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Alejandro's second best film. (After Holy Mountain.) Yes, it's a
western. A weird one for sure. But that's the good thing.
The western style imagery along with underground style film-making gives this a few notches above most seventies cinema. You wondered what the hell was going on, but never looked away.
A gunfighter and his naked child take on the best gunfighters there are. Why? To be the BEST! There's Jodorowsky's usual use of cripples and amputees in support roles. And his obsession with showing whole groups face firing squads.
The outlaws terrorizing the villagers was the scene to show who was the hero. But where WAS this village? It seemed as if everyone lived in caves. The outlaws dancing with the local priests was funny too. And maybe a little gross.
But a great film for reasons that are hard to describe. So see it just because.
I have had the great good fortune to see this movie in a local cinema,
and I have to say I don't think I've ever spent so long with my mouth
Almost every reviewer has made some comparison to other works just to try and describe El Topo, and so here's my take: imagine a Western co-written by Lewis Carroll and the Monty Python team, co-directed by Terry Gilliam, Sergio Leone and Ingmar Bergman, and with design by Salvador Dali and Heironymous Bosch. Then further imagine that all of the above sat down beforehand and took very generous quantities of suspect powders and tablets, and there you have it.
There is a story, inasmuch as there is a strand of activity, although even that falters at times. But there is as little to aide one as to meaning as there is in the blankest of poetry.
There are plenty of awful clichés, some very rough camera work and editing, and great dollops of atrocious acting, but there are also inspired moments, amazing performances and some of the most awesome cinematic images I have ever seen.
And a lot of it is very funny. Like the 'hero' being run over by a dam-burst of the physically disabled and deformed pouring from a hole in a mountain. It's like that, you see. From the very first scene of the typically black-clad gunfighter riding across the desert, when you realise that he has a completely naked small boy riding pillion, you'll find massacre victims spitted on 30-foot poles, Buddhist gunslingers who tragically believe themselves beyond defeat, women dubbed with gruff men's voices, gay sheriffs, and even a village priest whose sermons involve getting the congregation to play Russian Roulette.
As to spirituality, there is lots said in review (and by the director)about the film's inherent orientalism, but I have to say, dead Buddhists aside, that there seems to be a lot more of the Bible in here than anything else, although if it IS an allegory, I'm stuck as to what it might be. You will notice on the way past, however, references to John the Baptist, Jesus, Daniel and the Lion, Samson, and loads more besides.
Everyone should see this movie before they die. Just make sure you view it sober.
Regarded as a masterpiece by some, including Dennis Hopper, the late
John Lennon and George Harrison, this is the very definition of a cult
film. A violent, surrealist, allegorical underground sensation upon its
release 37 years ago, the film has been out of print since - existing
only in poor quality bootleg videos. Now the film is finally being
released on DVD and is currently on an exclusive cinema run around the
To me, it's not very easy to love surrealism. It's easy to respect it and even easier to hate it all. But one things for sure, it certainly makes quite an impact. Many images from this surrealist Mexican pseudo-biblical western will stay with me for a long time, no matter how ridiculous I thought it was at first. The images contained in this film include a man being buried in dead rabbits, a man with no legs being carried on the back of a man with no arms, several dozen black and Mexican men being branded with hot irons and sold as slaves, a group of deformed and disabled people being mercilessly gunned down by a group of morally-twisted cross-dressing townsfolk, a man catching a bullet in a butterfly net and throwing it back at his opponent, and a nail-bitingly tense game of Russian roulette in a church. As with all surrealism, for every image to laugh at and ridicule, there is one to be utterly floored by due to it's undeniable power.
The imagery and symbolism permeate every scene of this film, sometimes bluntly and sometimes more subtly. Elements of Judeo-Christianity include the four duellists representing the four prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel) and El Topo himself as Jesus Christ, whilst the latter half of the film can be seen to show the reincarnation beliefs of Tibetan Buddhism.
As the round of applause from the audience at the end of the film tonight showed, this is a profoundly powerful and daring film but it is definitely not for everyone. It is somewhat dated and perhaps a little flawed. But as El Topo himself says, "Too much perfection is a mistake."
Perhaps I am passing some urban myths with these statements. I saw the
movie in 1970. Supposedly 52 tanker truck loads of cattle blood were
used it the filming of this movie. The rape scene is not acting.
Jodorowski actually raped the woman and then negotiated with her in
order to put it in the movie. Further he actually kicked the son in the
balls. The last piece of information that circulated in those days was
that the movie was banned in Mexico. I will not attest to any of these
statements. Perhaps another might comment on the voracity of them.
Jodorowski said of the movie that he was trying to capture the logic of dreams when he made the movie. He was trying to put his audience inside this dream or nightmare , if you prefer.
I have been looking for this movie ever since VHS came out without success. hopefully your viewers comments here will help me locate it.
Initially set up as a western movie in the manner of Sergio Leone, the film soon slips out into surprising metaphysical realms. A gunslinging avenger (El Topo; played by the director himself) defeats a local militant tyrant, castrating him and stealing his female lover away into the open desert, leaving his naked son in the care of monks. Goaded on by the woman who becomes increasingly demanding, El Topo (who calls himself "God") faces down several holy men, cheating to win. Not satisfied, the woman finds a sadistic female lover, and turns on El Topo, shooting him several times. El Topo is reborn as a genorous selfless man in a cave full of mutants whom he helps to escape from their enclosed incestuous existence. Reuniting with his now grown son and working with a dwarf woman in the local town to earn money, El Topo finally frees the mutants but on their road to freedom they are massacred. El Topo takes out his revenge on the townsfolk and burns himself alive, leaving his son, the dwarf and an infant behind who ride off into the desert to whatever destiny awaits them. This film is so saturated with meanings, it can be talked about for days if not years. It has haunted me as few films have. Beneath the multiple shocks of the first viewing, there is much careful metaphoric construction which opens outward the more it is pondered.
It would be impossible to make a stranger film. An LSD trip on film? Sure.
This is IT. The most weird, strange, bizzare film I have ever seen, without
any doubt. Would I like to see it again? Sure. I saw it when it was first
released and I'd like to see it again, now. How? Where? I was surprised to
see it come up when I did a search here!
I cannot remember the plot (was there one?), but I do remember the naked midgets! Maybe this says more about me than about the movie. I am open to that idea!
Jodorowsky is nothing if not an idiosyncratic filmmaker, and this is
probably the ideal starting point for his singular flights of fancy. The
tightrope that this movie walks from first frame to last is almost
unparalleled in modern cinema.
"El Topo" is as pretentious as it is meaningful and as baffling as it is gripping. In a way it is an examination of various religions of the world (particularly Eastern ones), in another way it is a tribute to Bunuel and the surrealists, in another way it's simply an insane LSD vision. No matter which of these you walk in expecting, you'll be satisfied.
It is unfortunate that a key scene in the film is missing, which does play havoc with some of the character motivations (though there is no conventional "plot", what's motivating the characters most of the time is VERY clear). Even with this omission, the film has a power and grace which few epics (let alone controversial "midnight cult" features) have achieved.
I do own a copy of what is probably a "grey market" videocassette of the film taken from a Japanese laserdisc, and the image quality is generally not bad (it never was great with this movie, anyway). Plus, those Japanese subtitles sure are interesting!
I watch this film expecting to see the sickest, most violent movie I would
ever see ... but I didn't. Where was it? Someone tell me. Am I so numb to
the world that I no longer notice? I didn't necessarily see the movie for
that reason, I was just warned of it beforehand. Too much hype? Maybe.
The movie is great, unique and definitely worth seeing (more than once actually -- it takes repetition to catch the full meaning). See it ... but unless you have a weak heart, you won't find the violence overwhelming.
This was supposed to be a cult film based on the book of Genisis from the Bible.Sorry the gunfighter doesn't do it for me.Its hard to follow and seems overly violent and overstated.It never lives up to the promise of the opening scene where a boy becomes a man in the hardest terms. Pass it by
How does one write a review for El Topo? It is such a personal
experience that I will write my own opinion of the movie.
For certain, I was chuckling almost throughout the film but it was not because of the jokes on screen but due to the unreal sequences and nonsense that was going on. I loved the way the people spouted blood. I also loved the bizarre courtship rituals. However I am pretty certain that in most of these scenes Jodorowski was trying to create a very serious environment. For instance the scene with the exploitation of the monks was intended to be shocking and a serious comment on society; but it turns out to be hilarious due to the bad acting and bizarreness.
Some more things that I gathered was that the director was fairly chauvinistic and egoistic. What with writing a film and casting oneself as an all-powerful messiah who is irresistible to women and unbeatable in gun fights. Not to mention highly philosophical and a saviour. Ah, talking of women, they are nothing more than objects rather than humans. They are depicted as dogs that are meant for satisfaction and the worship of men. I'm not too sure where the director was trying to go with this.
I am a big fan of surreal art; however surrealism is an attempt towards straightening out preconceived societal norms and blind faith. I am not too certain what comment was the director trying to make in this film. All I gathered was that he was self-indulgent and trying to depict himself the way he saw himself in his own eyes, as a superior alpha-male, which shows his huge ego.
Towards the end I started falling asleep and couldn't wait for it to get over. I thought that the movie was half-an-hour too long and it couldn't maintain my interest for 2 hours.
Would I watch the movie again, I probably would because it is indeed very funny. However I'm not too certain if I'd like to give The Holy Mountain a go primarily because I presume that it also will be as religious as this one was. So a good attempt and I'd recommend this movie to others interested in bizarre films; however its not one of the greatest ones I've seen. Funny though.
I saw The Holy Mountain 2 weeks after writing this review and was absolutely stunned by it. Certainly far superior in quality, grandeur and bravado than this one. Cheers.
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