389035_3947904008476_1389178536_n(2)The way Brontis Jodorowsky explains it, his father’s new film, The Dance of Reality, is much more than a cinematic adaptation of the memoir of the same name. After all, his father, Alejandro Jodorowsky, is the man behind “Psicomagia” (Psychomagic), a form of therapy through art. His memoir, published in Spanish in 2001, stands as an example of that. Though it features cruel stories of abuse the director suffered as a child, it is less a fact-based memoir and more an “imagined autobiography” that becomes a sort of redemption for his family.

Speaking via Skype from his home in Paris, Brontis, who in the film plays the role of Jaime Jodorowsky, the grandfather largely responsible for the traumatic upbringing of his father, offers insight into the film and the purpose of it as mystical therapeutic device. He speaks soothingly and builds on his statements explaining the psychomagic behind the film. “I have my father, the public figure that you know. He’s my father. But I also have another father that is the private man, and I also have another father, which is the archetype of the father inside of me that is built up with Jaime, Alejandro and also with me being a father. So there’s a father figure composed by different experiences, and inside this father figure, we have this very negative part, character, father figure, that’s only negative. That was Jaime, my grandfather. So by doing this process of remaking the story and giving him a chance through the movie to humanize, to take off the costume of the domestic tyrant and open his heart, we transform a negative part of the father archetype in our family story into a character that is not a saint but has a different aspect and that can change, you see, that can progress. A heart can be opened, so the father figure in our family tree, genealogy, changes, so we’re transmitting to our children and grandchildren another vision of what the father is.”

The bond between Alejandro Jodorowsky and his son is profound. It comes out beautifully in this new film, the director’s first feature in 23 years. It also comes out in a documentary about the director’s efforts to adapt Frank Herbert’s Dune as a movie. Jodorowsky’s Dune captures one particularly raw moment where the elder David Carradine meets Jodorowsky circa 1974Jodorowsky seems still a bit haunted by the fact he had his the 12-year-old son train for years to prepare for the part of Paul Atreides, yet the film was never shot (Brontis calls this an example of a “private message” from his father). Brontis looks on the bright side. “Yeah, well, you know, what I acquired during those two years of training was so useful afterwards in my actor’s life, especially all the [physical] training part because that taught my body to learn, which is the most important thing that you can learn: is how to learn, so afterwards, when I went to do theater, I always worked in a very physical type of theater. My body was always involved, but I had a trained body that could learn … It was not a waste of time.”

Jodorowsky’s cinematic version of Dune would have been the first ever attempt to adapt the 1965 novel. Though Jodorowsky made great efforts to gather collaborators like H.R. Giger, Orson Welles, David Carradine and Pink Floyd as just some of his “creative warriors,” every Hollywood studio he presented his grand treatment, which included the script by Dan O’Bannon, storyboards by comic book artist Moebius and lots of detailed concept art by Giger and and Alex Ross, they balked at his ambition, which included no fixed limit to the film’s runtime. “They were afraid of him,” says Brontis, “of his personality, so it wasn’t a problem that it was two hours, three hours or five or 10. How long is Star Wars? Too long, much too long.”

Brontis continues, noting that there was also a fundamental cultural conflict between the source of Jodorowsky’s unrestrained creativity and Hollywood’s bottom-dollar attitude. “Also, I think this is an American thing, that Americans don’t want the success to come from outside, so I think that in a way, they saw the project, but I can’t be sure of this, maybe it was just paranoia, in a way, HR Giger concept art for DuneI sense they saw the project, and I think they saw that, wow, maybe that would be a kind of future for movies, and they said, well, why give it to him? Let’s take the ideas and do it ourselves. Instead of doing one movie, we’re going to do this, that and that … I think it’s part of the movie industry’s history. It’s a world of artists and crooks at the same time, of people who dream wonderful things and big bank accounts both at the same time,” he says with a laugh.

Despite all that, the future has been good to the Jodorowsky family, and you will be hard pressed to find a creative clan with a more positive and creative drive, fulfilled with their place in the universe. Brontis has mostly worked in theater, but only recently returned to cinema. In 2012, he acted in Táu, a film shot in the same Mexican desert where his father shot El Topo, in which the younger Jodorowsky made his acting debut alongside his father. With Táu, under the direction of Daniel Castro Zimbrón, for the first time in his life, Brontis took the lead role in a movie. The collaboration went so well, they plan to begin a second film together, later this year. “Now we’re going to do another one that we start shooting in November or December that’s called the Darkness,” he reveals. He notes that it has already been work-shopped at Morelia, Toulouse and most recently at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.

Brontis Jodorowsky in Tau

During his visit to the Miami Beach Cinematheque, he will introduce Táu at a rare U.S. screening, as the film was never picked up for distribution in the United States. Then it’s on to Speaking In Cinema, an hour-long chat with “Village Voice” film critic Michael Atkinson and “Miami Herald” film critic Rene Rodriguez , who both wrote their own positive reviews of The Dance of Reality (click on their names to read their articles).

It will be interesting to watch how the critics work with Jodorowsky, who says he is looking for having a little more time to deal with questions for Dance than usual screenings allow. “I’ve done quite a few festivals now, and there’s always a Q&A,” says Brontis, “but sometimes it’s just 20 minutes, so I just have time to answer one question.

There is much more with both Jodorowskys in other articles I’ve written. The titles of the articles below are hot links where you can read more (except for Alejandro’s quotes, no quotes overlap):

Brontis Jodorowsky to Speak in Miami Beach: “Miami Must Have Some Rock ‘n Roll”

Pure Honey Film Bits: Jodorowsky

Alejandro Jodorowsky replies to my questions via email, Part 2 – Spanish version

Alejandro Jodorowsky on Dune Documentary: “There’s Nothing Crazy About a 14-Hour Film”

Legendary Director Alejandro Jodorowsky on The Dance of Reality, Dune, and Fatherhood

The of course, there are the reviews:

Jodorowsky heals psychic wounds with fabulist recreation of childhood in ‘Dance of Reality’

Film Review: ‘Jodorowsky’s Dune’ celebrates the creativity necessary to do justice in sci-fi cinema

Hans Morgenstern

This interview was done to coincide with this weekend’s second installment of “Speaking In Cinema.” Both Jodorowsky’s Dune and The Dance of Reality are now playing at the Miami Beach Cinematheque, which is hosting the event. Brontis Jodorowsky will present The Dance of Reality in person on June 14. On June 15, he will also introduce Jodorowsky’s Dune and Táu. On Tuesday, June 17, at 7 p.m., Brontis will join “Village Voice” film critic Michael Atkinson and “Miami Herald” film critic Rene Rodriguez for the Knight Foundation-sponsored series “Speaking In Cinema” to discuss this film and other works by Jodorowsky. A meet-and-greet party at the Sagamore Hotel ends the night. Tickets for each screening and the event can be found by visiting the calendar page of mbcinema.com.

(Copyright 2014 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)
Brontis Jodorowsky (Left) and Alejandro Jodorowsky, Photo by Pascale Montandon-Jodorowsky

Brontis Jodorowsky (Left) and Alejandro Jodorowsky, Photo by Pascale Montandon-Jodorowsky

It was deadline day, and like magic, after almost a month waiting for his response via email, the legendary filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky finally responded to my questions about Jodorowsky’s Dune and his new film The Dance of Reality. As our last correspondence notes, he prefers to communicate in Spanish, so I asked these questions with the help of my Independent Ethos partner, Ana Morgenstern, who is originally from Mexico (from the city were Jodorowsky shot El Topo, no less). Again, the Chilean-born director replied with wit and poetry. Ana noted to me the translation hardly does this poet and intellectual guru justice, so below, you will find Jodorowsky’s email in its uncut, original Spanish.

I presented the English version in the “Miami New Times” art and culture blog “Cultist.” I have already used some of the material from the email in this piece, which should appear in print in this week’s issue of the paper. Jodorowsky’s eldest son, Brontis Jodorowsky, also contributed (more on our chat , done via Skype, will appear in “Cultist” and “Independent Ethos,” like last time). To read the English translation of my correspondence with the elder Jodorowsky, visit Cultist by jumping through the image below:

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I did the best I could with the translations— and, like last time, I think they came out pretty good— but for those who speak Spanish fluently (as many in my city of Miami do), the best way to read Jodorowsky’s responses is in his native Spanish:

Hans Morgenstern: La danza de realidad es una pelicula fuerte, crees que va mas alla de una autobiografia?

Alejandro Jodorowsky: ………..Es una autobiografía de la misma manera que “El Topo” es un wstern o “La Montaña Sagrada” un film de alpinismo. Me apodero del genero autobiográfico para profundizar en una gran variedad de temas.

¿Crees que sea un comentario sobre ideologia politica, religiosa o personal?

………………. La realidad no es una suma de alguna de sus partes, es un todo interactivo. Todo es político, todo es religioso, todo es personal, todo es todo. Yo no filmo un trozo de pastel, filmo el pastel entero.

¿Que esperas que la audiencia se lleve consigo despues de ver La danza de la realidad?

……… La finalidad de todo arte verdadero es revelar al ser humano la belleza de su propia alma.IMG_3148

Estoy interesado en tu opiñion sobre el documental de Dune.¿>Que te gusta o que cambiarias del documental?

………….. Opino  que su director Pavich es un ser luminoso, puro, bien intencionado. Su documental es producto de un apasionado sueño. Nada que ver con el cine industrial. Y como su filme es la realización de un sueño, tiene la perfección de los sueños: no hay nada que quitarle ni nada que agregarle.

¿Sufres de algún resentimiento de que Dune no se haya completado, aunque sea un poco?

………. De ninguna manera he sufrido. Para mí el fracaso es solo un cambio de camino. Los dos años de la preparación de Duna cambiaron mi vida, fue una experiencia sublime. En mi alma, mente, corazón, sexo, realicé el filme. Solamente faltó filmarlo: un mínimo detalle. Esta falta de sufrimiento resulta de mi formación en las artes marciales. Morir en un combate no es perder el combate. No cuenta el resultado, cuenta la acción que hiciste para obtenerlo, lo hayas obtenido o no. Batallar sin cobardía es el único triunfo de un héroe. Yo me lancé en ese proyecto sin cobardía, sin limites, con una inmensa audacia. Aunque no se filmó, siempre tuve la sensación de haberme realizado.

¿Duneno se haya filmado basado en los planes originales, otros largometrajes han sido influenciados por Dune, ¿es posible entonces que te llamemos el padre del renacimiento del cine de ciencia ficción?

……..Si Dios te lanza un dulce que no le has pedido, no seas tonto, abre la boca. Me pueden llamar como quieran, hasta acepto que me digan madre del tío del pato Donald. Si esos epitetos son producto de una admiración cariñosa que sean bienvenidos. Yo por mi parte lucho por no definirme ni tampoco exaltar mi ego.

Después de haber visto el documental, uno de los temas que salieron a relucir fue la preparación extrema de tu hijo, Brontis. ¿Crees que haya afectado tu relación con el?

…… La preparación que le dí a mi hijo, es la misma que yo me había dado a mí mismo. Practiqué artes marciales durante muchos años. También meditación zen. Brontis y yo tenemos una relación que atraviesa el abismo padre-hijo, para establecer lazos de amorosa igualdad de niveles. Tenemos una profunda amistad.

Jodo during Dune prep

¿Crees que hubo algún grado de auto-sabotaje al imponer el tiempo del largometraje? En otras palabras, al decir que el largometraje de Dune pueda ir de 12 a 20 horas. ¿no crees que eso cancela cualquier consideración seria por parte de estudios de Hollywood?

…..He vivido siempre adelantado al tiempo, unos 30 años en el futuro. La juventud actual, recien ahora está viendo La Montaña Sagrada y comprendiéndola. Yo tenía la razón, no era ninguna locura pensar en un filme de más de 14 horas de duración. Hoy en día se filman trilogías como el Hobbit y series de Televisión que pueden durar centenares de horas.

¿Cómo afectan las decisiones de financiamiento al arte cinematográfico?

…..Ahí está el problema: al convertirse el gran arte del cine en industria, de golpe se pudrió. Ya no fue más arte, sino un entretenimiento bobo, lacayo del sistema, limitador de conciencias, infantilizador. Se lo comío la horda de productores ávidos de dolares, estrellas egómanas, distribuidores cobardes, técnicos ladrones, criticos pagados, inculcadores solapado de ideas politicas, vendedores de cigarrillos, champaña, marcas de automoviles y publicidad turistica. Los filmes, presos en las salas de cine, se ahogan. El cine de arte está por nacer y ser exhibido en los museos, con el mismo honor con que se exhiben los cuadros y esculturas.

Hans Morgenstern

This interview was done to coincide with this weekend’s second installment of “Speaking In Cinema.” Both Jodorowsky’s Dune and The Dance of Reality are now playing at the Miami Beach Cinematheque, which is hosting the event. Actor Brontis Jodorowsky will present The Dance of Reality in person on June 14. On June 15, he will also introduce Jodorowsky’s Dune and another film he stars in, the rarely seen Táu, directed by Daniel Castro Zimbrón. On Tuesday, June 17, at 7 p.m., Brontis will join “Village Voice” film critic Michael Atkinson and “Miami Herald” film critic Rene Rodriguez for the Knight Foundation-sponsored series “Speaking In Cinema” to discuss this film and other works by Jodorowsky. A meet-and-greet party at the Sagamore Hotel ends the night. Tickets for each screening and the event can be found by visiting the calendar page of mbcinema.com.

(Copyright 2014 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

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Although cinema is filled with singular voices, few have the distinct style emblematic of the auteur. Alejandro Jodorowsky is one such director. After a cinematic silence that has lasted 23 years, the Chilean filmmaker has returned with the movie adaptation of his 2001 memoir, The Dance of Reality (it is only available in Spanish). He’s in every aspect of this film. Not only is he literally the author of the book that is the basis of the script of the film, he— as is often the case— plays a role in the movie. On screen, the 85-year-old appears as a version of himself to narrate the feelings and impressions of his younger self (Jeremias Herskovits) from the boy’s perspective via the filter of his older self. That may sound confusing to some, but the idea of perspective is key to appreciating his new film.

Jodorowsky has never pretended that cinema, in any remote sense, stands in as a surrogate to reality as most people know it. He fills his films with allegory, myth and fables. They are also social critiques. Some lovers of Jodorowsky like take his films at face value and marvel at the inventive imagery on a subconscious if not superficial level. Others look to the symbols for a path to enlightenment. Sometimes, a sense of the personal can be gleaned from his cinema, and no film in his career has ever felt more personal than The Dance of Reality. That said, it should also be taken with a grain of salt.

With this new film, Jodorowsky takes auteurism to familiar nuclear heights, literally speaking. Though he only plays a small but recurrent role as his current self, bedecked in either a simple black or white suit, IMG_3148this film is also a family affair, as he extends his auteurism through his children. His eldest son, Brontis Jodorowsky plays Jaime Jodorowsky, the father who seems to bully his son into “manning up” in the film. Then there is Axel Jodorowsky, who plays the hermit Theosophist by the beach young Alejandro visits for some doses of enlightenment. Youngest son Adan Jodorowsky provides the film’s dynamic soundtrack and has a small role in the film as an anarchist. Finally, the director’s wife, Pascale Montandon-Jodorowsky, designed the film’s eye-catching costumes.

Raising his auteurism to a more familiar level, Jodorowsky has never played by any set of rules dictated by the norms of cinema. His films have often been called surreal and shocking. A sort of associative dream-logic moves narrative along, which actually stands as a more honest use of he filtered lens of the camera and the subjective decision of editing. Those who know Jodo as the weirdo director who made the first “midnight movie,” El Topo (1970), are reducing this genius director to a trivial novelty, which does not take into account his profound insight into the human soul via creativity. Underneath sometimes shocking images lies a well of insight into the hypocrisy of ideology, be it the kind that governs a nation or the one that defines a sense of self.

Tyranny stands out as a big part of this film. The film begins with the idea of material oppression. It’s all about money, as gold coins fill the screen as the director’s face fades in from the black background, comparing money to blood, Christ and Buddha. Clowns drop coins to the melody “The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze.” Then, money cascades across a newspaper headline noting the financial collapse of 1929 (the year of the director’s birth) and the impact it had on the majority of Chileans. While the soundtrack switches to the sound of boots marching, Jodorowsky continues, “There is no difference between money and conscience.” Blood spatters the newspaper, and the director says, “There is no difference between conscience and death.” Then the film fades to an iconic Jodorowsky image: a mass of people walking through the desert.

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That’s only about the first minute of the opening of the film. Already he presents an image dense with metaphor and philosophy. Intimate and adventurous, Jodorowsky has created a film filled with the surreal wit that has endeared him to his audience, but there is also a profound wisdom aware of the hypocrisy of religion and the State. Tyranny is a big thing for Jodorowsky, and it begins with an interest in materialism that seems to fuel life only to result in a futile existence without meaning.

The film then soon turns its focus to the young Jodorowsky as a lad with long, golden hair. He’s oppressed by his father who calls him “coward” and “queer” and frequently yells at him. Meanwhile, his voluptuous mother (Pamela Flores) only ever sings her dialogue in an operatic warble, referring to him as the reincarnation of her father. Oppression becomes more personal and distinctly macho and feminine. The young spirit can only flail for some sense of self, as the damaged people immediately around him project and seem to suffocate him, as they try to raise him as their only offspring.

Then there is the presence of Carlos Ibáñes (Bastián Bodenhöfer), a military officer turned dictator during two presidencies in Chile. Much of the film follows P1050231Jaime who turns his interest away from family to stand up to Ibáñes and one day, when the moment is right, assassinate him … if not, at least kill his horse. However, when he fails to accomplish this personal mission, Jaime turns cripple and disheveled and becomes a martyred political prisoner subjected to intense torture. Could this be the path to the father’s redemption? Who knows? It’s for Jodorowsky to work out, and despite many hilarious, sometimes twisted but always resonant set pieces and scenes, this struggle for redemption carries on a bit too long, and seems too far removed from his boyhood self. It’s the one part of the film, albeit a large one, where Jodorowsky goes a bit too literal.

What stands out best about The Dance of Reality are the scenes with his younger self. Though the child version always seems terrorized by Jaime, the older self is there to offer the boy’s thoughts. It makes for many particularly touching scenes of a different kind of redemption, a sort of self-redemption. It’s a blending of both suffering and healing and the growth that comes later. For Jodorowsky, life is not linear. It’s circular and carries on beyond time. He’s generous to extend it to his father, but it boils down to the self. In one of the director’s voice overs, he assures himself as a child, and by extension the audience: “Everything you are going to be, you already are. What you are looking for is already inside you. Rejoice your sufferings. Thanks to them, you will reach me.”

Hans Morgenstern

The Dance of Reality runs 130 minutes, is in Spanish with English subtitles and is not rated (though about childhood, it’s a mature man’s childhood in retrospect, so it’s not for children). It opens Friday, June 6, at 7 p.m., exclusively at the Miami Beach Cinematheque. Actor Brontis Jodorowsky will present the film in person on June 14. On June 15, he will also introduce Jodorowsky’s Dune and another film he stars in, Táu (see MBC’s calendar for details). On Tuesday, June 17, at 7 p.m., he, Village Voice film critic Michael Atkinson and Miami Herald film critic Rene Rodriguez will share the stage at MBC in the second installment of the Knight Foundation-sponsored series “Speaking In Cinema” to discuss this film and other works by Jodorowsky (see details). A meet-and-greet party at the Sagamore Hotel ends the night. 

Photo credits: All images provided courtesy of Brontis Jodorowsky and were shot on set by Pascale Montandon-Jodorowsky. Brontis and I recently caught up via Skype. Expect to see a series of interviews as a result of our conversation in the next few days. In the meantime, read our early chat, when this film was still in production, and more via this link.

(Copyright 2014 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)