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Posted: May 14th, 2007, by Ollie

As mind-bending what-the-fuck acid-flashback warped terror freakout flicks go, Alexandro Jodorowsky’s 1973 opus The Holy Mountain has to be in the 95th percentile. Where to even begin…. The film’s (at times extremely) loose narrative follows a central christ-like figure and a band of oddballs on a quest for the titular mountain, and the secrets of enlightenment and immortality held by it’s nine shadowy keepers. Along their journey we are treated to an unforgettable visual feast of often grotesque and sacrilegious scenes surrounding those seeking the mountain and their leader (played by Jodorowsky). What unfolds is a vast universe of surrealism, humour, nausea, nightmare, satire, spirituality, blood and delirium. It’s difficult to explain in words the aesthetic level The Holy Mountain resides on, but suffice to say I’ve never seen anything else that even comes close.

Rather than struggling to make sense of what is being presented, and dismissing any aspects of the film which don’t have any obvious immediate or symbolic relevance, you really have to let yourself go with this one. Don’t fight it, feel it (man). Years ago I would have thought of this film as being completely overblown and far too obtuse and difficult for it’s own good, style over substance if you will. These days however, I really relish in the way Jodorowsky forces you to put as much into the film as you can hope to take with you having seen it. If you’re willing to put in the effort, a very rewarding film.

Cleverly I managed to see The Holy Mountain in the afternoon and Jodorowsky’s first film El Topo in the evening. Given the choice again, I would have liked to have seen them the other way round but what can you do, I had a rainy Sunday off and both were almost at the end of their run. The director appears again as El Topo or “the mole”, a wandering man-with-no-name figure in what begins as a beautifully shot but almost straightforward western (at least in comparison to THM). Again, the central figure has a very heavy jesus-vibe, and Christian and Kabbalic imagery is rife throughout. While there are still long sequences that don’t make any immediate ‘sense’ in a traditional way, things generally tend to subsequently come together somewhat with long forgotten elements of the film making a comeback when you least expect them to.

Again, visually this is absolutely incredible stuff, and as with THM, the scale of the production is frequently amazing. The heavy contrast between the first and second ‘acts’ is played to incredible effect, and there are moments when the bold statement on the lobby poster about this being the greatest film ever made begin to see quite reasonable.

The Holy Mountain and El Topo have both just been given a full DVD release for the first time courtesy of those excellent folks at Tartan.


Ollie lives in Cambridge and puts on gigs as part of Crushing Death and Grief.


3 Responses to THE HOLY MOUNTAIN [1973] & EL TOPO [1970]

  1. Jason

    was that a Curzon double bill showing? love them!

  2. Ollie Simpson

    Nah it wasn’t a double bill, which was just as well cos my brain was pretty much dribbling out of my ears after the first one. Had to go home and eat beans on toast.

  3. Anonymous

    nice site you have, have a look at http://www.badmovieknights.com/ when you get time ;)!