A Psychomagical Afternoon with Alejandro Jodorowsky

By Jeff HicksMay 25, 2024

A Psychomagical Afternoon with Alejandro Jodorowsky
MASTERCLASS / PSYCHOMAGIC, A HEALING ART, Egyptian Theatre, Los Angeles, May 18, 2024.

As part of a retrospective on the work of Chilean artist and filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky, the Egyptian Theatre screened his 2019 exploration of trauma therapy, Psychomagic, A Healing Art, as a matinee last Saturday. The event was moderated by Tim Blum, whose art gallery is currently hosting Another World, an exhibition of paintings co-created by Jodorowsky and his wife, Pascale Montandon-Jodorowsky.

Before the screening, Blum let the audience know that the advertised “masterclass” was going to be more of a freewheeling conversation than an educational presentation. Jodorowsky, spry and alert at 95, spent the next 40 minutes reviewing clips from his films and offering his views on life, his work, and the healing power of a unique brand of therapy that he calls “psychomagic.” He was joined onstage by his wife, who served as an interpreter and also shared her experiences working with the iconoclastic director. Jodorowsky regaled the audience with stories about the making of his films; for example, after showing a clip of El Topo (1970), Jodorowsky explained that while he was comfortable stepping into the lead role, he felt that his voice was too “human,” so he found a Mexican actor to dub for him. He also testified to the pain that viewing his late son Teo’s performance in Santa Sangre (1989) always brings him.

The featured film was part documentary, part sales pitch for psychomagic. The film presents testimonials from a number of Jodorowsky’s patients, interspersed with clips from his films and video of some of his public appearances. According to Jodorowsky, the therapy involves confronting familial trauma by imaginatively reenacting life events or performing other creative exercises. A woman who witnessed her partner’s suicide walks the streets of Paris in leg irons, then engages in a group massage session. A man angry with his parents and sister puts their pictures on large gourds before destroying them with a hammer. Another man seeking to cure his stuttering is placed in a child’s sailor suit and taken to Disneyland, in order to give up his life as a child; later, he is painted gold, and Jodorowsky, grasping him firmly by the testicles, says that he is receiving “manly energy.” Yet another man is buried with only his head exposed, as Jodorowsky throws chunks of raw meat at him, a feast for gathering vultures. One almost gets the sense that the director’s surrealist films are simply variants of this shamanic practice.

At the end of the event, perhaps in response to a reportedly disastrous Q and A following a screening of The Holy Mountain (1973) the night before, Jodorowsky refused to respond to questions, instead turning the tables on the audience by asking them, “Que hacemos?” He then answered for everyone: “Viva la vida!” We can only hope that Jodorowsky will be loving life for many years to come.


Photo by contributor.

LARB Short Takes live event reviews are published in partnership with the nonprofit Online Journalism Project and the Independent Review Crew.

LARB Contributor

Jeff Hicks is an associate professor of English at Los Angeles City College. He has published criticism on dystopian literature, cult cinema, and fiction about the city, especially Los Angeles.


Did you know LARB is a reader-supported nonprofit?

LARB publishes daily without a paywall as part of our mission to make rigorous, incisive, and engaging writing on every aspect of literature, culture, and the arts freely accessible to the public. Help us continue this work with your tax-deductible donation today!