Alejandro Jodorowsky Collection - Alejandro Jodorowsky Collection( Blu Ray & CD set) [Arrow Video - 2020]Alejandro Jodorowsky is one of the cinemas great & distinctive auteurs- his films are laden down with own brand of surrealism, symbolism, and general wack-ness- with his output falling somewhere between exploitation & arthouse. So from watching just a few minutes of one of his productions you most certainly know you're watching a Jodorowsky film. Since the late 1950’s he’s directed just nine full-length production- but each of these has been very distinctive creations, and he’s never watered down or diluted his focus & output. Here from Arrow Video is a very much deserved new Blu Ray and CD box set celebrating the work of this true one-off- it takes in four of his films, and CD soundtracks for two his most infamous/ revered films, as well as a good selection of extras, a double-sided fold-out poster & six collector's postcards.
The set six-disc set takes in 1972’s Fando and Lis, 1970 El Topo, 1973’s The Holy Mountain, and his most recent Pychomagic, a Healing Art- each film has been given a 4 k remastering, with a good selection of new & archive extras. You also get full CD soundtracks for both El Topo & The Holy Mountain.
So first up we have Fando and Lis this was made in 1968, but not released until 1972. It was Jodorowsky's first feature-length film, and fair to say it’s a deranged, chaotic, and largely plot-less ride into visual Surrealism and crazed symbolism. The plot as it is, finds two lovers Fando(Sergio Kleiner) & Lis( Diana Mariscal) his partially paralyzed peroxide blond lover looking for the mythical city of Tar- where apparently all manner of miracles happen. The black & white film runs one hour and thirty-six minutes- and boy it’s a trip of the highest order- while Jodorowsky late films where full of crazed, elaborate & lush imagery Fando and Lis feels a lot more lo-fi, crude at points downright grimy & dirty in its imagery. He crams in an awful lot of symbolism and imagery- with only a very, very thin thread of logic, sense & story- yet it never becomes pretentious or too arty for its own good. Sure it all makes little formal sense, but it’s a great, great visual trip that keeps one held and in odd wonder through-out. After the credits, which take in line drawings crazed mythical creatures & the story of Tar- we find Lis munching the head of a rose, from the here the couple goes on their quest- with Lis been pushed along in a trolley with a gramophone, moving first thorough bomb outbuildings where suited couples dancing in as a band plays, and a piano burns. Stop motion stills of the pair posing in graveyards, and someone licking pig heads. Through to a mountain-ness region- where cross-dressing men strip Fando, two men with syringes drinking Lis blood, a woman hooked up to many drips, surrounded by flowers & eating hard-boiled eggs, and much more. I have my thoughts on what exactly it’s all about- but won’t detail them here, as like all of Jodorowsky filmography it’s really best for the watcher to put their own take on the material without been fogged by others theory.
Moving onto the new blu ray presentation from Arrow-and first off the black & white print looks nice and crisp, with good balance and contrast. The only real issue with the new print is the sub-titles, when the opening credits roll, you get a fair amount of background story about the city Tar- but due to the way the credits are set, more often than not you can’t read the text as it’s white on white. At points the subtitles shift to the top of the screen- but this is more annoying than helpful, as they fly by so fast- so this first key part of the film's text is lost, thankfully through the rest of the film this isn’t an issue. Moving onto the extras- of the new stuff we get a ten-minute on-screen interview with the film's director- he starts by talking about being a monster movie-loving child and wanting to make his own films from an early age. He moves onto talking about his time writing fiction, been part of the surrealism movement, and his theatre work- with the last two of course very much influencing the film to hand, as it was his take on a friends play- he ends by discussing his general philosophy. Next, we get an eight-minute introduction to the film from film school professor Richard Peña, which gives you a nice overview of the film. Then we get a good selection of archive material- there’s a commentary by Jodorowsky- here he talks about how the film came about, some of the imagery meaning, and little tidbits of info about the shoot/ film- it’s worth a play-through, though it's a little sporadic. Then there’s La Constellation Jodorowsky- a 1994 doc about Jodorowsky career- it runs for an hour & a half featuring the likes of Peter Gabriel. We have 1957’s La Cravate- a twenty-minute surreal mini fantasy- that finds Jodorowsky dressed in a cartoon-like suite, a head of changing shop, and stroppy/ crumpy locals.
Appearing two years after Fando and Lis 1970’s El Topo was Jodorowsky breakthrough film- it’s a wired and wacky western that slightly refined, though didn’t dilute Jodorowsky cinematic oddness making it more accessible to the cult movie crowd. The film begins with the title character El Top- Jodorowsky as a bearded man in black gunslinger- riding across a seemingly endless desert with his naked except for his hat seven old son. The pair stop at a horse tying post in the middle of the expanse of white sand- and the boy is told “your seven now- a man- bury your favorite toy and picture of your mother”- this he does and the pair rides on. As the film unfolds the pair have one odd encounter after another- first a town full of death with bloody human bodies lying beside disemboweled horses, then waltzing & smouching monks, make-up wearing and red pant wearing generals. As the film processes, El Topo companions change- but the oddness remains- even the character himself shifts going from a tough gunman to blech bearded & wild-haired innocent, onto shaved-headed & monk gowned slapstick performer in a decadent western town. As a writer/ director Jodorowsky uses the western tropes in an effective and grandly atmospheric way, but he twists in weird-ness and surrealism at every turn, to both subvert yet celebrate the genre. More often than not westerns that move past the two-hour mark do tend to lull or tread water in places- but with El Topo your fully sucked in & captivated by what Jodorowsky is unfolding before your eyes. It must be ten or so years since I last saw El Topo- so it was great to revisits in once again- and it’s lost none of its surprise, quirky charm, and odd wonders- if anything I noticed the western genre traits more this time, which makes the whole thing even more rewarding as one can see how Jodorowsky playful twists-yet- respects the genre with El Topo.
Moving onto the Blu Ray, and we get both 1.85:1 and 1.33:1 original theatrical presentations of the film. On the extras front, on the new side- we get another on-screen interview with the director- this runs around the twelve-minute mark- he first talks about wanting to make a film that would appeal to a US audience, then goes onto discuss the film been him very much looking for himself. As we move on he talks about how the film very much took off as a cult favorite in the US, after John Lenon & Yoko Ono raved about it, before talking once more about his philosophy. Next, we get Richard Peña returning for another introduction to the film- this runs around the nine-minute mark, and once again is a good lead-in for one's first watch of the film. Lastly of the new stuff, we get a nineteen-minute interview with Brontis Jodorowsky who played the little boy in the film, and now is a writer/ director in his own right- he discusses working with father, on set stories, and his own take on the film- a most interesting interview. Then we move onto the archive stuff- we get another directories commentary, and a 2007 interview with Jodorowsky.
The next disc is the first CD in the set, and this takes in the El Topo original soundtrack- this was first released in 1971 on the Beatles Apple Records. The CD runs a total of thirty-six minutes and features eighteen tracks in all. Like the film it’s soundtrack it’s a fairly varied, at times quirky affair- though it’s not terrible experimental staying more to formal soundtrack tropes. We open with “Entierro Del Primer Juguete (Burial Of The First Toy)” which enters with a lonesome-yet-hopeful flute melody, this is soon joined by rising & grand orchestration mimic & enhancing the original melody. As we move on we come to “Los Mendigos Sagrados (The Holy Beggars)” with its blend of lumbering pumping horn and cheeky vibraphone playing. We get the aged & vinyl crackle added waltzing & swooning orchestration of “El Alma Nace En La Sangre (The Soul Born In The Blood)”. The rest of the score moves between fairly forlorn horn touched atmospherics, and grand dramatic string compositions- though we do towards the end get more ethnic type percussion coming into play. The final track here “La Primera Flor Después Del Diluvio (The First Flower After The Flood)” is the most experimental moment- as we find a blend of brooding & fly simmering like horns, crying babies, & droning prime evil bagpipes- though in the latter part of the track we return to the more formal & grandly rising flute & orchestration of the first track.
1973’s The Holy Mountain was Jodorowsky's most grand, crazed, flamboyant & imagery packed film with seemingly a huge cast & lots of budget spent. The film as it’s title suggests is a sort of a journey to find the ultimate religious & humanistic enlightenment. We are introduced to
the film's key/ recurring characters- the mysterious & large brim hatted Alchemist(Jodorowsky), who when we first meet him has stripped down to the waist-then-cutting- then shaving off the hair of two Marilyn Monroe look a likes. A bearded & long-haired Christ figure- who when we first meet him is seemingly dead his face covered in flies- along comes a colored amputee dwarf, he drags the man to a cross where he is pelt by naked children- he suddenly comes to life. From here on we are subjected to different surreal & bizarre set-ups, with either the alchemist or the Christ-like figure involved- we have a reenacted of the conquest of Mexico with frogs and iguanas, a large number of people marching with crucified skinned dogs, huge roman soldiers creating multiple statutes of the Christ-like figure, people are gunned down & birds appear from their wounds. When the two finally meet the Alchemist gets the Christ-like figure to shit in a jar, then he starts trying to process both his doings, sweat & pain into gold with an elaborate set of glass tubes & beakers. We get oodles of different religious iconography, trippy multi-colored rooms, separate wacky stories of different souls that a laid out on a huge roulette type room, and much much more- he crams so much into the films nearing two-hour length it makes you both dizzy & confused- it real is an experience more than a film, and once again what does it all mean…well I have my ideas but I hate to repeat myself, but really( and especially) with this film you need to put your own meaning on the whole bizarre & crazy run of it.
Moving onto the disc it’s self, and its extras- of the new stuff we get another recent interview with the director discussing the film to hand- it runs around the fourteen-minute mark- this starts with him declaring he had ultimate control over every facet of the production. Before going on to talking about good & bad issues he had with animals connected with production- like toad peeing acid & they wouldn’t stay in the tiny costumes, moving onto celebrate the talents of the films chimp who was trained to mediate among other things, and once again he tips into talking about his philosophies. Next we have Richard Peña returning once more for another intro- this runs around ten minutes. We have an around half-an-hour featurette/ on-screen interview with Jodorowsky personal assistant Pablo Leder- who helped on all of his key films, as well as turning up in small cameos. There’s The A to Z of The Holy Mountain- a twenty-eight-minute video essay from writer Ben Cobb- and this is great/ one of the highlights of the set- as it’s full of facts & quirky info relating to the film, like George Harrison nearly played the role of the Christ figure, but was uncomfortable getting his arsehole washed. How the films monkey acting went from kids TV shows where he smoked, onto working with Jodorowsky- then stopped acting. How the original idea was to begin the film by cutting up a real dead body & end with a real-time birth, and much much more. We get around half-an-hour of outtakes/ cut scenes with directors commentary on, and an even minute introduction to taro cards from Jodorowsky. Lastly we another archive audio commentary track from the director.
Next, we get the second CD in the set the soundtrack for The Holy Mountain- this has only fairly recently got released with it’s first pressing been in 2007 on ABKCO as a seventy-three minute & twenty-three track CD- it’s since also had double vinyl releases too. This is a lot more varied, and at points rather experimental in its tracks- though we do still have some fairly formal and graceful orchestration based scoring too. We move from the darkly mysterious "Trance Mutation” with its deep throat singing, chanting, brooding horn wails, & ceremony bell-to-gong strikes. Onto the jabbing ‘n’ layered ethnic percussion and grooving bass lines “Pissed And Passed Out”. Through to slow & dramatic orchestration and string swoons of “Communion”. As we get to around halfway through we have the grand rising mystery of swooning eastern ethic string & lulling tip-tap tabla percussion of “Tarot Will Teach You / Burn Your Money”. As we move into the second half of the score we have erratically darting keys meets mournful strings & playful jazzy vibe playing of "Rich Man In A Fishbowl", Or the slow ornate classic guitar-meets- forlorn horn work of "Starfish", with the album been topped off with snazzy funk-rock band meets pumping ‘n’ weaving hornwork of "Pantheon Bar (Bees Make Honey)". It’s a great shifting soundtrack really- which can easily be played without the film.
Finally, on the third Blu Ray we have Pychomagic, a Healing Art ( aka Psychomagic: A Healing Art ) which is Jodorowsky's most recent film- and this is an oddity all of its own. It’s listed a documentary- which it is partly, but also a mix of quirky surreal shorts, performance art, and bizarre new-age talking head stuff. The film runs one hour forty-four minutes- it begins with Jodorowsky talking directly to the camera by a natural rock wall- he tries to explain his own brand of healing art which he calls Psychomagic- then we start getting examples with Jodorowsky working with different people- first, we get two sons and a mother whom he tags & pulls around the room, then as we go on things get expectedly wacky we have a man whose been mentally poisoned by his father- for this Jodorowsky takes him out into woods buries him alive, with a glass bowl over his head then throws down piles of ripped & blood organs, which vultures come down to devour- after he’s dug up is stripped, and gets milk poured over him. As we move on we find a group of women painting naked with their period blood, unhappy couples stripped & wrapped in cloths to be seemingly rebirth by an old woman. At times some of the encounters are rather touching & felt- for example, we see Jodorowsky with a very emotionally upset elderly woman in her apartment- he gets her to fill up a bottle of water from the tap, then the pair make their way to a local park where shes instructed to water a 300-year tree that is now her protector, and she has to do this for the next twenty-two days.
The surreal shorts that are dotted throughout the film to make certain points are a mix of footage from Jodorowsky older work, and new footage- these break up the whole thing nicely, as do him talking to camera scenes in what looks like the studio set to some wacky game show. On the whole, it does feel a tad too long- at times staying on certain subjects longer than needed, but as a whole, like all Jodorowsky work it’s a highly distinctive & one-off experience. The disc extras we just get a trailer, though this is the first time the films ever been released on Blu Ray.
In conclusion, Alejandro Jodorowsky Collection is a heady, weird & wholly one-off trip into the world of one of the true cinematic auteurs. The new 4k prints look great, and both the new & archive extras are most worthy- if you’re a fan of odd and quirky film with grand & often quite deranged visuals you really be needing to search out this set