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February 17, 1929
|Other names||Alexandro, "Jodo"|
|Citizenship||Chilean and French|
|Occupation||Filmmaker, Actor, Writer|
|Spouse(s)||Valérie Trumblay (3 children; divorced)|
February 17, 1929
|Other names||Alexandro, "Jodo"|
|Citizenship||Chilean and French|
|Occupation||Filmmaker, Actor, Writer|
|Spouse(s)||Valérie Trumblay (3 children; divorced)|
Alejandro Jodorowsky (Spanish: [aleˈxandɾo xoðoˈɾofski]; born 17 February 1929) is a Chilean-French filmmaker, playwright, actor, author, musician, comics writer and spiritual guru. Best known for his avant-garde films, he has been "venerated by cult cinema enthusiasts" for his work which "is filled with violently surreal images and a hybrid blend of mysticism and religious provocation."
Born to Jewish Ukrainian parents in Chile, Jodorowsky experienced an unhappy and alienated childhood, and so immersed himself in reading and writing poetry. Dropping out of college, he became involved in theater and in particular mime, working as a clown before founding his own theater troupe, the Teatro Mimico, in 1947. Moving to Paris in the early 1950s, Jodorowsky studied mime under Étienne Decroux before turning to cinema, directing the short film Les têtes interverties in 1957. From 1960 he divided his time between Paris and Mexico City, in the former becoming a founding member of the anarchistic avant-garde Panic Movement of performance artists. In 1966 he created his first comic strip, Anibal 5, whilst in 1967 he directed his first feature film, the surrealist Fando y Lis, which caused a huge scandal in Mexico, eventually being banned.
His next film, the acid western El Topo (1970), became a hit on the midnight movie circuit in the United States, considered as the first-ever midnight cult film, leading rockstar John Lennon to provide Jodorowsky with $1 million to finance his next film. The result was The Holy Mountain (1973), a surrealist exploration of western esotericism. Disagreements with the film's distributor Allen Klein, however, led to both The Holy Mountain and El Topo failing to gain widespread distribution, although both became classics on the underground film circuit.
After a botched attempt at filming Frank Herbert's novel Dune, Jodorowsky produced three more films, the family film Tusk (1980), the surrealist horror Santa Sangre (1989) and the failed blockbuster The Rainbow Thief (1990). Since then, his attempts at producing further films have not come to fruition. Meanwhile, he has simultaneously written a series of science fiction comic books, most notably The Incal (1981–1989), which has been described as having a claim to be "the best comic book" ever written, but also Technopriests and Metabarons. Accompanying this, he has also written books and regularly lectures on his own spiritual system, which he calls "psychomagic" and "psychoshamanism" and which borrows from his interests in alchemy, the Tarot, Zen Buddhism and shamanism. His son Cristóbal has followed his teachings on psychoshamanism. This work is captured in the feature documentary Quantum Men, directed by Carlos Serrano Azcona. Alejandro is also the father of musician Adan Jodorowsky or Adanowsky.
Jodorowsky was born in 1929 in the coastal town of Tocopilla, Chile, to parents who were Jewish immigrants from Yekaterinoslav (act. Dnipropetrovsk), Elisavetgrad (act. Kirovohrad) and other Ukrainian cities of the Russian Empire. His father, Jaime Jodorowsky Groismann, was a merchant who was largely abusive to his wife Sara Felicidad, at one time accused her of flirting with a customer. Angered, he subsequently beat and raped her, getting her pregnant, which led to the birth of Alejandro. Because of this brutal conception, Sara both hated her husband and disliked her son, telling him that "I cannot love you" and rarely showing him tenderness. Alejandro also had an elder sister, but disliked her for he believed that she was selfish, doing "everything to expel me from the family so that she could be the centre of attention." Alongside his dislike for his family, he also held contempt for many of the local people, who viewed him as an outsider because of his status as the son of immigrants, and also for the American mining industrialists who worked locally and treated the Chilean people badly. It was this treatment at the hands of Americans that led to his later condemnation of American imperialism and neo-colonialism in Latin America in several of his films. Nonetheless he liked his local area, and was greatly unhappy when he was forced to leave it aged nine years old, something he blamed his father for. His family subsequently moved to the city of Santiago, Chile.
He immersed himself in reading, and also began writing poetry, having his first poem published when he was sixteen years old, alongside associating with such Chilean poets as Nicanor Parra and Enrique Lihn. Becoming interested in the political ideology of anarchism, he began attending college, studying psychology and philosophy, but stayed for only two years. After dropping out, and having an interest in theatre and particularly mime, he took up employment as a clown in a circus and began a career as a theatre director. Meanwhile, in 1947 he founded his own theatrical troupe, the Teatro Mimico, who by 1952 had fifty members, and the following year he wrote his first play, El Minotaura (The Minotaur). Nonetheless, Jodorowsky felt that there was little for him left in Chile, and so that year he moved to Paris, France.
It was whilst in Paris that Jodorowsky began studying mime with Etienne Decroux and joined the troupe of one of Decroux's students, Marcel Marceau. It was with Marceau’s troupe that he went on a world tour, and he wrote several routines for the group, including 'The Cage' and 'The Mask Maker'. After this, he returned to theatre directing, working on the music hall comeback of Maurice Chevalier in Paris. In 1957, Jodorowsky turned his hand to film making, creating Les têtes interverties (The Severed Heads), a 20-minute adaptation of Thomas Mann’s novella. It consisted almost entirely of mime, and told the surreal story of a head-swapping merchant who helps a young man find courtship success. Jodorowsky himself played the lead role. The director Jean Cocteau admired the film, and wrote an introduction for it. It was considered lost, until a print was discovered in 2006.
In 1960, Jodorowsky moved to Mexico, where he settled down in Mexico City. Nonetheless, he continued to return occasionally to France, on one occasion visiting the surrealist artist André Breton, but he was disillusioned in that he felt Breton had become somewhat conservative in his old age. Continuing his interest in surrealism, in 1962 he founded the Panic Movement along with Fernando Arrabal and Roland Topor. The movement aimed to go beyond the conventional surrealist ideas by embracing absurdism, and its members refused to take themselves seriously, whilst laughing at those critics who did. In 1966 he produced his first comic strip, Anibal 5, which was related to the Panic Movement. The following year he created a new feature film, Fando y Lis, loosely based on a play written by Fernando Arrabal, who was working with Jodorowsky on performance art at the time. Fando y Lis premiered at the 1968 Acapulco Film Festival, where it instigated a riot amongst those objecting to the film's content and it was subsequently banned in Mexico.
It was in Mexico City that he encountered Ejo Takata (1928–1997), a Zen Buddhist monk who had studied at the Horyuji and Shofukuji monasteries in Japan before traveling to Mexico via the United States in 1967 to spread Zen. Jodorowsky became a disciple of Takata, and offered his own house to be turned into a zendo. Subsequently Takata attracted other disciples around him, who spent their time in meditation and the study of koans. Eventually, Takata instructed Jodorowsky that he had to learn more about his feminine side, and so he went and befriended the English surrealist Leonora Carrington who had recently moved to Mexico.
In 1970, Jodorowsky released the film El Topo, which is sometimes known in English as The Mole, which he had both directed and starred in. An acid western, El Topo tells the story of a wandering Mexican bandit and gunslinger, El Topo (played by Jodorowsky himself), who is on a search for spiritual enlightenment, taking his young son along with him. Along the way, he violently confronts a number of other individuals, before finally being killed himself and being resurrected to live within a community of deformed people who are trapped inside a mountain cave. Describing the work, he stated that "I ask of film what most North Americans ask of psychedelic drugs. The difference being that when one creates a psychedelic film, he need not create a film that shows the visions of a person who has taken a pill; rather, he needs to manufacture the pill." Knowing how Fando y Lis had caused such a scandal in Mexico, Jodorowsky decided not to release El Topo there, instead focusing on its release in other countries across the world, including Mexico’s northern neighbour, the United States. It was in New York City where the film would play as a "midnight movie" for several months at Ben Barenholtz's The Elgin cinema. It attracted the attention of rock musician and counter-cultural figure John Lennon, who thought very highly of it, and convinced the president of The Beatles' company Apple Corps, Allen Klein, to distribute it in the United States.
Klein also agreed to give Jodorowsky $1 million to go towards creating his next film. The result was The Holy Mountain, released in 1973. It has been suggested that The Holy Mountain may have been inspired by René Daumal's surrealist novel Mount Analogue. The Holy Mountain was another complex, multi-part story that featured a man credited as "The Thief" and equated with Jesus Christ, a mystical alchemist played by Jodorowsky, seven powerful business people representing seven of the planets (Venus and the six planets from Mars to Pluto), a religious training regimen of spiritual rebirth, and a quest to the top of a holy mountain for the secret of immortality. During the completion of The Holy Mountain, Jodorowsky received spiritual training from Oscar Ichazo of the Arica School, who encouraged him to take LSD and guided him through the subsequent psychedelic experience. Around the same time (2 November 1973), Jodorowsky participated in an isolation tank experiment conducted by John Lilly.
Shortly thereafter, Allen Klein demanded that Jodorowsky create a film adaptation of Pauline Réage's classic novel of female masochism, Story of O. Klein had promised this adaptation to various investors. Jodorowsky, who had discovered feminism during the filming of The Holy Mountain, refused to make the film, going so far as to leave the country to escape directing duties. In retaliation, Allen Klein made El Topo and The Holy Mountain, to which he held the rights, completely unavailable to the public for over 30 years. Jodorowsky frequently decried Klein's actions in interviews.
Soon after the release of The Holy Mountain, Jodorowsky gave a talk at the Teatro Julio Castillo, University of Mexico on the subject of koans (despite the fact that he had initially been booked on the condition that his talk would be about cinematography), at which Ejo Takata appeared. After the talk, Takata gave Jodorowsky his kyosaku, believing that his former student had mastered the art of understanding koans.
In December 1974, a French consortium led by Jean-Paul Gibon purchased the film rights to Frank Herbert’s epic 1965 science fiction novel Dune and asked Jodorowsky to direct a film version. In the role of the Emperor Shaddam Corrino IV, Jodorowsky planned to cast the surrealist artist Salvador Dalí, who requested a fee of $100,000 per hour. He also planned to cast Orson Welles as the Baron Vladimir Harkonnen; Welles only agreed when Jodorowsky offered to get his favourite gourmet chef to prepare his meals for him throughout the filming. The book's protagonist, Paul Atreides, was to be played by Jodorowsky's own son, Brontis Jodorowsky. The music would be composed by Pink Floyd, Magma, Henry Cow and Karlheinz Stockhausen. Jodorowsky set up a pre-production unit in Paris consisting of Chris Foss, a British artist who designed covers for science fiction publications, Jean Giraud (Moebius), a French illustrator who created and also wrote and drew for Metal Hurlant magazine, and H. R. Giger. Frank Herbert travelled to Europe in 1976 to find that $2 million of the $9.5 million budget had already been spent in pre-production, and that Jodorowsky's script would result in a 14-hour movie ("It was the size of a phonebook", Herbert later recalled). Jodorowsky took creative liberties with the source material, but Herbert said that he and Jodorowsky had an amicable relationship. The production for the film collapsed, and the rights for filming were sold once more, this time to Dino de Laurentiis, who employed the American filmmaker David Lynch to direct, creating the film Dune in 1984.
The entire process of attempting this production of Dune was covered by the documentary Jodorowsky's Dune. Shot by Frank Pavich circa 2011-2013, it premiered at the Director's Fortnight at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival.
After the collapse of the Dune project, Jodorowsky completely changed course and, in 1980, premiered his children's fable Tusk, shot in India. Taken from Reginald Campbell's novel Poo Lorn of the Elephants, the film explores the soul-mate relationship between a young British woman living in India and a highly prized elephant. The film exhibited little of the director's outlandish visual style and was never given wide release. Jodorowsky has since disowned the film.
In 1982 Jodorowsky divorced his wife.
In 1989, Jodorowsky completed the Mexican-Italian production Santa sangre (Holy Blood). The film received limited theatrical distribution, putting Jodorowsky back on the cultural map despite its mixed critical reviews. Santa Sangre was a surrealist film with a plot similar to Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho. It featured a protagonist who, as a child, saw his mother lose both her arms, and as an adult let his own arms act as hers, and so was forced to commit murders at her whim. Several of Jodorowsky's sons were recruited as actors.
He followed in 1990 with a very different film, The Rainbow Thief. Though it gave Jodorowsky a chance to work with actual "movie stars" Peter O'Toole and Omar Sharif, executive producer Alexander Salkind effectively curtailed most of Jodorowsky's artistic inclinations, threatening to fire him on the spot if anything in the script was changed (Salkind's wife, Berta Domínguez D., wrote the screenplay).
That same year (1990), Jodorowsky and his family returned to live in France.
In 1995, Alejandro’s son Teo died in an accident while his father was busy preparing for a trip to Mexico City to promote his new book. Upon arriving in Mexico City, he gave a lecture at the Julio Castillo Theatre where he once again met Ejo Takata, who at this time had moved into a poor suburb of the city where he had continued to teach meditation and Zen. Takata would die two years later, and Jodorowsky would never get to see his old friend again.
In 2000, Jodorowsky won the Jack Smith Lifetime Achievement Award from the Chicago Underground Film Festival (CUFF). With the assistance of 2000 CUFF judge Shade Rupe, Jodorowsky attended the festival and his films were shown, including El Topo and The Holy Mountain, which at the time had grey legal status. According to festival director Bryan Wendorf, it was an open question of whether CUFF would be allowed to show both films, or whether the police would show up and shut the festival down.
Until 2007, Fando y Lis and Santa Sangre were the only Jodorowsky's works available on DVD. Neither El Topo nor The Holy Mountain were available on videocassette or DVD in the United States or the United Kingdom, due to ownership disputes with distributor Allen Klein. After the dispute's settlement in 2004, however, plans to re-release Jodorowsky's films were announced by ABKCO Films. On January 19, 2007, the website announced that on May 1, 2007, Anchor Bay released a box set including El Topo, The Holy Mountain, and Fando y Lis. A limited edition of the set includes both the El Topo and The Holy Mountain soundtracks. And, in early February 2007, Tartan Video announced its May 14, 2007, release date for the UK PAL DVD editions of El Topo, The Holy Mountain and the 6-disc box set which, alongside with the aforementioned feature films, includes the 2 soundtrack CDs, as well as separate DVD editions of Jodorowsky's 1968 debut feature Fando y Lis (with his 1957 short La cravate a.k.a. Les têtes interverties, included as an extra) and the 1994 feature-length documentary La constellation Jodorowsky. Notably, Fando y Lis and La cravate were extensively digitally restored and remastered in London during late 2006, thus providing the perfect complement to the quality restoration work undertaken on El Topo and The Holy Mountain in the States by Abkco, and ensuring that the presentation of Fando y Lis is a significant improvement over the 2001 Fantoma DVD edition. Prior to the availability of these legitimate releases, only inferior quality, optically censored bootleg copies of both El Topo and The Holy Mountain have been circulated on the Internet and on DVD.
In the 1990s and early 2000s, Jodorowsky attempted to make a sequel to El Topo, called at different times The Sons of El Topo and Abel Cain, but could not find investors for the project.
In an interview with Premiere Magazine, Jodorowsky said he intended his next project to be a gangster film called King Shot. However, in an interview with The Guardian newspaper in November 2009, Jodorowsky revealed that he was unable to find the funds to make King Shot, and would instead be entering preparations on Sons of El Topo, for which he claimed to have signed a contract with "some Russian producers". (Raymond J. Markovich, Olga Mirimskaya and Arcadiy Golybovich) - Parallel Media Films on a film entitled Abel Cain, which is the sequel to his 1970 film El Topo.
In August 2011, Alejandro arrived in a town in Chile where he grew up, also the setting of his autobiography The Dance of Reality, to promote an autobiographical film based upon his book.
The Museum of Modern Art honored Jodorowsky on Halloween night, October 31, 2011, by showing The Holy Mountain. He attended, and spoke about his work and life. The next evening he presented El Topo at the Walter Reade Theatre at Lincoln Center.
Alejandro has stated that after he is finished filming The Dance of Reality he will shoot his long-gestating El Topo sequel, Abel Cain. By January 2013, Alejandro finished filming on The Dance Of Reality and entered into post-production. Alejandro's son and co-star in the film, Brontis, claims the film will be finished by March 2013, stating that the film is "very different than the other films he made". On April 23, it was announced that the film will have its world premiere at the Filmfestival in Cannes. It is a fitting coincidence that The Dance of Reality premiers alongside the similarly long-anticipated Jodorowsky's Dune at the same event at Cannes, creating a convenient "Jodorowsky double bill".
Jodorowsky was married to his wife Valerie for many years, with whom he had a number of sons, including Adán, Teo, Axel and Cristóbal. Brontis is his older son, which he had with Bernadette Landru. He also has a daughter, Eugenie. On his religious views, Jodorowsky called himself an "atheist mystic".
Jodorowsky spent almost a decade reconstructing the original form of the Tarot de Marseille. From this work he moved into more therapeutic work in three areas: psychomagic, psychogenealogy and initiatic massage. Psychomagic aims to heal psychological wounds suffered in life. This therapy is based on the belief that the performance of certain acts can directly act upon the unconscious mind, releasing it from a series of traumas, some of which are passed down from generation to generation. Psychogenealogy includes the studying of the patient’s personality and family tree in order to best address their specific sources. It is similar, in its phenomenological approach to genealogy, to the Constellations pioneered by Bert Hellinger.
Jodorowsky has several books on his therapeutic methods, including Psicomagia: La trampa sagrada (Psychomagic: The Sacred Trap) and his autobiography La danza de la realidad (The Dance of Reality), which he's filming as a feature length film in March 2012. To date he has published over 23 novels and philosophical treatises, along with dozens of articles and interviews. His books are widely read in Spanish and French, but are for the most part unknown to English-speaking audiences.
Throughout his career, Jodorowsky has gained a reputation as a philosopher and scholar who presents the teachings of religion, psychology and spiritual masters, by molding them into pragmatic and imaginative endeavors. All of his enterprises integrate an artistic approach. Currently Jodorowsky dedicates much of his time to lecturing about his work.
For a quarter of a century, Jodorowsky held classes and lectures for free, in cafés and universities all over the city of Paris. Typically, such courses or talks would begin on Wednesday evenings as tarot divination lessons, and would culminate in an hour long conference, also free, where at times hundreds of attendees would be treated to live demonstrations of a psychological "arbre généalogique" ("tree of genealogy") involving volunteers from the audience. In these conferences, Jodorowsky would pave the way to building a strong base of students of his philosophy, which deals with understanding the unconscious as the "over-self" which is composed of many generations of family relatives, living or deceased, acting on our own psyche, well into our adult lives, and causing our compulsions. Of all his work, Jodorowsky considers these activities to be the most important of his life. Though such activities only take place in the insular world of Parisian cafés, he has devoted thousands of hours of his life to teaching and helping people "become more conscious," as he puts it.
Presently,[when?] these talks have dwindled to once a month and take place at the "Librairie Les Cent Ciels" in Paris.
Jodorowsky started his comic career in Mexico with the creation of Anibal 5 series in mid-1966 with illustrations by Manuel Moro, and had his turn in drawing his own comic strip in the weekly series Fabulas pánicas that appeared in the Mexican newspaper El Heraldo de México. He also wrote original stories for at least two or three other comic books in Mexico during those days: Los insoportables Borbolla was one of them. After his fourth film, Tusk, he started The Incal, with Jean Giraud (Mœbius). This graphic novel has its roots deep in the tarot and its symbols, e.g., the protagonist of The Incal, John Difool, is linked to the Fool card. The Incal (which would branch off into a prequel and sequel) forms the first in a sequence of several science fiction comic book series, all set in the same space opera Jodoverse (or "Metabarons Universe") published by Humanoids Publishing.
Comic books set in this milieu are Incal (trilogy: Before the Incal/ Incal/ Final Incal), Metabarons (trilogy: Castaka/ The Caste of the Metabarons/ Weapons of the Metabaron) and The Technopriests and also a RPG adaptation, The Metabarons Roleplaying Game. Many ideas and concepts derived from Jodorowsky's planned adaptation of Dune (which he would have only loosely based upon Frank Herbert's original novel) are featured in this universe.
Mœbius and Jodorowsky sued Luc Besson, director of The Fifth Element, claiming that the 1997 film borrowed graphic and story elements from The Incal, but lost their case. The suit was plagued by ambiguity since Mœbius himself had willingly participated in the creation of the film, having been hired by Besson as a contributing artist, but had done so without gaining the approval of Incal co-creator Jodorowsky, whose services Besson did not call upon. For over a decade, Jodorowsky pressured his publisher Les Humanoïdes Associés to sue Luc Besson for plagiarism, but the publisher refused, fearing the inevitability of the final outcome. In a 2002 interview with the Danish comic book magazine Strip!, Jodorowsky actually claimed that he considered it an honour that somebody stole his ideas.
Other action comics by Jodorowsky outside the genre of science fiction include the historically-based Bouncer illustrated by Francois Boucq, Juan Solo (Son of the Gun) and Le Lama blanc (The White Lama), both illustrated by Georges Bess.
Le Cœur couronné (The Crowned Heart, translated into English as The Madwoman of the Sacred Heart), a racy satire on religion set in contemporary times, won Jodorowsky and his collaborator, Jean Giraud, the 2001 Haxtur Award for Best Long Strip. He is currently working on a new graphic novel for the US market.
Jodorowsky's comic book work also appears in Taboo volume 4 (ed. Stephen R. Bissette), which features an interview with the director, designs for his version of Frank Herbert's Dune, comic storyboards for El Topo, and a collaboration with Moebius with the illustrated Eyes of the Cat.
Jodorowsky also released a 12" vinyl with the Original Soundtrack of Zarathustra (Discos Tizoc, Mexico, 1970)
|1968||Fando y Lis||Spanish|
|1973||The Holy Mountain||English|
|1978||Tusk||English / French|
|1989||Santa Sangre||English / Spanish|
|1990||The Rainbow Thief||English|
|2013||The Dance of Reality||Spanish|
|TBA||Abel Cain or The Sons of El Topo|
The Jodorowsky Constellation documentary (1994) directed by Louis Mouchet.
Furthermore he was interviewed by Daniel Pinchbeck for the Franco-German television show Arte in a very personal discussion, spending a night together in France, continuing the interview in different locations like in a park and a hotel.
Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn thanks Alejandro Jodorowsky in the ending titles of his 2011 American crime thriller romance film Drive and also to his 2013 Thai crime thriller Only God Forgives.
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