Jodorowsky last made a comeback in 1989 with the Oedipal melodrama "Santa Sangre," about a serial killer operating under the spell of his armless mother. When that project was announced at the
Deadlier than ever, presumably, after an even longer absence, Jodorowsky, 84, has returned to directing with "The Dance of Reality," his first movie since 1990's "The Rainbow Thief" (a work-for-hire with Peter O'Toole and
"Every one of my pictures is different — I die and I'm reborn with each one," Jodorowsky said last week by
On the subject of his new film, which will have its first screening May 18 (along with Pavich's documentary), Jodorowsky declined to get into specifics. "I am like a mother with a son in my belly," he said. "I don't want to think about it before the baby is born."
Jodorowsky described "The Dance of Reality," which he shot in his hometown of Tocopilla in the Chilean desert, as "psychological time travel," an attempt to give poetic yet concrete form to the first chapters of his colorful life.
Born to Russian Jewish émigrés in 1929, Jodorowsky studied theater and worked as a circus clown and puppeteer in Santiago. In postwar Paris he performed mime with Marcel Marceau and fell in with the surrealists. He then moved to Mexico, where he mounted dozens of plays inspired by Antonin Artaud's theater of cruelty. Back in Paris, where he has lived since the 1980s, he cultivated multiple sidelines: writing comic books, studying the tarot and developing a therapeutic method known as psychomagic, rooted in both
Psychomagic is the guiding philosophy of "The Dance of Reality," a kind of home movie writ large. Jodorowsky's wife, Pascale Montandon, was the costume designer, and three of his sons appear in it, including Brontis (who in "El Topo" portrayed the son of the title character, a gunslinger known as "the mole" and played by Alejandro Jodorowsky). In the new film, Brontis, now 50, plays Jodorowsky's Stalin-lookalike father, whom the director described as "a very terrible father, a very hard man, but he had his reasons."
"Before we started, I said to the crew, 'I am trying to heal my soul,'" Jodorowsky said. "But it's not an egocentric, narcissistic picture. Poetry doesn't speak about history. It speaks about interior life, universal problems."
"The Dance of Reality" came about when Jodorowsky reconnected with the producer Michel Seydoux through Pavich's film on "Dune." They had not spoken in years, each nursing his wounds from the abortive project, which was to have starred Orson Welles and
Nicolas Winding Refn, a fan of Jodorowsky's who dedicated
Unrealized projects loom over Jodorowsky's career, among them an "El Topo" sequel and a gangster film, "King Shot," that was to have starred
Jodorowsky, by his admission, is not his own best salesman. For "The Dance of Reality," he said, "I told the producer, 'I want to make a picture to lose money.' I am tired of all that money. Movies are an art, not a business."
Jodorowsky once argued that "head" movies should not merely simulate psychedelic visions — they should supplant the need for drugs. These days his musings on the power of cinema have a more spiritual bent. "I ask to movies everything I can ask to a sacred book: Bible, Koran, Torah," he said.
"Movies were the hope of human culture. The Surrealists thought it was the real new art of the century, but now it's the worst. The first illness is the producer, and the second illness is stars. They kill the art, the big, big egos who believe in nothing." He's also no fan of digital technology, which creates "scientific images, very clear, with color like a painting," he said. "You see a tiger in a film and you have no emotion because you know it is not real. You admire the technique but you don't believe there is any danger."
In the Jodorowsky universe, to make art is to risk something, whether it be safety, sanity or ridicule. He shot "Santa Sangre" in actual slums and red-light districts, working with real-life criminals. On the new film, the production had to contend with extreme pollution from the local copper mines. "Everything is poison there," he said. "After two months we were all ill."
A onetime emblem of the counterculture, Jodorowsky is now, in his way, an elder statesman. "Fando y Lis" (1967), his violent first film, prompted a riot at its Acapulco premiere, but "El Topo" and the even more outrageous "Holy Mountain" (1973), both newly restored, have found appreciative younger audiences; the
To hear him tell it, though, Jodorowsky's troublemaking days may not be behind him. "Wait until you see my new picture — maybe that will destroy everything," he said with a laugh. "I believe 100% in what I did, but this film is not similar to the past. It's a step into nothingness."
An autobiographical work by an octogenarian, "The Dance of Reality" begs to be read as a culminating work, but Jodorowksy refuses to think of it as a swan song. "People are prejudiced about my age," he said. "They think you become an idiot. But to have more years is to become more wise. They say I am old, but to me 84 is young. I think I can make four or five more pictures. I am not in a hurry."