Psychomagic, A Healing Art


They touched me and it felt like a fist.

(2019) Documentary (ABCKO) Alejandro Jodorowsky. Directed by Alejandro Jodorowsky

 

For anybody who has been wondering what visionary director Alejandro Jodorowsky has been up to, well, this is it. For everybody else, you might want to skip on ahead.

Jodorowsky, for the uninitiated, is the Mexican surrealist director who is most famous for his signature film El Topo as well as films such as Santa Sangre, The Rainbow Thief and Tusk. His films are full of surreal imagery, and are sometimes difficult to interpret. Since the 1970s, he has been working with this form of therapy, which he explains at the beginning of the film thusly: “Psychotherapy is based on science, was created by Sigmund Freud, a doctor. Psychomagic, which was created by Alejandro Jodorowsky, a film and theater director, is based on art.”

We then get nearly two hours of case studies, interspersed with snippets from Jodorowsky’s 15-film catalogue. The therapy sessions, often presided over by Jodorowsky himself (who was pushing 90 at the time of filming and is 91 now), are a combination of sensual massage, symbolic ritual, primal scream therapy and performance art with a heavy emphasis on the latter.

Some of the “treatments” make logical sense; a man with familial issues prints out pictures of his family, tapes them to pumpkins and smashes them with a sledge hammer. A French couple, having communication problems, are chained together and forced to walk the streets of Paris without looking at each other. A woman, whose mother expressed that having her was a mistake and is now unsure if she herself is fit to be a mother, undergoes a simulated birth.

But some make no logical sense at all, like a stutterer forced to wear body paint and walk around muttering to himself, or a man with anxiety getting milk poured over his head. Many of the patients are required to take their clothes off which feels a bit unsavory and more so when you realize that Jodorowsky once claimed that he raped an actress for real on camera during the filming of El Topo. He later recanted, claiming that he said it just to drum up publicity for his film, but even if that were true (and I hope that it is because actually raping a woman for a film is beyond screwed up), using rape as a publicity tool is deplorable. So the whole thing takes on an extra added dosage of creepy which it didn’t need.

And to be honest, watching this go on for two hours becomes mind-numbing. I’m no therapist, but the lack of scientific grounding is troubling. Messing about with people’s minds and emotions is no joke. The brain can do wonderous things when it is properly moved to, and I can’t help feeling that for all the New Age yammering that Jodorowsky does here that he can do way more harm than good potentially and that those who have emotional or mental issues are better served seeing a true expert and not a filmmaker for help.

REASONS TO SEE: There are some interesting concepts here.
REASONS TO AVOID: Feels much more like a self-help infomercial than anything else. Way too long.
FAMILY VALUES: There is a whole lot of nudity and some adult thematic elements.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Jodorowsky has published 23 books (so far) on the subject of pyshcomagic..
BEYOND THE THEATERS: Alamo On-Demand
CRITICAL MASS: As of 9/6/20: Rotten Tomatoes: 75% positive reviews, Metacritic: 56/100
COMPARISON SHOPPING: The Glass Castle
FINAL RATING: 4/10
NEXT:
Day 13

Attack of the Unknown


Don’t look behind you.

(2020) Science Fiction (Gravitas) Richard Grieco, Tara Reid, Robert LoSardo, Jolene Andersen, Tania Fox, Douglas Tait, Robert Donavan, Ben Stobber, Scott Butler, Margo Quinn, Gerardo de Pablos, Dee Cutrone, Tamara Solomson, Mia ScozzaFave, Paul Gunn, Navin P. Kumar, Johnny Huang, Elizabeth Noelle Japhet, Al Burke, Rachel Christenson. Directed by Brandon Slagle

 

I’m not sure when H.G. Wells wrote The War of the Worlds or when Orson Welles broadcast a version of it on the radio that they realized that someday there would be several alien invasion movies every year of varying production values and quality. I sort of doubt it. And had they known, they might well have had a good laugh.

Vernon (Grieco) is the taciturn, tough-as-nails leader of an elite SWAT team of the LAPD. They have staked out cartel leader Miguel “Hades” Aguirre (LoSardo) and after a bloody gunfight, capture the drug lord. Their triumph is tempered by the loss of one of their members and the sudden intrusion of the Feds who insist on taking over the case.

The day gets worse for Vernon as his wife serves him with divorce papers and to make matters even worse, he receives word that he has terminal myeloma. What’s next, an invasion of bloodthirsty aliens hellbent on sucking the blood of every last human being in Los Angeles?

Funny you should mention that. It’s exactly what happens, to everyone’s surprise except for maybe Vernon. He holes up with the remains of his team and a few civilians, including Hades in the detention center which is not as well-stocked with guns and ammo as you might think. They know that they can’t stay there but there’s a possibility of getting to a nearby high rise for a helicopter rescue, but first they’re going to have to fight their way through a swarm of seemingly indestructible aliens.

On paper, it sounds like the genesis of what could be a wild and fun ride, and certainly that was what director Brendan Slagle was after – at least, he has a lot of elements that are working in that direction, from a frenetic, breathless pace to a marvelous Clint Eastwood on Zen-like performance by Grieco, who is grizzled enough now that the one-time 21 Jump Street babyface has a shot at a new career doing gritty action films like this one.

Like most B-movies, this one has a budget that would cause Kevin Feige (the producer of Marvel movies, for those wondering who he is) hysterics. The best-known actors are Grieco and Tara Reid, who is in a blink-and-you-missed-it flashback of a previous alien invasion – apparently there were no Sharknado movies in production at the time. The CGI is okay, not great but the aliens are actually laughable; guys in felt suits with headpieces left over from This Island Earth that Ed Wood would have loved.

There are a few needless subplots that probably should have been jettisoned to streamline this a bit more, but as they say, it’s all in good fun and it’s mostly harmless, unless you object to seeing bad things happen to good cops. This isn’t going to make anybody forget Independence Day but if you like your sci-fi cheesy, gritty and violent, this might just be for you.

REASONS TO SEE: Cheesy in kind of a good way.
REASONS TO AVOID: The aliens are really unconvincing.
FAMILY VALUES: There is a ton of violence, some nudity and sex, as well as a fair amount of profanity.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Slagle took several concepts in the film from a short story he wrote in middle school called “Blood is the Cure.”
BEYOND THE THEATERS: Amazon, AppleTV, Fandango Now, Google Play, Microsoft, Vudu, YouTube
CRITICAL MASS: As of 9/6/20: Rotten Tomatoes: No score yet: Metacritic: No score yet
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Assault on Precinct 13
FINAL RATING: 5/10
NEXT:
Psychomagic: A Healing Art