The Holy Mountain (1973)
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Despite what you may have heard, "The Holy Mountain" is more absurd than surreal, more funny than disturbing. Don't worry if your tarot cards are gathering dust and you can't remember the difference between wands and swords--such occult knowledge might help you achieve a few "Oh I get that!" moments during the middle of the film, but the heaps of blatant symbolism aren't really the point. In fact, it may just be that the point is: there is no point. When you see a fat man dressed as the Virgin Mary handing out crucifixes under a sign that says "Christs For Sale", you can rack your brain trying to figure out what kind of statement that makes about society--or you can laugh. When you witness "The Government" indoctrinating children with a hatred for the nation of Peru by printing up comic books called "Captain Captain Against The Peruvian Monster", you can lament the plight of innocents being manipulated for selfish ends--or you can laugh! This film bombards the viewer with outlandish images and juxtapositions like these in rapid fire throughout, so it's easy to get bogged down or confused or numb. The secret to appreciating it all is to come prepared to chuckle--some things you'll "get", some things you won't, but most everything is twisted and absurd and, in some way, funny. Now when you get to the end and Jodorowsky winks at you, you can wink right back.
Basically, if you can appreciate absurdity and profundity and the absurdity of profundity (not to mention enormous, colorful sets), you'll find a lot to like here.
PS: If you do like "The Holy Mountain", head down to your local comics shop (or browse over to your favorite book/graphic novel e-tailer) and pick up a couple of volumes of "The Incal" or "The Metabarons", both of which were also written by Jodorowsky. They're like this movie--every bit as garish and violent and thought-provoking and funny--but they have actual plots (epic space-opera plots, no less).
The synopsis, as bizarre as it sounds doesn't even come close to describing this amazing film. The film introduces the viewer to an array of characters and freaks unlike any seen on the cinema screen. The Holy Mountain is in turns hilarious, confounding, disturbing and perplexing but this Jodorowsky's love letter to the art is never less than entertaining. Filled with alchemical illusions, tarot symbols, existential ideas, explicit gore and violence, gratuitous nudity, sacrilegious imagery, and perverse beauty, this movie will make you live an unusual experience.
To begin, the images, the images. The first 20 minutes contain some of the most astonishing images I've seen, combining Christian iconography, Latin American history, futurism, mysticism, and political commentary. As if Fellini had a sinister twin working with his leftover film and props. As the film progresses I thought the set pieces became a little dated and, frankly, I experienced sensory overload.
I'm sure a lot of viewers would reject this film as pointless or indulgent. Yeah...so? I can't say I understood exactly what Jodoworsky was getting at (if anything), or if it would even make an impact on my view of the world. But if film is to be defined as image over everything else, then Jodoworsky is certainly some sort of master filmmaker. I'd rather watch something like this, filled with ideas (however pretentious), than a plot-driven movie with nothing more on its mind than wrapping up loose ends for the audience.
Now, off to rent Santa Sangre.
Holy Mountain is a meticulously made work of cinematic art. It is simultaneously a brilliant absurdist farce, a cynical satire which lampoons religion and capitalism, an affirmation of faith, an indictment of humanity for its cruelty, ignorance and greed and a celebration of life and the human spirit. Who and where you are will determine your interpretation, so don't blame Jodorowsky! He's just the messenger.
Ostensibly, the film is about a fantastic spiritual journey undertaken by an apparently psychologically disturbed young man who looks a bit like what many Christians believe Jesus to have looked like. This young man begins his journey with insects swarming his face. He is either dead or passed out. Some naked children find him and decide to crucify him for fun. He yells at them (incoherently) and they run away. He then meets an amputee with just a couple half-limbs who becomes his friend for the beginning of the film.
This describes the first five or so minutes of the film's plot. Although the film remains somewhat linear and simply plotted from this point to it end, it also draws deep on all manners of symbolism, mercilessly pokes fun at Christianity, its exploitation and its commercialization, and even throws in some pop-Buddhist concepts accompanied by a prophet with a talent for Jiu Jitsu. The entire crucifixion story is repeatedly portrayed, but with levels of absurdity that would probably have some Americans calling for its censorship today.
Later, our protagonist will embark upon an apparently meaningless quest to climb the Holy Mountain with ten powerful companions. Though likable enough, the hero of the film is neither a hero nor a clearly developed character. His (at least) neurotic behavior, his uncertain sense of justice and sometimes animalistic approach to events make him a difficult character to like, but you will feel compelled to follow-through simply to discover what bizarre reality he will encounter next.
Holy Mountain has some of the most impressive sets and surreal to psychedelic imagery I have seen in films of its vintage. Its soundscaping and soundtrack is also very impressive. The amount of dialog is refreshingly minimal, which also helps the director keep his audience focused on what the film does with sound and vision.
Although the film is gorgeous, sensitive viewers should be aware that there is some fairly disturbing imagery in this film. It is meant to be watched while wide-awake and receptive, but strong.
You can find all sorts of meanings in this film. You can label the film many different things. And you can understand it in whatever way works for you. But please do not make the mistake of thinking you've got it right or that your interpretation is anything but your interpretation. Holy Mountain, like many works of film art, does not work that way.
Highly recommended for intellectuals, connoisseurs of film art, and those who enjoy cult films. Definitely not recommended for those who approach film solely as a means for entertainment, and not recommended for a first date (unless the couple has a strong intellectual bent and an interest in film).
Anyway....why I mentioned El Topo was because it raised the bar for what I could expect from The Holy Mountain, which promised to be even more of a mind-bending surrealist work than El Topo. For this is how, on the basis of a single viewing, I was prepared to judge The Holy Mountain - on just how bizarre it would get.
This may sound a little shallow, but The Holy Mountain is one of those films that requires several viewings to properly comprehend pretty much everything that goes on. On one viewing, all you can do is try and keep your eyes on screen and try to take in as much of the film as possible. Even if you don't fully understand what's going on, take in the experience. That's what I did when I watched The Holy Mountain.
The Holy Mountain begins by following a man who's best described as Christlike as he engages in his own journey from dying in the desert to a tall tower, where he meets a mysterious figure known as the Alchemist. The Alchemist recruits the man for his own plan, which involves bringing together several "thieves" from around the world so that they can embark on a quest for immortality atop the eponymous mountain.
All this is a loose framework for Jodorowsky's trademark elaborate set-pieces - they're big and they're utterly loony. I don't think I'll bother spoiling any of them, but take any scene from the movie and it'll likely have a large, weird-looking set and at least one or two freaky-looking people drawing your attention. One thing that kept preying on my mind the whole time was just how unbelievable the whole idea of The Holy Mountain was. Like El Topo, it was an epic without a wider appeal, and that jarred me for some reason. It just keeps getting stranger and stranger until the end, which I will have to say was utterly unpredictable.
The Holy Mountain is truly one-of-a-kind. It'd be pretty easy to say this film isn't for everyone, but it isn't. If you're into movies that don't make sense on the first time (or even the 10th time), I'd recommend this. Or if you're just looking for one intense filmic experience, it doesn't get much more intense than the imagery of The Holy Mountain.
I'll end this review now - I've run out of synonyms for crazy.
8/10 - this is after one viewing, it'll probably go up after about 7.
As I left the theater I kept on thinking about what it is to put total trust and confidence in a "master", someone who seems to have all the knowledge and experience to take people to higher planes. At the core, is what the Alchemist can do for the nine "planet" representatives any different than what a priest or a rabbi or a monk can promise? There is a level of intellectual stimulation, aside from the obvious emotional connection to the immense level of surrealism, that keeps one from thinking that this becomes all weird for its own sake. Unlike El Topo, however, Jodorowsky this time is much more in control of his own delirious dreamscapes and, in a sense, the genuine consciousness he creates in his Holy Mountain. He gives us, at the start, something a little much akin to El Topo with piling on Christian symbolism and imagery like its got to get into our heads right away. This part, actually, might be somewhat weaker in comparison with the rest of the film, if only because one wonders where the hell this is all going; a Jesus-figure, who comes into a village loaded with circus 'freaks' and gawkers at such 'freaks', and is put into plaster-casting to make more Jesus figures, which he demolishes except for one which he carries with him for a little while.
There's more than just this, but for the first twenty minutes, which is practically silent and without dialog, we get immensely rich but sort of free-form symbolism, some that is great (the scene with the frogs in the representation of the Spanish conquistadors is absolutely uproarious), and some that isn't, like a strange scene in a church. But soon Jodorowsky moves it along to 'Jesus' entering the realm of the Alchemist, and going under his tutelage (and learning how, mayhap, gold can be the end result of literal excrement), learns about who the other members to go on the journey to the holy mountain will be. It's here that Jodorowsky digs deep into the nature of the period he was filming in and how fascinating and perverse human beings can be. These other members are all shown in vignettes to be "manufacturers", for the most part, of weapons, clothing, architecture, political espionage, and as a police force of a sort. More than ever Jodorowsky throws out the outrageousness to eat up, and really it actually never shows (and maybe it's just me as a jaded 21st century guy) to be as shocking as one might expect. Yes, it's extremely violent (watch out for your genitals, by the way, when around these folks), extraordinarily sexually charged (sex machines anyone?), and meant to be in poor taste and so over the top you don't know what is up or down. At first, I thought it couldn't get much better, as far as sheer surrealist entertainment value goes.
Yet as the last section develops, as the Alchemist takes his pupils to the mountain to meet their promised fates, there's more depth than I would have expected, even from all that preceded it as already containing cast quantities of rich socio-political-sexual commentary and prodding knife stabs at correctness. Religion itself, as Bunuel did in the past, is questioned very strongly and seriously, however still in the context of Jodorowsky having his own subjective approach. Of course, the director- who happens to be at the top of his game here stylistically, second only to Santa Sangre as perhaps his most accomplished effort- did become a shaman himself to make this movie, so there is a level of legitimate connection to what religion says to provide us. At the same time, Jodorowsky is, all the same, questioning what it means to submit yourself to indoctrination, to "nothingness" as the Alchemist says to his pupils in their trances. It's not just Christianity that needs to be taken with a grain of salt, although that is very significant in the final section (the 'monster' over the boat, for example, has a lot that can be read into it, ala sin), but that it has to be in the person to understand what immortality REALLY means. The final revelation at the table on the mountain nails it on the head, and suddenly (or not so suddenly) things become clearer; the final lines by the Alchemist (or rather, Jodorowsky himself), make it a very poignant end to what has been a delirious, hilarious trip into consciousness expansion...
In a word, or a few, what it means to 'experience' a film itself, and once it ends, you step back into some kind of reality. The Holy Mountain is a true love it or hate it movie. I loved it, even as I still wonder what the hell it is I just saw/felt/heard/experienced, and of course if it should be believed.
This movie has some of the best surrealism I have ever seen in a movie if not the best. However it should be said that surrealism doesn't work just by its own. If it's just random iconography disbanded from a context, It looses all importance and meaning, effectively rendering it to be pretentious screen fodder. This movie however uses its stunning visual effects to convey messages on a level deeper and more complex than blatantly shoving it in your face. It's well used and effective.
This movie plays with the themes of war, violence, conditioning, love, art, sex, humanity, fear, sorrow, childhood, and experience. The movie represents different cultures, ideologies, factions, and arts as their own planets to show how alien each is from one another, yet how they all come together to achieve enlightenment.
10/10 movie and a must watch.
I've come to the realization that whatever you get out of this film, and whatever you take away, it's still worthwhile. That isn't some ambiguous "all interpretations are valid because art" statement. There are some pretty clear things in this film, it's just that whether you see it as disgusting, pornographic, bombastic, silly, weird, trippy, brilliant, or transcendent you're kind of neither right nor wrong. It's also hilarious. I think this is one of those films where people think they aren't supposed to laugh, but please do. Laugh, it's part of the process. There are parts in this film that are really just very funny, and that's probably no accident.
If I recall this film was uniquely sponsored, and due to the backing and free reign Jodorowsky was able to largely do what he wished with it, which is often the kiss of death for a film but in this case allowed a unique creation that may in some ways define the potential of film to this day. It's a low budget film that uses that exact quality to full potential, spending on what needs to be stunning and offering a level of surreal and poetic imagery that blows most films in the genre away.
Whether you see this film as a skewering of spirituality or a sincere attempt to get one to consider it and what a film can mean in that context, it still proves a valuable watch.
This film is very confusing and works both on a confusingly direct level and a strange subconscious one. One note is that this was definitely not made in a time and place where nudity or violence was off the table. No one can say no animals were harmed in the making of this, and it's questionable whether any people were too.
Still, if you have any interest in watching what is pretty much the iconic film-as-art standard bearer, don't skip this one. In fact, watch it as many times as you can.
I love weird films: Brazil, Stalker, Naked Lunch, and many more, I even sat through Enter the Void(!). A good movie should provide with either a good story, beautiful cinematics, interesting dialogue, provoking ideas, stuff like that. It should please either the eyes or the mind, this piece of junk insults both.
Yes, this is my first review and I made an account just to warn people for this pretentious crap, many of the other reviews going like "Wow this is so deep and beautiful and intellectual!" NO. IT'S. NOT! It's just random crap from some bunch of hippies who feel they got too little attention in art school and are afraid of not sticking out in the big bad world of normal serious good people going about their actually interesting lives.
The film takes a massive downturn when the director cops out and introduces speech, which makes it appear that he has run out of ideas and cannot sustain the momentum. The dialogue that ensues is pretentious and insubstantial, which makes it appear as though the director is so unhappy with having had to introduce a narrative that he has attempted to mask the comparatively tedious action with it.
This film is definitely of its time and indebted to the 60s notion of free love that in actual fact meant free love for men who exploited women in the process. The imagery towards the end of the film becomes repetitious and most of the acting is appallingly bad and at times laughable. If this film perhaps did not take itself too seriously then we might have had a half-decent curio, but as it is, it becomes a self-indulgent piece of tawdry exploitation.
The emperor has no clothes, people! Some pretentious eggheads shout down from their lofty perches, telling the masses that this is the movie for the "in crowd", for the intellectual, for the enlightened, and you all jump on the bandwagon! Nobody wants to be left behind.
Surrealist imagery without a real plot is but a trick by the untalented to steal your money without having to write a real screenplay or tell a real story. It makes people wonder if they're "too dumb to get it", so they fill in the holes themselves, all so they can be smart too.
In reality Holy Mountain and it's predecessor Fando & Lis are just silly garbage from a silly, so called director. The only thing that separates him from other bad directors is his shamelessness when it comes to using the moving image as a grift.
In other words, if you try to make a good movie and fail (like Ed Wood), then you're a hack. Sling a bunch of silly "surrealist" images together without trying, then you're considered a genius by a bunch of sheep.
Jodorowsky is a con man who should return the money he stole from unsuspecting movie-watchers.
This is supposed to be an "Art Cinema Classic"? If I took enough LSD whilst holding a pen and paper, I can cook up enough references to religion, politics and spirituality and come up with something a thousand time crazier than this, but at the same time keep it simple enough for everyone to understand just what the hell is going on. And if a film maker wants to pay me a load of money to turn it into a film, it would contain imagery that'll blow even Jaradowsky's brain into pieces.
Basically the formula for coming up with film can be simplified into this;
LSD + A hippie director + 70s +naked men & women+ some crazy times = The Holy Mountain.
There are a lot film down the history where I really wanted to get back the 2 hours I'd wasted watching it, but this one took the biscuit. Please oh please from now on when releasing the film like this, can the censor board make sure to put the "DO NOT WASTE YOUR TIME WITH THIS FILM" in big red writing on the advertising and the DVD package before release.
Absolute load of crap!
All movies have a finite lifespan, a certain number of times you can watch it before you fail to gain any further value from it: highly commercial movies might only allow 2 watches, whereas a David Fincher film might allow as many as 10. La Montaña Sagrada is singular in that it has immortality. It's value does not diminish over time, does not suffer from issues of rewatchability, and does not disappoint upon revisits. The density of symbolism in this film, a flaw in other art-house movies, is masterfully constructed in a way that is just as profound on your 1st watch as on your 20th.
The Holy Mountain has something of a plot - but what you see on screen is so abstract, so absurd, so hilarious, so disgusting and weird, and yet so full of things to say, the plot doesn't really matter all that much. The viewer is bombarded by a series of images that will smash your sensibilities and emotions all over the map. Like any good piece of art, it will present you with words and pictures, but it will not tell you how to make sense out of any of them - if there even is any sense to them. That exercise is left up to the viewer, and you will be challenged every step of the way up to the top of the Holy Mountain.
What is for certain though is that Alejandro will smash all your grand illusions by the end of the film.
As others have said, nothing can prepare you for this film.
In "The Holy Mountain", Alejandro Jodorowsky manages to make something that is truly new and original; it is something that only Jodorowsky could make. It is a weird, surrealist experience! At times it can be mystical and magical, at others it is quite disturbing and horrifying. There's definitely certain visuals in this film that you will never forget, whether that's positive or negative depends on your personality.
Experimenting with various concepts and visuals, "The Holy Mountain" is an avant garde masterpiece full of fascinating symbolism, satire, and surrealism.
The story is about a Christlike figure wanders through bizarre, grotesque scenarios filled with religious and sacrilegious imagery. He meets a mystical guide who introduces him to seven wealthy and powerful individuals, each representing a planet in the solar system. These seven, along with the protagonist, the guide and the guide's assistant, divest themselves of their worldly goods and form a group of nine who will seek out the Holy Mountain, in order to displace the gods who live there and become immortal.
The Holy Mountain is one of those movies that not everyone is going to like, as through out the years the movie has been a mix bag for a lot of people. Many called the movie "A pretentious arty film, with no plot and nothing to gaps on to". If you don't like this movie then that's fine, I mean everyone has different taste in movies and not everyone can like the same thing as other people because that will be quite dull. But in my personal opinion, I love The Holy Mountain and I would actually rank it up as one of the best movie I've seen in years.
Alejandro Jodorowsky (The director of the movie) is what a call a "spiritual director", and what I mean is that Alejandro is a very spiritual person and I'm not such a spiritual person myself but I do admire his work. Alejandro Jodorowsky work of art is so open and so transparent that it makes his movies truly unique to watch, and that's why I think The Holy Mountain is a great way to start watching Alejandro films so you can get use to he's style of film making. Everything Alejandro Jodorowsky puts into his art as a personal sense of purpose in them and the ideas he's got isn't difficult to make out in each scene of the movie. The Holy Mountain is a work of art and Alejandro Jodorowsky directing is freaking superb.
What I love about The Holy Mountain is how every single scene in this film is so true on reality and how detailed the movie is, and all of that is shown by Alejandro artistic look on life. The movie is absolutely absurd and what I mean is without spoiling anything; these a scene where a women is sitting on this super tall toilet and I'm not going to break it down like most people have by saying, "The toilet is suppose to represent her as an upper class citizen to everyone", no, what the movie is trying to get across (In my opinion) is how absurd it is and to make you think twice about the things we take for granted, I mean just look at everything that's still current in present day life, back in the sixties, seventies and eighties are still present today and all the things we do are suppose to me you think "Wow, that's retarded", and the point of the movie is to look at all the things that have become normality makes you realize it's absurd.
These a lot that you can interpret in terms of statements that's in the movie like politics, religion and social life, and the movie says so much about every issue and it's so true and timeless. Every single second of the movie is making a statement and the movie has some much to say that it doesn't waste it's time doing so.
The soundtrack in this movie is one of the best soundtracks I've ever listened to. Alejandro Jordorowsky, Don Cherry, Ron Frangipane and Andrew Arnold were the composers and I thought they did a magnificent job. The music in the movie really dose help on what type of emotion your suppose to be getting from the scene. Once you watch it a few times and you understand everything that's going to happen in the scene and you get the music in your head at the same time really adds to the experience, well it did for me.
Now for the problems: I have none.
Overall The Holy Mountain is a fantastic movie that really connected with me as a viewer. The movie never sloppily pretends to be doing anything different; all of it is completely self-ware of itself. The movie isn't for everyone so if you didn't like this movie then that's totally fine, but I freaking love this movie.
This film is on the most tasteless level of film making. I think people have fooled themselves into liking it. I almost did, I really had to think about the rating I would give this for a while. In the end I based my decision on the emotional impact, nil, and the amount of depraved muck I had to watch to 'get' the satire, the satire being the redeeming factor of the film for me until I realised that it wasn't satire at all. It was glorification of debauchery. In films that satire a particular group such as the politicians in Dr. Strangelove we see them as inept fools and know exactly the people in real life they reference. At no point do any of the nine depraved rich come across as fools or can they be referenced to a particular person in reality. Only the Jesus character comes across as a fool. The other fools portrayed in the film are actually the normal people, i.e. you and me, who buy into the nine's images and marketing strategies. The audience. And that sickens me to the core. That he mocks the people of the world while at the same time the film is lauded by those same people buying into it's 'image' even when it is so obviously gross and depraved.
So the evil rich at the end gain enlightenment or truth, while the rest of us wallow in the mire forevermore. A purely evil theme if ever I've seen one and obviously I can't get behind that.
I probably went into this film way too open minded first time around, to the point where I had convinced myself I just needed an open mind to enjoy it. I had a chuckle at the art (satire?) scene where asses paint the new 'masterpieces'. But for a two hour film with only one memorable scene, the scene that is probably an allegory for the film that presented it, that's not good enough.
My conclusion is that unlike real art from the renaissance period where artists tried to capture the real world as perfectly and beautifully as possible, the same can be said of poetry trying to capture emotion or books trying to create fantastic adventures etc, this would be art, however, the advent of 'modern' artists in both the painting world and the cinema world has left an ongoing legacy of pure muck on canvas and film reels parading as art, this film achieves nothing artistically, it is not moving and emotional, it is not epic, it is not beautiful, it's not even entertaining for most of it, it's just a shock to the system for most people and fear of calling down the wrath of the critics or for being called out for not 'getting' it people laud its brilliance. This sort of 'art' is forced and is clearly not made to inspire and invigorate the soul and for all these reasons I'm out.
Even if this was art, what can we compare it with in our own experience to say that it is beautiful, there is no reference point in reality for something like this, not like a symphony stirring up emotions, or the awe of amazing landscape or portrait paintings or an uplifting or sombre story. This has none of the above, If this is solely an intellectual film, then I say to all these pseudo intellectuals to go out and get a PHD in physics or something and stop convincing us of your great intellect by saying you 'get' this utter nonsense.
The Holy Mountain is essentially a collage of wacky, strange, self-important images and scenes that really don't mean anything. Don't you ever wonder? There's a reason these rare, cult movies have only been seen by a small percentage of the population. It's not because we're better than the "unwashed, uncultured masses". It's because if the movie was actually really good it would be more widely seen. It's because some of us heard about these obscure, cult movies and actually took the time and energy to seek them out. And sometimes we just weren't that impressed. (Okay, and maybe it's because some jerk has held the release rights hostage for entirely too long).
Now having said all of that, I still don't think it is a waste of time to watch. How can I say that? Well, the bottom line is, people forget the notion that at the end of the day, not everything has to mean something. Shouldn't we be allowed to take in interesting or different images, films, etc...without decoding their grand vision? Yes, we should. So there are some pretty weird scenes and visions to behold in this movie. And for nothing more than the novelty of it it isn't a total waste of film. I also liked some of the music. But please spare me the "so far ahead of it's time, magnificent work of artistic expression" crap. You're taking it way too seriously. The Holy Mountain is not a landmark, it's a novelty of bizarre underground cinema. Nothing more.
Perhaps the most sought is art that is like a lover: honest, direct, deep, challenging, attuned. Then there are all sorts of seductions that play on these harmonies. Jodorowsky isn't interested in being true; he's interested in the seduction, in a sort of truth lingerie that teases and charms.
I knew this of course. I've seen "Fando," which I considered without merit, in large part because it was uncinematic. I wondered what this man would do once he learned the vocabulary. Now I know. The first part of this project has some of the most creative and effective cinematic stretches I have seen and I've seen a lot. They are weighed down with an adolescent cosmology, but its acceptable because its a proudly Mexican film, and the Mexicans are presented as similarly limited.
So I'll recommend that you watch this, for all the bits from the beginning up until roughly the middle act where his new Tarot is presented. These are more well thought out than it appears. Its a strange, polar mix: the general impression is that this is wholly ad-libbed with a deep anarchist philosophy. Yet some elements and particularly his redrawing of the more colorful segment of the Tarot show some similarly deep understanding of what he undercuts. Its a very appealing thing, this bicameral scintillation, and done with cinematic immersion.
Its the third act that drags. This is not a man who understands long form and its demands. Perhaps the Quay brothers are his successors and they suffer from the same problem. Anyway, the effort gets dreary as the social commentary is paraded before us, almost as if he cannot help himself. The lack of restraint is an art in itself, the art of disappointment, but I can get that in daily life, and with as much pride and flourish.
The end isn't novel: the crew is revealed as the "final layer" is peeled off the onion. But it is effective, and underscores the similar, earlier folds.
What's interesting is wondering now how this could be done better if it were done now. Quite apart from the structural flaws, would the ability to use special effects technology and computer reality help? Would Rodriguez, for instance be able to sharpen and deepen this?
And the sexual bits. There is a fair amount of nudity, but it is the "Catholic nation" kind: sterile, even when actual sex is supposed to be shown. For such a committed anarchist, one wonders. Its one thing to be just outside of the bounds of acceptable behavior in a theater setting: simple nudity and confrontation works there. But here, in a cinematic world that dips beyond the theatrical, is it enough to merely pretend you are committed, showing that you are not? Winterbottom? Greenaway?
If you see this on the restored DVD, there's a nice short feature on the Tarot, just the 22 cards. It oddly doesn't show the Jodorowsky version of those cards, which you can see in the film. Those cards are every bit as engaging as the film is, even though to look at them you have to stop and leave the film to see them. They aren't just an interpretation, but a whole new reimagining.
Here's a little known bit of history that I participated in. The Beatles wanted to reinterpret Tarot in an album, and had more success than here. Dylan too, and several other artists in their respective worlds. Jodorowsky was a part of this, a bit later. If you look, you can see that he is not just reinterpreting the Marseilles Tarot, but the Beatle/Dylan/Fowles one as well.
Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 3: Worth watching.
Once again I find myself caught up with my own desire to see more pretentious art-house style experimental movies and the inability to appreciate Jodorowsky's film. In this case, his "ah, but this is actually just a movie after all" ending, which fits perfectly with his post-modern intentions, is still an almost insulting let down to an audience that has been following this guy for TWO HOURS! To have the sum of all the individual parts add up to, "But this is just a movie and it can't answer the questions we have about the nature of the universe" is not only a let-down, but obnoxious... we know it's a movie, and frankly we're here to see what Jodorowsky thinks about it. Tellingly, he doesn't come to any conclusion at all... it's just a play of images and motifs, restructured symbols and deconstructed signs, with a few tongue-in-cheek flippant disregards for commercial value.
So sure. He can have his fun. But if I'm going to watch something that goes nowhere, I prefer it not actually go anywhere instead of literally leading me on a pilgrimage to do it.
After the opening of the film, we are introduced to the thief. The thief is a representation of the tarot card, the fool. When first created, tarot cards were used exclusively to play games. But after a while, tarot cards were used heavily in religion and spirituality. The Fool's tarot card number is zero. Upright, this means innocence. Upside down, it means foolishness. These two readings of the card embody the characteristics and ideals of the thief. The thief meets a dwarf with no hands or arms. The dwarf represents defeat, another tarot card. The thief embraces defeat, innocence, and foolishness until he is captured by the townsfolk. The town is never explicitly named but the town is a representation of the entire world. In the town, people profit off selling religious beliefs as well as the war economy seen through the death of hundreds of toads. Based on the human urge to consume and indulge, tourists throw money at the depictions of religion and war. The thief is taken by the townsfolk because of his uncanny resemblance to Christ. When he wakes up from his drunken state, he sees that his body has been molded hundreds of times over. He becomes very angry and destroys these molds realizing that he was played for a "fool" and was used for the profit of others. The thief's reaction can also be seen as a commentary on how Jesus himself might have reacted to such fandom when seen as the messiah. The thief keeps one of the molds to symbolize the burden of being looked at as the creator. The thief gets in a dispute with a priest because of his resemblance to Jesus and is thrown out of the church. The thief then eats the mold's face (eating the body of Christ) and sends it to heaven.
The thief becomes the Alchemist's apprentice and is shown other leaders of different worlds who will be taking a journey of enlightenment and immortality with the thief and the Alchemist. Each world leader represents a thief of their own craft. The leader of Venus is the thief natural beauty. The leader of Mars is the thief of peace. The leader of Saturn is the thief of purity. The point is not what they represent, but that they all are thief's and in many ways authoritarians of their worlds. The thief of Earth or the fool represents the thief of forgiveness of sin and punishment or Jesus Christ himself. The opening of the film is a pretext for what steps the world leaders or thieves must take to go on the journey to The Holy Mountain. In the beginning of the film, two beautiful women are stripped of their beauty and self-worth. The leaders all must abandon what connects them to their worlds making them human. This is shown through the burning of their money and molded bodies.
The thief and the world leaders (alongside the Alchemist) make their way to The Holy Mountain. On their way, many things happen. The thief is told that he must abandon his relationship with defeat by throwing him overboard. This is when we are shown that defeat isn't real and is merely a burden that the thief has held onto. The group discovers the city below the mountain and it's inhabitants. The group discovers these people think they know of The Holy Mountain and what it means. What the group discovers is that these people are delusional and are lost to their vanity. One man thinks it's about drugs. One man thinks it's about strength. And one man just likes hearing the sound of his own voice. The idea is that these things are what are holding them back from true self-enlightenment. This is why the Alchemist had the group detach themselves from what they were in order to take this journey.
On their way up the mountain, each member of the group sees their deepest fears and desires. This shows that they too still are clinging on to their past humanity. Once the group finds the immortals, the Alchemist takes the thief aside to send him home. The thief is sent home because he as a Christ figure couldn't properly understand what comes next. What does come next is the realization that it was all a hoax. Or so it seems that way. The Alchemist explains that the journey was never about immortality. But rather, reality. Reality is the true enlightenment. Trying to understand religion or immortality is a useless task. Understanding what is, is what is most important. The Alchemist tells this to the audience because the film isn't about the enlightenment of the people in the film. It is about the people watching it.
The Holy Mountain is Alejandro Jodorowsky's most acknowledged and acclaimed film for a reason. It has so much to say with such a simple message. The confusion of understanding the film is the confusion we all have understanding reality and ourselves. It may seem so simple. But without the proper knowledge, we become lost to the world. It was the film Jodorowsky was put on this Earth to make. It truly sets the standard for symbolism and surrealism in film and remains one of the most important films ever made.