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Inexplicable and Remote but Still Appealing,
This review is from: The Holy Mountain  [DVD] (DVD)
I watched El Topo immediately upon buying the Alejandro Jodorowsky DVDs a month or so ago. I've made the assertion that El Topo is one of my favorite movies ever made in a prior review, and The Holy Mountain was waiting in the wings. I have seen The Holy Mountain before but I only owned a Japanese bootleg. So I've had plenty of time to work out my ideas toward what The Holy Mountain is about and I do believe it justifies more than one or two viewings. I've never understood this film but I figured it was because I didn't try as hard at understanding it as I did with El Topo. However, at this point I've exhausted all my efforts and I will admit that with the Holy Mountain I'm stumped. I have no idea what this movie is trying to say.
The Holy Mountain opens with our protagonist, the thief who looks like Jesus Christ, befriending a deformed dwarf. A bunch of wax versions of the thief looking crucified are created and distributed throughout the community and the thief eats the face off of one of them and ties it to a bunch of balloons. The character played by Jodorowsky, the alchemist, summons the thief to approach his giant tower. There at the alchemist's tower, we are introduced to seven people whose names reference some of the nine planets. The alchemist urges them to destroy their material things and then they all go to the Holy Mountain. When they get there, Jodorowsky speaks to the cast, the crew and the audience outside of the context of the film. He says that we should leave the Holy Mountain and that real life is awaiting us.
The Holy Mountain has flashes of the religious allegorical commentary that Jodorowsky makes in El Topo, but here perhaps his brushes are too broad for me to pick up on. I'm not saying the film can't be deciphered and that theorizing what the film is about is not worth your time, but not enough made sense to me here to give the movie credit for its story. There are some really great scenes that comment here and there in ways I could follow, but the film's overall scope seems out of reach if it is present at all. Perhaps that is my fault, but if there is an overall commentary being made then I partially blame Jodorowsky for not provoking me enough to discover it.
It is a visually exciting movie but because I couldn't follow much of it, some of the film's content came off as intentionally shocking. In The Holy Mountain, Jodorowsky seems to turn up the volume on some of the elements I thought were border-line gratuitous in El Topo. Firstly, the aforementioned issues of too much fuzzy imagery and broad brush strokes and that is something that might fundamentally corrupt my review if we are to assume that the point went over my head. Secondly, there is quite a bit of full frontal nudity in this movie from both genders and some of it is more graphic than what we might see in R-rated movies today, but I guess that is a sign of the times. Thirdly, what is it with Jodorowsky and castration? Not to mention poop? Anyway, tid-bits of this movie are interesting and it is like nothing I have ever seen before, so for that I will recommend The Holy Mountain, but that doesn't mean it deserves a higher rating.