Every film from Roger Ebert's "Great Movies" essays.
The Definitive Cult Spaghetti Western
El Topo decides to confront warrior Masters on a trans-formative desert journey he begins with his 6 year old son, who must bury his childhood totems to become a man. El Topo (the mole) claims to be God, while dressed as a gunfighter in black, riding a horse through a spiritual, mystical landscape strewn with old Western movie, and ancient Eastern religious symbols. Bandits slaughtered a village on his path, so El Topo avenges the massacred, then forcibly takes their leader's woman Mara as his. El Topo's surreal way is bloody, sexual and self-reflective, musing of his own demons, as he tries to vanquish those he encounters.
Erm...I'm going to put down in this review what I thought of this film as I was watching it, and see what I come out with:
In Western times, being 7 years old was considered to be the age at which you become a man?
Massacre, massacre, massacre, massacre.
He actually made his 7 year old son conduct a mercy killing. He's the world's worst dad.
Yep, shooting shoes.
Yep, slicing bananas.
Yep, making a naked woman out of seeds, then eating it.
Balloons were invented in Western times?
Bang bang, splat splat.
OK, how can he still walk after being shot with a high-powered rifle in both knees?
It's a landmine field filled with Symbolism with hair triggers ready to go off any moment with one wrong step! Many have tried to defuse these devilish lil devices to no avail! You see they were never built to solve and deactivate! Their sole purpose is to confound, act profound and on occasion blow up in your face should you get too cocky and claim you've made it through the mine field without a scratch!
I guarantee you have never seen a spaghetti western quite like this one! It's the crack baby spawned by David Lynch and Sergio Leone!
Saying it is Bizarre would be an understatement!
Alejandro Jodorowsky is one sick puppy! My highest compliment and terms of endearment for a great director!
The New York Times contacted me today for background about my review of El Topo that was published in the L.A. Free Press on April 23, 1971. They provided me with a scan of the article, and I'm reposting it here. Maybe 43 years later its verbiage is a little embarrassing; but I stand by what I wrote back then. How often do we get an opportunity to view what we thought about films through the prism of the far past experience? Let this be a lesson for all you younger reviewers on letterboxd...chances are in the far future you might be confronted with your writings, since nothing on the internet is truly ephemeral...just the way that nothing in print…
A couple of months back I introduced myself to the mad world of Alejandro Jodorowsky with his sadistic, poetic Santa Sangre masterpiece. To say I wasn’t prepared for it would be an understatement, but it truly changed the way I see horror cinema in more ways than one. Intrigued to see if Jodorowsky could top the insanity of Santa Sangre which is oddly deemed tame in its symbolism when compared to El Topo – a bold statement to say the least – here I find myself witnessing something not as irrepressible in its mystical, bloody beauty, but more so a film that is as far detached from any other western I’ve ever seen.
El Topo is brutal. Immediately Jodorowksy drowns…
The other day in my review of The Assassination of Jesse James, I said I didn't really like many westerns. Shortly after I found another western I really enjoyed. That said El Topo is anything BUT the conventional western film considering it is an Alejandro Jodorowsky film.
El Topo, as expected from any Jodorowsky film, has beautiful cinematography and is weird as fuck. The entire film is so captivating for both of those reasons, especially because there is nothing else like it. I highly recommend El Topo to anyone who hasn't seen it yet. Also why are there always naked children in Jodorowsky's films? That's two for two now...
Se eu son un clasicista, aborrezo e i ste filme. Menudo cúmulo de despropositos.
Endlessly inventive visually. Structurally there are many hops, skips, and jumps that seem to leave us missing out on pieces of the tale. Whether those pieces were part of the story in Jodorowsky's mind and just didn't make it to the screen is hard to tell. It's almost as if, after the movie was finished and edited, someone went in and cut every shot that WASN'T visually inventive, regardless of its usefulness in telling a story. Just the opposite of what one would do if the goal was to communicate. "Obscurantism" does not equal "art."
The madness that is Alejandro Jodorowsky's "El Topo" has no right being as good as it is. Here is a film that is essentially an exercise in psycho-babel. Jodorowsky has always leaned towards the camp of new agism. He makes plenty of observations on religion and spirituality in "El Topo", but Jodorowsky appears to be the only one who can understand it. The film works because the imagery is so striking. "El Topo" is full of memorable images that once seen can never be forgotten.
Alejandro Jodorowsky crafts a stunning, visceral and action packed Western film that can actually be compared to some of the genres finest works. El Topo is a great film, a film that is unprecedented in its raw energy, and fluid direction. Cult director Judorowsky also acts, and he delivers a film that is remarkable in the way that it showcases its violence. No other Western has taken such an approach as Jodorowsky. Brilliantly shot, acted and with a great story, this is a fine picture that is almost a forgotten classic of the genre. As far as Westerns are concerns, I would call El Topo as one of the finest along with Once Upon a Time in the West, The…
For the first hour or so, El Topo was on a fast track to becoming one of my instant favorite films. Bizarre, beautiful, funny, dramatic, and just plain entertaining. Tarantino meets The Coens meets Lynch, yet it's like none of them. I was excited by its simplistic plot that felt like not so much a pastiche of the Western as a complete reversal of it.
Then the second half came, and though I was never bored or uninterested, it was still a bit of a letdown to see El Topo turn from something so unique into something more normal. The second half is well-done, there are still great moments of surreality and oddness, and the ending really tied the whole…
Another influential movie of my adolescence that I revisited
in a theater on 35mm recently. Back when I was a junior in high school, and the rights for this film were still in limbo, I had some pixelated DVD bootleg with Korean subtitles. Oh how I loved that DVD -- thanks artsy Aunt for the goods!
El Topo was my first Jodorowsky film, and I probably watched my janky copy like 527363 times when I was teen. It lead me to seek out other Jodorowsky films, like the Holy Mountain, and definitely helped shape my taste for years to come.
However, revisiting this film a good ten years later. It doesn't QUITE hold up to my fond memory. Perhaps I'm…
I like El Topo as a weird Western. I like it as a "thinker." I like that it played to a pretty broad audience back in the day. I come back to El Topo every 4-5 years, bringing new stuff in with me. Comparing what it meant to me then to what it means to me now always creates the kind of experience I think Jodorowsky intended.
The clowning moments are key. If you can plug into the joy on Jodorowsky's face as he's performing clown routines, you are compatible with El Topo. If you can't, dig through your junk drawer for a fun adapter.
Starts off as a cowboy's search for enlightenment and turns into...i don't know? I loved the first half of the film where Jodorowsky is searching out the gun masters but I honestly didn't fully understand the last 40 minutes. Will have to watch again.
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