For almost 70 years, the Chilean-born artist Alejandro Jodorowsky has been the utility infielder of lowercase-“s” surrealism. He’s a performer, graphic novelist, poet and, most prominently, a cult filmmaker. With the documentary “Psychomagic, a Healing Art,” he introduces the world to the work he has been involved in since the ’70s.
For a lot of people, it will be difficult to accept Jodorowsky as any kind of healer. In 2019, El Museo del Barrio in New York canceled a retrospective of Jodorowsky’s work after it learned that in a 1972 book about his film “El Topo” the filmmaker recounted raping an actress on camera. In a 2017 interview in The Telegraph, Jodorowsky said that he had not committed rape, but was trying to publicize the film.
In “Psychomagic” Jodorowsky, near 90 at the time of filming, goes for an eccentric avuncular tone. He contrasts Freud’s “science” with his own “magic” and chronicles sessions in which he and his assistants try to effect cures using methods resembling performance art.
As inspiration, he cites his own childhood fear of the dark, and stages a scene in which a mother covers her young boy with shoe polish. (This scene originally appeared in his 2014 “The Dance of Reality.”) She is soon nude and similarly covered, dancing with the kid. Jodorowsky steps into the scene, with the smile of a TV pitchman: “My mother dissolved in darkness. I’ve never been afraid of the night ever again.” Before one can ask, “Dude, you and your MOM did that?,” it’s on to the next section.
Jodorowsky’s patients express gratitude and relief. But there has to be an easier way to alleviate stuttering than rubbing red dye on your genitals, putting on gold lamé hot pants, being body painted and walking the streets of Paris talking to oneself.
Psychomagic, a Healing Art
Not rated. In French, Spanish and English, with subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 45 minutes. Watch on Alamo On Demand.