Friday, August 09, 2013

FANDO Y LIS (1968) - Alejandro Jodorowsky

I hadn't seen a Jodorowsky film in some years, and I had never seen his first feature, Fando y Lis. I almost forgot how shocking and beautiful, depraved and divine, simultaneously scatological and philosophical they can be.

Fando y Lis is no exception. And Jodorowsky was obviously a genius and a madman right out of the gate. The story (I hesitate to type that) is about a young man, Fando, and his paraplegic girlfriend, Lis. They're on a journey to the mythical land of Tar. He wheels her by cart, carrying her at times, sometimes dragging her through rocky post-apocalyptic landscapes (i.e., abandoned Mexican mines) and meeting myriad oddballs along the way. There's a pope (played by a woman in a beard), some mud people, a group of white-haired old women playing poker who suggestively feed skinned peaches that look like testicles to a guy in a Speedo. There's the Amazonian woman who bowls rocks at Fando, the man who puts garter snakes in baby doll vaginas. There's a parade of drag queens, the snickering doctor who takes Lis' blood with a syringe then drinks it from a wine glass. Fando's mother even makes an appearance, played by a telenovela star who looks like Liz Taylor on one of her worst days.

As you've probably guessed by now, the road to Tar is not paved with good intentions but the very jagged stones of Jodorowsky's free-associating subconscious. As Fando and Lis journey, we get flashback glimpses of their various childhood traumas (rape, abandonment, incest, you name it) and indicators of similar traumas to come. Some are inflicted on them by strangers, some they inflict on each other. Love is a bitch that brings flowers then patiently waits by your grave.

I rarely watch/listen to DVD commentaries these days. But Jodorowsky is such a character and Fando such a refreshing mindfuck that I wanted a little extra insight. I'm glad I indulged. Some of the stories behind the making of this film are more bizarre than anything on-camera. Apparently, Jodorowsky got the money for Fando after a special needs assistant of his (a mongolico, his words) died in an odd suicide by bedroom fire and his father, grateful to Jodorowsky for being kind to his son, footed the entire budget. The film's reception was nearly as tragic, causing a scandal at the Festival de Acapulco and nearly getting Jodorowsky run out of the country for obscenity. It nearly earned him a death sentence from Mexico's famed director Emilio least until Alejandro got him drunk on his favorite whiskey.

Jodorowsky dishes further. How much he hated his lead actor ("my main enemy"), how much he hated Peter O'Toole on Rainbow Thief ("I direct him like a dog!"). He really seems to have a thing against actors with blonde hair. There's also the story about burying a dead sailor's penis in the sand in his childhood hometown and the related confession that his own penis is "mushroom shape, not pointy." He tells of his Holy Mountain acid trip courtesy of some strange orange powder provided by John Lennon. He pitches an idea for cutting slivers of Lady Di's skin and giving them to her more fanatical admirers as communion wafers. Ah, Mr. Jodorowsky. So good to be back in your company once again.

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