Magazine article American Cinematographer

The Films of Alejandro Jodorowsky: Fando Y Lis, El Topo, the Holy Mountain

Magazine article American Cinematographer

The Films of Alejandro Jodorowsky: Fando Y Lis, El Topo, the Holy Mountain

Article excerpt

The Films of Alejenron Jodorowsky: Fando y Lis, El Topo, The Holy Mountain (1968-73)

2.35:1 (16x9 Enhanced) and 1.33:1 (Full Frame)

Dolby Digital 5.1

Anchor Bay Entertainment, $49.95

When New York filmmaker Jonas Mekas programmed an eccentric Western called El Topo in a 1970 avantgarde film festival, he introduced an original new voice in international cinema. A unique blend of mysticism, violence and symbolism-drenched images, El Topo captivated the counterculture and allowed its director, Alejandro Jodorowsky, to make an even more ambitious and audacious epic, The Holy Mountain, as his followup. Unfortunately, a feud between Jodorowsky and his producer kept good prints of these films out of circulation for decades. Recently, however, Anchor Bay released lovingly restored editions of both films as part of its extras-packed Jodorowsky boxed set.

With its tale of a mysterious man (played by Jodorowsky) who rides through the desert on a mission of vengeance and spiritual rebirth, El Topo often plays like a New Age version of a Spaghetti Western. Yet the strengths of El Topo are not in its plot but in its surrealistic digressions; the script is stuffed with references to philosophy and religion that find their visual expression in unorthodox ways, including outrageous phallic imagery and characters with physical deformities. The network of visual and literary motifs is so elaborate that at times it's impenetrable, but the movie's style is always pleasing to the eye. This is especially true on this terrific transfer, which preserves cinematographer Rafael Corkidi's striking contrasts between rich earth tones and explosions of bloody red. The sound mix is also excellent, filled with clarity and nuance.

El Topo is accompanied by an interview with Jodorowsky in which he covers the production and reception of the film in less than seven minutes. He elaborates further in an audio commentary track, which is compelling if not entirely convincing. (Among the director's claims is the assertion that he directed camera movement by strapping himself to the camera operator and physically moving his body.) Nevertheless, when taken with a grain of salt, Jodorowsky's remarks provide insight into the metaphors buried in the picture's surrealistic imagery, and proves that there is a precise method to his madness.

El Topo is a landmark of its time, but The Holy Mountain is even more impressive. …

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