There are filmmakers. There are auteurs. Then there is Alejandro Jodorowsky. No other movie director has shown such spirit open to creativity while holding such disdain for the commercialization of art.
His first film, 1968's Fando & Lis instigated fights in movie theaters. His second, 1970's El Topo, heralded the rise of the "Midnight Movie" phenomenon in New York. In the mid-70s he was supposed to direct the first adaptation of Dune. After two years of prep work, Jodorowsky's epic vision was put into a thick, illustrated book-length treatment. Producers were enthralled but balked when Jodorowsky said it needs to have a runtime of 10 hours or more. The film was never made, but it introduced artist/designer H.R. Giger and screenwriter Dan O'Bannon (Alien) to Hollywood.
This year, a documentary on Jodorowsky's un-realized Dune movie and his first feature film in 23 years, The Dance of Reality, a film based on his memoir of the same name, have marked a triumphant return to cinema for the legendary director.
Last week, Jodorowsky replied to Cultist's emailed questions about his new film and Jodorowsky's Dune, the documentary by Frank Pavich capturing the "making of" his unfilmed epic. The interview was conducted in Spanish. Here's the translation:
Cultist: The Dance of Reality is a powerful movie. Is it more than an autobiography?
Alejandro Jodorowsky: It is an autobiography the same way as El Topo is a western or The Holy Mountain a mountain-climbing film. I seize the autobiographical genre to delve into a variety of topics.
Are you making a commentary on political, religious or personal ideology?
Reality is not the sum of its parts, it is an interactive whole. Everything is political, everything is religious, everything is personal, everything is everything. I did not film a piece of cake, I filmed the entire cake.
What do you hope the audience takes with them after seeing The Dance of Reality?
The purpose of all true art is to reveal to man the beauty of your own soul.
What is your opinion of the documentary Jodorowsky's Dune? What do you like or what would you change about the documentary?
My opinion is that its director, Pavich, is a bright, pure, well-intentioned person. His documentary is the product of a passionate dream. It has nothing to do with the film industry. And because his film is the realization of a dream, it has the perfection of dreams: there is nothing to take out and nothing to add.
Do you suffer from some resentment that Dune was never completed, even a little?
In no way have I suffered. For me failure is just a change of path. The two years spent preparing Dune changed my life; it was a sublime experience. In my soul, mind, heart, sex, I made the film. All that was left was to shoot it: a minor detail. This lack of suffering resulted from my training in martial arts. To die in battle is not to lose the fight. The outcome does not matter, what matters is the action you did to obtain it; you've either earned it or not. Battle without cowardice is the only triumph of a hero. I threw myself into the project without cowardice, without limitation, with immense boldness. Although not filmed, I always had the feeling of having realized it.
Although Dune has not been filmed based on the original plans, other films have been influenced by Dune. Is it possible then to call you the father of the renaissance science fiction movies?
If God throws you a piece of candy that you never asked for, don't be silly, open your mouth. They can call me whatever they want. I will even accept if they call me the mother of the uncle of Donald Duck. If these epithets are the product of loving admiration, they are welcome. For my part, I struggle not to define myself nor elevate my ego.
One of the issues that stands out in the documentary is the extreme preparation your son, Brontis, did to prepare for his role as the hero of Dune. Do you think it has affected your relationship with him?
The preparation that I gave to my son is the same that I gave myself. I practiced martial arts for many years, also Zen meditation. Brontis and I have a relationship that spans the abyss of father and son to establish deep bonds of love on an equal level. We have a deep friendship.
Do you think that there was some degree of self-sabotage by imposing the time of the film? In other words, saying that the movie version Dune can last 12 to 20 hours, would that not cancel any serious consideration by Hollywood studios?
I have always lived ahead of time, about 30 years into the future. The current youths now [view] The Holy Mountain and [understand] it. I was right, there was nothing crazy about thinking there could be a film running more than 14 hours long. Today, they film trilogies like The Hobbit and TV series that can last hundreds of hours.
How do funding decisions effect cinematic art?
Therein lies the problem: to turn the great art of cinema into an industry, it suddenly rots. It is no longer art but dumb entertainment, limiter of consciences, infantilizing. They've all gobbled it up: the horde of eager producers hungry for dollars, egomaniacal stars, cowardly distributors, thieving technicians, paid critics paid, inculcators of underhanded political ideas, cigarette sellers, champagne vendors, branded cars and tourist advertising. The films, held prisoner in cinemas, drown. The art cinema should be born and displayed in museums with the same honor they exhibit paintings and sculptures.
Want to read the original interview in Spanish? Click here.
The Dance of Reality is now showing exclusively at the Miami Beach Cinematheque, 1130 Washington Ave., Miami Beach. Call 305-673-4567 or visit mbcinema.com. Actor Brontis Jodorowsky will present the film in person on June 14. On June 15, he will also introduce Jodorowsky's Dune and another film he stars in, Táu. On Tuesday, June 17, at 7 p.m., he, Village Voice film critic Michael Atkinson and Miami Herald film critic Rene Rodriguez will share the stage at MBC in the second installment of the Knight Foundation-sponsored series "Speaking In Cinema" to discuss this film and other works by Jodorowsky. A meet-and-greet party at the Sagamore Hotel ends the night. Tickets for each screening and the event: Adult $11. Indie Film Club Miami Member $8. MBC Member $8. Student or Senior with ID $9.
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