We're always on the lookout for news concerning our favorite film-maker Alejandro Jodorowsky, and while this isn't exactly earth-shattering, this recent post on a Yahoo Jodo-fan-forum made after recent screenings of EL TOPO and HOLY MOUNTAIN is heartening nonetheless. Take a gander:
Alejandro Jodorowsky, the greatest living filmmaker, graced New York City for the first screenings of his masterpieces “El Topo” and “The Holy Mountain” since the 1970’s. Neither film has achieved distribution in America due to a longstanding feud between Jodo and rights-holder Allen Klein, but that is due to end soon, as ABCKO Films has been restoring the legendary pictures for a proper DVD release. While there is regret that neither screening offered a fresh print of the films, we were getting a peek at the new ABCKO transfers, and boy, are they gorgeous. There were still discoloration issues and a few overtly digital enhancements, though all parties claimed the transfers were still a work in progress. Whatever the case, the American cinematic public will be truly blessed the day both films attain distribution.
Widely regarded as the first ever midnight movie, “El Topo”, Jodorowsky’s second recorded film (before “Fando Y Lis”, Jodorowsky claims he directed a mime film called “The Transposed Heads” that was lost forever) is perhaps the strangest, most unforgettable western of all time. Jodo stars as an invincible gunfighter who travels the west on horseback with his unclothed, primitive son. When he comes across a dilapidated monastery, he decides to leave the son behind in favor of a shapely female companion, who in turn demands he become the greatest gunfighter in the desert. In order to achieve this, he finds himself coming after the four contenders to that throne. However, he loses his humanity in the process, and when his companion falls for another woman, he is killed in an act of selfish sexual rebellion.
Underground, he is reborn, cared for by a collection of the physically disabled and disregarded. They have been shut out of a lawless western town because of their deformities, though El Topo’s newfound pacifism helps bridge a gap between the two worlds as a vaudevillian performer. But what of this young, black-clad stranger who has arrived at this godless town of prostitution and slavery at the same time?
To boil “El Topo” down to a mere description, synopsis or review is folly, but if this reminds any of you of the trials of Jesus, you’re on the right track. Like most Hispanic filmmakers, Jodorowsky is particularly fascinated with Christianity, though his target seems to frequently be the malleability and hypocrisy of its practitioners. El Topo is incensed that the villagers worship false gods, equating belief to a strong hand in Russian Roulette, while black slaves are treated like sexual conquests before hangings.
One of the items forgotten from the first time I saw “El Topo”, on a beaten down VHS dubbed in English but with Korean subtitles, was how strong the music was, and here, that comes through in full detail. The colors are vibrant, too- Jodorowsky’s imagery is second to none, and the beauty in violence is explored through his work through the most gorgeous colors one can imagine. However, certainly, Jodo is not PETA’s favorite filmmaker- after the fifth or sixth simulated rabbit death, a man behind me complained loudly and stormed off in a huff.
After the screening, the sprightly, joyous seventy-eight year old Jodo did a lengthy Q&A. Highlights:
-He absolutely LOVES Guillermo Del Toro, because he is fat, and also because of his movies. He also considers himself a Paul Verhoven lover, and he adores “Starship Troopers”.
-He doubts his ability today to film his script for “Son Of El Topo” because there are no investors eager to work with him, though he admitted the rapturous response during the Q&A had him excited. Actors willing to be in the film include Santiago Seguro, Nick Nolte, Alfonso Arau and Marilyn Manson.
-He marveled about the ability for older men of every type to find love and lamented the end of his previous relationship with a woman who wanted a child. He is currently dating a Vietnamese girl thirty-seven years younger than him.
-Marilyn Manson became a huge fan of his overnight, suddenly recommending “The Holy Mountain” to everyone, particularly fans through his websites, giving Jodo a new fanbase. Manson also wanted to be married off by Jodo, but only if he had the white jumpsuit he wore in “The Holy Mountain”. He didn’t, but a tailor made a remarkable replica.
-He has since made peace with Allen Klein, as they both remarked about how old and beautiful they both were. Jodo also made sure to go into detail on how Klein’s client at the time, John Lennon, was instrumental towards bringing “El Topo” to the masses. In the audience, Sean Lennon nodded approvingly.
-Both “El Topo” and “The Holy Mountain” will be getting brief theatrical runs before showing up on DVD, possibly in NYC at the IFC Center.
-Jodorowsky didn’t do a Q&A for “The Holy Mountain” as it was a Saturday midnight screening, though he did openly admit he never tried drugs before or during “El Topo” but was introduced to LSD through initiation for “The Holy Mountain”. He spoke about his desire to work with a guru for the film, and then spent a week sleepless, enduring the effects of the drugs.
And it shows. “The Holy Mountain” is a fever dream, more elaborate, terrifying, funny and expansive than “El Topo” in every way. Much like Jodo’s previous films, “The Holy Mountain” isn’t at all married to narrative, beginning with the persecution and mistreatment of a would-be savior, crucified with flowers before eventually being used for a mold of his body and being forced to carry a cross with his armless, legless friend. This Jesus-figure yearns for something else, in the form of the Alchemist, a white-suited guru who recruits him with champions from each planet in order to participate in a soul-cleansing pilgrimage to the summit of the Holy Mountain, where enlightenment lies.
There are sights in “The Holy Mountain” that you can’t un-see. Jodorowsky creates intricate set-pieces the way fat people stack pancakes- each scene can be taken on its own as the most audacious moment in the entirety of seventies cinema. Revolutions spawn blood made of bluebirds, men bathe in the mist of their melted feces and in the end man must face the ultimate illusion of the film form. It’s heady stuff, enhanced by Jodorowsky’s calming, mesmerizing performance as the Alchemist, a role originally intended for John Lennon.
From L to R: Donald Cammell, Dennis Hopper, Jodorowsky, Kenneth Anger. London, 1971.