Perhaps the most surreal aspect of “The Dance of Reality” is that Alejandro Jodorowsky’s name is in the news at all.
The 85-year-old Chilean-born, cult-favorite director has made an unexpected comeback in recent years, thanks to a number of unlikely circumstances. First, his cult classic art films from the 1960s and ’70s, “El Topo” and “The Holy Mountain,” were finally released on DVD after years of being buried due to a disagreement with famous music manager (and financier) Allen Klein.
Second, Frank Pavich’s hit 2013 documentary “Jodorowsky’s Dune” told the story of the director’s incredibly ambitious (but failed) attempt to make a film version of the Frank Herbert’s sci-fi novel “Dune” and the impact it had on a generation of filmmakers that followed. And through the documentary, Jodorowsky reunited with Michel Seydoux, the man who agreed to put up the money for the failed “Dune” plans.
Their reunion ultimately led to “The Dance of Reality,” a film adaptation of Jodorowsky’s surreal autobiography. It’s the director’s first movie since 1989’s “The Rainbow Thief,” a bomb that featured Peter O’Toole and chased Jodorowsky from filmmaking. Ever since, he’s written books and comics and practiced his patented “psychomagic,” but his glee at returning to film is obvious. The movie tells a twisted version of his difficult childhood — he grew up Jewish in a small Chilean town where such a faith was not fashionable, with very difficult parents — told from his own perspective.
What was it like to return to your hometown?
This town is in North Chile, 2,000 miles from the capital. The town is 200 meters from the mountains and the ocean. … It never rained, the town had nothing to produce. It had a factory to create electricity that gave cancer to everyone. When I was born, there was not a hospital. The town is not around anymore, it’s forgotten. I left the town when I was 10, 75 years later I came back and it was the same town. Identical. The only thing I found (different) was a black hole in the store of my father, because they didn’t have money to reconstruct it (after it burned down). The first thing I did, before I started the picture, was to reconstruct it. And that was similar, everything was similar.
When I was 9 years old, nobody wanted me. They said I was different. They were laughing at me because I was circumcised. I shot the picture in the same rocks I went to where I wanted to commit suicide.
Interview continues below the trailer for “The Dance of Reality”
What do you think your parents would think of this movie?
I don’t know, they’re dead. Maybe I waited because I was afraid of them, I didn’t do the picture while they were alive. I cannot imagine that. They didn’t change; I made them change. … My mother wanted to be an opera singer but she never sang, and my father was completely a strong person and worshipped Stalin when he died. I made changes in the picture in order to heal my soul.
If “The Rainbow Thief” had been a better experience, would you have done more in Hollywood?
I’d be like Spielberg. But I don’t want to be something like that, because Spielberg is one of the persons who is killing the pictures. He’s killing the cinema with this enormous scenes, you forget everything. I didn’t want to make cinema so a person forgets himself and has a lot of fun. I forget myself, I am a little poor consumer. I wanted to make a picture where someone who sees it say, “This is me! This is me!” You have to remember the values you have. That is the difference.
And cinema today is about forgetting?
Forgetting and showing to you that human beings are shit. Our president is shit. Every person on the planet that is political is a piece of shit. The countries are directed by a piece of shit. They are our enemies. We’re prisoners. But what can you do? And movies today are of service to that. And the women, every day you go on the set and you let the pieces of shit change them, you don’t recognize the stars. They have another face! What is that? Listen, I am old, but I feel very beautiful.
Are there filmmakers that are interesting to you today? What about the people you influenced?
They say to me that I influenced them. The director of “Creep” (Patrick Brice), I’m happy. If I leave something to others, I’ll be happy.” The first picture I did they wanted to kill me in Mexico. “El Topo,” I came to a problem with the producer. I was guilty. I was not guilty with Allen Klein, but I was guilty here.
He was really enthusiastic with me, he admired me a lot, and then he wanted to make me a big success. He offered to make with me “The Story of O,” it was a sexual picture. But I didn’t want to, I didn’t want a big success. We were in England and he said I’ll give you $200,000 immediately in your hand, and then I’ll go sign the contract. And after 10 minutes I said I cannot do it, I escaped it. I went to Los Angeles to prepare “Dune.”
One day I called (Allen Klein’s son) Jody Klein, I said listen, “Why do we fight like this? It’s been 30 years. I don’t want money, I just want you to show the picture.” And he said, “Yes, why not make peace? I will ask my father,” and then he called me and said, “my father wants to see you.” So I went to London. He met me at the train, nice person, and said, “my father’s waiting for you.” I said, “what will I do? I’ll kick him and he’ll bite my ear. What will happen?”
And then he opened the door and he looked at me, “You are beautiful!” And in one second everything was finished.
Have you seen “Star Wars” or anything? Do you like any Hollywood movies?
I like Hollywood movies. I like them like I like to eat scrambled eggs, I like them for fun. But later, when the picture’s finished, I say, “What did I see? What happened?” I forget. How much does it cost, $100 million? Myself, $4 million to make it. Give me “Avatar,” is it some kind of cowboy picture? I admired the technique, but nothing else. But people remember for years, “The Dance of Reality.” “El Topo” is 40 years old. I am saying something that’s useful. But I like the big films, yes. When I’m tired, I see industrial pictures. But I’ll see one every two months. If I see one every day, I’ll become an idiot.
The last one I saw was one by Nicolas Winding Refn. (After his first film) I said, I found someone who is a real moviemaker. I went and found him, and then he said, “I’m really happy because I saw ‘El Topo’ when I was 15 years old, and that’s why I started to make pictures.” We’re now very good friends. Every picture he does, he comes to my house and I read the tarot for him. And he said, when are we making it? But the problem is he needs to leave the movies. The only thing he knows how to do is (make) the movies. Myself, I was saved because I can do lots of things, drawing and acting and writing. But himself, the only thing he can make a picture, and he wants to make one every year or two years in order to live, and that’s a danger.