Alejandro Jodorowsky’s magical film “The Dance of Reality”.

The Holy Mountain.

Jodor­owsky as the mago in The Holy Moun­tain.

There are two dri­ves that pro­pel peo­ple to pro­duce a work of art, one pri­vate one pub­lic. On the one hand, they have an urge for what­ev­er rea­son to express them­selves. And on the oth­er, they fall in love with a medi­um, be it film, the album, the nov­el or what­so­ev­er. And, despair­ing at what today’s prac­ti­tion­ers are doing with it, they feel com­pelled to cre­ate some­thing interesting.

I was think­ing about this while watch­ing the new Bond film, and good­ness knows I had plen­ty of time to drift off. Before the delights of see­ing Daniel Graig shuf­fle so grumpi­ly from scene to scene look­ing for all the world like a labour­er forced to wear a bor­rowed suit for the day — and by the bye, declaw­ing Bond of his class is like reliev­ing a great white shark of its teeth — we were treat­ed to a brace of trailers.

John and Yoko were big fans and launched El Topo in NY.

John and Yoko were big fans and launched El Topo in NY.

And for six or sev­en min­utes, var­i­ous cos­tumed per­form­ers, played by actors, stood where they were told to, spout­ing por­ten­tous inani­ties, as on the green screens behind them a suc­ces­sion of com­put­er gen­er­at­ed foes and per­ils appeared with impres­sive, dull precision.

And as inter­change­able lines of dia­logue were mechan­i­cal­ly mouthed – they could have been from any of the oth­er films in the fran­chise, or for that mat­ter, from any of the rival fran­chis­es, but for the record the pair in ques­tion were Bat­man V Super­man and Star Wars – all the seats around me shook, phys­i­cal­ly.

For the entire dura­tion of the trail­ers, our ears were pum­melled by an onslaught of dig­i­tal­ly enhanced sounds, and our eyes were assailed by frame after frame, jam-packed with as much stuff as it was phys­i­cal­ly pos­si­ble to cram into them.

It was the cin­e­mat­ic equiv­a­lent of being trapped in a pound shop on steroids. They clear­ly think that if they can force as much junk as pos­si­ble into the one space and bom­bard our sens­es with it, no one will notice how uncon­nect­ed each of the indi­vid­ual bits are, and what lit­tle sub­stance there is behind the packaging.

El Topo.

El Topo.

No won­der Graig is so grumpy. He’s just an inel­e­gant clothes horse around whom are placed as many over­priced prod­ucts as it’s pos­si­ble to pack into each and every frame.

What a fan­tas­tic time to be film mak­er. There is so much to rail against.

Both those dri­ves, the need to express him­self and the urge to do some­thing inter­est­ing with the medi­um, are glo­ri­ous­ly in evi­dence in the few films we have from the won­der­ful Chilean film mak­er Ale­jan­dro Jodor­owsky. Jodor­owsky is what a hip­py would look like, if being a hip­py didn’t express­ly for­bid you from pur­su­ing any of your activ­i­ties with any sort of actu­al intent.

He has spent his life expand­ing his con­scious­ness in the pur­suit of spir­i­tu­al sal­va­tion, by delv­ing into the inner recess­es of his sub­con­scious. He first burst onto the inter­na­tion­al film scene with the acid west­ern El Topo in 1970, which effec­tive­ly invent­ed the idea the cult film and sin­gle-hand­ed­ly launched the mid­night film scene in New York.

Jodorowsky with his son Brontis in El Topo.

Jodor­owsky with his son Bron­tis in El Topo.

John and Yoko were so impressed, Lennon put up $1m for his next film, The Holy Moun­tain, in ’73. Which, inevitably, proved to be some­thing of a damp squib and is, truth be told, hope­less­ly self-indulgent.

After an abortive and out­landish­ly expen­sive attempt to film Frank Herbert’s cult sci-fi nov­el Dune – which David Lynch would sim­i­lar­ly make a mess of — he moved to Paris and spent the next decade or so read­ing tarot cards. But in ’89 he made a tri­umphant return with the qui­et­ly bonkers San­ta San­gre, and then The Rain­bow Thief in ’90, before dis­ap­pear­ing once more into the artis­tic wilderness.

But in 2013 he re-emerged to much applause when he pre­sent­ed his lat­est film, The Dance of Real­i­ty, at that year’s Cannes Film Festival.

Osten­si­bly an auto­bi­og­ra­phy chart­ing his lone­ly child­hood in pre WWII Chile, it is both about the stormy rela­tion­ship he had as a boy with his macho father, and an attempt by the now old­er artist to rec­on­cile him­self to his father’s memory.

Brontis playing Jodorowsky's father (and his grandfather) in The Dance of Reality.

Bron­tis play­ing Jodor­owsky’s father (and his grand­fa­ther) in The Dance of Reality.

It is of course and as ever entire­ly bonkers but in a com­plete­ly good way. At one point for instance, his father wakes up to dis­cov­er the hunch­backed dwarf with whom he’s been sleep­ing has paint­ed tat­toos all over his paral­ysed arm in his sleep. And as he is walk­ing down the road pon­der­ing this, he is met by a Catholic priest who looks at him dis­ap­prov­ing­ly and places an enor­mous taran­tu­la on his with­ered arm, before walk­ing off again. Nei­ther he nor the spi­der are referred to again.

Imag­ine a Bunuel film direct­ed by Felli­ni and peo­pled by amputee dwarves and hunch­backs. But in a good way.

What ele­vates this from all the oth­er Jodor­owsky films is that for once, the intel­lec­tu­al curios­i­ty, mytho­log­i­cal arche­types and spir­i­tu­al yearn­ing are matched here by an emo­tion­al invest­ment that makes for a sur­pris­ing­ly mov­ing film.

He’s 86 now, and is busy work­ing on the fol­low-up. I hope some­one has the good sense to give him the fund­ing he needs. The cin­e­ma needs peo­ple like him to keep us all sane.

You can see the trail­er for The Dream of Real­i­ty here. And the trail­er for El Topo here.

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