Back To The Mountain
May 20, 2013 6:44 PM   Subscribe

Dance Of Reality is the first film in twenty-three years by Alejandro Jodorosky, visionary director of surreal masterpieces El Topo and The Holy Mountain, writer of the never-directed Dune film that is the subject of a new new documentary, and comics like Metabarons. Both Dance of Reality and Jodrowosky's Dune have premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. If that's too much, check out Everything Is Terrible's Holy Mountain remake made with dogs.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants (19 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
Ummm... Sorry, Jodorowsky.
posted by evilDoug at 6:57 PM on May 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

No one ever mentions Fando y Lis.

i heart Fando y Lis.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:34 PM on May 20, 2013 [5 favorites]

One day, in college, I read Jodorowsky's essay on his Dune film. I had read the novel maybe a year and a half earlier, Dune Messiah more recently, and it had quickly been one of my favorite books. Jodorowsky's vision of Dune was weirder and stranger than anything I'd ever read before, and I wanted even a peripheral glimpse of it. So I started seeking out Jodorowsky's films.

Santa Sangre was my second purchase from, then a brand-new online bookstore. It's still in my order history for September 3, 2000. After that, I was hooked, and any Jodorowsky film I could find - they were all hard to find then - was like precious gold. I found an online seller who had El Topo, and had it delivered to my dorm a couple of months later. The video tape (this was the declining era of video tape, but from 1998 to 2001 I had a tremendous romance with them) was smashed. I was heartbroken, but then I found a shell from another tape, carefully transferred the actual film, and used scotch tape to get the break in the tape fixed. Voila, it worked. I tried showing my friends but the scene where the priests are raped was too much for them.

I had scoured the shelves of video stores hoping to find some trace of more. Two years later, Fando y Lis was the first of Jodorowsky's movies I found on DVD. I loved it, and I loved the fact that it had caused a riot in Mexico. Art these days just doesn't have "it," where "it" is the ability to cause a mass freak out like that. Fando y Lis and Santa Sangre are both more compelling to me than El Topo. All three were tremendous for late-night viewing and trying to puzzle out the meaning.

By the time the big boxed set came out (2007) and I finally got to see The Holy Mountain and La Cravate it had lost the sense of adventure. I wasn't as tuned into Jodorowsky's wavelength at the time, having turned more art film than surrealist by then. Also I don't think that Holy Mountain was what it had been cracked up to be. It was as much the adventure in the idea of finding something rare and awesome that appealed to me, I think. I also came to be skeptical of Jodorowsky's attitudes on women and his tremendous ego as a filmmaker - but I think in the whole he is simply a master showman of a unique type.

The new movie looks too clean. Jodorowsky to me in particular benefited from the vagueries of shooting on film. Still, I'll definitely find a way to own it. (Also, it was really weird to be reading subtitles in French for a trailer in Spanish, since I'm much better at the latter language.) But I'm really psyched about the Dune documentary. It was simply such a tremendous thing to me that there was this lost film of one of my favorite novels, and it was so fucking weird that it made everything in Dune seem normal by comparison, that has always taunted me. I hope it has more of Moebius's concept art, which was gorgeous from the pieces that have floated around online over the years.
posted by graymouser at 8:16 PM on May 20, 2013 [4 favorites]

Also I don't think that Holy Mountain was what it had been cracked up to be.

Oh thank god I'm not alone, it always seemed to me like self-parody, like Hemingway in Islands in the Stream or something.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:22 PM on May 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

Santa Sangre was the first thing I came across by him, a VHS rental around 2002 I believe, and it still remains a film that holds a completely strange, frightening and magical power over me. Everything I've seen by him seems to transcend the medium entirely and become this otherwordly totemic space that I've explored and can only catch clear glimpses of for moments at a time.
posted by naju at 8:45 PM on May 20, 2013 [4 favorites]

Santa Sangre is probably his best, most well thought out, and least bullshitty work. Well, The Rainbow Thief is pretty straight, but almost completely unknown. I've never seen Tusk. But Santa Sangre comes together, and hits its themes so well, in that crazy, humorous, wacko way that Jodorowsky does so well.

His early movies almost come across as pranks to me, but then again, I wasn't old enough or well placed enough to really appreciate the zeitgeist of the era. It seems like Jodorowsky himself took enjoyment in their prank-like reception. Regardless, they are certainly standouts for their time as surreal exploitation flicks, particularly El Topo and The Holy Mountain. I think they're kind of outdone by his contemporary Fernando Arrabal's films of the time, though.

This development is welcomed news. It's a pity that he hasn't done more work, especially in this age when moviemaking is so much more accessible to independent artists.
posted by 2N2222 at 9:19 PM on May 20, 2013

I love The Holy Mountain. It's a movie that just unfolds and washes over you. And there's something just so inventive about how it's made, how some of the shots are just constructed fast and cheaply and to wondrous effect. It's a work of great art.
posted by Catblack at 9:27 PM on May 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

ooo can't wait to see this!
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 11:45 PM on May 20, 2013

His post-Holy Mountain films are a little rational for my taste, but Holy Mountain and El Topo are just unstoppably great. Topo is pretty straightforward narratively, but it has a sun-baked "acid fascism" tone that totally sells it. Holy Mountain is just... just nuts. In the best way. What you'd expect a student of Artaud to do, given that Artaud's students seemed to get his ideas better than he did.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 4:09 AM on May 21, 2013 [3 favorites]

Can we get a new Kickstarter to raise the money for Jodorowsky to finally do his Dune? I know he'd probably not want to do it -- from the brief clip in the documentary trailer, it sounds like his inspiration to make the film was very particular to that time, that place, that mental state -- but still... I WANT IT!
posted by Saxon Kane at 9:13 AM on May 21, 2013

I feel like every few months, I notice a visual cue or stylistic nod to Jodorowsky's body of work in whatever I'm currently watching (like Krull this weekend, with its eye-shaped psychic prison) - and considering the distribution controversy that kept the Holy Mountain from reaching mainstream audiences until, say, the past 10 years or so, it's certainly a testament to the strength of his influence on at least two generations of filmmakers.

It's easy for people now to be flippant about Holy Mountain's relative worth compared to the rest of his films, but I remember my friend Joel (who's president of the Jodorowsky fan club) going to great lengths to get a bootleg copy in the 90s with really poor sound quality on a VHS tape for a private group viewing. A dozen of us huddled together and watched it greedily, having gotten a taste for his work from midnight showings of Fando y Lis and Santa Sangre. At first, our stomachs knotted during the reenactment of the Aztec slaughter at Tenochtitlan; then, our eyes widened in delight, disgust, horror and -- finally! -- inspiration as we absorbed endless splashes of color, psycho-sexual tableaux of religious despair and alchemical redemption followed by one outrageous geometry-inspired setting after another... until finally, the whole thing collapsed inward during the last few frames.

Jodorowsky will always have a special place in my heart as an auteur, and I too would gladly donate any amount of money to see his Dune vision realized on film; but let's face it -- too many contributing artists necessary to complete that work have died already, and it's never going to happen. (At least, not as it was originally intended.)
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 9:38 AM on May 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've never seen Holy Mountain, but I saw El Topo in film school, and it made an impression. Unlike anything I'd ever seen.

So when it showed up on a double-bill with The Good The Bad + The Ugly at one of the local indie Cinemas a few years later, you can bet I was there with a fellow ex-film student. And just to make sure we wouldn't be missing anything of import, we dropped acid, timing things so that we'd be peaking just as El Topo rolled (it was the first on the bill).

And here's where I imagine I'm supposed to launch into a pile of convoluted rapture as to the impact of those ninety minutes or two hours or however long it is. But no. It kind of underwhelmed me. It was like I was seeing through the weirdness, getting hung up on just how hard it was trying to screw with me ... but what I was really noticing was that it wasn't really compelling me forward.

I didn't really care. It wasn't getting past a freakshow level of interest.

Movie ended and I was all for taking off, seeing some bands or whatever, but my friend insisted we at least stick around for the beginning of The Good The Bad and the Ugly ... to catch the title song.

So we did, and holy mountain, what a movie! A. it was full-on widescreen, and a reasonably new print at that. B. I hadn't seen it since I was a kid, and then it had been on TV. C. It was just so epic, yet so finely tuned, sweeping, dark, mystical, operatic ... f***ing genius. And there was just so much more to the soundtrack than just the title song.

Sergio Leone and Ennion Morricone for the win. And Eli Wallach (it's really his movie), Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef while you're at it.

A few years later, Santa Sangre crossed my path, and yeah, full agreement with 2N2222, probably Jodoworsky's " ... best, most well thought out, and least bullshitty work [...] Santa Sangre comes together, and hits its themes so well.
posted by philip-random at 9:51 AM on May 21, 2013

Thanks for the post, I had no idea he had a new movie coming out.

If for nothing else, I'll watch anything he makes just because of his ambition. Even if it doesn't work for me - I honestly didn't care for Santa Sangre - it's worth watching because he's trying to make something individual. Give me one failure of a film that tries to be huge and unique over 20 good, solid indie films about twenty-five year olds romances.
posted by rock swoon has no past at 11:24 AM on May 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

Taking acid is to work against Jodorowsky. I understood his intent to be that the film should work as the drug, and it does for me, best of all in Holy Mountain. But The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly is the exact opposite. It knows exactly what it wants you to do and look at at every moment. It is brutally prescriptive where Jodorowsky is wildly indeterminate.
posted by stonepharisee at 11:28 AM on May 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

It is brutally prescriptive where Jodorowsky is wildly indeterminate.

I take your point. But I'd describe Jodorowsky as experimental, particularly with El Topo. That is, working the cinematic language in ways that even he was unclear on as to outcome/intention. Which is the kind of thing I always applaud. But in the end, by my perception, the experiment wasn't successful. I ultimately felt detached from the goings-on, getting all too conscious of the craft, technique etc. It ceased to be an emotional experience (except for the occasional gross-out).

My takeaway from this (and a number of other experiments in long form narrative cinema) is that as soon as you're making a movie that lasts longer than about half an hour, you have to start working with the conventions, you have to work with the established language. This is why something like Blue Velvet is so effective, because in spite of all the weird places it goes, it never ditches the audience. It drives a few folks away, of course, but it never really confuses them ... except when it intends to.

El Topo is more like an entire smorgasbord thrown against a wall. Some of it sticks for sure, but enough to make a meal? Not for me.
posted by philip-random at 12:14 PM on May 21, 2013

... and I have seen it without acid, so I come at this with at least a degree of objectivity.
posted by philip-random at 12:15 PM on May 21, 2013

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