El Topo (1970)


Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB

Mexico, 1970Screenplay by Cinematography by Produced by Music by Alejandro Jodorowsky.  Production Design by Alejandro Jodorowsky.  Costume Design by Alejandro Jodorowsky.  Film Editing by .

Alejandro Jodorowsky became an international sensation after this surreal take on the spaghetti western wowed the likes of John Lennon and Samuel Fuller, who shared it with the world and turned it into what is now considered the first midnight madness cult movie. The odyssey-like narrative begins with him wandering the desert on something of a vision quest accompanied by a child (played by the director’s own son and frequent collaborator ), before he comes across a town whose citizens have all been slaughtered and whom he avenges. He pairs up with a woman that he liberates from the town’s killers (one of whom is played by future Like Water For Chocolate filmmaker ) and she tells him that in order for her to love him, he must seek out and defeat four gun masters.  Following this quest, their relationship takes a turn and he heads into exile with a community of cave-dwelling outcasts whom he is determined to restore to good society. There are times when putting this one together is frustrating, but if you’re working too hard to make sense of it, you’re not enjoying the Chilean master’s off-kilter imagination properly. His next film, The Holy Mountain, would be another voyage through both landscapes and heady themes that would confirm his strength in form and style, here he vacillates between kinky narrative rebellion and a kind of focused, anti-religious spiritualism without really picking one; that said, it’s still a bright and curious movie that makes Fellini Satyricon look downright populist by comparison.

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