Review by Sean Boelman
Any cinephile would know filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky for his characteristically bizarre and surreal work. It turns out that he may just be a generally idiosyncratic person, as his newest film, the documentary Psychomagic, a Healing Art, depicts a pseudoscientific endeavor in unusual (and sometimes off-putting) candor.
In the film, Jodorowsky explains his theory of psychomagic, a unique new practice of trauma therapy he invented in which subjects address their traumas with ritualistic “actions” to confront emotions. These actions range from a ceremonial massage to promote fertility to painting a self-portrait with menstrual blood.
If all this sounds a little far-fetched, that’s because it is — or at least it comes across that way. There’s some merit in the idea that exploring one’s feelings through self-expression can help one cope with trauma, but these specific and unusual acts in which Jodorowsky is having his subjects participate have little to no significant scientific foundation.
It’s rather uncanny to watch the people who are participating in Jodorowsky’s therapeutic methods as they give their testimony in interviews. The level of eagerness with which they speak, combined with the reverent nature of what they are doing, almost leads one to think that Jodorowsky is trying to start a cult of people who believe in his Psychomagic.
That said, Jodorowsky’s teachings are so peculiar and he is so passionate and earnest about them that this documentary ends up being absolutely fascinating. In a way, it’s interesting to look on to these practices as an outsider, because the ideas will be so foreign to most viewers, it will have that allure of the unknown to it.
Many of Jodorowsky’s “actions” also contain unique and occasionally haunting imagery that makes it an aesthetic experience. Some of the segments will stick with viewers more than others (the more outlandish ones are understandably the ones with the greatest impact), but it does deliver on the filmmaker’s promise of weirdness.
In terms of execution, apart from the footage of the rituals, the film looks surprisingly rough. Much of the footage is grainy and looks rushed. More often than not, this feels like an instructional video or even propaganda meant to inform viewers of the basic principles of his new theories.
Psychomagic, a Healing Art may be based in ideas that are less than sound, but it’s an intriguing watch nevertheless. While it won’t appeal much beyond the filmmaker’s core audience, those who already appreciate his work will be amused to see what he has come up with.
Psychomagic, a Healing Art streams exclusively on Alamo on Demand beginning August 7 here.