Truly a controversial week at Cannes if there ever was one, people cannot be surprised that Alejandro Jodorowsky’s presence at the prestigious festival was a topic of many conversations within the film scene. While the notorious director has been keeping busy with writing and lecturing over the past years, he’s also managed to quietly sneak back into the film circuit this year with The Dance of Reality. His first film in nearly a quarter of a century, The Dance of Reality is a surreal, autobiographical fantasy of Jodorowsky’s life. Set in the author’s hometown of Tocopilla, Chile, the movie follows both the golden-locked young Alejandro (Jeremias Herskovits) and his Communist father (played by his now-grown son and El Topo costar, Brontis Jodorowsky). Surprisingly, however, the film recently premiered to rave reviews, being cited as “return to form” as well as his most straightforward work to date.
Premiering immediately after The Dance of Reality was Jodorowsky’s Dune, a documentary by Frank Pavitch that follows the story of Jodorowsky’s unsuccessful attempt to bring Frank Herbert’s Dune to the big screen. Critical and audience reception has also been generally positive for the documentary, as rumors circulate that The Weinstein Company may be closing in on picking up the film for U.S. Distribution. Peter Debruge of Variety says about the documentary, “Indulging one of film history’s more entertaining ‘what might have been’ stories, first-timer Frank Pavich delivers his own mind-blowing cult movie.”
For those unfamiliar, Alejandro Jodorowsky is an avant-garde filmmaker, considered by many enthusiasts to be the “father of midnight cult cinema”. Delving into surrealist work, he often portrays violent, mind-bending images that blend religious symbolism and mysticism. He came onto the scene with his first feature film, Fando y Lis (1967), a surrealist journey following Fando and his paraplegic girlfriend Lis across a post apocalyptic wasteland, in search of the mythical city where all your wishes come true. The film premiered at the 1968 Acapulco film festival, causing a full-scale riot to break out, leading the film to be banned in Mexico. His next film, El Topo (1970), an acid western, achieved cult status in the states. So much so that John Lennon donated $1 million dollars to help finance his next film, The Holy Mountain (1973), a surrealist exploration of faith and religion. Disagreements with the film’s distributor Allen Klein led to both films failing to gain widespread distribution, although became instant classics on the midnight film circuit.
After Jodorowsky’s failed attempt at filming Dune, he went on to produce three more features over the years: the family film Tusk (1980), the surrealist horrors Santa Sangre (1989) and The Rainbow Thief (1990). Since then, his attempts to get film projects off the ground have been less than fruitful, unable to find financial backing or the proper cast. He’s kept busy, writing a series of science fiction comic books, most notably The Incal (1981-89), regarded by many as the “best comic book” ever written. He’s also released a series of books and lectures on his own spiritual system, called “psychomagic” and “psychoshamanism”.
With the favorable critical/audience reception of the “double bill” at Cannes, this has brought up the question of Jodorowsky’s other “stalled” projects, such as the sequel to El Topo slated to star Alejandro, Brontis and industrial rock star Marilyn Manson. Jodorowsky has stated he’s found funding for the project, titled Abel Cain (previously titled, The Sons of El Topo) via Parallel Media Films and plans to shoot as early as September. Could this resurgence into the film world be his ticket to completing these projects, or will he hit another, possibly career-ending, slump? Stay tuned to Diabolique for more on Alejandro Jodorowsky, The Dance of Reality, and more.
– By Robert Vaughn
Robert Vaughn is a graduate of Montclair State University, NJ, with a B.F.A. in Filmmaking. Throughout his time in the program, he worked on various aspects of pre, pro and post-production. Writing has always been a favorite of his and he feels this “favoritism” shows in his work. Various professors, students, directors and actors have praised his writing ability. On top of writing for Diabolique, he has written for TV, written/co-written feature films for So Real? Entertainment and is currently working on a feature length dark comedy script of his own. Follow him on twitter: @rvaughn881