THE WHITE LAMA
Here we have further proof that the Chilean writer/filmmaker Alexandro (or Alejandro) Jodorowsky is one of most magnificently brain-fried geniuses alive. If you only know Jodorowsky through his films (including EL TOPO, THE HOLY MOUNTAIN and SANTA SANGRE) then you really don’t know him very well, as his 30-plus year career as a comic book scripter has produced work every bit as potent and distinctive. THE WHITE LAMA is at the forefront of Jodorowsky’s comic writing.
Originally published in a six-volume hardcover edition by Humanoids and then a two-volume trade paperback, it’s a reverent and sincere account of Zen Buddhism by a dedicated practitioner of the form (see THE SPIRITUAL JOURNEY OF ALEJANDRO JODOROWSKY). It is, however, unlike any other Buddhist tale you’re likely to read, packed with gore, surrealism and all manner of insane supernatural shenanigans. Each page holds a new set of wonders, set in a sustained tapestry of fevered imagination that can only be described as mind blowing.
The set-up is a complicated one. Sometime in the early twentieth century, in the “Forbidden City” of Tibet, the Grand Lama has a dream that prophesies disaster. He promptly dies in suitably Jodorowskyian fashion--his head explodes! He’s reincarnated, but in a most unexpected form: an orphaned white boy named Gabriel. Few know of Gabriel’s true nature, as a local twerp christened Little Jesus is falsely credited as the reincarnation of the Lama.
As for Gabriel, he’s in for a rough upbringing. In the coming years he’ll not only have to learn to recognize the traces of the deceased Lama residing within him, but also live up to them. This means he’ll need to resist the myriad forces--human and otherwise--opposing him, as well as his own violent impulses. There’s also the Lama’s original doom-laden prophecy, which comes to fruition in the final pages, rounding out the saga in decidedly melancholy fashion.
This all makes for an epic account incorporating a yeti, demons, ghosts, psychedelic visions, astral projection, a giant scorpion (surely the most delightfully unexpected comic book critter since the squid of WATCHMEN), levitation, a body switch, mass suicide, and lots more. I noted explicit references to everyone from Gurdjieff to H.P. Lovecraft, but in the end THE WHITE LAMA is pure, unadulterated Jodorowsky.
We mustn’t forget the artwork of Georges Bess, who also did the honors for Jodorowsky’s previous comic saga SON OF THE GUN. The two clearly work well together, with Bess providing a plethora of impeccably drafted pictures, more often than not seen in minutely detailed wide shots featuring scores of people situated amid stark, mountainous scenery.
Think of Martin Scorsese’s Dalai Lama biopic
KUNDUN reimagined as a whacked-out B-movie and you’ll have some idea of
the wondrous insanity of THE WHITE LAMA.