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…
This movie is completely cooked to the bone fucking ridiculous. I have no idea where to rank it but I absolutely loved it. You can say a lot of things bout El Topo but you cant say that you weren't entertained.
This movie was made to be reviewed by you. Please watch it if you can find time in your busy schedule. You'll have a field day.
One could dismiss it as pure manipulative indulgence, seeing as though any idea of restraint has been thrown out the window, but the obscenity was never only on the surface. It seemed to run deeper than that and there was enough ambiguity evident that I can for myself at least conclude…
This review reportedly contains spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Two words: insufferable arse.
Esoteric imagery without context isn't symbolic, it's nonsense. Depravity without coherence isn't transgressive, it's distasteful.
I really wanted the disjointed, surreal narrative of El Topo to enthrall me just as much as it confounded me, but it did neither. It only filled me with discontent. Maybe it's safe to say I didn't "get" this movie.
However, despite the disappointing experience with my first foray into the world of Jodorowsky, El Topo was just provocative enough to entice me into pressing on with the director's filmography.
I'm glad I watched Jodorowsky's Dune before embarking on this trip of a film. Hearing him talk about life and how bizarre he finds all its idiosyncrasies prepared me for El Topo. Or so I thought.
I expected a surreal film full of whimsy and perhaps no discernible plot. Instead the film was pretty straightforward in that it had an easy-to-follow story but that's where its similarities with most films ends. It played off a popular genre of the time (spaghetti western) in order to execute (pun not intended but most welcome) extreme imagery that today, 44 years later, is still quite edgy.
Jodorowsky's use of violence, lots of blood, and sexual depravity didn't always hit the mark but when…
Sick.Disgusting.Revolting.Anti Christianity.Vomit Inducing.Filth.Psychologically Torturous.Confounding.
It had to happen. I finally found a Jodorowsky film I didn't like. There are some great moments and some memorable moments, but it doesn't seem cohesive. It's more like several thoughts in succession.
Intense Symbolism: ★★★★★
What I Learned:
Everyone will learn something different
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