Thursday, June 26, 2008

Filmmaker Focus: Alejandro Jodorowsky

This is the first of what I hope to be a series of blogs on filmmakers I've encountered in my cinematic travels (or simply put, directors I've watched). The latest director that have caught my fancy is Chilean director Alejandro Jodorowsky whose films are really something else. The first film of his I've seen was
Fando y Lis, one of the strangest love stories I've ever seen. The title characters, a man and his paraplegic girlfriend, go on a strange journey to find a mythic city to have their dreams and wishes fulfilled only to be driven mad. Shot in black and white, the story gets into all sorts of directions incorporating surreal and shocking imagery (including a scene where characters actually drink real human blood) but unlike, say, Peter Greenaway wherein story and character pretty much take a backseat to imagery and abstract ideas, Jodorowsky manages to engage the characters with the audience enough that gets them through the strange imagery and give them a surprising emotional wallop in the end.

As much as I admired Fando y Lis, I personally think El Topo is a genuine masterpiece. Like the former film, El Topo also concerns a strange journey. But this time far more complex and complicated. And colorful. And how. Some of the best use of color in film can found in El Topo. Some shots, I felt, were like moving abstract paintings, the deep reds, the bright blues, the blinding yellows. The film is a Western about a man who defeats a group of bandits and abandons his son for a woman who convinces him to go and defeat four gun masters then finds himself amongst freaks and battling an evil religious cult (believe me, it's even WEIRDER than it sounds). It's colorful as it's strange and fascinating, the film is filled with allegorical religious and political symbolisms and imagery that really has to be seen to be believed. Yet it manages not to feel the least bit pointless or pretentious. I really felt like I was watching a Fellini, Bunuel and a Leone film all at the same time.

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