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

Ale­jan­dro Jodor­owsky, as any­one who’s wit­nessed a movie of his play out onscreen might guess, has steeped him­self in the mys­ti­cal arts, but it would take an astute view­er to guess that he received some of his ear­li­est train­ing in the field of mime. Dur­ing his time in Paris in the 1950s, the Chilean-born film­mak­er, yet to shoot a sin­gle frame but hav­ing already run his own per­for­mance troupe back in San­ti­a­go, began study­ing under Éti­enne Decroux, not only a mas­ter of mime but a mas­ter teacher of mime. Jodor­owsky then joined and went on a world tour with a mime group led by one of Decroux’s espe­cial­ly promis­ing stu­dents, one Mar­cel Marceau.

Few today could think of mime with­out Marceau’s name com­ing to mind, and none could think of Marceau with­out hav­ing at least a sense that the man rede­fined the art. Per­form­ers had, of course, used their bod­ies to word­less­ly evoke dif­fer­ent ele­ments of the human expe­ri­ence since antiq­ui­ty, but Marceau — who could take his view­ers through an entire human life in four min­utes — brought it to anoth­er lev­el entire­ly.

Some of Jodor­owsky’s fans might say the same about the direc­tor, and in the video above they can wit­ness per­haps the two men’s only sur­viv­ing cre­ation: Marceau’s 1959 per­for­mance of The Mask Mak­er, a piece Jodor­owsky thought up for him.

“Jodor­owsky would say, ‘Mar­cel, will you accept if I give you an idea for a sto­ry?’ ” remem­bered Marceau in a late inter­view. “I replied, ‘Of course, if the idea is good.’ Jodor­owsky said, ‘What do you think of a man who tries on dif­fer­ent masks show­ing a vari­ety of emo­tions? He puts on a laugh­ing mask that gets stuck on his face; he tries des­per­ate­ly but it will not come off. He has to blind him­self to take it off his face.’ I did the chore­og­ra­phy myself, and then we shared the rights for this pan­tomime.” Two oth­er Marceau-Jodor­owsky works in mime fol­lowed, The Saber of the Samu­rai and “anoth­er cru­el tale” called The Eater of Hearts.

At once shocked and moved, accord­ing to Pro­ject­ed Fig­ures’ “Brief Guide to Ale­jan­dro Jodor­owsky,” by the “excess of vio­lence” in these mime rou­tines, Marceau nev­er­the­less per­formed them with what looks like the fullest com­mit­ment to the con­cept. Jodor­owsky in turn made use of what he’d learned from Marceau even as he switched arts and began mak­ing films. The influ­ence shows in his very first short film, 1957’s La Cra­vate, a word­less phys­i­cal per­for­mance for the cam­era. His­to­ry has­n’t record­ed whether Marceau ever watched it, but he’d sure­ly rec­og­nize his for­mer col­lab­o­ra­tor’s sen­si­bil­i­ty in the con­tent: it also goes by the Eng­lish title The Sev­ered Heads.

A 1975 ver­sion appears below:

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Mar­cel Marceau Mimes the Pro­gres­sion of Human Life, From Birth to Death, in 4 Min­utes

How Mar­cel Marceau Start­ed Mim­ing to Save Chil­dren from the Holo­caust

Ale­jan­dro Jodorowsky’s 82 Com­mand­ments for Liv­ing

Ale­jan­dro Jodor­owsky Explains How Tarot Cards Can Give You Cre­ative Inspi­ra­tion

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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