“YOUR BRAIN IS A CRAZY GUY”
Visionary Poly-Artist ALEXANDRO JODOROWSKY talks with Jay Babcock about psychomagic, shamanism, video games and Marilyn Manson—as well as his spirit-bending films and comics.
originally published in Mean Magazine #6 (Dec ’99-Jan ’00)
A man holds all the universe within him; and art is his view of it. But in the work of some artists spiral vast galaxies of meaning and imagination that dwarf by many magnitudes the plebian earthbound work of others. Seventy-year-old Alexandro Jodorowsky—post-Surrealist filmmaker, author, puppeteer, Tarot expert, post-Jungian psychological theorist, playwright, novelist—is one such artist.
Screen Jodorowsky’s El Topo or The Holy Mountain, read The Incal or Metabarons comics, or listen to one of his interviews or lectures, and you encounter a one-man spiritual multiculture at play: the anthropological erudition and enthusiasm of Joseph Campbell roughhousing with an outrageous artistic sensibility that begins at Bunuel, Beckett and Breton and ends in some psychedelic sci-fi super-space: the kind of man who can screenwrite ”He lifts up the robe and draws a pistol” and then comment Talmud-style in the margins, “I don’t know if he draws it from a gunbelt or from his unconscious.”
Unfortunately, for all but the most clued-in and hooked up in the English-sqawking world, most of Jodorowsky’s artistic and philosophical output of the last 30 years has been tantalizingly unavailable: films have gone unissued on video, comics and other written work have gone untranslated or dropped out of print. But, finally, at the turn of the century, the situation is changing.
Jodorowsky’s “lost” 1967 film Fando & Lis has been reissued on DVD by San
Francisco-based Fantoma Films (who have generously included a director’s
commentary track by Jodorowsky and the excellent, full-length ’95 French
documentary La Constellation Jodorowsky), The Holy Mountain has been released for the first time (legally) on video, and, perhaps most
significantly, the U.S. branch of Humanoides Associes has begun an
ambitious program of printing English-language editions of Jodorowsky’s
prodigious graphic novel output.
So the time seemed right to give the endlessly aphoristic, giddily profound Mr. Jodorowsky the kind of forum in American publications he enjoyed in the early ’70s when El Topo and The Holy Mountain were consecutive midnight movie successes and the Chilean-born director was regarded by many surviving counter-culture types (John Lennon, Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper among them) and journalists as The Guy Who Just May Have the Answer.
We rang Alexandro in Paris at midnight recently to find out what he’s up to, what he’s thinking and get him to reflect a bit on his long and storied career, even if he once said, “As soon as I define myself, I am dead.”
That said, let us attempt a synopsis for the new initiates.
Born in 1929 to Russian Jewish parents, Jodorowsky grew up in Iquique, Chile, a barren, rocks-and-pebble seaside village where (Jodorowsky claims) it has not rained for 300 years. As a child he developed a love for fantastic films like Flash Gordon, Zorro and especially The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Frankenstein (“I love the monster!” he says), encountered ethnic differences and (he was circumcised, his friends were not) and witnessed the goings-on you’d expect of a port town with a prostitutes’ avenue-although his story of seeing a dead sailor’s penis in a box (which he and his friends buried in the surf) sounds like the kind of experience only a Jodorowsky (or a Fellini) could have.
Jodorowsky studied philosophy and psychology for two years at the University of Santiago before quitting; “I hated university, so I made puppets,” Jodorowsky says on the Fando y Lis commentary track, matter-of-factly explaining his transition from student to marionette. By the time he left Chile in 1953, Jodorowsky had a 50-person company devoted to radical ideas about theatre (“Artaud was my Bible”) and a host of new ambitions. Over the next decade, Jodorowsky studied with the mime guru Etienne Decroux in Paris, mimeographed Marcel Marceau’s famous “The Cage,” toured the world, and directed the legendary Maurice Chevalier in the theatre.
By the mid-’60s, Jodorowsky had formed a loose, outrageous conspiracy of post-Surrealist, Absurdist artists like playwright and author Fernando Arrabal they jokingly dubbed the Panic Movement. The Panic Movement, Arrabal explains in La Constellation Jodorowsky, “was based on the explosion of reason. We knew what has become obvious for science today: that we are unable to explain the world solely through the means of reason. We are not soldiers for confusion. What we are for is uncertainty, the impossibility to explain the fact that time and space is an illusion.” The Panic artists’ most infamous event was 1965’s four-hour “Sacramental Melodrama,” perhaps the world’s first “happening”: a live performance involving nudity, self-flagellation, turtles, gelatin, live rock n roll, raw meat and plenty of leather.
On his return to Mexico in the late-’60s, Jodorowsky wrote three novels, started writing and drawing a subversive weekly comic strip (“Panic Fables”) in the right-wing newspaper The Herald, and formed a popular avant garde theatre company that performed the works of Beckett, Ionesco, Adamov, Strindberg and their absurd ilk. Eventually, in 1967, Jodorowsky adapted one such play, Arrabal’s Fando y Lis, to film, substituting his typical resourcefulness for his lack of formal training in cinema: he tied himself to his cameraman with a rubber strap in order to spontaneously place shots, employed a non-professional cast that included his wife, his friends, local thieves and prostitutes, a physician, and a group of underground transvestites, and shot without license on weekends in an abandoned mine with a budget of $100,000.
The result was a surreal parade of sacrilege: sex foreplay in a cemetery,
on-camera blood-drinking, Mexico’s traditional white-haired matron depicted
as a lascivious gambler and a bizarre scene involving baby serpents and a
female toy doll. By the time the film had passed the one-hour mark during
its premiere at the 1968 Acapulco Film Festival, most of those in
attendance had left the theatre, outraged by what they had witnessed on
screen. Afterwards, Jodorowsky escaped the rock-throwing rabble that had
gathered outside the theatre by hiding on the floor of a getaway limo. Some
of the film’s “actors” sided with popular opinion against Jodorowsky;
meanwhile Mexico’s most famous film director declared that he was prepared
to murder Jodorowsky as a point of national honor. The film was soon banned
in Mexico; a severely edited version was eventually released in the U.S.
Jodorowsky was now committed to film.
“Vishkin [the next film’s would-be financier] and I got together on a Monday,” remembers Jodorowsky. “I had nothing thought out and Vishkin didn’t have a penny. And we said, ‘Let’s make a film.’ Then I found the idea and Vishkin found the money.” Nine months later, El Topo was completed. This one-of-a-kind Eastern-as Western metaphysical allegory, which Jodorowsky scripted, designed, directed, scored and starred in, was an immediate hit on New York’s nascent midnight movie circuit , playing to a sold-out Elgin Theatre for seven straight months.
Celebrity enthusiasts for El Topo included Yoko Ono, Bob Dylan, Sam Fuller, Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, a young Peter Gabriel, and Yoko Ono and John Lennon. It would be Lennon who would secure the $1 million budget for Jodorowosky’s next film, via ABKCO, the financial management company for the Beatles and the Rolling Stones run by the notorious Allen Klein.
“It was very easy to do [El Topo],” said Jodorowsky in a 1971 conversation, published in El Topo: A Book of the Film, that outlined his radical theories of cinema in general and his ambitions for his next film (1973’s The Holy Mountain) in particular. “I think we had a kind of communication working among us, a very magical communication. When you live the picture, when you are not acting, there is no dichotomy…no alienation. What you are doing is real. Because I think that if you want a picture to change the world, you must first change the actors in the picture. And before doing that, you must change yourself. Right? This must be done. With every new picture, I must change myself, I must kill myself, and I must be born. I must kill the actors and they must be born. And then the audiences, the audiences who go to the movies, must be assassinated, killed, destroyed, and they must leave the theatre as new people. That is a good picture….When I direct a film, everybody-myself included-falls into such trances that there is dead silence, because our lives are at stake.”
For The Holy Mountain, a film (very generally) about the quest for enlightenment and immortality, the director underwent a long series of training in different spiritual arts and rituals that included a week without sleep under the supervision of a Zen master, LSD trips with a hippie guru, etc. The film’s crew lived together in isolation under Jodorowsky’s direction for one month. And finally, they were ready to make what is arguably Jodorowsky’s cinematic masterpiece, a pulsing, mindbending, unforgettable fantasma of metaphysical ideas and extravagant, super-real tableaux.
“Jodorowsky is insanely talented,” says Arrabal in Constellation. “Quite literally, he’s talented to the point of madness. But as with all madmen there’s a method to his madness. He’s a mathematical madman. He’s a divine madman. He’s a constructivist madman.”
So if Jodorowsky’s films are created in a trance—he says he cannot remember his intention, that it is essentially all intuition, that he is speaking from his unconscious to the audience’s unconscious, using a culturally loaded symbolic language—but they are also, at least to Jodorowsky, eminently translatable. “You ask me about any symbol you like,” he says in El Topo: A Book of the Film. “I know the meaning of every symbol there is. So do you, because the meaning of every symbol is recorded in your brain cells. It’s already been written down. Everything can be read. Everything is a book. You can read a hat, shoes…an umbrella.”
Jodorowsky’s other films, with the exception of 1989’s return-to-form Santa Sangre, have been disappointments: his now-legendary 1975 version of Dune was scotched after pre-production; a children’s fable entitled Tusk was such a disaster that all prints were quickly destroyed; and 1993’s The Rainbow Thief was strictly a work-for-hire affair (“It was like receiving 300 blows with a stick every day! I hated Peter O’Toole! I wanted to KICK Peter O’ Toole!”)
But to fixate on Jodorowsky-as-filmmaker is to substitute a melodramatic lost-master career arc for the truer—and far more interesting—story. The disaster that was Dune (for more details, see the unedited Q& A below) led directly to Jodorowsky’s involvement in European comics via French artist (and Dune storyboarder) Jean ‘Moebius’ Giraud. The two initially collaborated on The Incal, a science fiction romp doubling as a journey of self-discovery. Many more Jodorowsky-scripted graphic albums—with both Moebius and other big-name European comics artists like Zoran Janetov, Fred Beltran and Juan Giminez—have followed since.
Meanwhile, Jodorowsky has cemented his reputation as one of the world’s leading interpreters of the Tarot, written novels and plays, given a series of free weekly lectures since 1981 called The Cabaret Mystique, and developed a post-Jungian system of psychological therapy he calls ”psychomagic.”
“It is a continuation of my artistic work, and I don’t see why an artist shouldn’t be interested in therapy,” Jodorowsky says in Constellation. “All of our problems originated from the way we were born. And the way we were born depends on the emotional relationships between our mother and father…I realized that we had a family unconscious… I am a thinking family. My illnesses are created by my family. My behavior, the way I live, my conception of money, my emotional and sexual relationships are all created by my family. Indeed the psychological and genetic field I come from marks my whole life… If I want to understand my self, I have to understand my family tree, because I am permanently possessed, as in voodoo. Even when we cut ties with our family, we carry it. In our unconscious, the persons are always alive. The dead live with us.
“Exploring the family tree means engaging in a fierce battle with the monster, like a nightmare, so that the monster can give you the treasure. The family tree is a real nightmare where we find sadomasochism everywhere, narcissism everywhere, self-hatred everywhere. So with the excrement that is the family tree, we have to produce the treasure gold.”
Following is a slightly edited transcript of my midnight phone conversation
with Jodo, integrated with a few follow-up email exchanges. Special thanks
to Dorna Khazemi for helping with translation and transcription.
Jay Babcock: YOU ARE UP AT MIDNIGHT?
Alejandro Jodorowsky: Yes, I work. I do not sleep.
YOU WORK AT NIGHT?
Yes, I like that. There are no sounds from the street. It is better. [snip] I will try my best because I don’t speak English—I speak like Speedy Gonzalez.
OK. I’VE JUST FINISHED READING THE INCAL FOR THE FIRST TIME. I GUESS THE
BOOKS THAT ARE COMING OUT, WHICH I HAVEN’T YET READ, ARE RELATED TO ‘THE
Yes, I write a whole universe. The characters I developed, those characters, that society. This moment of the galaxy…
The genealogical tree of the MetaBaron, of his family…And then I developing another series The Pantechnologist..the Technopriests, I develop that. And some other books.
IT’S THIS WHOLE UNIVERSE THAT STARTED OUT OF THIS COLLABORATION WITH MOEBIUS?
With Moebius, and then with Giminez, Beltran, Janjetov… Not only Moebius.
BUT THOSE WERE THE INITIAL BOOKS.
The initial, yes, Moebius.
A LOT OF AMERICANS KNOW YOU ONLY FOR YOUR FILMS, NOT YOUR COMICS.
Yes, I know.
BUT YOU’VE ALWAYS BEEN INTERESTED IN COMICS, RIGHT?
Always, before I make movies, I do comics. I like that. For me it’s an art as movies. It’s an activity. I don’t see who is better. It’s a way of expression, no? For me the modern novel are graphic novels, no?
AND WITH FILM, YOU ALWAYS HAVE TO WRESTLE WITH THE STUDIO—
With the studio, the producer, the industry, the money. You cannot express yourself.
AND WITH COMICS, YOU’VE FOUND IT MUCH EASIER—
Yes! Because you have only the artist, you and the editor…
AND THE LIMITS OF YOUR IMAGINATION.
And nobody to put on limits. The only limit we have is to faith. Because is a more expensive than to publish a novel. It is original film, you cannot continue it. I am liking Europe very, very well. It is better than other countries, in Europe. France.
YOU ARE LIVING IN PARIS, NOW?
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN THERE?
Oh, 20 years.
YOU’VE LIVED ALL OVER THE WORLD—
Yes. I don’t know what nationality I have! I was born in Chile but when I think about myself, I don’t have a nationality.
IS IT GOOD TO NOT HAVE A NATIONALITY?
It’s good, but not at the moment. [laughter] Maybe in two more centuries it will be good. Now is very good for me, but to live in the world is difficult, because now the world is like the Olympiad–you need to have a country. But in my mind I don’t have a country.
YES. CAN YOU TELL ME SOMETHING ABOUT THE PANIC MOVEMENT?
That was a moment of my life when I want to…this is in the ’60s, eh?…I was going to the Surrealist group with Andre Breton. And at this time I was fortunate to meet good artists—Arrabal and Topov. And right then I leave the Surrealist movement—in that time, Andre Breton was very old. He had a lot of limits now, because the Surrealists were a Romantic movement, and they didn’t like science fiction, they didn’t like rock, they didn’t like pornography, they didn’t like a lot of things of the world, no? We started to go further than this and we made the Panic.
WHAT WAS THE MOVEMENT? THERE WERE HAPPENINGS? WHAT DID THE PANIC ARTISTS MAKE?
We made Happenings. Before the Happenings, we make a that was called ..ephermis…ephemeral. Which was something like performance, no? In that time we did that. We thought the Panic artist, he make everything: movies, comics, poetry, painting, everything, no? Poly-artist!
THE NAME COMES FROM THE GREEK—
The word Pan means “totality.”
AH. NOW WHAT HAPPENED WITH THAT MOVEMENT, DID IT JUST END AFTER A COUPLA YEARS?
No. Because this movement was a joke! We didn’t believe in that. We made that in order to laugh at our culture. People speak about Panic…we never make meetings, only we went to restaurant and laughed. We loved making jokes. Later we have a lot of Panic followers…painters, writers, people say they’re Panics. But for us it was a real joke.
OK. SO THAT WAS AFTER THE SURREALISTS. YOU WERE EMBRACING ALL THE THINGS
THAT WERE EXCITING YOU IN THE POPULAR CULTURE.
ROCK N ROLL, COMICS…
All that in that time, yes. We liked books, Little Richard, things like, no? [laughs]
DO YOU FOLLOW WHAT’S GOING ON IN THE POPULAR CULTURE RIGHT NOW?
Now in the pop culture I have a big interest in the interviews of Marilyn Manson. I like this guy. I find him very interesting when he make interviews. I think this is one fellow who is interesting for me. What he says, he is very artistic. His clips [videos] are very artistic. Some person cannot misunderstand this guy. I don’t know what is his musical value, but I like his optical values. He always is breaking limits, no? In what he says. I think he is not good for the moral and things like that, no? Art is always amoral. And he seems apersonal, this person. You cannot know who he is! Evil doesn’t exist there. He is like a product, he is not like a human being. He’s something who is further than a human being. And that is important. He’s supposed to have a mask, no? All the time he is an actor, he’s a transvestite, but not woman, he’s a transvestite of something that is not human. And then for me, it is especially artistic, what he does.
SIMILAR TO DAVID BOWIE IN THE ’70S?
Further than David Bowie. David Bowie is still human. You can identify David Bowie, who he is. There’s no mysteries, now.
YES, NOW. BUT IN THE ’70S—
In the 70s he was very interesting. He was important in the 1970s. Now he is … Marilyn Manson is going further–his interviews are literally fantastic. I think he is a kind of genius, literally…
YOU’RE ALMOST 70 NOW, RIGHT?
Almost, yes. But I am not senile! At all.
ARE YOU TREATED NOW LIKE ONE OF THE WISE OLD MEN FROM YOUR FILMS?
Listen, life is very, very beautiful. [laughs] In the center of the horror, of the civilization, there is the happiness to be alive. This is a happiness, when you can create a world, no?, and you have a public, it is fantastic.
SO YOU’RE FEELING VERY HAPPY THESE DAYS?
I always were happy. [laughs] I think I am idiotically optimistic.
DO YOU STILL FEEL LIKE YOU ARE LEARNING THINGS?
Yes! I am learning all of the time.
WHAT ARE YOU LEARNING RIGHT NOW? WHO ARE YOU LEARNING FROM?
I am making a big, big study… Art? I don’t need to study art. No? Because art you are doing, it’s the way you develop. But in another way, you can study things. Like the Tarot, the meaning of the Tarot. From there I went to psychology, and I worked with the magic and psychology. I invented Psychomagic.
CAN YOU TELL ME SOMETHING ABOUT THAT, BECAUSE I DON’T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT
YOUR WORK THERE?
It’s a very, very long to speak about that…
IT’S OKAY.. .
In Mexico, I knew a lot of old men…in the city of Mexico there are a lot of popular persons who, healing persons, no? They make phony miracles, no? But—even if what they do is not real, the person who are in this, believes, they are good for the peoples.
SO EVEN IF IT IS NOT REAL, IF IT HAS A GOOD EFFECT—
Yes, they do it. Better than medicine! Because they use faith. Then I start to study psychological method they use. And I apply that to psychoanalysis. I create a therapeutic path that is Psychomagic. I use the—how to say? English is very difficult for me—I use the actions which the people use in the superstition, I use the actions, I use the same elements that we know is phony. We know that, no? That is the art. That is the language to speak to the unconscious of the person. It is magical-like.
AND THIS WAS SUCCESSFUL?
Very! Very, a big success. I think because I make a book, Psychomagic: The Transformative Power of Shamanic Psychotherapy. I have a lot of followers of that, in Europe, in Spain, in Chile, in Mexico, in France, in Italy. A lot of the Gestalt therapists used that now. From there I start to study a lot of things like that, no?
NOW, WHEN WERE YOU DEVELOPING THE PSYCHOMAGIC? THE ’70S?
No, no, the ’80s.
I’M SORRY, I DON’T KNOW ALL OF YOUR HISTORY.
You are not obliged to know! [laughter]
SO WE ARE ALMOST TO THE YEAR 2000—
When I was in the year 1980, I make nothing when I went to 1981. We went one year to the other, this is all. Now there is this craziness. When we go from 1999 to the year 2000, is to go from one year to another. It is same thing–is nothing! Is nothing! It is going from one year to the other. Because time is not divided into millenniums–that doesn’t exist. For me, it is very natural. I am going from one year to the other year, so what is this thing. It doesn’t mean nothing to me! I am not proud to be in the 2000 year. What the difference? It’s a number!
IN THE INCAL BOOKS, YOU SAID YOU READ MICKEY SPILLANE FOR INSPIRATION AND
I read all the book of Mickey Spillane. Because I want to have that rhythm, I want to have something there. Reading Spillane, I got the tempo of The Incal.
THE STRUCTURE OF IT—
For other series I did, I had other inspirations. For The Metabarons, I read all the tragedies, the Greek tragedies. I read from that. Then I make The MetaBarons, because that is a tragedy. It’s a tragic thing. A Greek tragedy from the future. But Incal is more than a thriller, but this is why I read Mickey Spillane.
WHAT ABOUT THE TECHNO-PRIEST BOOKS?
The Techno-Priest I write about the whole new industry of the cd-rom, the new games in the world. The world is going to be dominated by the games, now. Video games. But more advanced than video games. They are audiogram games, no? The games directs the galaxies, and the ruler of the galaxy are the businessman, who is the Techno Priest. Business became religion.
I THINK WE HAVE THAT IN AMERICA, NOW.
Yeah, you have that and you don’t realize. [laughs] In America the god is the dollar, no? That is God. At one time the dollar will be sacred. And the industry will be the Church. That I am doing. Then the Techno Priest is the history of the high priest of that church, that industrial church. You need to learn to know how to make games, how to use the humanity, how to conduct the humanity to make the games, and to buy the games, etc. It is very interesting.
ARE YOU INTERESTED IN DESIGNING VIDEO GAMES YOURSELF?
Yes. Last year I did in L.A. They’re doing that now. I went there and proposed, I say, Listen, I want to make this type of story, are you interested? They said, Yes, sure. I made two games of, and I am making a game of the Metabaron, then they are doing. I think, “There is a new artform.” Very interesting.
AND IF YOU COMBINE THE GAME WITH THE INTERNET—
Yes. It is normal. Why is important? Because in the future world, the humanity will work less and less. And will have more and more time for them, the games. And then we will get bored. See my meaning? We are animals, we are bored. And then the games will be the most important thing. You know now, the world, no? All the world we have are games. We see the world through television, like games. You are in America, you know that. You have the live television—when a person is killing somebody, you see that on the television, you can follow that. Life is becoming a show, a game, no? More and more.
SO YOU HAVE TO DESIGN A BETTER GAME—
Yes I think it is important. An artist needs to go there.
WHAT IS THE KEY TO MAKING A GOOD VIDEO GAME?
A video game …you need to realize there is not only one style of video game. You need to know all the different types of video games, the different constructions. You have the video games—you need to kill all kind of things. You are a killer. Rat-a-tat-tat. [laughs] Then there are the combat. You are fighting, and playing, any kind of fight. That is not interesting. Then you have the game where you need to discover how to go from one side to the other, no? You need to choose the way A, the way B, the way C. You have chosen, like a tree. You go to the right or to the left. You construct if like a tree. There are other games where you make a universe, and you put inside characters and then they start to move as a world. That is interesting for me.
THAT WOULD SEEM TO BE THE GAME FOR YOU—
You create a universe, but you do not direct the characters. They will attempt to move. And then there is the content of the games which is very important. In the future you will have one million players in a game, or 2 million, or 20 million playing that game. There also the game you make distant worlds where you are another living in the life in another world, you know? You need to choose what kind of game you want to do.
SO I ASSUME YOU’D BE INTERESTED IN THE GAME WHERE YOU CREATE THE WHOLE
I prefer the games which are a mystery. You give to the person a lot of choice. But you limit the choice in some way. It’s a new way to tell a mystery. It’s a multidimensional mystery, it’s a new way to construct a mystery, because in the novel, the comics, the movies, you have one mystery, no? In the video game, now, there is another possibility: you will choose the point of view from where you will see the picture. No? We are coming to a new way to tell these stories. Humanity never knew that way to tell stories. You can tell a mystery from different point of view in the same moment. It’s important, it’s a real revolution.
WHY DO YOU THINK THIS IS SO IMPORTANT?
Because all the life we have is made with the mind. The world is what we think the world is. No? Revolution doesn’t exist, because the revolution is fake. It’s a failure, revolution. You change one thing for another thing. Humanity cannot evolve with revolution. Humanity cannot evolve without mutation, you know? With Transformation. The games will change, will open the mind of the individual or the citizen, will give a freedom from the world. There is change now. It’s important. But these things are good or are bad. The personal telephone did all kind of things — open the way of communication, no? I want to open a way to feel the world, to act in the world. What I am saying now is important. We will very soon be rid of television. Television will die in order to be born another kind of communication who will be more complicated than television. It is very exciting, very nice–very dangerous, also. Because you can be manipulated very easily. You can lose your freedom. Everything will change. Life will change, politics will change, economy will change. We are going through a mutation.
PEOPLE WILL EXIST IN THIS SPACE RATHER THAN INSIDE A COUNTRY, RIGHT?
Yes, right. Now in this moment, I am speaking with you. We are very, very far and we are speaking. I am there and you are here. In the net you can make music, you can do that today–different countries! You can write books! You will be able to do things human beings have never been able to do before. That is good!
YES. NOW, I READ THAT YOU ARE CURRENTLY WORKING ON A FILM WITH CARO?
I did the screenplay. My work is finished, I wrote the script.
WHAT IS IT ABOUT?
He wanted to make something impossible–an actor who gets lost in the universe. And that is all! Like one actor. And then I say, “Well, is difficult to make a picture for only one actor.”
BUT THAT’S WHAT YOU DID WITH MARCEL MARCEAU—
Ah, well…When I write it for Caro, the one actor multiplies himself in the time, no? [Caro] says, “This is impossible to do.” So, I did it. I write it.
IS THE FILM GOING TO BE MADE?
They will do it, but the picture takes four years til they do it. It’s a question of time, from the script, from the early phase, there is a lot of time.
RIGHT. WHAT ELSE ARE YOU WORKING ON AT THE MOMENT?
Listen, in just this moment, I am very busy making the comics because it is a big success. And then I make seven series, different series. Every month until the end of the year, I have a book who’s coming, one book every month. And then also I write novels—they’re going very well in Spanish, in French and in Italian, and German, no? You will know my books in the United States one day maybe. Also I finish a theatre play they will show in Italy. A lot of things like that. I have my therapies. I have not time to make other things. Maybe I will start another picture, I will do another picture, but is difficult to do a picture. First, it takes a whole year to do it, no? Then you need to fight against studio people because the industry doesn’t want a personality to make a picture, they want a product. And more and more the goals are collective struggles, no? And more and more expensive! It’s difficult, but it’s possible that the capital, the money, is difficult to obtain, you need to have agreements with televisions and bankers and they will change your script and you cannot doing what you want! That is the thing, no? I admire the person who make Matrix or Starship Troopers, things like that, no? Pictures like that I like a lot, myself. They are industry products, but they are good.
THEY HAPPEN IN SPITE OF THE INDUSTRY, NOT BECAUSE OF THE INDUSTRY.
Yes! That is not for me now.
WILL THERE BE A SEQUEL TO ‘EL TOPO’? I’VE SEEN THE TITLES “SON OF EL TOPO”
AND “EL TORO” MENTIONED—
It won’t do a conventional “Part II.” I wrote a script named Abelcain, which could be the story of the Sons of El Topo. I’ve been looking for five years for a producer to invest five million dollars in the project. Impossible.
AH. YOUR COMICS ARE SET IN THE FUTURE, WHEREAS EL TOPO AND HOLY MOUNTAIN
WERE APPARENTLY IN THE PRESENT—
No, you see now, there are still, they are not old, because the present was not a real present. It was the same world—like a fairy tale, was out of reality. I don’t like to make an art that’s in reality. Realism I don’t like. I don’t like! I dislike. I like in the future.
FOR SOME REASON WE CAN’T SEE HOLY MOUNTAIN IN THE UNITED STATES…
This is because Allen Klein.
WHAT IS THE DEAL? THAT GUY SEEMS LIKE A VERY BAD MAN—
He’s a bad man. Listen, I don’t know why he hate me. He want to kill El Topo, he want to kill The Holy Mountain. He tried to kill that, but it’s impossible because it’s full of pirates, the world. And all the world see my picture in pirate. Pirates everywhere! Now there are pirates in England, very good copies. He cannot stop that, he tried for 20 or 30 years he tried to stop this picture, he cannot do it.
HE’S A REAL SCOUNDREL.
Yes, he’s a monster!
HE SEEMS TO HAVE DONE THIS TO A LOT OF PEOPLE.
I think he has an illness of power. No? And then he came with an ego trip with me. He wanted to talk to me, he wanted me to make pornographic pictures. And then I went out. I say No, he want me to make a pornography, so I escape from him. And then he says this: “You don’t want to work for me, we kill your work.” That is so! For me, he’s a criminal. When you try to kill a art, you are a killer, a criminal. For me I condemn him to be killed! Really! He deserves that, to be condemned to be killed!
KENNETH ANGER IS ALSO UPSET WITH ALLEN KLEIN FOR SOME REASON—
He’s a criminal! Allen Klein is a real criminal, he needs to be killed.
UM. YOU CAME INTO CONTACT WITH THE GUY THROUGH JOHN LENNON, RIGHT?
Yes, John Lennon liked El Topo. He saw El Topo in New York at the Indian Theatre. And then it started. And then through Allen Klein, because Lennon have Apple…He had Apple give me one million dollars to do The Holy Mountain. That’s what happened.
I ALSO WANTED TO ASK YOU ABOUT—
How, where you will put all that, it’s impossible!
WELL, WE HAVE A SPECIAL MAGAZINE…
Ah! Well, okay.
I DID HAVE A COUPLE QUESTIONS FROM FRIENDS…ARE YOU STILL A CHILEAN CITIZEN?
I went out of Chile in 1953 and then I was 40 years without go. And then I went out to Chile before Allende and I came when Pinochet was finished. Now I go, every year I go for ten days, because they publish my books there. And every year they publish one book, I go to Chile. I am hero in Chile! [laughs] Also I am French. I have dual nationalities.
NOW, A LOT OF YOUR FILMS AND COMICS ARE ASSOCIATED WITH DRUG USE.
Drug use? Listen. Mmm. That was the culture. The drug culture was the ’60s, was like that. But that is not my world, you know? I am not a drug artist. I was always…in very good health! [laughs] I never use….Sure, I take LSD twice. And hallucinogenic mushroom twice. That is all!
DID YOU FIND THESE TO BE ENLIGHTENING, INSIGHTFUL EXPERIENCES?
When I take the LSD, I hired a guru who give it, who guide the experience. It was also insightful from the [Inca?] training. He came to Mexico and I make two sessions of him of eight hours. That was a guru. The guru was Oscar Ichazo. He used to promise his followers that he would give them enlightenment very quickly, using the best from the Eastern techniques as a cocktail. He called it the Arica training. He wanted to be a new Scientology, but they failed. But anyway, was interesting. I didn’t make that in order to have fun! I wanted to open my mind in order to make The Holy Mountain. This kind of drug doesn’t give you illumination, but shows you how your brain is a crazy guy. Because we live inside a crazy world with our brain. And that open you to your own craziness inside. You can see there are possibilities. And when you see the possibilities, and the toxic effects have gone, you know where you can go.
YOU’VE SEEN HOW YOU CAN CHANGE YOURSELF—
You see that, you see what is fixed, what limits you have. And it’s a help, in one moment of the life, it’s a big help, one experience like that. But you need to do it with a master! Because if you do it alone or with other persons, you will obtain nothing! It needs to be some kind of sacred experience. That is the reality.
CAN YOU TELL ME WHAT OTHER EXPERIENCES YOU’VE HAD THAT YOU CONSIDER SACRED
OR IMPORTANT TO PEOPLE IN DEVELOPING THEMSELVES?
It’s important for me myself to go to primitive cultures and to have a contact because there you will know another way to think, another way to see the universe, the world.
ARE THERE ONES IN PARTICULAR—
I did that a lot in Mexico, also in Chile with the Mapuches, the Chilean Indians. I went there to study with the medicine woman in Chile from the… There, the shamans are women. It was very interesting for me to go. I take for myself an excursion there. In Mexico also there are the brujos, the shamanic…it’s important to know the shamanic experience. In Brazil, for example. But it’s not important because some person in Mexico make confusion, to take peyote, to take ayahuasca, to take drugs. That is not important. What is important is to be in contact with another way to feel natural in the world. It is important to go out of the city. I make a lot of Zen meditations…Chinese philosophy…Kaballah. I was searching because I was afraid to die. I was searching how not to die! Really…But when I start to die, I stop the mystical search, no? Really, when you start to live is when you accept to die. Then you are really in reality. Hmm! [laughs] Not before.
ARE YOU INTERESTED AT ALL IN AFRICAN CULTURES?
Yes, a lot. I study very very much the voodoo, a very spectacular religion. Because in the voodoo what is important is the possession. The possession. How you go into a trance, how you are possessed. That is very important because it’s another way to feel nature. Hollywood makes the voodoo zombies and evil and idiocy like that. But voodoo is very respectable religion. And very wise. And is important to know that. The basis, the root of voodoo is African. Very important. The African religion of the possession, you can learn a lot. So I did it.
DO YOU BELIEVE THE PEOPLE ARE LITERALLY BEING POSSESSED BY SPIRITS, OR IS
IT JUST IMPORTANT THAT THEY BELIEVE THEY ARE BEING POSSESSED BY SPIRITS?
No no no, I don’t believe that! Listen…you see they are possessed by not anything, no? No, it’s not like that. In the voodoo, every god have a conduct, have his own movement, his own dress, his own rhythm, his way to act. And then it is a kind of sacred theatre. You are possessed. He is a mythical character who come in you. You can call that ‘archetype.’ Because in the unconscious you have archetypes. You have the archetype of Moon, of the Sun, you have the archetype of the warrior… They may come to you, the archetypes from inside the unconscious, they rise by the building up of realization, no? I don’t believe in gods, I believe in energies. There are different psychological energies you can awake.
THAT YOU CAN AWAKE FROM WITHIN YOUR OWN UNCONSCIOUS—
The criminal archetype..the criminals, the serial killers, they are the one who are possessed by energies, by negative and criminal energy, no? The saint, he have another energy. The artist have another energy. You have the energy of love… But in this unique expression of the human species, you have ways of..um..merde!
YOU CAN FIND DIFFERENT METHODS–
OF BRINGING THESE DIFFERENT ENERGIES TO–
Yes, that’s it. The average man has only one energy…Only his family, his school, his town…these are one energy. But there are a lot of other energies you can discover! And that is good to break some limit in the mind. But it’s dangerous also, because you can broke your energies and you can be possessed by the shape and try to destroy you. And in order to go to study the possession you need to be a very balanced person.
RIGHT. GOING BACK TO WHAT YOU WERE SAYING EARLIER: I SUPPOSE USING THE
VIDEO GAMES CAN BE ANOTHER METHOD OF BRINGING FORTH…
Yes, but we have a problem now in video games. Because we are in the prehistorical moment, eh? The prehistorical person in our history has to eat, has to fuck, has to fight. These things we know. They are primitive. Why the game like that, how to kill, how to fight, how to fuck…These are the games. Very basic, no? They are bad energies at the moment. We need to bring to that good energies, but this will take time. Because need to develop that new moment. We are in the basic moment, and then the kids, the boys, they learn violence, they’re learning how to kill. This is what they are doing, no? But in the same moment they learn how to direct the game, how to be polyvalent, to have very quick reaction… that is good also.
PERHAPS THE PEOPLE MAKING VIDEO GAMES SHOULD EXPERIENCE SOME SHAMANIC TRADITIONS! The people that are making video games are technicians now. They are not artists. This is why the new three dimension, the product, The Antz, the 3-D film, are so awful. They are not made by artists, they are made by technicians. One day the artists will learn all that and the artist will know the new techniques. Now I have an artist named Beltran and he make a comic with me—
YES, HE USES COMPUTERS—
Yes. It’s fantastic! And we have an enormous success! Because it’s new, it’s artistic, it’s the first time an artist is also technical, but is an artist. He’s the only one in Europe now. We need more!
I HAVEN’T READ TECHNOPRIESTS YET…
Ah. This is a book I made for boys of 13 years old, 14-year-olds…eh? I like a lot, eh.
WHAT AUDIENCE DID YOU WRITE THE INCAL FOR?
The Incal? Adults. Children can read it, but they’re for adults. “Adult.” What is an “adult”? 17 year, 18 years? I think. Maybe in America now you have 13 years. It changes all the time. Now I read an American girl of 11 years has 17 lovers! And I don’t know how…[inaud] [giggles]
DO YOU COME TO AMERICA VERY OFTEN?
I was there in Los Angeles, preparing this opening of comics.With what bad English I have, how can I make an interview? I swear to you I am more intelligent than that. I speak like an idiot, you know….