Alejandro Jodorowsky is much more than an acclaimed firebrand of underground cinema. His unique career and work extends far beyond avant-garde film making and into writing, music, comics and graphic novels, performance, mime, surrealism, art, the Tarot, teaching, therapy, psychology and mysticism. Indeed, it is a difficult task to encapsulate the man with any one label as his pursuits bleed and merge artistically into one another in an organic, creative and surreal consciousness-expanding milieu where one finds an ever uncoiling universe constellating around him.
On his religious views, Jodorowsky has called himself an “atheist mystic”; a statement which just barely scratches the surface of this original and pioneering Magician. He has a profound understanding of psychology and the traumas inherited from family, along with symbology, magick, the Tarot and spiritual alchemy – all of which has enhanced his work and – through his art – opened people’s minds to some of the deeper strata of human experience. This has not always occurred in a smooth fashion for the film maker. In fact, it has often been a struggle to have a wider showing of his work and there have been more than a couple of outrages along the way.
Although not a “occult horror” film director in the conventional sense, Jodorowky’s films have caused controversy as they are often steeped in religious and occult imagery which has at times caused outrage or even been interpreted as blasphemous. His avant-garde cinematic productions such as El Topo, The Holy Mountain, and Santa Sangre – along with the more recent The Dance of Reality and Endless Poetry – express a kaleidoscope of symbolism and psychological insight that are often beautiful, unsettling, breathtaking and disturbing – all at once.
Santa Sangre (1989) may be labeled a drama / mystery, but the surrealism of the story carries it into stranger territory. A young boy, the son of a circus knife-thrower, witnesses his mother’s arms being amputated in a spectacular way as she attempts to defend her heretical cult. She survives and he learns how to become her hands for her, even killing for her.
The Holy Mountain
The Holy Mountain (1973) is a film only the ’70’s could have produced. Nothing else like it has even been attempted. It was almost impossible to even view the film for decades due to a distribution dispute, but is now widely available. John Lennon and Yoko Ono put up production money for this film. Originally, George Harrison was to play the lead role of The Fool but declined because he didn’t wish to have his bare naked ass getting washed to be projected onto the silver screen. It is a surreal, beautiful, and somewhat disturbing experience (much like life) as it follows The Fool’s Journey on the path towards mystical enlightenment. The archetypal planetary Forces are also impersonated – with all their flaws – in a 1970’s fashion which somehow feels timeless; but the surrealist imagery and occult symbols may leave any but those educated in the Arcane Arts rather baffled. Somebody commented that there is so much weird stuff going on in this film that you almost forget about all the nudity. A psychedelic shamanic trip into occult exploration.
Jodorowsky was famously set to direct a film version of Frank Herbert’s sci-fi epic novel Dune in the mid 1970’s, but the $9.5 million production would have resulted in a 14 hour movie (featuring Salvador Dali and Orson Welles). The visionary project was aborted but the unmade film is claimed to have been an influence on other actual science fiction films, such as Star Wars, Alien, Terminator, Flash Gordon, The Fifth Element and Raiders of the Lost Ark. Jodorowsky’s tremendous influence is more widely known in the French and Spanish speaking countries and to a growing cadre of English language fans.
Mr. Jodorowsky has spent a great deal of time studying the Tarot over the years and has even offered a marvelously colored “reconstructed” version of the famous Marseille pattern Tarot deck which he worked on with Philippe Camoin – descendant and heir to the guardians of the Tarot de Marseille tradition for centuries. This may be considered as the most perfect version we have of The Marseille Tarot pack. It is certainly the best colored one we’ve seen.
You have never read a book on Tarot like this before! While some of the associations and interpretations Jodorowsky offers in his Way of Tarot book may surprise and perplex some who study and practice Tarotmancy or “Tarotology”, It is nothing short of genius and will be an exercise in psychological expansion and spiritual unfoldment for any serious occultist who spends some time reflecting on what is presented in the book.
Anyone wishing to go beyond Jodorowsky’s films and delve deeper into the mind of this occult genius must check out his amazing books The Way of Tarot and Psychomagic.