Guardian film critic Peter Bradshaw called La Danza de la Realidad (“The Dance Of Reality”), Chilean cinematic trickster Alejandro Jodorowsky’s first film in 23 years, “a triumphant return, which mixes autobiography, politics, torture and fantasy to exuberant, moving effect.”
La Danza de la Realidad was shot in Jodorowsky’s hometown of Tocopilla, deep in the Chilean desert. The film, which premiered at Cannes tells the story, sort of, of the his Communist father, Jaime Jodorowsky, with whom the director obviously had a very complex relationship:
Of course, the entire story is swathed in surreal mythology, dream logic and instant day-glo legend, resembling Fellini, Tod Browning, Emir Kusturica, and many more. You can’t be sure how to extract conventional autobiography from this. Despite the title, there is more “dance” than “reality” — and that is the point. Or part of the point. For the first time, Jodorowsky is coming close to telling us how personal evasiveness has governed his film-making style; his flights of fancy are flights of pain, flights from childhood and flights from reality. And now he is using his transformative style to come to terms with and change the past and to confer on his father some of the heroism that he never attained in real life.
As a child, young Alejandro is played by Jeremias Herskowits, and as an old man by the director himself, who cuts a distinguished, Haneke-like figure with his white hair and trimmed beard. His father Jaime is played by the director’s son Brontis Jodorowsky, which lends the project an intriguingly Freudian flavour. (Until this moment, I thought the scene in Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom in which the director dropped creepy-crawlies on his son’s pillow was the roughest father-son moment in cinema. But here Jodorowsky films a scene in which Jaime is tortured by the state police, and a naked Brontis Jodorowsky has electrodes attached to his testicles in full camera view. Ouch.)
Cannes 2013: La Danza de la Realidad (The Dance Of Reality) - first look review (The Guardian)
In March of 2011, Alejandro Jodorowsky traveled to Montreal, Canada to receive the exalted title of Grand Rectum from the University Of Foulosphie. In his honor, local artists paid homage to his extraordinary career as a provocateur, seer, shaman and subversive. Filmmakers and writers François Gourd and Matthieu Bouchard documented the week-long tribute to Jodorowsky, which included theatrical events and happenings celebrating Jodorowsky’s surrealistic mind-fucks: the Panique theater, El Topo, The Holy Mountain and his adept skills in using Tarot cards in the service of healing deeply fucked up people, of which many of us would qualify.
The grand old man still packs heat and his aim is as pitilessly precise as ever. I have very few heroes that still command my respect. Jodorowsky is one of the few still standing.
In the early 1960s, Alejandro Jodorowsky, in collaboration with Fernando Arrabal and Roland Topor, produced theatrical happenings that were part Grand Guignol, part Theater Of Cruelty and, in the case of splatterfests like Melodrama Sacramental, something like the Texas Chainsaw Massacre on peyote. Calling themselves the Panic Movement, the three provocateurs attempted to shatter the fourth wall with more than just words and gestures - they were going for something more visceral: blood and guts - anything to close the distance between spectacle and spectator and to wake and alert the audience to the suffering, inequality and untruths engulfing them in this modern world gone mad. Yes, life stinks and so should art. The Panic Movement put the “fart” in artsy fartsy - a steaming turd in the cosmic punchbowl.
Jodorowsky and company’s sacramental melodrama was staged in Paris, May of 1965, the same month and year that the largest Vietnam teach-in was held (May 21–23, 1965) at UC Berkeley, one of the seminal events in the history of the American anti-war movement, the first rumblings of a protest movement against the Vietnam war that would grow to a deafening roar. Was Jodorowsky’s “happening” also a a mirroring of the savagery of war and a metaphor for the lives being sacrificed in Vietnam? Were the prophets of peace in synch and sending signals to each other from two epicenters of radical change?
In Melodrama Sacramental we see images that would be repeated in Jodorowsky’s epic mindfucker El Topo, another nightmare ode to man’s inhumanity to man.
On the soundtrack we hear Allen Ginsberg reading from his poem “Lysergic Acid,” written in San Francisco in 1959.
Happy birthday Dennis Hopper. You were one of the great mad geniuses of American pop culture.
During the Sixties Taos was a rural hippie Mecca. Communes like New Buffalo, Reality Construction Company and The Hog Farm popped up around this Northern New Mexican town like ‘shrooms in a field of cow pies. In 1969 I spent a few weeks at the Lama Foundation, a commune 20 miles outside Taos, where I lived in a small A-frame and spent most my time reading books and staring off into the endless New Mexico sky. This quiet mountain area was propelled into the national consciousness when Dennis Hopper shot footage in the vicinity of Taos for Easy Rider. It kind of changed things forever. Taos went from being a low key destination to a center for hippie tourism. The locals hated it.
I moved back to Taos in 2002 and lived there for seven years. The legacy of Dennis Hopper and Easy Rider still color the town and what was once seen as an intrusion by a bunch of Hollywood hipsters has now become an honorable part of the town’s history.
Hopper ended up living in Taos for a short time. He bought the historic Mabel Dodge Lujan house and the El Cortez movie theater in 1970. Throughout his life, Hopper would return to Taos. He was made honorary Mayor of the town and is buried in Jesus Nazareno Cemetery, Ranchos de Taos.
It was in Taos that Hopper struggled with his follow-up film to Easy Rider, the misunderstood, flawed, masterpiece The Last Movie. Hopper practically lost his mind (some say he did lose it) while trying to edit the film into a commercially viable product. He spent a year doing so and the end result was both a critical and commercial disaster.
I saw The Last Movie when it was released in 1971. I found it an amazing head film that rivaled Alejandro Jodorowsky’s El Topo for sheer mind-blowing brilliance. But my first viewing was enhanced by some Nepalese finger hash and subsequent small screen viewings of the movie haven’t been quite as psychedelically satisfying.
While Hopper was madly trying to edit The Last Movie, he called upon the help of Jodorowsky and the Chilean brujo went to Taos to offer his insight.
In a 2008 interview with Damien Love, Jodorowsky discussed the Taos experience:
I had showed El Topo privately around the studios, I showed it to Metro Golden Mayer, Universal. And, all the time, the people at the screenings were enthusiastic, but then, when the salesmen came along, they would say, “We don’t know to sell this picture.” And Dennis Hopper was at one of these private shows, and he liked El Topo a lot. And so he invited me to come to Taos. And in Taos, he had four or six editing machines and twelve editors working. At that time, he didn’t know what to with The Last Movie. And I saw the material, I thought it was a fantastic story. And I said, “I can help.” I was there for two days, and in two days I edited the picture. I think I made it very good. I liked it. But when he went to show it to Hollywood, they didn’t want it, because by then he was in conflict with them. Later, I think that Dennis Hopper decided that he couldn’t use my edit, because he needed to do it himself. And so he destroyed what I did, and I don’t know what he did with it later. I never told that to anybody through the years, but I am sure that if, one day, they found my edit, it was fantastic. Because the material was fantastic. I took out everything that was too much like a love story or too much Marxist politics. For me it was one of the greatest pictures I have ever seen. It was so beautiful, so different. I don’t know what it is like now, how it has been edited, the final thing, I don’t know if he conserved anything of mine. But it was a fantastic film. One thing I do remember from back then, though, was how strong the smell of Dennis Hopper’s underarm perspiration was. It was so strong, and one day — he had I think ten women there — and I put everyone in a line in order for them to smell the perfume of Dennis Hopper. Because he never changed his shirt, for days upon days. He smelled very strong. That I remember.
My good friend Bill Whaley, who has been a seminal part of Taos’s art culture since the 1960’s, wrote about his encounters with Hopper around this time in local paper The Horsefly, of which Whaley was the publisher. Here’s Bill’s account of first seeing The Last Movie at a private screening in Taos and a rumination on what Hopper was going through while editing the movie.
If I’m not mistaken, El Topo was first shown at El Cortez Theatre in Rachos de Taos, Dec. 13, 1970. At the time, I managed the theater for Dennis Hopper. Then he was still editing The Last Movie at the Mabel Dodge House. The latter was about four to six hours in length. David or Dennis or perhaps Diana Schwab, David’s secretary phoned me and asked me to arrange for a special screening of a film on Sunday afternoon, which turned out to be El Topo. After watching El Topo, which blew everyone’s mind, we watched the rough version of The Last Movie. That evening, we showed the regularly scheduled feature: Fellini’s Satyricon. My mind was deluged by too many images. I never recovered. Due to its complex themes and brilliant cinematography, I remember thinking that Dennis might turn out to be the next American Fellini if he could edit The Last Movie with some sense of its mimetic qualities. That promise remained unrealized.
In Taos, the real Dennis Hopper appeared to get all mixed up with the artistic conceit or character represented up there on the screen of The Last Movie. Whether due to the demons or stimulants that dominated his psyche, he had committed himself to a course of action that ultimately undermined his project. As Dennis edited The Last Movie he appeared to call on the same techniques of personal emotion that a method actor uses as inspiration, but this time employed to cut the film. Somewhere in the cross over between film and life, Dennis appeared to lose access to the rational faculties and objective reality that are also a necessary part of life and the artistic process–at least in terms of the conventions of story telling and a semblance of acceptable behavior.”
Hopper stories in Taos are legend. He could be a loud-mouthed, gun-toting drunk - he showed up hammered at a city council meeting toting a shotgun - who tried to fuck every flower child that moved (foreshadowing Frank Booth). He could also be a gentle, stoned philosopher who appreciated the deep spiritual aura radiating from the magnificent Sangre de Cristo mountain range that towered over Taos like great stone gods. He hung out with artists and hippies and did his damnedest to support the local culture. But in a small town where locals have trouble accepting outsiders, Hopper may have been too much of shit stirrer, too big of a presence and too batshit crazy, even for the open-air madhouse that is Taos.
Locals claim that Taos Mountain will steal a piece of your soul so that you must stay in order to feel whole or the mountain will ultimately reject you, sending you on your way. With Hopper, the mountain did a little of both. Ultimately, it accepted him…or else one day he’s gonna crawl out of his grave and come raging into town with shotgun barrel blazing.
In L.M. (Kit) Carson’s 1971 documentary The American Dreamer we follow Hopper as he struggles with the film making process, hot tubs with groupies, rambles, pontificates, mindfucks, and gradually goes gloriously mad while wrestling with celluloid and the visions in his ever-expanding brain.
For more of Bill Whaley’s tales of Dennis Hopper in Taos, visit The Horsefly archives.
Late last month in Mexico City, Alejandro Jodorowsky organized the “March of the Skulls” to disperse negative energy caused by the death toll of the nation’s drug war. Nearly 40,000 Mexicans have died drug war related deaths in the past five years. The advance billing for the November 27th event described it as “the first act of collective psycho-magic in Mexico” and it attracted nearly 3000 people who donned skeleton masks, face-paint, tops hats. Some marchers carried black versions of the Mexican flag and shouted “Long live the dead!”
The “maestro” arrived at the palace steps about 1:30 p.m., causing brief havoc among the gathered calaveras as people jostled to get near him. The white-haired Jodorowsky, fit and agile at 82, wore a black sports coat, a bright purple scarf and a detailed skull mask.
Along with his family, Jodorowsky led the calaveras up the Eje Central avenue to Plaza Garibaldi in a mostly silent demonstration. In the late 1980s, he filmed some key scenes of “Santa Sangre” at this plaza, homebase for the city’s for-hire mariachi bands. On Sunday, it was easy to imagine another “Santa Sangre” scene being filmed during the march, but this time from a dark and unfamiliar future.
Someone decided the group should sing a song. It became “La Llorona,” the Weeping Woman.
Jodorowsky was displeased with the group’s initial interpretation, so he asked for another go at it. A mariachi band joined in as accompaniment.
“There are 50,000 dead beings,” Jodorowsky said through a bullhorn, before the sea of skulls. “They are sheep. They are not black sheep. We must have mercy for these souls that have disappeared. Let’s sing this song with lament, as if we were the mother of one of these persons. Understand?”
Then he asked that all those present cross and link their arms with those of the strangers around them. The group did. They chanted “Peace, peace, peace!” until Jodorowsky asked that everyone let out a big laugh. Laughter and applause followed.
You have to love that the wiley shaman did the old “c’mon you guys can do better” routine and made them sing it again!
After the jump, a news report about Alejandro Jodorowsky’s November 27, 2011 Psychomagic event in Mexico.
The great Chilean-born director, artist, writer, shaman and “criminal madman, ” Alejandro Jodorowsky interviewed via Skype from a hotel room in NYC on October 30th.
Topics include Occupy Wall Street, why revolutions fail but mutation succeeds, the magical side of reality, the search for gurus and wisdom and why Twitter is the haiku of this century! Jodorowsky’s films El Topo and The Holy Mountain are available on Blu-ray from ABKCO.
ABKCO Films presents legendary director Alejandro Jodorowsky in a rare New York appearance with a Halloween screening of The Holy Mountain at MoMA:
Jodorowsky will introduce his visionary 1973 cult film The Holy Mountain, which famously played for sixteen straight months at New York’s Waverly Theater, at “An Evening with Alejandro Jodorowsky” on Monday, October 31, at 7 PM. The program serves as a coda to the exhibition of Jodorowsky’s work that was organized at MoMA PS1 earlier this year by Klaus Biesenbach.
Jodorowsky will take part in an onstage conversation with Klaus Biesenbach and Joshua Siegel.
The Holy Mountain is a surreal and picaresque satire depicting the journey of a Christ-like figure, the Thief, to a symbolic mountain that is said to unite Heaven and Earth. Playing the character of the Alchemist both on and off screen, Jodorowsky immersed his actors in months of preparatory spiritual and occult exercises, and was also responsible for the costume, set designs and for co-writing the musical score.
Directed by Transformers star Shia LaBouef, Marilyn Manson’s self-produced video for his new song “No Reason” pays homage to Alejandro Jodorowsky’s The Holy Mountain. Manson and Jodorowsky are friends (Alejandro wanted to cast Marilyn in an El Topo sequel) and I guess this is Manson’s way of honoring his master.
Other influences I detect floating through the video are from George Bataille’s “The Story Of The Eye,” Takashi Miike’s Ichi, The Killer, Joel-Peter Witkin and new wave porn flicks like Night Dreams and Cafe Flesh.
I don’t think Manson is challenging himself with this. Been there, done that. But, anything that calls attention to Jodorowsky is in my opinion a good thing.
Believed lost for fifty years, Alejandro Jodorowsky’s first film, La Cravate (aka Severed Heads) was found in an attic in Germany in 2006, and released on DVD in 2007. Adapted from Thomas Mann’s short story, “The Transposed Heads - A Legend of India in Paris”, La Cravate was made between 1953 and 1957 and starred Denise Brossot, Rolande Polya, Raymond Devos, Saul Gilbert and Jodorowsky.
The film tells of a young man’s desire to win the love of a woman. To do this, he visits a store which allows customers to switch their heads, and thus their personalities. The young man trades in his head for a variety of different models, and while his body continues to woo the woman of his dreams, the store’s proprietor, a young woman, takes a fancy to the man’s original head and takes it home. The moral is never to lose your head over unrequited love, but find someone who loves you as you are. It’s bizarre, amusing and charming, and an impressive first film.
Left to right: Donald Cammell, Dennis Hopper, Alejandro Jodorowsky & Kenneth Anger.
Cinematic shaman Alejandro Jodorowsky discusses his work. Taken from the over five hours worth of extras that will come with the much-anticipated re-release of Santa Sangre on DVD and Blu-ray by Severin Films on January 25th. Pre-order a copy of Santa Sangre.
I’ve been sitting on a pretty decent but not perfect bootleg DVD of Alejandro’s nightmarish 1989 film, Santa Sangre for the last six years, but I could never bring myself to watch it because I knew (I thought) that a proper DVD release was just around the corner. Well, it took long enough, but it looks like it was worth the wait, as Severin Films is about to release the film on Blu-ray and regular DVD on January 25th with over five hours of extras, including deleted scenes, Jodorowsky’s audio commentary, multiple documentaries and interviews with key members of the cast and crew.
To commemorate the long awaited re-release of Alejandro Jodorowsky’s masterpiece SANTA SANGRE on DVD and Blu-Ray, Severin Films and The American Cinematheque will be presenting a 35mm screening of the film, preceded by a reception, at the Egyptian Theater, Hollywood Blvd. There will be a special Q & A after the film with soundtrack composer Simon Boswell, whose other credits include work for Danny Boyle, Clive Barker and Dario Argento.
More screenings will take place on 1/19 at the Alamo Downtown, Austin, TX, 1/24 at the reRun, Brooklyn, NY and 1/24 at the Brattle Theatre, Cambridge, MA followed by a Q & A with Star Sabrina Dennison.
Blanca Guerra, Guy Stockwell and the filmmaker¹s sons Axel and Adan Jodorowsky star in this surreal epic about a young circus performer, the crime of passion that shatters his soul, and the macabre journey back to the world of his armless mother and deaf-mute lover. “This is a movie like none I have seen before,” wrote Roger Ebert in his original four-star review, “a wild kaleidoscope of images and outrages, a collision between Freud and Fellini. It contains blood and glory, saints and circuses, and unspeakable secrets of the night. And it is all wrapped up in a flamboyant parade of bold, odd, striking imagery, with Alejandro Jodorowsky as the ringmaster. SANTA SANGRE is a movie in which the inner chambers of the soul are laid bare.”
I have to admit that now that I know this is coming out on Blu-ray, I’m salivating to see it. I haven’t seen Santa Sangre since I first saw it in a theater when it was released. Jodorowsy’s films are just too amazing visually to watch on bootleg DVDs. On Blu-ray, however, this will be a (sur)real treat!
Like many of you out there, we here at Dangerous Minds are waiting patiently (or not so patiently as the case might be) for the DVD and Blu-ray release of Alejandro Jodorowsky’s fantastic (in every way) film Santa Sangre from the fine folks at Severin Films (you can also blame them for Birdemic), due to drop this month. In an effort to sate your Jodorowsky fever, here’s a link to a blog with several dozen examples of Jodorowsky’s Sunday comic, Fabulas panicas, written, drawn and colored by the great filmmaker, writer, composer and shaman in the years between 1967 and 1973 for the rightwing Mexican newspaper, El Heraldo de México.
Like most of Jodorowsky’s work, these comics aim to teach a life lesson or produce a psychological epiphany in the reader. Can you imagine how much the original panels would be worth, and will be worth in the future? Hopefully while Alejandro Jodorowsky is still living, a museum level survey of his graphic work will occur. It’s a honor he richly deserves.
347 of the Fabulas panicas strips appear in a book published by Grijalbo.
Didn’t think the films of mondo-psychedelico cult director Alejandro Jodorowsky could get any freakier? Think again.
Straight outta Mexico City come Arturo Gil of video firm XNOgrafikz and bass maniac DJ Saeg, putting the audio and visual cut-up method to full digital effect on Jodorowsky’s two most popular classics, El Topo and Holy Mountain. But instead of merely generating some arbitrary rave-video-projection material, Gil and Saeg took pains to use rhythmic repetition to crack the AJ code as much as possible, creating an even more anti-linear narrative in emotive tribute to the Jewish Chilean-French celluloid shaman.