Ever since I first heard about Alejandro Jodorowsky's "El Topo," I wanted to see it. Supposedly on the surface a spaghetti western, but so much more underneath, the movie sounded delightfully bizarre in a way I often enjoy. Well, I have not gotten a chance to see this movie yet since it has not come out on DVD. When I saw the opportunity to watch "Fando and Lis," an earlier film from the same director, I grabbed the chance figuring that something was better than nothing. I was wrong. While "Fando and Lis" does contain some interesting scenes, this Jodorowsky picture dwells deep in the land of surrealism. Nonsensical films do not usually bother me as long as there is some sort of touchstone to hang your hat on. A director can take his project completely over the top as long as a plot exists somewhere under the madness. This is the central problem of "Fando and Lis." The film, a totally improvised production based on memory and a one-page synopsis of a play written by Francisco Arrabal, never makes a bit of sense. It's theater of the absurd time here, folks, so prepare for the ultimate in weirdness. Fortunately, the disc also contains "Constellation Jodorowsky," a documentary about the filmmaker and artist that follows a more traditional approach to storytelling.
"Fando and Lis" tells the story of, predictably, Fando (Sergio Kleiner) and his main squeeze Lis (Diana Mariscal) in glorious black and white photography. The two live in a post-apocalyptic world, in an environment of desert climes and shattered cities. Earth as we know it is gone, so Fando and Lis begin a quest for the mythical city of Tar, a city that seems to promise hope and regeneration for the weary couple. The only possessions they have appear to be a drum, a phonograph, and a wooden cart in which Lis serenely rides. She cannot walk, for some reason, so her man pushes her around wherever they go. The two are a temperamental pair, with Fando often tiring of dealing with Lis's constant complaints. All of this information is the only thing we know for sure about the movie. You see, "Fando and Lis" soon embarks on a bizarre odyssey of disjointed scenes, sparse scenery, and downright odd secondary characters. Never before has such an incoherent movie found its way to my DVD player. And you thought Luis Bunuel or Salvador Dali were weird. Until you check out Jodorowsky, you ain't seen nothing yet. This movie would give Sigmund Freud a nervous breakdown.
I can offer no ample explanations for the unfolding silliness. Scenes and situations include a piano on fire collapsing and then reconstituting itself only to collapse again, a bunch of people rolling about in the mud while a religious figure cackles madly in the background, and a bunch of old ladies sitting around a table eating something that looks like eggs while a guy in a diaper lurches around in the background. You get more, such as a blindfolded Fando led around by women, a scene in which some strange guy drains blood from Lis's arm into a wine glass, and a funeral scene where Fando's mother lies down in her grave. Are you still here? Good, because I have not described my favorite scene yet. It's just as unfathomable as any other situation in the film, but it's so ridiculous that it bears mentioning. At one point, Fando stumbles over a bunch of Amazonian type women who chase him around a craggy hill while knocking him down with bowling balls. Yep, you heard right-bowling balls. Just when Fando thinks he has escaped these wacky women, another bowling ball comes crashing down a hill and fells our hero like he's a pin. Jodorowsky missed out on really giving the scene meaning by failing to shod these gals with bowling shoes. As for the music score, you have to listen to it yourself to believe how peculiar it is.
What could this madness possibly imply? Good luck figuring it all out. As far as I can tell, the film means whatever you want it to mean. I would not worry too much about extracting a coherent theme from "Fando and Lis" unless you want to end up in a rubber room for a few years. What really threw me for a loop was how much I enjoyed specific parts of the movie. I usually despise films this whimsical, but Jodorowsky's vision occasionally possessed a certain charm that made the whole thing worthwhile. That scene with the paint was interesting, as was the couple posing over tombstones. Yet, I would never attempt to recommend the movie to anyone else. It's way too abnormal for you to take my word that you should possibly watch the picture. You have to decide yourself whether to dive in to Jodorowsky's film
"Constellation Jodorowsky" is a bit easier on the eyes and ears. The documentary runs nearly as long as "Fando and Lis." Consisting of lengthy interviews with the director about such diverse subjects as life, philosophy, and theology, "Constellation" shows us what the filmmaker does with his time nowadays. Apparently, he teaches some course at a university where he tosses off lots of new age aphorisms to a docile audience. These scenes run far too long and take away from the more interesting segments, namely the discussion about Frank Herbert's "Dune." Incredibly, Jodorowsky nearly directed the film adaptation of the book, going so far as to hire an artist to draw storyboards. His plans for "Dune" looked fabulous; it's too bad the project went to David Lynch. Only purveyors of atypical cinema should check out this disc. For me, I am still waiting for "El Topo" to come out on DVD.