Ayahuasca Western

U.S. Marshal Mike Donovan (Vincent Cassel) (referred to as Broken Nose by the native tribe; unlike the comic his nickname is not Blueberry) has dark memories of the death of his first love. He keeps peace between the Americans and the natives who had temporarily adopted and taken care of him. The evil actions of Blount, a “white sorcerer” lead him to confront the villain in the Sacred Mountains, and, through shamanic rituals involving a native entheogenic brew, conquer his fears and uncover a suppressed memory he would much rather deny.

When a French filmmaker decides to shoot a western, you can be certain that his take on the genre wont be traditional. Indeed, Blueberry has more to do with Ken Russells Altered States (1980) than with Howard Hawks Rio Bravo (1958). The film draws its inspiration from a popular graphic novel series published in France since 1965 under the supervision of legendary artist Jean Moebius Giraud.

Mike Blueberry (played by French star Vincent Cassel) is a lonesome, troubled marshal who confronts his arch-enemy (Michael Madsen) in a fight for the freedom of the Indian tribe in which he grew up. In order to find the answers hes seeking, Blueberry submits himself to a series of shamanistic rites that open him to a new level of consciousness and to painful, long forgotten memories that will ultimately decide his fate.

A Life-Changing Experience

Chabrier realized very quickly that he wouldnt be able to put Kounens visions on screen if he didnt try it himself. Thus, one day, he flew to Peru with Kounen and Cassel to meet a master shaman. The experience had a profound effect on me, although not to the extent of what it had done to Jan, admits Chabrier. However, after my first trance, I was convinced that there was no way this experience could be shown on film. To me, even if you filmed it in IMAX and projected it at Showscan speed (60 fps), it still would only represent 1/1000th of the real thing! I couldnt see how we could possibly do it.

Most people have misconceptions about what shamanism really is. They often associate it with spirituality, while a shamanistic trance is basically a deeply personal journey. Chabrier adds, Its difficult to explain shamanism in a few words, but Jan likes to say that, as NASA takes humans into space, shamans take you to your inner self, to your deepest levels of consciousness. When you live this experience, you never make the same journey twice and two people never make the same journey, which makes it very difficult to describe. Still, the incredible thing is that there are some visions that everybody experiences: spiders, snakes, fractal forms, perception of the immensely small and the immensely large These similarities allowed us to find a common language to describe and share what we had experienced.

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