Alejandro Joderowsky’s movie about ‘psychomagic’ his practice of tailor-made quasi-shamanic rituals, is much more sane than I expected.

This documentary – made both by and about Jodorowsky, who is clearly his own favorite subject – shows us a series of Jodorowsky’s ritual treatments, interspersed by clips from his older movies.

Each time, we see somebody in a state of crisis or despair: a woman whose fiance died in front of her, a couple falling out of love, a middle-aged stutterer. Several are troubled by childhood experiences or fraught relations with their parents – appropriately, considering that Jodorowsky defines his psychomagic in relation to Freudian psychiatry.

The difference, we are told in the prologue, is that psychiatry is therapy through talk. Psychomagic is therapy through acts. Acts like being buried alive, symbolically torn apart by birds, drenched in milk, and having plates smashed on your chest. And that’s just the treatment for one person!

The acts tend to be dramatic, physical, intimidating, and well attuned to one person’s situation. They put that person at the center of an elaborate metaphorical production which gives material form to their problem. It’s a production coordinated with the visual flair of a film director: the stutterer sees himself covered head-to-toe in gold paint. The couple glumly drag chains through Paris as they contemplate whether to separate.

Having been materialised, the trauma can now be guided by performing actions on its physical representation. The chains of marriage are buried; the unused wedding dress is cremated. Whatever ‘magic’ there is in psychomagic, it depends on no forces beyond one person’s psychology. It gives the trauma center stage for a while, before providing a route towards catharsis and closure.

That’s not to say that it’s all easy to accept. Jodorowsky definitely gives off creepy vibes at times. Perhaps that is inevitable for an older man reaching such physical and emotional intensity with vulnerable people. But it’s hard not to notice how many rituals involve tearing off somebody’s clothes. And Jodorowsky’s titanium sellf-confidence is not something you imagine stopping in the face of a hesitant ritual subject. There’s also one segment with uncomfortable traces of faith healilng, as a cancer sufferer receives psychic energy from an auditorium of Jodorowsky fans, has unpleasant faith-healer vibes.

One of the most convincing sections is also one of the least elaborate. His patient is a depressed and foul-tempered old woman, somebody who clearly adores ‘Alejandro’ but seems unlikely to buy into any high-intensity shamanic ritual. Jodorowsky’s prescription is a daily walk to the park to look after a tree. For a moment Jodorowsky sheds his showmanship and comes across as a wise, caring old friend.

Links and Snippets

¶ Horses used to eat bread

Horse bread, typically a flat, brown bread baked alongside human bread, fueled England’s equine transport system from the Middle Ages up until the early 1800s.

Bread is easier to move and faster to eat than hay, making it ideal for hard-working horses on the move.

¶ Housebuilding in West London is being stopped for a decade until the electricity grid can catch up. The article doesn’t even talk about electric cars, which presumably will make everything worse. non-paywall article local govt. statement

¶ Airplanes’ location reporting systems (ADS-B) include data on their accuracy. You can use that to map GPS jamming

A Colorless World

The world is becoming less colorful. I’d been vaguely aware of this as a trend in Europe and the US, but I’m surprised how global it is.
Remember the common grumble about the DDR being how drab it was? I wouldn’t be surpised if unified Germany is now back to the East German color palette.

Cars become monochrome

Some past color changes have been triggered by technology. Synthetic dyes made color less of a luxury, starting with the Prussian Blue that let allowed Frederick the Great to kit out an entire army in blue uniforms

Himself, too

As an aside: one bonkers-but-brilliant theory is that Caravaggio’s chiaroscuro painting style, with a massive contrast between bright and dark areas, was a way to save money on dyes. He could use the good stuff only for the highlighted areas, and had artistic justification to use cheaper, duller colors for the rest.

Just a little lapis lazuli

just a little lapis lazuli

Neon signage exploded in usage in the 1920s and -30s, immediately after being invented – but once it was no longer new it became declasse.

And yet…we are living through at least a minor transformation in the economics of lighting. I’m talking about LEDs. Not only has the price cratered, but they bring different color options compared to incandescent bulbs. But I suppose the difference isn’t enough for us to become more colorful.

price of LEDs keeps dropping