Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Very First Film, La Cravate, Based on a Novella by Thomas Mann (1957)

Ale­jan­dro Jodor­owsky may have rede­fined the film-view­ing expe­ri­ence for a cou­ple gen­er­a­tions of art-house thrillseek­ers, but he did­n’t start his cre­ative jour­ney in cin­e­ma. Decades before he sent his audi­ences on the mind-alter­ing fea­ture-length trips (whether or not they came pre­pared for them with their own mind-alter­ing sub­stances) like El Topo and The Holy Moun­tain, he wrote poet­ry, worked as a clown, found­ed and direct­ed a the­ater troupe, and after relo­cat­ing from his native Chile to France, stud­ied mime and per­formed with Mar­cel Marceau. Only then had life pre­pared him to make his first film, 1957’s La Cra­vate.

Telling its sto­ry in vivid col­or but with­out words, the short (which also goes under such titles as Les têtes inter­ver­tiesThe Trans­posed Heads, and most sen­sa­tion­al­is­ti­cal­ly The Sev­ered Heads) draws on Jodor­owsky and his col­lab­o­ra­tors’ skills devel­oped in the per­form­ing arts to con­vert into cin­e­mat­ic mime Thomas Man­n’s 1950 novel­la The Trans­posed Heads: A Leg­end of India. Nov­el­ist Rayo Casablan­ca quotes Jodor­owsky describ­ing the tale as one of “a woman who has an intel­lec­tu­al hus­band, who is very weak phys­i­cal­ly. She also has a mus­cu­lar but idi­ot­ic lover. She cuts the heads off of the two men and inter­changes them. She remains with the mus­cu­lar body and the head of the intel­lec­tu­al. How­ev­er, after a cer­tain time, the body of the ath­lete is soft­ened and the body of the intel­lec­tu­al becomes vig­or­ous and mus­cu­lar.”

Mann, in Jodor­owsky’s read­ing, “want­ed to thus say that it is the intel­lect which makes the body,” but for near­ly fifty years, his own visu­al inter­pre­ta­tion went unseen. Not long after its pre­miere at Rome’s Cin­e­ma Auteur Fes­ti­val in 1957 it went miss­ing, pre­sumed lost, until the sole print­’s redis­cov­ery in a Ger­man attic in 2006. Final­ly, Jodor­owsky’s fans could see not just his direc­to­r­i­al debut but his first star­ring role onscreen, with a sup­port­ing cast that includ­ed the Bel­gian sur­re­al humorist Ray­mond Devos. The film’s moral, writes Dan­ger­ous Minds’ Paul Gal­lagher, “is nev­er to lose your head over unre­quit­ed love, but find some­one who loves you as you are,” but as with all of Jodor­owsky’s works, feel free to take from it what­ev­er mes­sage finds its way into your head.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Ale­jan­dro Jodorowsky’s 82 Com­mand­ments for Liv­ing

Ale­jan­dro Jodor­owsky Explains How Tarot Cards Can Give You Cre­ative Inspi­ra­tion

The 14-Hour Epic Film, Dune, That Ale­jan­dro Jodor­owsky, Pink Floyd, Sal­vador Dalí, Moe­bius, Orson Welles & Mick Jag­ger Nev­er Made

Watch Mar­cel Marceau Mime The Mask Mak­er, a Sto­ry Cre­at­ed for Him by Ale­jan­dro Jodor­owsky (1959)

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer, the video series The City in Cin­e­ma, the crowd­fund­ed jour­nal­ism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Ange­les Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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