Filmmaker, writer, mime, master of tarot, psychomagician, Alejandro Jodorowsky is an artist whose robust sense of living is matched only by the exceptional breadth of his creative practice. Author of dozens of books – from philosophy to poetry – and, with the French artist Moebius, the highly praised L’incal series of graphic novels, Jodorowsky’s works are marked by a great generosity as well as a remarkable ability to provoke. His first film, Fando y Lis (1967), shocked its audience into a riot when it premiered at the Acapulco Film Festival and was subsequently banned in Mexico. His following two films, El Topo (1970) and The Holy Mountain (1973) – beloved and supported by John Lennon – became immediate cult classics, initiating in the United States the “midnight movie” phenomenon in which his films would play for years. Jodorowsky’s recent film, The Dance of Reality (2013) – based on his 2001 autobiography – is a surreal exploration of the dream territories and traumas of his childhood. “The story of my life,” he writes, “is a constant effort to expand the imagination and its limitations, to capture its therapeutic and transformative potential.” Alejandro and I met at his apartment in Paris the evening after his 85th birthday. In his office, surrounded by walls of books and esoteric objects, we discussed his films, his influences, chance and intention, gravity and reality.
Michael Nardone — For The Dance of Reality, you returned to your homeland to shoot a deeply autobiographical work, yet it’s one that uses that personal past to imagine numerous and coexisting presents and futures. Can you describe the process of making this film?
Alejandro Jodorowsky — I made The Dance of Reality in order to have a psychological experience. I was born in a small town called Tocopilla, in Chile. It was near the desert, near mines of copper. I was a child in a time of crisis. Everyone was poor there. Everyone was fighting against poverty. There was only a plant to produce electricity there, and the only people who had jobs worked there. The name of this town is not on any map. During my eighty-five years, the town hasn’t changed. Not one new house. It is exactly the same as when I was a child. The only thing that has changed is that the house and the store of my father burned to the ground.
— What kind of store was it?
— He liked to sell women’s underwear! My father had an obsession with sex. Since there was a port at Tocopilla – the ships came there to take away the copper – sailors would come to town to see prostitutes. Prostitution was the only other way, other than copper, to make any money. Anyway, my father would go by the ships when all the sailors were in town and steal boxes from them. He would open the box and see whatever was inside. One time it would be a box full of scissors, another time all cups. Often it was clothes, and, yes, occasionally, women’s underwear. He would sell anything!
[Interview by Michael Nardone / Photo by Giasco Bertoli]