Friday, 27 November 2009

dog star man - by brakhage

a brief note on structure might be in order to begin with: as much as the film can be said to have a 'narrative' (which in any case is in the order of epic or myth, rather than the 'story' of traditional film-making), it concerns the rise and fall of the dog star man (though the title can be taken two ways: either as the name of the man, or as a conflation of the three main visual threads of the film - a man, a dog, and a star (the sun, shown both in archive and original footage)). the man undertakes a physical journey up a mountain, where, accompanied by his dog, he chops down a dead tree: various dreams and remembrances (of his child and his wife) combine with sense impressions of the landscape around him (mountains, trees, snow, clouds, sun), as well as less obviously referential visual patterns created through superimposition and handpainting on film. the prelude combines footage from the four following parts and is concerned, broadly, with the cosmic - much use is made of footage of the sun (the 'star' of the title). part i introduces the footage of a woodsman, the dog star man (played by brakhage himself) climbing a snowy mountain with his dog, and chopping down a dead tree. part ii superimposes onto footage of a baby (one of brakhage's children) a riot of colour and rapidly changing visual phenomena, achieved thru the technique of painting on film, a kind of animation which he intended to approximate 'closed-eye vision' - i.e. what one sees when one closes one's eyes. part iii, a 'daydream of sex', is visceral and supremely physical, mixing footage of the sexual act with blood and organs - most notably, a beating heart. part iv returns to the woodsman, whose journey up the mountain comes to seem increasingly futile; trapped in an endless ascent, with no hope of reaching a summit, and made, through looping, to continuously chop at a tree which never falls, the man collapses on the ground, grimacing in agony, his wild long hair giving him a caveman appearance - the struggles against nature and physical limitation are unchanged from man's early beginnings. a mystical quality briefly emerges, hinting at some kind of hope, as the man reaches for a nightsky of twinkling stars, but these stars are, in reality, full of molten, deathly heat, as we see from the footage of the sun.

that's a very brief outline of what 'happens' in the film, although, in order to provide some sense of cohesion, i've inevitably imposed a too-schematic narrative outline on a film which lives moment by moment, as a profoundly immersive and visually busy experience. it's almost as if the absence of sound is made up for by what might at first seem to be an OVERcrowding of visual event; and watching the film silently, as intended, provides a very different experience of how one experiences the medium - one's eye trained to become more active, more able to discern connections, cohesions and fractures. therein lies the main problem with trying to describe 'dog star man' - for, fundamentally, the film teaches one how to read it itself, as it progresses: no amount of preparation will really equip one to the same degree as this instantaneous visual training. in that sense, the film is, like the best avant-garde art, a PARTICIPATORY piece, an experience which the viewer can share - but to do so, they must work, they cannot sit back and let the film-maker tell them something. this makes watching 'dog star man' a very personal experience, and the film itself is a very personal piece, showing the most intimate details of brakhage's life, the most intimate and extreme details of his fears and hopes. but at the same time, it has an epic scope rarely matched in conventional feature films. it is about the simultaneity of the local and the cosmic, about the struggle for security, for a home base, and the dangers and rigours of manual labour, of making one's way in a world full of overwhelming sense data, a world that shapes one and that is shaped into being by sense perceptions, rather than existing as something 'already there' which one can schematise, organise and make sense of.

moving in, from outline to detail, we might ask 'what do we have here'? and to answer that question would require a whole book (a frame-by-frame analysis is out of the question!) but, in brief, we can say that we have: perception nature repetition cycles recurrences man in the cosmos light movement the body organs sex fluid secretion the breast the penis the axe the tree the eye/ man as mythological figure an epic made from home movies the handmade handscratched handpainted the sun's molten leaps clouds passing the ascent the struggle up the mountain interludes lightness the woodsman playing with his dog (who, as we know from 'sirius remembered', decomposes in a quite horrifically beautiful way)/ back from the sense of narrative based around character development to the epic cipher figure yet with an utterly intense focus on the body inside and outside its environment (the dog star man, the woodsman, is brakhage himself but his motivations are not considered in the sense of a 'character study', though the preoccupations ARE very much diurnal - his baby, his home life sex, the mountain near his home, his cabin (in part iv), manual labour, struggles and fears in the moment revealing huge cosmic dramas) its environment snow falling thru and landing on trees twigs branches hand drawings of crystals superimpositions snow caught in hair snow struggled through and slippery hair skin organs blood opening and shutting the mouth beating of the heart blood red black/ we can say that we have the elemental (which is never, really, elementary)

Ulzan's Raid (1972): A Re-Revisionist Western

Starring: Burt Lancaster, Bruce Davison, Jorge Luke
Music: Frank DeVol
Director: Robert Aldrich
Screenplay: Alan Sharp
Director of Photgraphy: Joseph Biroc

In 1954, Robert Aldrich directed and Burt Lancaster starred in ‘Apache’, a re-consideration of the negative role accorded Native Americans in the western film. Just under twenty years later, they re-united for another examination of the same subject, but the revisionism this time was as much a response to the kind of film made possible by the likes of ‘Apache’, as it was to the old myths of whooping villains (a la ‘Stagecoach’). Attention is paid to creating an almost deadpan examination of the minutiae of life in the west, with a literate script depicting the complex moral dilemmas that were faced in a time of rough-and-ready law-and-order and rampant racism. Not only the settings but the characters are more believable than was the norm for the western at the time (and, given such recent efforts as the re-make of ‘3:10 to Yuma’, is the norm today as well). Thus, we have such closely thought-through detail as the army scout shooting himself and the settler he’s escorting back to the fort, to save them from being tortured by the Apaches, and the tactical manoeuvres centring on how long horses can last during a lengthy pursuit. In addition, the scout played by Lancaster isn’t (as he probably would be today) the ‘cynical’, ‘world-weary’ character who must redeem himself by some heroic action; rather, he’s a competent professional, a man who lives with an Apache wife but who doesn’t buy the ‘Little Big Man’ myths of the peace-loving noble savage– a hippie era antidote to the racism of ‘classic’ westerns that actually presented a view just as distorted as theirs. ‘Ulzana’ is far from a one-man film, though, and it’s the relations between Lancaster and other characters that make it such an interesting picture. Most notably, there’s the idealistic young officer (Bruce Davison) who leads the expedition to chase Ulzana, the Apache who’s fled his reservation in frustration and is leading a war party to rape and murder local homesteaders. The son of a clergyman, the young man believes that it’s “an absence of Christian feeling” that’s led to the situation of mutual enmity between white men and Native Americans; however, when he sees the aftermath of Ulzana’s raids (for instance, a mutilated settler has a dog’s tail placed in his mouth; as Lancaster wryly observes, Apaches have a strange sense of humour), he quickly swings to the opposite view, and wonders how Lancaster can have dealt with the Apache for so long without hating them. The fact that men could be so cruel offends his notion that man is essentially good (“made in God’s image”) – particularly so when members of his own cavalry troupe start to mutilate the corpse of Ulzana’s teenage son. Lancaster, though, sees through the bullshit, implicitly pointing out that such a ‘humane’ viewpoint over-simplifies the questions of culture clash caused by the white man’s invasion of Native American territory. It would be easy to characterise the tribes as mistreated innocents suffering at the hands of bloodthirsty colonialists (the hippie view), or, as the young officer does, to believe that a little talking and good-faith would sort things out, and that both sets of men could exist together in peace, motivated by similar feelings of love and brotherhood, following ‘good moral principles’ in harmony. What that ignores, though, is the brutality present in the tribal culture (at least, in that of the Apaches, who were feared by other tribes as well as by the white men); commenting on the rape of white settlers, several characters note that “they don’t treat their own women much better.” A culture that is based around rites of manhood (as documented in ‘A Man Called Horse’) and the feats of male warriors is not all that dissimilar to that of bloodthirsty white men masquerading behind Christianity, ‘the American way’, or simple lust for land. Yet just as one is not going to be able to ‘understand’ the Apache by caricaturing them as evil, heathen savages, one is also not going to be able to understand them by trying to view them as surrogate white liberals: there is a difference, an otherness which should neither be romanticised nor ignored. Appropriately enough, all of Ulzana’s dialogue is presented, unsubtitled, in his native tongue: no cushy Kevin Costner characterisations here. Overall, then, one might characterise the film’s nuanced approach as re-revisionism: a corrective both to the old Hollywood myths which everyone by now knew to be untrue, and to the new hippie myths which were perhaps more ‘worthy’ but were also riskily naïve.

NB. Ward Churchill's 'Fantasies of the Master Race' might help to point up some of the errors in the above post. At least, it might teach me to do some more research, rather than just taking on trust what I've seen in a film (which is, after all, fictional).

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Valdez Is Coming (1971)

Starring: Burt Lancaster, Susan Clark, Jon Cypher
Music: Charles Gross
Director: Edwin Sherin
Screenplay: Roland Kibbee, David Rayfiel
(based on the novel by Elmore Leonard)
Director of Photgraphy: Gábor Pogány

Like Martin Ritt’s ‘Hombre’, made a few years earlier, this was adapted from an Elmore Leonard novel, and, like ‘Hombre’, it presents as its hero someone from an oppressed minority who is forced into a confrontation against heavy odds, due to the violent actions of some unscrupulous characters who hold him in racial contempt. Happening across a shooting party, Mexican lawman Bob Valdez (Burt Lancaster) is forced into a confrontation with an innocent army veteran, a black man accused by the rancher who’s leading the party of a murder he didn’t commit. Stricken with guilt at having killed the man, Valdez tries to get the rancher to give him $100 to compensate the dead man’s Native American widow; however, he’s met with contempt and physical violence, and the main part of the film sees him taking his revenge. (Although one should note that it’s not straightforward revenge, as Valdez is acting as much to prove a point – to make the rancher accept his guilt and show some concern towards the oppressed – as he is to avenge a personal slight or injury.)

Less downbeat and more unbelievable in its development than ‘Hombre’, this is nonetheless a film I wanted to like, and one which certainly has something to lift it above your average western. It’s not a ‘message’ picture, as was the vogue at the time (‘Little Big Man’, ‘Solider Blue’ et al); rather, its revisionism is gentle and easy to miss, often just a seemingly throw-away line (asked when he hunted Apache, the titular hero replies “before I know better”). The fact that Valdez is a Mexican also runs counter to the usual western clichés of those ‘over the border’ being either caricatured bandidos (Calvera from ‘The Magnificent Seven’ and General Mapache from ‘The Wild Bunch’) or poor, oppressed farmers, essentially innocent but often incapable of defending themselves without the help of white mercenaries (again, we can turn to ‘The Magnificent Seven’ and ‘The Wild Bunch’ for examples). Indeed, an exchange between Valdez and his old friend Diego, where Valdez impersonates the rancher who will prove the villain of the piece, nicely captures the mix of scorn and idealisation which characterises the white man’s view of the Mexican: “well, you’re a good greaser, Diego. As long as you’re a good greaser, I treat you fair and square – yes sirree, Diego, you people sure know how to live: singing, dancing, screwing – you don’t worry about nothing.” It’s one of the best moments of the film, in part because it’s so understated, yet underlain with a certain dramatic tension: having begun wryly, ironically, Lancaster delivers the final line with what is almost a sigh; a shift to a new, quiet seriousness and determination which is signalled by the faint rattle of Morricone-esque percussion on the soundtrack, and which sees him ride out on his horse for his near-fatal second encounter with the rancher.

Given all this, it’s unfortunate that the Mexican is played by a white man in make-up, although I’d accept that, back in the 70s, there were less bankable Latin stars of the kind who crop up in Hollywood films today (one can imagine Benicio del Toro playing this role, for example). Not that Burt Lancaster’s make-up is particularly bad; and, after all, the fact that he played the hero of Robert Aldrich’s ‘Apache’ in similar ‘brown-face’ didn’t prevent him from giving a very fine performance in a very fine film. His blue eyes do look a little out of place here though, and the henchman character, ‘El Segundo’, looks like a pantomime villain, with hair that sprouts in huge, wild tufts on either side of his head, and dollops of face-paint which make him look like Laurence Olivier’s Othello. Indeed, several of the protagonists also look distinctly like 70s TV characters: I’m thinking primarily of the woman Valdez kidnaps, and her man, the villain of the piece.

Particularly in the second half of the film, ‘Valdez is Coming’ threatens to become a rather tedious revenge/chase movie, though the plot is slightly more complex than this. Nonetheless, there is something rather pulpy about the way that Lancaster turns from put-upon minor lawman to brilliantly competent guerrilla fighter, shooting a man from a 1,000 yards, easily picking off the numerous armed riders sent after him, and sneaking into the heart of the enemy camp without anyone noticing. It’s particularly noticeable partly because of the understated, resigned quality that characterises his performance in the initial stages of the film: moving slowly and speaking carefully, almost deferentially, Valdez is a character not exactly resigned to his lot (which is being treated with open or concealed contempt by his white neighbours) but understandably cautious about being too outspoken. From the moment he pulls his old army gear from under the bed and starts to growl, “Valdez is coming,” he is suddenly athletic, hyper-alert, and a crack shot who never misses the target. The one-man-against-impossible-odds storyline seems here actually more unbelievable than in ‘Chato’s Land’, where Charles Bronson’s character has the advantage of knowing the terrain – as the film’s title indicates, it is the desert which accounts for the fate of the posse he stalks as much as it is the actions of Chato himself. Valdez, though, eludes capture with such ease that the fact he is forced into a final showdown comes as rather a surprise – though, given the mechanics and conventions of plot, it has to happen.

It’s the old Elmore Leonard trick (seen also in ‘Mr Majestyk’) of having the passive, good-natured hero take his revenge after suffering some memorable indignity (in ‘Majestyk’, this involved the machine-gunning of a crop of melons; here, the incident has Lancaster forced to struggle through harsh terrain with a wooden cross strapped to his back). But whereas that sort of thing might be expected in a simple action film like ‘Mr Majestyk’, imposing such a cliché on what could have been a reasonably realistic look at life in the Old West means that ‘Valdez is Coming’ fails to live up to its initial promise. The end result is a rather uneasy compromise between action-movie set-pieces and something more thoughtful and interesting. Still, it’s worth an hour and a half of your time – even if that’s for what it could have been more than for what it is.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Some Exhibitions in London, November 2009. (Kapoor/Kiefer/Jodorowksy/ Montandon)

Anish Kapoor at The Royal Academy (26 September-11 December 2009)

Art galleries now are always white, the huge smooth spaces of their well-lit walls and shiny floors as much a part of any exhibition as the artworks themselves. This is made explicit in the Anish Kapoor show at the Royal Academy – most notably, in the two exhibits (Shooting Into the Corner (2008-2009)/ Svayambh (2007)) involving large quantities of red wax being smeared over venerable wooden door-frames, splattered on the whiteness of those walls in a pile of meaty red waste. Of course, one must always stand behind the white line to view such an ‘unrestrained’ mess. This leaves an odd, dissatisfying disjuncture: the freedom to subvert is managed, something to provide a hook for the show, to draw people in, without in reality moving any of the boundaries between spectator, artist and work which all too often are internalised and taken as read. Anish Kapoor is allowed to fire a cannon of red wax into a corner; anyone else would be taken by the scruff of the neck and marched out for crimes against art (or art galleries).Something similar happens in a room full of variously shaped and curved mirrors which Kapoor calls Non-Objects. To my mind this seems nothing more than an arty version of what one might find in a Victorian fairground, actually stripped of the sense of wonder present in the fair because of its sterile context, because viewers tip-toe round the mirrors wanting to burst out laughing as their shape is stretched so as to become hugely fat or thin or short or tall, but facing disapproving glances whenever anyone goes too far. (This place has, after all, the atmosphere of a secular church, and, like the church, is governed by a system of elitism, money and privilege by which the ordinary spectator is supposed to be awed, a participant only as a passive receptacle for the presentation of that which is ‘above’ their normal experience (though, of course, packaged into its own set of experiences – what one should do and feel in an art gallery).)

The show does have a certain immediate appeal – a protruding white ‘belly’ which appears at first to be an illusion does something to break the white flatness of a gallery wall (as if the building itself has become pregnant, a disquieting notion which bellows the work’s smooth gracefulness of shape), and what looks to be a painting of a giant yellow on yellow sun turns out to be a false wall with a large central hole (the opposite of a belly, perhaps). (When I Am Pregnant (1992)/ Yellow (1999). But such illusions reveal little beyond themselves: they are neat tricks with no secrets to yield, no truths to deliver, no paradoxes beyond the slight thrill of being tricked or confused: trompe l’oeil in the age of minimalism. The same with the hall of mirrors; the same with the sculptures made of colour and grouped under the title '1,000 Names', which hint at something vaguely religious and ritualistic (inspired by Kapoor’s visits to India) but lack the courage to make this explicit (and certainly without the courage to do anything political). Similarly, large sculptures such as ‘Slug’ (2009 – winding marble coils surrounding a shiny red vulva – do impress by their scale (taking up entire galleries), yet evoke no more wonder or fear than a single shot from a Jodorowsky film or even from Hollywood fare such as ‘Alien.’ Placed as it is in the front courtyard of the RA, neatly tucked in from the shiny lights and large scale of a street of shops, ‘Tall Tree and the Eye’ (2009), a sculpture consisting of connected glass balls, resembles nothing more than a giant modern Christmas tree. If, as Werner Herzog claims, we are in desperate need of new images to ensure the survival of our civilisation, they will not be found tidied away in a world of privileged white space and precious, tethered, quasi-subversion. Wander from the spindly broken pots and containers of the ‘excreted cement’ sculptures ‘Greyman Cries, Shaman Dies, Billowing Smoke, Beauty Evoked’ (2008-2009) onto a building site; wander from the sticky red mess fired from a cannon every 20 minutes, during gallery opening hours, to the sticky red mess at the end of machine gun bullets every minute, around the world. Seen in this light, Kapoor’s work seems to do far less than it could, or should.

Anselm Kiefer: 'Karfunkelfee' and 'The Fertile Crescent' at The White Cube(s) (16 October-14 November 2009)

Perhaps my beef with the Kapoor exhibition is as much with the gallery setting as with what is presented within it. Let’s put that to the test: not far from the Royal Academy, in an Old Mason’s Yard (not that you would recognise it as shut) can be found the ‘White Cube’ gallery. This is perhaps the ultimate example of the trend to whiteness – the name of the gallery paying testament to its aesthetic (away with the black, the dirty, the broken, if it’s not contained within a large ‘steel and glass frame’). The immaculate cube certainly provides a spacious arena for Anselm Kiefer’s ‘Karfunkelfee’, four huge triptychs depicting gothic forests, and a smaller painting tucked away in the ‘lower ground floor lobby’ (at the other White Cube, in Hoxton Square, a companion show entitled ‘The Fertile Crescent’ depicts the ruins of Indian brick factories). Yet Kiefer’s work evades the tendency to alluring, polished and unfeeling minimalism exemplified by the sepulchral whiteness of modern galleries; indeed, the seriousness with which he treats his simplified subject matter comes close to caricature. This has its dangers: his work strives for portentousness in a manner not helped by the sort of critical comments hurled his way whenever he unveils his latest piece. The wounds of history, the aftermath of Fascism and the Holocaust, the cruelty of nature with the broken and slender promise of hope as a flower springing from the wasteland: such heavy symbolism threatens to drag down Kiefer’s canvases just as much as the thick encrusted impasto of his paint. But such interpretations, while perhaps true of the less successful work produced throughout the artist’s career, do not do justice to the best of his oeuvre.

What might be best would be, at least initially, to approach the canvasses with less of a worthy desire to make them mean humanistically and politically worthy things, to approach them with regards to the physical handling of material, to the sensuous experience of standing before them. It’s hard to miss the way in which they have been wrestled onto the canvas, a tactile struggle shared with Pollock and Auebach, the thick encrustations of their texture mimicking ‘nature’ (cracked earth, broken surfaces of ice and snow, wasteland, desert, human desolation of rubbish dumps and building sites) in what is more re-enactment and re-living than simple mimesis. This might give an appearance or atmosphere of desolation, yet there is also something approaching exuberance in the violent struggle with paint, the slashes and slabs and stabs. In a recent interview with The Independent Kiefer has this to say: “Children take all as given, and it is for this reason that ruins are beautiful – to me, extremely beautiful. I think the most beautiful movie in the world is the one when planes were sent after the war over Germany to film the ruins – these are for me the most beautiful pictures. It's wonderful because the vertical becomes the horizontal, you know? On one side, something is hidden because it's buried and on the other something is exposed – you see the forms. I love this.” Ruins, then (such as the ones in ‘The Fertile Crescent’), are not just symbols of transience, are not just about the horror of buildings which have outlived their original function, about the terrifying absence of the human: they have an aesthetic delight in themselves, if anything enhanced by the deep-seated fears which they also evoke. Similarly, for all their spiky forbidding, the brambles placed in front of the Karfunkelfee paintings seem meticulously arranged, carefully-smudged and smeared photos coiled round them, even a real snake carefully hidden in shadowed thicket; a semi-recreation, bringing the outside into a space where it becomes aestheticised – in the process losing the full force of its ‘sublime’ impact, nagged by fears which are more submerged, which creep around in less obvious ways than in the German Romantic art which is always present in the background of Kiefer’s works.

As the reviews for the show all note, this pieces offer nothing really new – not that that is the point of what Kiefer does. One senses that he wants each and every painting that he creates to be always-already a monument, to embody history. Odd, then, that this never occurs in a public space – by which I mean a REAL public space, not just a swish. immaculately polished gallery off Jermyn Street with its bespoke shoes and expensive tailors. How would a Kiefer compete with the flashing billboards a few miles away, the buzz of traffic and shoppers and shops? Perhaps the answer is that, though Kiefer is attempting to deal with historical traumas which effect us all, he is not doing so in an obvious or zeitgeisty way – this is not ‘Schindler’s List’ or ‘Saving Private Ryan’ or some film dealing with more recent horrors. One might note, in particular, the absence of figures –something heightened, in this show, by the presence of empty shirts, smocks, hoods, the hint of a path, a large book whose pages, curled as if aged paper, turn out to be made of rusted, weathered lead (echoing Kiefer’s earlier work, ‘High Priestess’). The work is in a sense an escape – to the ‘exotic’ strangeness of what Kiefer saw in India, to the German Romantic dark forest – but it is also an escape to dreams and nightmares which embody the fears suppressed and ignored in the busy, flashing world outside. Rather than taking that world on directly, Kiefer moves his reference points backwards (dealing with Germany’s 1940s legacy of guilt, drawing from older Germanic traditions, painting ruins, those symbols of the past), at the same time as trying to move them out of obvious temporal reference – to unchanging natural scenes, empty of human cultivation – to more primal fears.

We see this in the way that, as with Francis Bacon, echoes of western painting’s religious heritage sound in a human context: in the case of ‘Karfunkelfee’, the triptych form, with large, empty and decaying objects – a large smock, a small metal plane, a book made of lead – taking the place of Christ, the supreme figure of human suffering. This actually subverts a desire for catharsis, to be purged of plague desires and horrors (Grunwald). Only ghosts remain – and maybe not even ghosts, for memories lose their grip as those who held them die. Thus, the hooded smock in the centre of one of the triptychs is the shroud of the corpse that has disappeared, not because, like Christ, it has been resurrected, but because the body has rotted away; the smaller smocks tangled in the bramble below, almost mockingly, recall perhaps massacres of children, lamb’s wool caught in the thicket, and it’s arguably MORE disturbing to discover them this way, than to present explicit horror, than to depict an actual human corpse. For the fear of death is not so much that one will die, but that NOTHING OF ONE WILL BE LEFT: no memory, no trace, no poetic or artistic monument (Kiefer’s desire for monumentality, mentioned above, is nevertheless a desire for a different kind of monumentality to the norm; his monuments are monuments to the decay that follows great destruction, not the survivors of the glory that precedes it). In ‘Narziss and Goldmund’, Hesse writes that "perhaps...fear of death is the root of all our image-making"; Kiefer takes on this notion, but takes it further, ensures that in his works this fear is, at least partially, realized. No anonymous model will be immortalised as a statue in a "quiet dark cloister church, smiling with the same lovely mouth, as beautiful, young, and full of pain", for Kiefer's work has no human model. And that’s why his work still has such resonance – it’s not about doing something new, about some new trend – and it’s not just about an individual fear or an individual’s fear of death – it’s about a fear that, despite the apparent absence of the human, encompasses the whole human race, empathetically and collectively – that (especially given the recent fears of catastrophic environmental damage) not just one man or woman will disappear without trace, but that this will be the fate of all people, that the world will become uninhabitable and uninhabited by homo sapiens. Perhaps at some stage spaces such as the White Cube will be covered in brambles for real, Kiefer’s paint mingling with the dust and dirt with which it has so far only been lightly and consciously sprinkled.

Alejandro Jodorowksy and Pascale Montandon at The Horse Hospital (7-28 November 2009)

The series of watercolour and ink drawings by Alejandro Jodorowsky, in collaboration with his partner Pascale Montandon, are refreshingly located in a less grand setting. Down a side street, one comes across the words ‘Horse Hospital’ painted in white letters on a brick wall, and, a few meters further on, one has to press a buzzer to be admitted into the gallery space. The prices listed next to each work in the catalogue make more explicit that in the RA or White Cube the ridiculous money that goes into the art world, perhaps leading one to be automatically less disposed to like the work – even though it is by Jodorowsky. Starved of finances to make a new film for many years (1989’s ‘Santa Sangre’ is his last notable work), Jodorowsky might, one suspects, have turned his ideas into visual arts out of frustration. At the same time, they allow him a certain freedom, to paint things he couldn’t depict in the medium of film – or at least, not without considerable expense, effort and technological know-how. Thus, painted in a naïve style somewhat reminiscent of children’s book illustrations, we see figures with prominent genitals giving birth, having sex, raping and being raped, being mutilated, dancing, standing, singing; we are presented with bodily space transgressions and penetrations (arms going through bodies, one body sprouting many heads, a rabbi with sprouting extra fingers, headless corpses holding their smiling faces in their laps, green voyeur smiling dogs, plants with thick red lips). Despite all this, and despite what it shares with films like ‘The Holy Mountain’ and ‘El Topo’ – a preponderance of arcane mystical and religious symbolism, a fusion of extreme sex and violence, a love of images which are bizarre, arresting and taboo-breaking – these works are, if anything, less excessive than the films. Without the tie to real humans (actors), physical sets, location shooting, and without the combination of sound, music, speech and image, they are more safely removed into framed, almost whimsical fantasy, lacking the disturbance, the derangement which was always at the heart of what Jodorowksy did as a director. I’d take them over Anish Kapoor, though.