WHO is he?

Chilean-born film and theatre director, scenarist, graphic artist, actor and writer who has made seven feature-length films since the late sixties. Despite his lean cinematic output, he remains a highly celebrated name in underground film circles — a reputation that has its origins in the New Age and was facilitated especially by support from John Lennon.

WHAT are his films about?

Themes

Jodorowsky’s films take off from popular genres — Western, Crime and Horror — strip them of their superfluous details and use the resulting structure to portray metaphysical ideas. Characters in these films are in search of ultimate truths — almost always clichés of New Age mysticism — and confront Love and Violence along the way. These films show the influence of Federico Fellini’s cinema and its view of life as a circus. As is typical of the era, they are also critical of Christianity and corporate capitalism.

Style

Jodorowsky’s films have been described as psychedelic and they are full of images that seem to have been constructed around the possibility of their visceral effect being enhanced when watched under the influence of drugs. They take off from Surrealist imagery, juxtaposing completely unrelated elements to make a subconscious impact. The editing shuns continuity and is abrupt and confrontational. The images are frequently symmetrical, the colour palette is vibrant and the trance-like musical score includes oriental motifs. Lengthy zoom-ins and zoom-outs and bird’s eye view of characters are some of the most recognisable aspects.

WHY is he of interest?

The merit of Jodorowsky’s films has been widely debated, but what remains undeniable is the crucial position he occupies in the underground film canon. Their artistic worth aside, these films are among the most exuberant ever made and retain their provocative edge even today, which is noteworthy considering we live in a hyper-stimulated era nearly immune to shocks.

WHERE to discover him?

El Topo (1970), perhaps the most well-known Jodorowsky film, is a skeletal Western in which a cloaked stranger wanders an infinite desert — more a psychological space than physical — on a mission to slay four mystic masters before being relegated to a life of powerlessness. Disturbing and disorienting, El Topo is, in one sense, a tale of self-discovery and enlightenment in which Man sheds pride and arrogance in order to rebuild life anew.

srikanth srinivasan