3 out of 5
Directed by: Alejandro Jodorowsky
I’d hesitate to even call this a documentary. It is, in the broadest sense, as it’s not “fictional” – it’s not a written script; these are not actors – but I generally associate documentaries with some type of agenda, or thesis, and Psychomagic more just… exists. You could call it an ad for Jodorowsky’s invented practice of, as the subtitle suggests, using hands-on “art” to heal, and there is, surely, the indirect effect of editing the examples of his so-called Psychomagic such that we are only seeing examples of it “working,” when, who knows, maybe 99% of the time, these people are ruined and explode, but even taking that into account, I don’t get an overt sense of Jodo selling us on this: he uses it, he’s surely helped some people (if only for the possibly temporary catharses we witness), and he lets us witness that.
Psychomagic is, as we are told at the flick’s outing, the physical version of psychoanalysis: Freud used words; Jodo uses art. The movie is thereafter composed of vignettes of patients going through such healing, with clips of relevant scenes from Jodo’s films beforehand, showing the link with his methodology going back decades – that he’s always approach his movies as unrealities; as speaking from the unconscious; and so Psychomagic is applying that exact same idea in the “real” world, directly upon others. Yeah, he invented the term, and codified some general acts with it – birthing ceremonies in which you rediscover your inner child, or connect with absent parents, by being undressed and rolling around with mother / father figures like a child, having a representative umbilical cord cut; physical representations of some inner evil which are pressed into your body and then violently tossed away or smashed – but I’d say there are precedents of this in other forms of therapy. From that point of view, I’m fairly certain of its potential for success: just like talking therapy isn’t appealing for some but is for others, giving someone permission to put hands on you and guide you through a somewhat personalized physical journey can likely be a powerful thing.
There’s certainly a bit of Jodo as the trickster in the film’s final portion, extending Psychomagic to “social” magic using crowds, but I don’t mean that in a necessarily mischievous fashion, rather that Alejandro has always been an enigmatic guy – from his questionable bravado of his early years up through the 91 year old we see in this flick – due to the way he wraps his mindset around anything you throw at him; constantly updating it. Thus he can extend Psychomagic to mass healing ceremonies or demonstrations and not have it seem hippy-dippy; he’s just massaging his views outward as far as he can, and allowing others to embrace it. And you’re allowed to laugh at it, to dismiss it, or to be affected by it: all responses are acceptable.
Besides the interesting and amusing specifics of the psychomagic sessions we see – as with Jodo’s films, there are no direct explanations for, say, painting a man in gold and having him walk the streets, but with a passing familiarity of his works (and the clips repurposed in the film) you can piece together the symbols he likes, and see how he’s reapplying them – there is also the base power of seeing people be very open about their issues, and then their legitimate relief after the sessions. Again, there’s some cute editing – some sessions are surely more successful than others – but it’s not overt, and I appreciate the range of different issues and age ranges displayed. The movie is never uninteresting. However, without a narrative drive of sorts, it also just kind of exists, fitting though that may be.