Jodorowsky's style is unique among filmmakers for the degree of dense semiotic layering through each frame. As Criswell notes, "to break down any of his works would require immense reading on an array of symbolic texts and references and even then it may not be any closer to deciphering the layered mystery."
The filmmaker studied with the mystic G.I. Gurdjieff
, and perhaps his most famous film, 1973's The Holy Mountain,
was financed in part by John Lennon
. The Beatle was a huge admirer of Jodorowsky's previous film, El Topo,
and had acquired the rights to it after being introduced to it by Yoko Ono.
As can be seen from Bond's essay (as well as in the trailer to The Holy Mountain) this is not a filmmaker who operates in normal realms. In Criswell's words, "when we talk about image in regards to Jodorowsky, we don't discuss the cinematic formalism of imagery. We discuss a literal image, the physical content of what makes up the film's diegetic space."
It's interesting that this filmmaker was once in talks to direct Dune
, writing a script and crafting storyboards
while working with the team that had worked on Alien.
The filmed version of Frank Herbert's novel had a famously tortured history (it was eventually directed by David Lynch
), and there is a well-regarded documentary about Jodorowsky's time on the project.
There's really not a great deal more to be said here (by me) on the subject of Jodorowsky, if only because the old saw that compares talking about music to "dancing about architecture," that is, to an absurd and foolish errand, is certainly true in this case. To write about his work in the absence of the visual is fairly useless, and also has an unfortunate tendency of making one sound pretentious and silly. Lucky for me then that Msr. Criswell has done everyone a great service by taking up the heavy lifting of introducing and contextualizing the work of one of the more difficult, yet rewarding, film artists. Take the trip.