It’s hard to believe it has been more than four decades since El Topo mesmerized audiences with its spellbinding direction and stylized idiosyncrasies. Alejandro Jodorowksy has been a wallflower in the shadows since his last big attempt at a feature film with Santa Sangre in 1989 (he released a British film in 1990 called The Rainbow Thief with Peter O’Toole, but the film is not widely considered to be one of his career’s milestones). He has been far from stagnant, however. Just last year, Jodorowsky debuted La Danza de Realidad, or Dance of Reality, which premiered at Cannes shortly after it was finished. Supposedly missing or lost by many, his appearance at Cannes was a shockingly heroic one.
“I am like the rain, I go where I’m needed,” the director explained at the event. “If I were in the big house, with the red carpet and photographers and all the fancy women, I would be ashamed.”
Although he had not been seen sometime, he had not been forgotten. When El Topo first hit screens in 1970, it was an instant success. It’s popularity amongst the midnight movie circuit won it acclaim with a young John Lennon, who then funded Jodorowsky’s next project, Holy Mountain. By explaining either film, I would be giving a bias in one way or another, but for those not familiar with Jodorowsky, his work is a subliminally healing blend of western heroism, circus psychedelia, and cerebral undertones, all perpetuated with seamless style and aesthetic grace. He has gained a prominent cult following, which has increased over the years with the millennial generation reviving a fresh sense of respect for his repertoire.
Since Holy Mountain, Jodorowsky has made a few attempts at new projects, including an attempt at a film adaptation of Frank Herbert’s epic sci-fi novel Dune, which was later taken up by David Lynch after production failed. Here’s what he originally had planned, however: a cast including Salvador Dali and Orson Welles and a soundtrack by Pink Floyd, Magma, and Karlheinz Stockhausen. Sound too good to be true? That’s why it didn’t happen. After assessing the film, it was realized that $2 million of the 9$ million dollar budget had been spent on pre-production, and that Jodorowsky’s script was just too epic to scale into a feature film. According to Herbert, himself, the movie would have been 14 hours if it were ever made. Nonetheless, Jodorowsky pressed on.
Jodorowsky went on to make a children’s fantasy movie called Tusk, which was never widely released and eventually disowned by Jodorowsky himself. Almost a decade later, he made Santa Sangre which many call his closest return to form since El Topo. The next year he made The Rainbow Thief, but, despite getting to work with a popular actor for the first time (Peter O’ Toole), he was kept on a very strict directing path by the executive producer. This obviously resulted in an underwhelming achievement for Jodorowsky. Now, however, he has made his triumphant (and much desired) return to the screen.
Jodorowsky has received positive acclaim from critics for Dance of Reality, which is actually a poetic auto-biopic of his own life experiences. Before production began (the script was based on his book of the same name), he sought funding from people living in his Chilean hometown where the story takes place. Jodorowsky had a very rough childhood. He was heavily abused by his father, neglected by his mother, and bullied by his sister and classmates. In an interesting twist, his oldest son, Brontis, plays his father in the film. Despite the trauma that Jodorowsky endured from these experiences, he successfully channeled them into a beautiful account of the events through a filter of lucid love, and the result is his most loved project since Holy Mountain.
Alejandro Jodorowksy’s career is far from over, though. He is about to begin production on what may end up being his most crowning achievement, yet: A sequel to El Topo (even though many claim Holy Mountain to be a sequel to El Topo, it is not) called Abel Cain. Little to nothing is known about the project other than that it has been almost two decades in the making. Even though Jodorowsky has somewhat re-emerged into the public, he is still an enigmatic and riveting example of a selflessly engaged artist. He is disciplined and competent, but also bold and meditatively progressive. His work holds a timelessness that will be cherished for ages and hopefully more appreciated as generations proceed. Long live the cinematic shadow of the great and humble Alejandro Jodorowsky.