Alejandro Jodorowsky, guru, sage, mystic, and acclaimed author (his epic autobiographical novel Where the Bird Sings Bestis forthcoming from Restless) is perhaps best known for his cult-classic psychedelic freak-out films: Holy Mountain, El Topo, and now, thanks to a documentary by Frank Pavich, his incomplete Dune, which has been called "the greatest film never made." Jodorowsky's iconic vision is still being emulated by artists today: Erykah Badu, Kanye West, Marilyn Manson, and MGMT have all referenced the director in music videos; countless artists, including Marina Abramovic and Yoko Ono, have paid tribute to his influence on their work.
What makes Jodorowsky so compelling? His enormous talent aside, Mr. Jodorowsky is an artist's artist. Refusing to commit to one identity or even to one medium (he is also a playwright, actor, musician, comic book artist, spiritual guru, and Tarot master), Jodorowsky's curiosity about the world around him is infinite, his drive to reinvent himself inexhaustible, and his flouting of convention utterly fearless. Like these artists, we stand in awe before him.
Kanye has cited Jodorowsky as one of his primary influences in conceiving his album Yeezus, noting that Jodorowsky is one of those “amazing creative inventors who weren’t recognized in their time.” When Jodorowsky and West finally met, the director tweeted in Spanish: “Me sorprendiò la pureza de West y su profundo deseo de crear una obra que desarrolle la conciencia de los jóvenes.” Or, “I was surprised at the purity of West and his deep desire to create a work that develops the consciousness of young people.”
Called "a space rock gem," the music video for MGMT's catchy hit song "Time to Pretend" pays homage to Jodorowsky's film The Holy Mountain, in a scene where the band gathers around a flaming pit.
The inimitable Queen of Neo-Soul, Erykah Badu was also inspired by Jodorowsky's The Holy Mountain, appearing in publicity photos dressed as the silent alchemist's assistant. Ms. Badu also invited Jodorowsky to one of her shows and has said he is one of only two figures who influenced her. The other? Elvis Presley.
A fellow master of disguises and self-invention, Manson pays homage to Jodorowsky in his music videos for "No Reason" and possibly "Dope Show." The artists are also close friends: Jodorowsky conducted the ceremony for Marilyn Manson's marriage to Dita Von Teese in Ireland, dressed as the alchemist from The Holy Mountain. He has said that he "senses genuis" in Manson.
Nicolas Winding Refn
Jodorowsky's influence on Refn shows in the gorgeous and violent excess of the Danish director's remarkable films (the original Pusher trilogy, Bronson, Drive, and, most recently, Only God Forgives, to name a few). Now, Refn is reportedly working on a film adaptation of Jodorowsky and Moebius' six book comic series The Incal, a gorgeous dystopian 1980s graphic novel series said to have influenced Hayao Miyazaki, Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira, Blade Runner, The Matrix, and even depictions of Coruscant in the Star Wars prequel films.
Jodorowsky has also acted as a kind of mentor to Refn, who says “I called Jodorowsky in Paris and he says to me, ‘What is this shit in Hollywood, why?’” And I thought I was being yelled at! He said ‘You must not let your vision be destroyed!’ And I was like, 'I know, I know, I was wrong.' He said ‘You have to stay true, or else I’ll not like you anymore!’ He’s like ninety, but he has the mind of a comet."
Yoko Ono and John Lennon
John Lennon and Yoko Ono persuaded Allen Klein, the manager of Apple Records in the 1960s, to support Jodorowsky’s films, and Lennon put up $1m to fund The Holy Mountain.
An actor and musician, Alejandro Jodorowsky's son Adan is a great artist in his own right. He's acted in and directed films, and has also released three solo albums under the name Adanowsky. His 2011 album "Amador" won the UFI award for "Best International Artist Of The Year." Follow him on Twitter.
Jodorowsky's granddaughter Alma, a French model, actress, and singer, is just as multi-faceted as her grandfather. She's a lead vocalist and songwriter for the band Burning Peacocks, a muse to Karl Lagerfeld, and the 2011 face of Opening Ceremony. She's already appeared in numerous French and American films, including Eyes Find Eyes, Sea, No Sex, and Sun, and Blue is the Warmest Color. In her next film, Kids in Love, set to be released in 2014, she plays alongside Will Poulter and fellow model Cara Delevingne. Follow her on Twitter.
Before writing Total Recall and Alien, Dan O'Bannon was director of special effects for Jodorowsky's never-completed Dune. Based on Frank Herbert's pioneering sci-fi novel, Dune brought together an all-star team of artists: O'Bannon, Swiss set designer H.R. Giger, French artist Moebius, and British painter Chris Foss, all of whom went on to work on Alien and countless other science fiction films now regarded as classics of the genre.
The cast was to include Orson Welles, Mick Jagger, Pink Floyd, and Salvador Dalí. Although the movie was never completed, the artwork produced on the set of Dune went on to be extremely influential for post-1970s sci-fi imagery.
Check out Frank Pavich's incredible documentary Jodorowsky's Dune for the detailed story behind the unmade masterpiece.
Moebius (Jean Giraud)
A French artist, writer, and graphic novelist, Moebius was admired by Stan Lee, Federico Fellini, Hayao Miyazaki, and, of course, his friend and collaborator Jodorowsky. Moebius contributed storyboards and designs to numerous science fiction films, including Alien, Tron, The Abyss, and The Fifth Element (he and Jodorowsky actually sued Luc Besson for using their graphic novel series The Incal as inspiration for the latter movie without credit).
Moebius is widely regarded as one of France's greatest visual artists. He bridged the gap between fine and popular art forms while consistently creating beautiful, iconic imagery. Federico Fellini even wrote him a gushing fan letter, imploring him to "continue to draw fabulously, for the joy of us all."
Philadelphia-based rapper Asaad, aka Saudi Money, has released two brilliant tracks that pay homage to Jodorowsky: the first, "Holy Mountain," after the famous Jodorowsky film, and his latest, "Jodorowsky Flow," named after the man himself, also featuring legendary hip-hop artist Ab-Soul. Have a listen. You can also read a great interview with Asaad by music critic and writer Lawrence Burney (creator of the gorgeous bi-monthly magazine True Laurels) on Vice.
The Serbian-born artist and "grandmother of performance art" recently spoke at a screening of The Dance of Reality, hosted by MoMA in New York City and featuring a rare appearance of Jodorowsky himself. Introducing the legendary artist, Ambramovic stated, "I divide the world into two categories: the originals, and the ones who follow. The originals are the people looking differently, who take the simple elements of everyday life and make miracles. And for me, Alejandro, you are the one original."