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.)

IMG_4261The legendary filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky finally responded to my questions via email. He prefers to communicate in Spanish, so I had to ask these questions in my limited Spanish. What he replied with is filled with as much wit and poetry as one would expect from the Chilean-born director who creates films that are so much more than trippy, psychedelic or surreal experiences. I had been waiting for his response since around when I got in touch with his eldest son Brontis Jodorowsky, last week (Cult film director Alejandro Jodorowsky’s first son Brontis interviewed in “Miami New Times” ahead film retrospective).

I presented the responses in the same blog where my Brontis Jodorowsky article appeared, the “Miami New Times” art and culture blog “Cultist,” after translating them to English. In one case, Brontis returned to help answer a question his father did not care to address beyond one short sentence. The elder Jodorowsky did begin his email by warning me, “I doubt, Hans, you will be well-served by my answers, but I cannot answer in any other way than how I feel and think.”

On the contrary, what I found were insightful responses if not into the specifics themselves but into the creator in general. I found them humorous and downright life-affirming for anyone who toils in art.

To see the piece, including more from Brontis, visit Cultist by jumping through the image below:

cultist banner

I did the best I could with the translations— and I think they came out pretty good— but for those who speak Spanish fluently (as many in my city of Miami do).I present here the original responses unedited and untranslated:

Hans Morgenstern: Desde una perspectiva de Miami, que es una ciudad tan cosmopólita; cómo te sientes de tener une retrospectiva en Miami?

Alejandro Jodorowsky: ……..No soy lo que fui, no soy lo que seré, ahora estoy siendo. Una retrospectiva es lo que fuí. Si no hubiera domado mi ego interesaría lo que seré en la historia del cine, pero como vivo en el tiempo vivo, es decir el presente, no me conmueve ni el pasado ni el futuro… Hoy día mismo no soy sino que estoy siendo, cambiando continuamente. Si me preguntas cómo me llamo, te diré que me digas “nube”. Si a Miami le agrego el ir, el go en inglés, es Mi-ami-go , mi amigo. En fin, no vivimos en países sino en el planete Pangea. Todas las ciudades son cosmopolitas.

Lo segundo que me da curiosidad es qué es lo que te hizo decidir que tu hijo Brontis jugara un papel en “El Topo” a una edad tan temprana? Esta es una de mis películas favoritas y aunque no tengo hijos siempre he tenido curiosidad de cómo fue la relación en el set, durante la escritura del guión y el rodaje.

…..Como no has tenido hijos no sabes lo que es sentir el amor de padre. Ese amor es tan fuerte como el amor de una madre. Elegí a Brontis porque era el niño de la edad que yo necesitaba : 7 años. Mi hijo tenía la hermosura inocente que yo siempre había querido tener. Como yo era un padre amable y comprensivo, mi hijo tenía un gran placer de estar conmigo. En fin, tu pregunta tiene una sola respuesta: nuestra relación fue la normal, la sana relación que tienen un hijo y un padre que se aman.

Te consideras a tí mismo un “surrealista”?

…No me gusta ponerme etiquetas.

Finalmente, cómo ha cambiado tu estilo de cineasta a través de los años? Cómo describirías el film en el que estás trabajando ahora, se podría calificar como auténticamente personal de “Psicomagia”?

… Para que cambiara mi estilo, tendría que tener un estilos, lo que es una forma de repetición. Los ríos no se repiten. Ten la bondad de compararme a la corriente de un río. Cada una de mis peliculas es difrente: no soy un fabricante de salchichas hollywoodenses. Describiría el film en el que estoy trabajando copmo Arte para no ganar dinero. Me cansa esa industria-puta que consiera genial una película porque produce millones de dólares. Sigo creyendo que el cine es el Arte más completo y profundo de todas las artes. “La danza de la realidad” que estoy terminando ya, no se puede calificar con ninguna etiqueta. Es simplemente Arte. Y por ello, si te gustan tus dos palabras, es “auténticamente personal”.

Hans Morgenstern

This interview was done to coincide with a rare month-long retrospective of Alejandro Jodrowsky’s films. A total of four films will screen at the Miami Beach Cinematheque:

Full details and ticket information

The first screening, of Jodrowsky’s 1970 film El Topo, will feature a live introduction by Alejandro Jodorowsky and his eldest son, Brontis Jodorowsky. It happens Sunday, Feb. 3, at 7 p.m. It is timed and coordinated as part of the finale of Filmgate, an interactive media festival for filmmakers by the Indie Film Club, which kicks of Friday, Feb. 1:

More details on Filmgate

Here’s the trailer for El Topo:

(Copyright 2013 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

Portrait loge 2Yesterday, I supplied the “Miami New Times” art and culture blog “Cultist” with a short story on Brontis Jodorowsky, the son of cult filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky. I spoke with him via Skype last week (he lives in Paris). Miami will host a rare appreciation of his father’s films beginning early next week featuring one-night-only screenings of his most famous films. The eldest son of the director offered a reflection of working with his father as an actor in his movies at the Miami Beach Cinematheque. He spoke about his debut as the little son of the titular gunslinger in El Topo to his role playing his father’s father in the autobiographical film-in-progress, the Dance of Reality (no release date yet).

We spoke for a half hour, so I had a lot of material, and I am still hoping to hear back from his father via email, who is very occupied with the post-production of first movie in 20 years. It turned out to be fitting that our conversation began with my curiosity in the name Jodorowsky decided to bestow on his firstborn. Brontis explained it is actually a Greek surname, which alludes to a trio of brothers who seemed to have lived a carefree life in Jodorowsky’s hometown of Tocopilla, Chile where he was born in 1929. “The grass is always greener in the other yard,” the younger Jodorowsky said. “He thought that these children were free and happy,” he explained before adding: “My father had a very severe education from his father … and he remembers his childhood as a very sad and violent thing, and he always felt very different from other people.”

The elder Jodorowsky has never hidden his childhood of abuse, which he covers early in the book that inspired the Dance of Reality (it is only available in Spanish). Brontis pointed out something even more curious about his father. When the director married his first wife and failed to produce a child, Brontis said, La Danza de la Realidad cover“My father concluded that he was sterile.” He said his father saw it as poetic justice, as it made him last in the Jodorowsky line, and “he was killing the Jodorowsky name, and then he met my mother, who was convinced this was all crap, and she proved to him that he was not sterile.”

The younger Jodorowsky said his father had never fantasized about naming children until the point his first son was born. He wanted to end the curse of the names Jaime (Alejandro’s father) and Alejandro (his grandfather) in his family, so he went with Brontis, recalling those happy children of his hometown. “Normally, in Jewish tradition, you give your father’s name to your children, but  he hated his father and said, ‘I can’t give my child the name of my father because I hate my father, but these children were free and happy, so let’s stop the curse of all the Jaimes and the Alejandros [because he carries his grandfather’s name], and if I call him Brontis he will be a free and happy boy.’”

The younger Jodorowsky cannot help but feel amused that in the new film by his father he plays Jaime. “The main character is his father, Alejandro’s father, and he asked me to play his father. In the end, we make the whole turn of our conversation,” he said with a laugh. “He didn’t name me Jaime in reality, but he named me Jaime in the film.”

I could not help but notice if this film might be the most “psychomagical” of the director’s career, to use one of the director’s own terms. Here is a 10-minute interview with the filmmaker where he explains the concept:

“It is. It absolutely is,” agreed Brontis, “but if you see El Topo and Holy Mountain and Santa Sangre, in all his films he’s really doing some kind of psychomagic. He’s working on something artistic— and at the same time— on a personal level. If he does a film it’s because he needs to do it. It’s not only ‘I’m an artist, and I want to make a movie.’ It’s also because he has to live intimately.”

I am hoping that this humanist and intellectual insight might allow a different perspective than just superficial “that’s so weird” appreciation of Jodorowsky’s cinema. This director is a symbolist in a very Jungian sense. Miami Beach Cinematheque Founder and Director Dana Keith added via email: “My favorite quote from Jodorowsky is ‘I ask of cinema what most North Americans ask of psychedelic drugs.’ He truly expands people’s minds with his surreal films by utilizing his imagination in groundbreaking ways, and making the camera a paint brush. We are very happy that the films have been restored and are now available for MBC and Indie Film Club members and others to experience in a theatrical setting, where they belong. No added stimulants are necessary!”

You can read a longer interview with Brontis Jodorowsky, where he also shares memories from the set of El Topo, by visiting the Cultist Blog (jump through the image):

cultist banner

Hans Morgenstern

This interview was done to coincide with a rare month-long retrospective of Alejandro Jodrowsky’s films. A total of four films will screen at the Miami Beach Cinematheque:

Full details and ticket information

The first screening, of Jodrowsky’s 1970 film El Topo, will feature a live introduction by Alejandro Jodrowsky and his eldest son, Brontis Jodrowsky. It happens Sunday, Feb. 3, at 7 p.m. It is timed and coordinated as part of the finale of Filmgate, an interactive media festival for filmmakers by the Indie Film Club, which kicks of Friday, Feb. 1:

More details on Filmgate

So who is Alejandro Jodorowsky? I’ll let the trailers of the four films screening in the retrospective speak for themselves. Warning: these avant-garde movies spawned of the psychedelic era feature (archetypal) images that are sometimes NSFW:

(Copyright 2013 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)