Cannes Roundtable: Alejandro Jodorowsky Talks La Danza de la Realidad; Calls Steven Spielberg Films “Idiocy”

Director Alejandro Jodorowsky discusses his first film in 23 years and Jodorowsky's Dune. (You won't believe how he describes Steven Spielberg.)

Fred Topelby Fred Topel

Now here’s the sort of rare opportunity that presents itself at Cannes. The Chilean art filmmaker has not directed a movie since 1990, but his latest, La Danza de la Realidad, is playing in the Director’s Fortnight sidebar. Also in Director’s Fortnight, Jodorowsky’s Dune chronicles his attempt to make a movie based on Dune in the ‘70s. I was given the opportunity to sit in a roundtable interview with Jodorowsky, and there were only three other reporters and all from European outlets. So this is likely the only place you’ll see the Alejandro Jodorowsky interview in the States. I also want to preserve the magic of hearing Jodorowsky speak as much as possible, so unless editing was absolutely necessary, I’ve left his verbatim speech intact.

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Alejandro Jodorowsky: In English? I will try. I don’t speak so well.

CraveOnline: The documentary Jodorowsky’s Dune has an entire interview with you in English!

Yes, but I don’t know what I said. I will see today.

Alejandro Jodorowsky on why La Danza de la Realidad is his first movie in 23 years.

Because it was a moment. I am not a commercial industry creator. I don’t believe in making art to make money. If God gives you chocolate, you open your mouth, no? If this picture makes money, okay, it’s good but I’m not doing that for money. In order to realize myself and the pictures, yes, making art, yes. I am an artist. This is art, not an industry, and it’s very difficult because producers are not only businessmen, they’re thieves. They ask for $100 million and they put $20 million in their pocket before making the picture. It’s a business where you steal money in order to make pictures but I don’t want that. I don’t want stars, because the star is the illness of the movies. Great egos, and then let me show you something.

This morning, when I go to the bathroom I need to read in order to make my digestion. I open this [magazine] and I see Gatsby selling watches, like una puta. [Leonardo DiCaprio’s ad for TAG Heur.] It’s not possible. I don’t want this world. If I am selling a clock, impossible, how? How can we come to this moment? That’s what’s difficult for me to make movies.

Then 23 years I suffer. [Frank] Pavich, who made Dune, came to my house to make a picture of the story where you failed. Then I was saying, “I didn’t fail! I make comic books. I live off comics. It’s not a failure.” Then I say, okay, do it. I never thought he would make a picture. I say whatever I feel. Then he said, “Will you do an interview with Michel Seydoux?” Michel Seydoux was the producer of Dune. I said, “He doesn’t want to see me because he hates me.” Why? “Because I did a picture, he could not do it.” “No, no, no, it’s his best memory.” Then he wrote me, I made the interview with Michel Seydoux. It was the best of elegance, so wise. I was so happy. “No, I love you. I am sorry also.” Then we decided to make another picture together. Then I have Xavier Guerrero, a Chilean who came to me and said, “Listen, in Chile, the moneymen will give you the money to make a picture. Write something to shoot in Chile.”

I said what I will do, I have a book about my memories. I will make my memories in Tocopilla. I went out of this town when I was 10, I never returned. Now in a way you will return me to my town and we’ll do there. Okay, I did the script, where is the money? Nothing. Nothing at all, but I call Michel Seydoux, I continue it. I did the picture. That is why I did the picture. That is the story.

CraveOnline: Talking about artists and money, artists still need to live and I could not do this writing that I love if no one were paying me. So how do you live as an artist?

I live making comics. Comics is an industrial art but less suffering, because comics are for young people who are more adventurous. I do that. I live off comics, and then I write books, but when you want movies, you cannot make movies without money. It is the money world and there you must not live off movies. When young people ask me for advice, I say, “Don’t take movies as a career. Don’t make your living with cinema because Hollywood will take you, will eat you, will destroy you. This is the reality. You have a good picture, have success, you take the person and they destroy you.”

Alejandro Jodorowsky on why he turned to cinema at all.

Because for me cinema is everything. It’s a novel, it’s a sculpture, it’s a painting, it’s construction. It’s everything. And now with new technology, everything is going to that because you write something here and then you put music, you put photos. The novel will change. It will never be the same. Books are finished.

Alejandro Jodorowsky on the Fellini and Todd Browning-esque set of the village in La Danza de la Realidad.

It’s not like them. It’s like this. You put a dwarf and you are Bunuel. You put a woman with big tits, you’re Fellini. You put a person with [deformities] you are Todd Browning. Because you speak of your memories, Amarcord. My films are completely new. I am not similar to anybody in the history of movies. It’s reality, it’s not ego, but the mind needs to have a reference. Later, they will say, “Ah, this is Jodorowsky.” But I am creating something new, with success or not success.

I was afraid I was ill the first time because I didn’t know how they would react with that because I did it free. For two days I was very ill taking pills thinking about what they were saying. When I showed Holy Mountain in Los Angeles, half of the theater assaulted me out. When I showed Fando and Lis in Mexico, they wanted to lynch me. I needed to be taken out in a car. A Mexican director, El Indio Fernandez, wanted to shoot me, said, “I will kill him.” He’d already killed two before. Every time I made a picture was a scandal.

But Alejandro Jodorowsky doesn’t want to be controversial.

No, no. It’s like a warrior. You have scars. You have wounds. It’s like a boxer. Every time somebody kicks you, it’s suffering also but it’s a big happiness to do what you do. At the end I am astonished. A man doesn’t cry. In my life, I’ve never cried. I cannot do it. I am a man. How will I cry? I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to do because they understand. A lot of people understand my pictures. That, I am astonished.

Twitter taught Jodorowsky he had fans.

When I started on Twitter, I have almost 800,000 followers. Go, @AleJodorowsky en Espana. Everything I say, 800,000 people read it. This is the literature of our century. For a young person, they go to the bathroom, they say, “I sh*t very well.” or “I f***ed last night.” I will do philosophy, poetry, ideas, games. I started. 50 people, 100 people, 20,000, 100,000, now I am coming to 800,000.

With our profession, I realize young people are changing. They are not what you think. They are not idiots. They’re not consumers. They’re affected by the world. They want something new. I understand we cannot change the world. We can start to change it. How you start to change, you start to change yourself. Just like doing my picture, I change myself. When you change yourself, what do you do? You are in service of others. You jump, from eye to ass, you jump. You jump out of your nostril and you want to open your arms and do something productive for the opening of the mind, of the soul.