The Holy Mountain 1973 ★★★★★

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My love affair the Alexandro Jodorowsky's The Holy Mountain began some time during the tail end of high-school, around age 16 or 17. I'd stumbled across a controversial film list on some website, which had The Holy Mountain listed, along with an ominous description; something about a nameless vagrant moving through religious and blasphemous iconography. I quickly found a copy of the film on the internet (through legal means, of course) and it turned out to be a 3rd generation VHS rip. The somewhat poorer quality if anything freaked me out even more. Like with many scary film, the worse the film quality the more illicit the act of watching feels, and the more realistic the bad special effects become.
The film opened with a locked off camera filming a mysterious man in a large black brimmed hat. Two women are on either side wearing all white. The music sounds like the devil attempting to throat sing. The man proceeds to perform some sort of (what I at the time perceived to be) demonic cleansing ceremony as the music intensified. I was convinced that he was going to slit their throats at any second, and the grainy VHS quality made it seem all the more real.

After this scene the film progresses and enters some surreal, sacrilegious, alchemical, and (again what I thought was) black magic. What I failed to fully embrace in the first paranoid viewing was the joy, humour and colour. These were all pleasures that were revealed to me on subsequent viewings, and there were many.

I bought the Jodorowsky box set and watched all his other films, always returning to The Holy Mountain more than the others. It would prove to be a backbone of my film watching throughout my teenage years. When a friend and I started a short lived cult movie night we shoed the film to our friends who responded similarly. Needless to say, this is one of my favourite movies of all time.

This is why I was understandably ecstatic when I heard that our local art deco, single-screen reparatory theatre, The Astor, was planning a Jodorowsky double feature, presenting both El Topo and The Holy Mountain in 35mm film. The Astor also boasts one of the biggest screens in Melbourne which really did the widescreen Holy Mountain justice.
Seeing it presented in the way the director presumably intended was one of the best movie going experiences I've had. It was engrossing, hilarious, transcendent and a totally crowd pleaser. This film truly proves that you do not need to be boring in order to explore deep intellectual and spiritual themes.

The Holy Mountain is not just a film, not just an experience, it is life itself.

6 Comments

  • I preferred El Topo, but I think I need to give this one another chance. Both films are fantastic, though.

  • Really? As I think I may have mentioned in my review I saw this back-to-back with El Topo at the cinema, and seeing them in sequence left me without a doubt that this was better. There are so many more ideas, concepts, images and humour throughout this film. I felt like El Topo did drag in certain parts and there were some lulls, some repeated imagery and some lingering in locations for a bit too long (don't get me wrong, I do love El Topo) whereas in The Holy Mountain there is not a wasted minute, no image is milked for too long. Everything just works. Time flies by, the film is as sun and exciting as any blockbuster and as philosophical as any art-house film.
    Why do you prefer El Topo?

  • Both films are surrealistically brilliant, but I just enjoyed El Topo more for reasons I can't really articulate. One thing's for sure, and that's that I'll be reconsidering my thoughts on The Holy Mountain quite carefully. Also, the Russian Roulette scene in El Topo is so fantastic and Bunuelesque that I can't help but fall in love with the film every time I see it.

  • I am totally with you on the roullette scene. There are many brilliant scenes and images in El Topo, I just found there to be more in The Holy Mountain.

  • Thankd for recommending it to me David. Just finished it. It was certainly a very...interesting watch to say the least.

    letterboxd.com/silentjoe13/film/the-holy-mountain/

  • No problems, Joe! I don't know that I loved it as I do now after my first watch, but it was very intriguing and kept luring me back.

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