From Alejandro Jodorowsky to Breakin', there ain't nothing going down but the rent….

You have to love Alejandro ‘Chuckles’ Jodorowsky… he’s such a great conman that he’s able to fool most of his fans most of the time (fooling all the people at any one time is rather more difficult). His first feature film Fando y Lis (1968) was fabulous, but his output went gradually downhill from there…. as I’ve already said in different words elsewhere on this site. Nonetheless, I’ve enjoyed watching Chuckles’ almost overnight transformation from an obscure cult figure whose films were very difficult to see, to his re-emergence as a maverick who merits regular name-checking by the ‘mainstream’. The tipping point for Chuckles was 2007, when Tartan in the UK and Blue Anchor in the US issued a box set of his three key movies (Fando y Lis, El Topo and The Holy Mountain), and since then I haven’t been able to move without stumbling over press coverage for Jodorowsky; a couple of weeks ago he was even featured on the front cover of the print version of The Guardian’s weekly Guide. The Guardian piece was hung on a Season of Jodorowsky in London organised by Guerrilla Zoo, comprising an ‘art’ exhibition, three performances of a play and some film screenings.
A few months ago I saw the Drawing Room’s Jodorowsky show, based on this director’s preparations for his aborted Dune film project. I went on a Saturday and the ‘wow factor’ was the dense and completely mixed art and cult film/sci-fi crowd, the place was heaving. The work displayed at The Drawing Room – production sketches by Moebius, H.R Giger and Chris Foss, plus recent art pieces inspired by the unrealised movie – did nothing for me. As a result of that Drawing Room experience, I decided to catch Jodorowsky’s current London exhibition at The Horse Hospital on a Friday afternoon right at the end of its run (today is the last day), hoping it would be a little emptier than the Dune show. I was surprised that no one else was there when I was looking at the work, but my expectation that I would find it dull proved well founded. The ‘wow factor’ this time turned out to be the price tags (in the £12,000 to £15,00 bracket) for work that looked like it had been made by a teenage outsider artist born in the early part of the 20th-century and just after he or she had discovered surrealism and the occult (Jodorowsky turned 80 this year, so perhaps this can be attributed to him starting off a little old-fashioned and then never growing up). I can’t imagine the trade in these items, or even those pictures that are available in limited edition prints at £80, being particularly brisk. Still, the sheer front Chuckles possesses continues to impress me; and as I hope is clear, I value his happenings and film work of the 1960s. The current show features 32 mediocre (they aren’t even bad) watercolours, all of them collaborations between Chuckles and Pascale Montandon.
After a Friday afternoon looking at Alejandro Jodorowsky and Pascale Montandon’s incredibly dull watercolours, there was only one thing I wanted to do that evening, and that was see a movie with no pretensions to being anything very special at all. I hadn’t watched Joel Silberg’s Breakin’ (1984) for at least two years, so it seemed like a good candidate as a piece of mindless entertainment. Two street dancers Ozone (Adolfo Quinones) and Turbo (Michael Chambers) meet up with a middle-class white girl called Kelly AKA Special K (Lucinda Dickey) and like each other’s style. Kelly is a trained dancer but she realises the street kids have talent, and after a few set backs they all gain the recognition they deserve. The film is set in LA, so there is plenty of sunshine alongside the endless breakin’!
The street lingo and threads of the ‘real’ kids are a groove sensation, but even better are the eighties outfits worn by the trained dancers! Looking at the Dickey’s crazy leotard outfit with purple pants worn over it, made me want to dig out my copy of Lucio Fulci’s Murder Rock – The Dancing Death (1984), which like Breakin’ is a Flashdance (1983, Adrian Lyne) rip-off that is not only much better than its ‘inspiration’ but also has plenty of gore and nudity! My main problem with Breakin’ is that while there is some semi-romantic interest between Ozone and Kelly, they fail to get off, let alone get it on in a steamy tripple X-rated all  nude sex scene.
The rapper at the street events in Breakin’ is Ice-T and he’s described the film as ‘whack’; but actually it’s Ice-T who is whack, the film itself is so stupid it is really far out! The formulaic nature of Breakin’ represents a complete break with realism, and it is this that makes it a prime example of post-modern kitsch, in other words it is so bad it is good! In dissin’ the film to cover up his own poor performance, Ice-T merely demonstrates that he don’t know jack shit about the way in which ‘the masses’ absorb all meaning; I’d expect a bit more savvy from a motormouthed entertainer like Ice-T, who claims to have been a pimp before he started rapping and acting – but maybe he’s just the ‘original’ Sunset Boulevard ‘flake’! I watch a film like this mainly to check the dance moves, and there are plenty of those, I don’t really care about the ‘plot’, which is after all merely a vehicle to display plenty of lockin’, poppin’ and breakin’!
And while you’re at it don’t forget to check – – you know it makes (no) sense!


Comment by Fernando Arrabal on 2009-11-29 12:37:12 +0000

If you liked “Fando y Lis”, I wrote the play it is based upon, then you’ll love my movie “I Walk Like A Crazy Horse”:

Comment by fi on 2009-11-29 12:50:32 +0000

ha ha wicked
Can’t wait ’til you get round to writing about the insane culture industry that surrounds David Lynch as underground ‘genius’.

Comment by Christopher Nosnibor on 2009-11-29 13:14:59 +0000

If he can fool most of his fans most of the time, does that mean his fans are fools, or just easily fooled?
Ok, enough of this foolishness…

Comment by BA Barracuda on 2009-11-29 13:16:10 +0000

Well I ain’t takin’ no milk, fool!

Comment by Augustus Pablo on 2009-11-29 18:52:52 +0000

You’re not smoked enough ganja man. Alejandro Jodorowsky is a very spiritual man. You be missing the message.

Comment by THE 50 (per)CENT Raymond Anderson (half Micheal K) on 2009-11-29 19:17:28 +0000

now we are almost talking but this could have been so much better with John Lennon and Philip K. Dick angles…. at least Jodorowsky lived by the motto “Get Rich Or Die Tryin'”!

Comment by What If I Was Peter ‘Middlebrow’ Bradshaw? on 2009-11-29 20:01:29 +0000

Jodorowsky is no Jess Franco, but while he’s made marginally fewer really good films than the Spanish auteur, his good films are as good as Franco’s good ‘uns (Succubus, Female Vampire etc.)… Jodorowsky has made a lot less bad movies than Franco… That said, Tusk is even worse than 99 Women and all the terrible Franco women in prison movies that followed in its wake…..

Comment by Whitney Houston on 2009-11-29 20:27:12 +0000

Crack is whack!

Comment by The Real Raymond Anderson on 2009-11-29 20:43:54 +0000

i have joined the Bene Jesserit and just come down of a Dune Fest
Lennon wanted Jodorowsky to make a movie of PKD’s “Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch” I think it even got to the Apple stage

Comment by Benny Hill on 2009-11-30 11:01:43 +0000

Do you remember my hit single Ernie (The Fastest Milkman In The West)? If not you’re probably too young – it was the Xmas number one in 1971, and if you’re blonde and dirty and under thirty contact me. Anyway, i asked Jodorowsky to make the video for Ernie but he refused, which is a shame!

Comment by Zen Master K on 2009-11-30 11:25:28 +0000

Jodorowsky is merely one of my 666 multiple personalities. I rock!

Comment by Spanky Wilson on 2009-11-30 16:38:56 +0000

I think you boys need some spankin’ – and some soul. Try to concentrate on all the good things in life!

Comment by Far Out Fred on 2009-11-30 19:23:29 +0000

Jodorowsky is just totally far out!

Comment by Christopher Nosnibor on 2009-11-30 20:57:40 +0000

Is that ‘whack’ meaning cack, like bad meaning good or… oh, never mind. I’m jus not down wi tha kidz any more, know wha’am sayin?

Comment by Old Rope on 2009-12-02 01:36:42 +0000

Rent is for suckers.
And I’m not just talking broadway musicals

Comment by Chris T on 2009-12-04 08:37:02 +0000

The only film of his I’ve seen is Santa Sangre which I thought was pretty good, kinda funny in a sick way. I tried watching el Topo but it seemed a bit too pointlessly violent.
Comics are where Jodorowsky’s at these day. I don’t blame you for not knowing about them as they’re mostly popular in Europe, where reading comics full of sex and violence isn’t as frowned upon as in Anglo countries, and translations are often in small editions.
He’s done some science fantasy stuff which is OK but his more recent historical series about the Borgias is great. He’s started a new one about Pope Alexander VI which you can sample here.
fi, I think you’ll be pleased to note that Jodorowsky and Lynch are collaborating on a follow up to el Topo.

Comment by Chris T on 2009-12-04 08:42:15 +0000

A list of Jodorowsky’s comics on if anyone cares.

Published At