Overview[ edit ] 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 From 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 he created his first comic strip, Anibal 5, while in he directed his first feature film, the surrealist Fando y Lis , which caused a huge scandal in Mexico , eventually being banned. The result was The Holy Mountain , a surrealist exploration of western esotericism.
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Issue 48 For nearly 40 years, the Chilean-born eccentric Alejandro Jodorowsky has reaped both the disadvantages and the rewards of worldwide cult status. His first feature, Fando y Lis Fando and Lis, , premiered in Mexico just one month after the Tlatelolco student massacre of 1 , provoking a riot that forced the director to escape from the theatre out of sight, crouched on the floor of a limousine.
Decades passed by as his work suffered the aesthetic downgrade of haphazard dubbing, poor image transfers and unsightly Japanese censorship bars. Unfortunately, the Spring release came and went quietly, with nary a mention by Dave Kehr 2 — although Jodo-fans faithfully documented the entire process online, filling 15 pages of the Criterion web forum first with preliminary hypotheses and later an exhaustive comparison of frame-grabs.
The technique of El Topo and The Holy Mountain, in particular, is notably reserved and calmly composed, generating a stark contrast against both the outrageous content of his films and the popular style of his artistic contemporaries, who balanced out similarly psychedelic material with garish close-ups, wild camera movements and disorienting jump cuts.
Bearing the responsibility of the first book on the films of Alejandro Jodorowsky, Anarchy and Alchemy makes a decisive step towards widespread recognition of the director, although its position as a labour of scholarship is not as sure.
The book is undoubtedly well researched — its organisation of biographical information, rare images and print material, production anecdotes, and outside sources is conscientious and authoritative — but not quite definitive, as the descriptive blurb on the back cover would have us believe.
British journalist Ben Cobb has accomplished the daunting task of synthesising a wealth of information and bringing it to a needed light. It was the most memorable effort of the short-lived Panic Movement, helmed by Jodorowsky, the Spanish playwright Fernando Arrabal, and the French artist and author Roland Topor.
Every film mentioned in Anarchy and Alchemy is given a scrupulous shot-by-shot exposition, accompanied by copious footnotes.
Cobb is certainly capable of writing insightful exegesis, as evidenced by his shrewd observation of the imagery in The Holy Mountain and the treatment of postcolonial themes in Tusk, but unfortunately the purely descriptive content far outweighs the analysis in his shot-by-shot sections.
Hoberman in Chapultepec, Mexico 5. His broken English still manages to convey a formidable intelligence when spoken aloud and in sync with other elements of physical expression. The limitations of language also prevented Cobb from incorporating a vast amount of Spanish- and French-language materials into his research.
Yet Anarchy and Alchemy still deserves a space on the shelves of university libraries, in the study carrels of graduate students and in the offices of tenured professors.
Cobb has performed an extensive survey of all of the materials at his reach, piecing his findings into a cohesive and fascinating narrative. It certainly delves much further than the extant or rather, nonexistent articles on Jodorowsky save for J. As all researchers know, spending a lot of time combing through specialty magazines and amateur reviews will usually reveal at least a few surprises of intelligent writing.
Oblong in shape and larger than the typical university press trade paperback, Anarchy and Alchemy has the handsome appearance of a coffee table book but with a much more substantial text.
He first encountered fame at the Elgin, where screenings of El Topo guaranteed sold-out theatres — until Allen Klein took over the distribution and moved the film uptown to a ritzier venue, where it unceremoniously bombed. Anarchy and Alchemy attempts to appeal to both types of viewers; it has a foreword written by Alan Jones, a journalist with horror film industry affiliations, and an introduction by Stephen Barber, a professor at Kingston University with a penchant for the experimental, who has published books on Artaud and the Vienna Action group.
He burrows a hole so that the group can escape to the world outside, only to see his friends cursorily shot down by the wretched townspeople. Disgusted with the quality of life above ground level, he self-immolates in an act reminiscent of the Vietnam War protests of So far, no riots have broken out, and no-one has been driven to self-immolation.
Currently, it is making its way into the sights of film critics, theorists, and historians by way of prominent bookstore displays and distribution through Amazon, as well it should. Click here to order this book directly from Endnotes The Tlatelolco massacre took place on 2 October , just ten days before the Summer Olympics took off in Mexico City. Aided by the military, the police opened fire on the unarmed students.
The total number of casualties remains unsolved; the government reported only four dead, while the commonly accepted number fluctuates between and deaths. One month after the tragedy, the Mexican public understandably remained in a state of unrest, and rumours abounded falsely linking the violent, controversial Fando y Lis to the massacre. David Church cites a interview that Uri Hertz conducted with Jodorowsky, in which the director remembers a rumour that the film was actually a documentary about the massacre.
In addition to his column, he maintains an excellent blog. Cited in J. Quoted in Cobb, p. Recounted in J. As of , Jodorowsky has written at least 25 books, in Spanish and French, on a wide range of both fiction and non-fiction topics. I have written a brief review of this translation for Film Comment, vol.
Anarchy and Alchemy: The Films of Alejandro Jodorowsky
ANARCHY AND ALCHEMY: THE FILMS OF ALEJANDRO JODOROWSKY