Alejandro Jodorowsky

Birthday: Feb 7, 1929
Birthplace: Tocopilla, Chile
Born in 1929 in Chile to Russian-Jewish immigrants owners of a dry-goods store, Alejandro Jodorowsky seems an unlikely candidate to become one of the godfathers of the American midnight-movie scene. But essentially every turn in his career has been unlikely, a career that's found Jodorowsky taking on the roles of director, screenwriter, author, actor, cartoonist, editor, artist, composer, mime, guru, mystic, and tireless self promoter. A famed raconteur, it's occasionally difficult to sort the facts of Jodorowsky's early life from the myth. Entering the theater at an early age, Jodorowsky eventually enrolled at the University of Santiago, where he developed an interest in puppetry and mime. After creating a theater company that employed 60 people at its height, Jodorowsky departed for Paris, breaking with his parents and (according to Jodorowsky) throwing his address book in the sea.Once in Paris he began a lengthy collaboration with Marcel Marceau, collaborating on some of Marceau's most famous mimeograms. He also worked both in mainstream theater (directing Maurice Chevalier's comeback) and in offbeat productions. For the next few years, Jodorowsky worked alternately in Mexico City and Paris, developing his interest in the avant-garde and staging the playwrights who would be major influences on his film career, including Samuel Beckett, Ionesco, August Strindberg, and the Surrealists. Of special importance would be "theater of cruelty" champion Antonin Artaud and Spanish playwright Fernando Arrabal, with whom he launched the Panic movement (from the god Pan) in conjunction with artist Roland Topor. By the mid-1960s, the Panic movement began yielding full-fledged "ephemeras" or "happenings," theatrical events designed to be shocking. One four-hour ephemera starred a leather-clad Jodorowsky and featured the slaughter of geese, naked women covered in honey, a crucified chicken, the staged murder of a rabbi, a giant vagina, the throwing of live turtles into the audience, and canned apricots. This privileging of the provocative above all other qualities would prove to be a sign of things to come in Jodorowsky's early film career. In 1967, while working in the theater as one of Mexico City's most in-demand directors and concurrently turning out a comic strip entitled Fábulas Pánicas, Jodorowsky first tried his hand at directing a film. For his first project, he chose to adapt the Arrabal play Fando and Lis, which Jodorowsky had recently staged. Working on weekends from a one-page outline and his own memory of the script, Jodorowsky shot the story of two quarrelling lovers looking for the magical city of Tar. Fando and Lis was banned in Mexico after starting a riot at the 1968 Acapulco Film Festival, an event that forced Jodorowsky to flee an angry mob in a limousine. The film resurfaced to poor response in New York in 1970, garnering unfavorable comparisons to Fellini Satyricon.It wouldn't take long for the pain of rejection to wear off. In December 1970, Jodorowsky premiered his next film, the self-starring El Topo, at a midnight screening at the Elgin Theater in New York, bypassing the tumultuous Mexican scene entirely. Ignoring criticism that Fando and Lis owed too much to other directors, the nightmarish allegorical western El Topo practically announced its debts to Fellini, Luis Buñuel, and Sergio Leone. If audiences minded, it didn't show; El Topo became a cult sensation and the first midnight-movie hit.After a few months of underground success, El Topo attracted the attention of the critics, who were fiercely divided. Pauline Kael and Vincent Canby fell firmly in the anti-Jodorowsky camp, but a number of publications embraced El Topo as a masterpiece. "El Topo is a quest for sainthood," Jodorowsky claimed, but it was also a highly unpolished piece of filmmaking not above exploiting violence for kicks, and throwing in copious amounts of misogyny and voyeuristically staged lesbian sex. Regardless of the split, the film played

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