On the top floor of a Hausmannian building in Paris’s 12th arrondissement, Alejandro Jodorowsky and Pascale Montandon-Jodorowsky share an apartment that overflows with books organized by various spiritual philosophies: Taoism, Zen, Tarot. Jewish Mysticism, Freud, Adonis. A decades-old collection of talismans and statuettes of the Buddha and the Virgin Mary, Padre Pio and El Santo de los Narcotraficantes dot the shelves, and the contemporary designer furniture (Philippe Starck, Michele De Lucchi, and the Bouroullec brothers) commingles in the salon with the plant life, including the “liberated bonsais” that the couple has allowed to grow past their typically miniature size.
There's a lush mysticism to their home, enhanced no doubt by Jodorowsky's reputation as modern filmmaking's visionary guru, and the cosmic nature of how the couple met. It was 12 years ago inside a Paris café, where to this day Jodorowsky upholds his ritual of offering spiritual counsel to strangers every Wednesday.
“A friend of mine said to me that there’s a wonderful man, very famous, who reads the tarot for free,” Montandon-Jodorowsky recalled. “He looked at me, and I understood immediately that he knew me, my soul, and I felt like my life was changed.”
“I thought I was too old for her,” Jodorowsky said, with a laugh. At the time, he was 76, she was 33, and she had no idea who he was.
By then, Jodorowsky, the Chilean-born director, poet, composer (and much more) had already established his own legend, known for the psycho-spiritual intensity of his work, namely his mind-bending, iconoclastic 1973 film The Holy Mountain. Its influence on pop culture still reverberates through the imagery of Beyoncé’s “Formation” video to the set design of Kanye West’s Yeezus tour. (Jodorowsky read West's tarot in 2013 and tweeted that the rapper has the beautiful soul of a child, although when we met he declined to elaborate, saying only: “It was an encounter between two human beings and not between two famous men.”)
Montandon was a painter, which Jodorowsky recognized immediately. “I’ve met so many people who were not artists—thousands of imitators and not creators,” he said. “I was waiting for a real artist, someone for whom everything is an art. Pascale can make a piece of art the way she does her nails. I didn’t believe in love at that time; I was married two times already and it was always a failure. But the tarot is an instrument to see the soul, and I knew that on that day I found paradise.”
For more than a year afterwards, they waited for Jodorowsky’s already-divorced ex-wife to finalize her living arrangements. When she moved out, they started their relationship. Five years later they were married.
“I don’t know how long I’ve been here,” Jodorowsky said of the apartment. “I do not live in years.” The living spaces double as a studio, where at some point the couple’s devotion to each other manifested itself as a visual art practice. It’s a wholly collaborative body of work in which medieval figures, drawn by Jodorowsky, are in the surreal throes of both birth and death. (“I draw only for her,” he said of his wife. “I always had fear a young lover would come and take her, so I said I need to seduce her with something.”)
Montandon-Jodorowsky floods this alternate reality with lush, hyper-saturated colors, infusing the characters with volume and weight. “It’s totally intuitive and spontaneous and harmonious,” she said of their collaborative process. “It’s complete trust; there is no hierarchy and there is no dichotomy.”
“And no discussion,” Jodorowsky added, comparing their art to the creation of a child. “When you make love a man gives a part of his body and a woman receives it in her body, but you don’t tell the parts what to make.”
Together, they made the sole movie poster hanging in the salon, one depicting an insouciant father-and-son pair of firemen flanked by burning figures as faeries float overhead. It’s the poster for Jodorowsky’s 2013 autobiography, La Danza de la Realidad, an emotional return to filmmaking after a 22-year hiatus, and his first major collaboration with Pascale. They credit the writing and direction to him, the costume design and photography to her, and the colors—the sallowness of the landscape and the bright shock of reds and turquoises—to pascALEjandro, the artist and spiritual child they bore in lieu of a biological one. (A follow-up film, Endless Poetry, about Jodorowsky's years spent as an aspiring poet in Chile in the 1940s, hits U.S. theaters next month.)
Currently, there is an exhibition of pascALEjandro's paintings on view in Paris (and , at Galerie Azzedine Alaïa through July 9. While signing a copy of their exhibition catalog, Alejandro asked Pascale in Spanish how to spell something; she responded in French; and together, they appended an English phrase: “From our soul to your soul, pascALEjandro.” It was written partly in his hand, partly in hers, as they passed a single pen back and forth.
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