Movie Review: Psychomagic: A Healing Art

Aaron ConnDocumentary, MoviesLeave a Comment

Psychomagic poster

Psychomagic posterNearly 50 years since the release of El Topo, director Alejandro Jodorowsky has released another movie. The movie, Psychomagic: A Healing Art, is a documentary from the Chilean cult film director currently streaming for rental on Alamo Drafthouse on Demand from ABKCO and Satori Films. While not the usual feature film from Jodorowsky, Psychomagic is a movie that has Jodorowsky’s name all over it: it’s a strange yet intriguing movie with surreal visuals.

jodorowskyJodorowsky is a Chilean-born filmmaker of many talents. He is best known for his work in film, specifically his 1970 acid western El Topo– a movie that is widely regarded as the originator of the midnight movie. Jodorowsky’s other notable works include The Holy Mountain and Sante Sangre. In the last decade- after more than 20 years without making any movies- Jodorowsky came back with a duology of surreal biopics based on his life, The Dance of Reality and Endless Poetry. Along with making movies, Jodorowsky is the author of several books and graphic novels.

Describing a movie like Psychomagic isn’t easy to do. If anything, the term “psychomagic” is the name Jodorowsky coined for his form of  an alternative medicine/therapy. Whereas psychoanalysis is talking about one’s problems, psychomagic is taking action in those problems. The movie tells the stories of several different people, all going through a rough time in their life and/or with severe trauma. For each of the people shown in the movie, Jodorowsky has them take part in different activities- which range from conventional to bizarre. Throughout the movie, Jodorowsky shows scenes from his own movies relating to the issues at hand- with some of these scenes being reenacted by the people as part of their therapy.

psychomagic pumpkins

Man performs a psychomagic act, smashing pumpkins with a hammer.

Jodorowsky is a man known for his use of sensory overload: some scenes can be beautiful while others can be grotesque. Remember the blood drenched towns in El Topo? Or even the time the Alchemist turned the Thief’s excrement into gold in The Holy Mountain? If you’ve seen Jodorowsky’s other movies, you know what you’re in for. Psychomagic features a plethora of sensory overload.  Still, the visuals in this movie are impressive. While not as cinematic as the scenes in some of Jodorowsky’s other movies, this movie is still a feast for the eyes. Then again, there are scenes that some squeamish viewers may look away from. While I wouldn’t give away all of the activities shown in the movie, it’s worth mentioning that most of them end with the patient completely naked.

Watching the therapies, one might wonder how this all works. We are given some insight from Jodorowsky himself but the man can’t help but be mysterious and cryptic about his methods. Personally, I buy it. As someone who is familiar with the work of Dr. John Sarno, Jodorowsky’s ideas aren’t that far fetched: his therapy is tackling the unconscious mind and past traumas. The people in this movie are simply acknowledging their pains instead of repressing them. While Jodorowsky’s methods are far more extreme, both theories are of the same ilk so to speak.

Psychomagic yelling

Jodorowsky (left) helps a man who doesn’t feel like a man- with the man yelling out his repressed feelings.

If Psychomagic had its downsides, it would be the runtime. While a solid movie from beginning to end, I’ll admit that the movie does run out of steam in the last 30 minutes or so. Some of the stories towards the end just aren’t as intriguing as the ones in the beginning. Also while this can be called a documentary, we don’t really get to hear from anyone else aside from the patients and Jodorowsky. With that, we don’t get to hear from people in the field of mind body therapy that show how psychomagic works. Then again, explaining how it works would take the “magic” out of it.

As a whole, Psychomagic is a well-made documentary movie. While I don’t think it’s a classic, it’s another good movie from Jodorowsky. Seeing how this movie shows footage from his other movies, this could very well be Jodorowsky’s last movie. At 91 years old, Jodorowsky has already made his mark in cinema history. If this ends up being his last movie, this would be a great note for Jodorowsky to go out on.

Psychomagic can be rented on Alamo Drafthouse on Demand for $19.99. Click here to visit the movie’s page on Alamo to rent it.

Along with Psychomagic, Alamo on Demand is streaming several other Jodorwosky movies for rental. These movies include Fando Y LisEl TopoThe Holy MountainSante SangreThe Dance of Reality and Endless Poetry. For those movies, click here.

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Aaron ConnMovie Review: Psychomagic: A Healing Art