If there’s one filmmaker who has been omnipresent at this year’s festival, it has to be Alejandro Jodorowsky. The cult director know for his surreal interpretations returns to the filmmaking scene for the first time in twenty years with La Danza de la Realidad (based loosely on his autobiography). There is also a documentary entitled Jodorowsky’s Dune which details the incredible work that went into his failed adaptation of Dune that could have been one of the most influential films of its generation. Finally, Nicolas Winding Refn dedicated his latest film Only God Forgives to the director. We were lucky enough to sit down with the revered filmmaker at a roundtable discussion, to hear his thoughts on his latest film and cinema as an art form. Check out our conversation below, which was a combination of Jodorowsky’s English and his translator’s answers.
The Film Stage: You look many years younger than your age. How do you do it?
Alejandro Jodorowsky: I don’t know. I like art. I am an artist, no? For example, you will laugh. I don’t smoke. I don’t drink alcohol. I take walks. I run. I fall in love with young woman. That is a lot of exercise. I live a healthy life. I share my ideas all the time. I don’t believe in nothing then I change. I make art without stopping. I create all the time.
How do you get inspiration?
I don’t create ideas. They come. Sometimes I sign a contract that only has title. The Dune picture. I don’t know the book, and then I did it. Always like this. I have the idea then I start to work. And when I start the picture also I have a script but it is not done at the beginning. I advance with the reality. Because they say the reality is dance. I made a picture, Santa Sangre, where the father died, and then I was in a popular part of Mexico when a drunk woman start to sing, I said, take the voice. I need a society of blind persons. Where will we find in Mexico? And then I said, listen, I am making a picture of a mystical soul. Do you have? He said yes, we are a society, and then the next day 30 blind persons came. In this picture I wanted an actor without hands. How I find an actor without hands? It’s not possible. And then I will put it on Twitter. Ring ring. Hello. I was in an accident I lost my two hands but I have a problem. I also lost an eye. Fantastic!
How many offers did you get?
Without hands, without legs — 17. They have friends, because they love to act because nobody has seen them. I ask them how you lost your limbs, then they start to speak and I invite to the shootings. I have a normal woman. They exist.
When you were a kid, did the idea come to your mind?
My father came from Russia, five years old, escaping from the problems with his father. I have 7 years in Chile and then was very sexual and the voice I put in my picture. I also start to masturbate. Then I know I have something different. I was white, with my nose. They don’t want to play with me. And then the only thing to have friends for me is to read. And then I start to read fairytales, adventures, Shakespeare, classics — I read all the books from five years to ten years. What was my inspiration was my mind. Though my mind is closed but all these I know are history. I explore. From there I continue to have without ego, without vanity, I have a more sturdy imagination. I have 60 books of poetry. I am writing. I can’t create the story immediately.
Do you have ideas in your dreams that you use in your films?
No. In the dreams I know I am dreaming. But I don’t use that because my creation is not dream but I close the eyes and surely the faces, the imagery, one image will come.
Only very few filmmakers have made autobiographical films like you just did. Writers do it a lot, but filmmakers hesitate to recreate their past. What was it like to build up your past?
It’s a psychological explosion. In Chile, I went to my town. It didn’t change. It’s a dead town. I constructed my house exactly. And to me that was very strong. My sons came, I start to cry, because they see from where I am, my place of suffering. Then I have the opportunity to change my town. I was rejected and now I become the president son of the town. I was the hero of my town. They made me the mythical legend, the hero who finds the magic elixir and heals the town.
How was it directing your son in the torture scenes?
During El Topo my son was 7 years old. Now he is 50. It’s a pleasure to work with my son. I don’t like to work with a star, I prefer to work with my family. And he is a fantastic actor. The best I know. Playing my father, he’ll start to understand me, and our relation becomes better and better. In to world it’s family, society, culture, and you make mistakes. You cannot be a father without making mistakes. I made a lot of mistakes, because I wanted to be famous, I wanted to be an artist.
This is your first movie in 23 years. Was it difficult to get started making movies again?
Every night I see a picture or two, at 3 o’ clock in the morning. Suffering. Because I know I am very good at making movies. I could not do it. I was suffering. But I was moviemaker even if I don’t do. If say I die at 120 years, I have the time. I would wait for the moment. And when the moment comes, I could do it, I do it.
Did the idea for this film occur to you when you we’re suffering?
Yes, I was searching what I want to do in movies. I wanted to do the same ideas? No, I am not the same. I am not there, not when I did El Topo. That is not what I want now.
What has changed in the way you make films?
Life. I had a son of 24 years who died. From one day to the other. That changed me. Sometimes I have no money to eat. That changed me. Sometimes I am ill. That changed me. A lot of things changed me because life changes you and you follow and you get up and you continue. The number of critics I had in my life is like boxers (makes punching sounds). I am full of wounds. They hated me.
Your films have a cult status. Are you meeting more of your younger fans in the last 20 years?
Yes, more and more.
What surprised you most in their reactions to your films?
I feel understood. They follow the heroes. Their heroes are rock stars. Marilyn Manson loves Holy Mountain. He called me and he put on the internet that he loves Holy Mountain and a lot of 13-year-old gothic persons discover Holy Mountain. I need to wait 40, 50 years to be understood by the young persons. I have a young public. And now I am making Twitter. I have 800,000 followers. Everyday I have 1,000 more. Because Twitter is the literature of now. And I do it. And my public is young persons. Incredible, no?
Any plans to do a film on the Internet?
I don’t know. The next picture I will do I will imitate Nicolas Winding Refn. Because he imitate me, now I will imitate him, like a gangster movie in Mexico.
What do you think of his career at this point?
Well, I think he is a genius — movie-making genius.
What do you think is the reality of film art right now?
I do whatever I want. I cannot change the reality. To start to change the reality, I need to start to change myself, what I am doing. If I change myself, I start to be useful for the others. I do not work for fame. No, I am working to be useful. To open the mind of the person. If seeing is creating, there is a whole forest inside. Grow with your freedom. Do whatever you want. Be yourself, not what the others want you to be. Don’t be what your father, your family, your culture, your society wants of you.
Were you inspired by the Bible in your films?
Yes, I use the Bible a lot. Because when you are born in South America, Catholicism is there. And you have Christ over your shoulder. You need to be pure. And the priests, they are pedophiliac persons. They are living alone. They’re not fucking. I know a lot of persons, they are sons of priests. It’s terrible. Politics is terrible. Banks are terrible. Our society needs to change. That is the reality.
The Dance of Reality screened at Cannes Film Festival and is awaiting U.S. distribution.