artist/genius Alejandro Jodorowsky

Have you ever seen an Alejandro Jodorowsky film?

How about Fando y Lis?

What about El Topo?

Holy Mountain anyone?

If you have, consider yourself lucky. If not, stop what you are doing, go out, and find one. Jodorowsky, after all is in the same business as Andrei Trakovsky, Ingmar Bergman, Stanley Kubrick, Terrance Malick, David Lynch, etc. which is to say the art business. The masterpiece business.

Jodorowsky is maybe the most influential filmmaker whose influence has gone mostly unsung. His 1970 film El Topo essentially invented the American Midnight Movie phenomenon and then quickly disappeared until 2007 when a box set of his best work was released.

The three second version of why this was: John Lennon saw and loved El Topo, convinced his man Allen Klein to distribute that flick and foot the bill for it's follow-up Holy Mountain. However, a falling out resulted in the films being yanked from distribution and basically locked away.

But you've seen Jodorowsky's influence everywhere. Nary has a Marilyn Manson video not provided at least some kind of wink and nod to Jordorwosky (his Shia LaBeouf-directed video for Born Villain even directly quotes Holy Mountain)

I should probably throw out that this video is very NSFW.

And what do you know, the new Ryan Gosling/Nicholas Winding Refn pretentious art-film piece of shit collaboration Only God Forgives is dedicated to Jodorowsky.

But now, I'm poking fun and getting off track.

Okay sure, Jodorwosky's films are violent:


And blasphemous:

And boy, you thought the iguana's in Werner Herzog's Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans were weird?

Well how about the Conquest of Mexico reenacted with frogs and lizards?

But now I'm reducing Jordowosky to no more than a weirdo whose films should be shared with a group and a bong.

Well, ya, but anyone who has read this space on a regular basis knows that I also believe in art, especially trash art, and art Jodorowsky most defiantly is.

What's my definition of art? I think film becomes art when it meets two sets of criteria:

1) It fully utilizes the power of film as a visual medium:

And 2) it transcends the filmic medium. What the fuck does that mean? When you take the film away, you're still left with ideas, ways of thinking, emotions, whatever, that exist outside of the running time of the film. The ideas are what's important, the film is simply the medium which brings them to life.

But alas, what Ryan Gosling going on a violent killing spree or Marilyn Manson finding eyeballs in vaginas, etc lacks is that the films of Alejandro Jodorowsky, if you can brave them, are also beautiful, spiritual and leave you feeling fully empowered. 

Jodorowsky, who, besides being a madman, is also an academic, writes books and conducts sessions in which he acts as a spiritual healer of sorts, is always pushing his viewers to find enlightenment. In El Topo his gunfighter is on a quest to kill four other master gunfighters, who each first deliver a powerful lesson to him, and in Holy Mountain, a group of people descend a mountain in hopes of finding enlightenment.

Being a visual artist, this is all hard to take in upon first view, especially for those not accustomed to stories being told almost solely through images. But it all really dates back to a performance that Jodorowsky wrote for famous French mime Marcel Maceau when he apprentices under him.

To paraphrase, the mime encounters three people along his journey, each of which he kills and tries to eat their heart. The third is a child. Once the child's heart is eaten, the mime is so overcome with guilt from what he has done that he kills himself and offers his heart back to the child so it can live again. A positive through negative; beauty through violence; enlightenment through knowledge; redemption through self sacrifice. We could go on all day.

So what's Jodorowsky's purpose? To find balance in life. That's where enlightenment is. To come to grips with oneself by destroying one's past self and being reborn from the ashes. Jodorowsky's teaching asks it's subjects to look back through their family tree, pinpoint the moment in life where some sort of negative force arose, and to give away all the baggage that has been building up over the years as a result of that action/situation/relationship/whatever it is that is holding you back. With nothing in one's past and with complete knowledge of oneself one can move forward facing outwards, looking ahead to new experience instead of back at old ones. Or something like that. 

If that's not a good definition of enlightenment, what is?

And, look, I didn't even need to drop any acid!

Side Note - The Dance of Reality, an autobiographical look at Jodorowsky's life in Chile and first film since 1990, is currently making the festival rounds and looks like it will be one to keep an eye out for.

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