Tuesday, May 01, 2007


Today marks the release - first ever official - of Alejandro Jodorowsky's films El Topo and Holy Mountain on DVD. But it also marks the first time in over 50 years that Jodo's first film, The Transposed Heads, can be viewed. Shocking is a better word for it. Jodo told me a few years ago there was only one print of the film in existence and it vanished in the late '50s. He had, at the time, given up all hope of ever finding it. Apparently, the short film was discovered in a German attic in '06. I worked on a Jodo bio for a bit. It's sitting on my desktop still and hopefully I'll get around to working on it again. Here's what I wrote about The Transposed Heads:

"Entitled “The Transposed Heads” (but known colloquially as “The Severed Heads”) the film was a fable adapted from Thomas Mann’s short novel “The Transposed Heads” (1941). The entire 40-minute film, shot in color on 16 mm, was done in mime, with an introduction by Jean Cocteau. The key performers were Raymond Devos, Marthe Mercure, Micheline Beauchemin, Saul Gilbert, Jodorowsky and Gilbert’s wife Ruth Michelly, a children’s book illustrator. Jodorowsky describes the film as, “the history 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 the 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. Thomas Mann wanted to thus say that it is the intellect which makes the body.”

"Thomas Mann’s original “The Transposed Heads” (“Die vertauschten Köpfe”) is a retelling of an Indian fable. The story concerns two friends, Nanda and Shridaman. Nanda is the son of a blacksmith, earthly and robust, a man of the earth. Shridaman is the son of a merchant with priestly lineage. Though the boys are polar opposites they build a friendship. While walking one day they spy a bathing beauty named Sita, and thus begins a bizarre love triangle. Sita and Shridaman are married, but Nanda is quietly waiting in the wings and eventually with the help of the goddess Kali, heads are switched.

"The film made its debut at the Cinema Auteur festival in Rome in 1957, where it was awarded first place. Sadly, the film, of which there was only one extant print, was lost. Jodorowsky says that Ruth Michelly took the film with her to Germany after Saul Gilbert died of cancer. Where the film, and Ruth Michelly, is today are mere matters of speculation. It seems quite likely that “The Severed Heads”, shown only once, will never be seen again."

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