5 de julio de 2007

The Beautiful Chaos or How I Met Jodorowsky

(this is a review that I wrote for the magazine We Are the Weather, check it out here: http://blog.wearetheweather.org/?p=87)

Talking about Alejandro Jodorowsky nowadays doesn't make you sound smarter than average, or a cult snob like maybe back in the day, mostly due to the fact that his films are finally getting out there.

He and ABKCO (his distribution company) in recent times came to an agreement over the rights of his movies, or at least some of the most known films. They released a deluxe DVD box-set which included: La Cravatte (inspired in Thomas Mann’s The Transposed Heads), Fando y Lis, La Montaña Sagrada (The Holy Mountain), and El Topo. It is really a shame that Santa Sangre was not included, but who knows what the deal must be for the rights of that movie, granted that the producer was Claudio Argento (the brother of Dario Argento, master of the horror genre).

Let me talk a little bit more on how I first met Jodorowsky’s films. I was probably starting college and a friend of mine asks me: “Do you know where to get El Topo?” And me being me, I didn’t want to look stupid saying I didn’t even know what El Topo was, so I quickly looked it up on the internet only to find a few references on what this movie was. Being asked about this obscure film and where to get it, made me think I was perceived as a connoisseur of cult films, which I wasn’t. But in the later years I started to become somewhat of a connoisseur (more aficionado) of obscure, cult, and weird films.

A couple of years went by and I started looking up Jodorowsky’s work in general, and to my surprise I found an amazing book called Teatro Pánico (Panic Theater), which is more or less the manifesto of the Panic artistic movement. Founded by Alejandro Jodorowsky, Fernando Arrabal and Roland Topor, the Panic movement was highly influenced by Surrealism (the cinema of Luis Buñuel) and the Cruelty Theater of Antonin Artaud. They formed this movement back in Paris at a café in ’62 and started doing chaotic, provocative, explosive performance art in presentations that had many similarities to his first films; there is specially a scene in Fando y Lis where several British-looking men are chasing the young Lis, I felt as if I was reading the Panic Theater or maybe the Bald Singer by Ionesco, which portrays many of those images of the bourgeoisie with the nuttiness of surrealism.

Thinking back about Fando y Lis, it had an outrageous effect on the audience at the Acapulco Film Festival back in ’68, with Jodorowksy being accused of corruptor, vampire, and provocateur. He had to leave the screening of the film hidden in the floor of a car for fear of being lynched. The Mexican government confiscated the print of the film and banned it for future screenings, and had serious plans for deporting Jodorowsky.

In more recent times, I’ve had the joy to watch restored prints of El Topo and La Montaña Sagrada (Holy Mountain). Earlier this year these two films’ restored prints started touring around the US in select theater, lucky me that The Loft Cinema in Tucson was among the chosen ones.

This was truly an amazing experience, seeing these films for the first time in celluloid is breathtaking, I think everybody who is interested in Jodorowsky should get the amazing opportunity of experiencing this in film, because you know, the DVD is pretty good, but never compares to the film experience.

Not so surprisingly, just about when this tour ended the DVD box-set was released, although it had been already available for pre-order at a bargain price, taking into account that the set included the original soundtrack for El Topo and The Holy Mountain in a shiny CD, that and the fact that as soon as it was officially released the price went up like 30 or 40 percent.

There are a couple more films he made after these masterpieces which people mostly regard as his duds, but I don’t have a word on that because I have not watched them. There had been rumors these past couple years about Jodorowsky making a film called King Shot, which at first sounded bogus because there was not a reliable source to confirm the story, there were even supposedly leaked pieces of storyboard for the movie, but nothing confirmed. Well I’m happy to tell you that is now in production and it’s due to be released somewhere in 2009, one confirmed cast member is Marilyn Manson, who was once married to Dita Von Teese, guess who officiated the wedding… Jodorowsky.

I think that Jodorowsky leaves us a great legacy in his films, challenging us to be more chaotic and violent as a path towards peace and beauty.

“Terrible things, beautiful things go together”
“If art is not a medicine for the society, is a poison”

- Alejandro Jodorowsky

Additional information:

Official Jodorowsky’s website:

Official ABKCO Films website:

Alejandro Jodorowsky in Wikipedia

Panic Manifest
http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manifiesto_P%C3%A1nico (Spanish)

Review and Information on the Santa Sangre Original Soundtrack composed by Simon Boswell (Very hard to find material)
http://pork-chops.blogspot.com/2007/07/santa-sangre-ost.html (Spanish)

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