Jodorowsky’s Controversial Therapy

No one disputes that Alejandro Jodorowsky marches to the beat of his own drum as a filmmaker. The cult director from Chile has unleashed the bewildering Psychomagic, A Healing Art as his latest cinematic endeavor and it’s a doozy. The project is mostly an infomercial for the director’s controversial and highly unproven therapy, documenting Jodorowsky’s therapeutic claims with success stories.

Veering far from the surreal films which made him a global name in the 1970s like The Holy Mountain, the “documentary” provides video testimonials supporting what Jodorowsky calls “Psychomagic.” It’s a personal therapy the director claims he’s developed over the years going back decades, treating deep-rooted psychological and personal issues based on sensory touch. The treatment supposedly helps reveal our “true” selves.

Psychomagic resembles some of the more experimental and bizarre alternative therapies that first arose during the 1960s

Straying deeply from accepted mainstream treatments, Psychomagic, A Healing Art claims to depict actual patients undergoing Jodorowsky’s process. Part therapy, part performance art, genuine psychological trauma and overly dramatic sessions with patients provide the primary narrative engine.

In reality, the patients remove their clothing after revealing their darkest inner demons. Most patients end up naked, young and old. They are then intimately rubbed in body-to-body contact that is best described as slow-motion wrestling between patient and therapist. Afterwards, there is often a cathartic release of emotion by the patient in which they claim they’ve been cured of their psychological hang-ups.

Despite the testimony, nothing more than anecdotal evidence is presented that Jodorowsky’s so-called Psychomagic therapy is doing anything helpful for these people. The weird, cult-like vibe of the entire documentary undercuts the therapy itself. Jodorowsky often sends the patients on small tasks that carry symbolic weight, such as one man that smashes pictures of his family attached to melons and then mails them the fragments. It’s clear the filmmaker uses the patients, crafting visually expressive set pieces around them disguised as therapy.

Psychomagic resembles some of the more experimental and bizarre alternative therapies that first arose during the 1960s, which exploded right as the counter-culture was beginning to take off at universities. Jodorowsky himself apparently had some schooling in psychology and would have been exposed to those ideas around that time. Popular in some underground circles, Jodorowsky’s therapeutic system feels like a dated idea leftover from his youth that he sincerely believes has real medical value.

Video

Primarily presented at a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, the documentary offers a mix of older archival video in standard definition and fresh HD video for the modern interviews. The 1080P video has a bright, shiny appearance with a pumped-up contrast. Exterior scenes have better depth and dimension but this is largely flat video shot like the local television news.

The AVC encode captures the clean digital footage with exacting precision and transparency. The messier SD footage, some of it dating back to the 1970s, looks far worse with reduced resolution and associated analog defects leftover from videotape.

Psychomagic, A Healing Art offers inconsistent but decent picture quality considering the mix of different sources. The documentary wasn’t made as eye candy and its digital cinematography doesn’t have highly refined lighting. This is a low-budget project with minimal production values.

Audio

The 5.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack, primarily in Spanish with some French and English dialogue, has a limited soundstage. Cleanly recorded, the interviews have top-notch fidelity but limited imaging and separation. The pseudo-documentary sprinkles in a couple surround cues but the entire soundstage is largely filled by the atonal, droning music score and little else.

Optional English, Spanish and French subtitles play in a white font.

Extras

Made in conjunction with Arrow Video and ABKCO, Psychomagic, A Healing Art is issued on Blu-ray for the first time as part of the Alejandro Jodorowsky 4K Restoration Collection deluxe box set alongside Fando Y Lis (1967), El Topo (1970), and The Holy Mountain (1973). Not to mention a previously unavailable short titled Le Cravate (1957) and CD soundtracks for both The Holy Mountain and El Topo.

This is a gorgeous box set outfitted with a fantastic 80-page book and full-sized, double-sided movie poster fold-out. The Blu-rays are coded for Regions A and B. Each movie is given its own white case with reversible artwork. The very collectible box set should see a healthy aftermarket once stock has sold out.

Filled with both archival and new special features, this is a packed-set which demystifies Jodorowsky’s films with excellent insight. It features a book with photos and essays as well as newly filmed interviews with Jodorowsky and his long time personal assistant Pablo Leder.

Jodorowsky’s son Brontis, who makes his acting debut as the young boy in  El Topo, is interviewed. In addition there are new introductions by Columbia University professor Richard Peña, a  mini-documentary narrated by Jodorowsky biographer Ben Cobb and more goodies.

While Jodorowsky’s older films on other discs all receive substantial bonus features in the box set, Psychomagic, A Healing Art only has a film trailer.

Psychomagic, A Healing Art Trailer (01:49 in HD)

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Psychomagic, A Healing Art
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Alejandro Jodorowsky’s latest project documents the director’s radical and controversial Psychomagic, a therapy he personally developed.

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