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?
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...
And so the ‘acid western’ was born: Sergio Leone meets Federico Fellini meets Pier Paolo Pasolini, with Timothy Leary on vibes. From the former, Alejandro Jodorowsky took his interest in violence and his gift for widescreen composition; from the second, his madcap circus sensibility and sense of daring; from the third his scattershot political nous; and from the latter, his ability to fuse all this into a counterculture-friendly psychedelic pop stew. The result is one of the first "midnight movies" and a genuine underground smash: perhaps the most artistically successful of that brief end-of-the-’60s flowering of well-funded experimenta, a film whose commitment to mind-expanding beauty and eye-opening social comment is never allowed to get in the way of its delirious,…
My first Jodorowsky experience in short sharp bursts:
Bad-ass black clad Gunslinger + Naked boy + Umbrella = WOW!
Stark Technicolor odyssey through a mystical landscape
Symbolism and surrealism as narrative
Red balloon shoot-out
Bold visual artist or pretentious ass?
Christian and Eastern symbolic melting pot
El Topo = Christ figure?
Gunfire stigmata (Band name potential?)
Movie of two halves:
1. Acid western - Drugs please?
2. Odyssey of enlightenment - Circus sideshow of maimed incestuous dwarves!
Hard to deny, even harder to embrace
You will leave it, but will it ever leave you?
Buzzes in your mind like bees on a grave (just see the film to understand)
Replay value? The jury is out at this stage...
This review reportedly contains spoilers. I can handle the truth.
For Jodorowsky, the anti-hero is a character that can't exist, that it's incapable of going in it's absurd quest to exist outside the rest of the world. He has to come back sooner or later. But it's how he does that what makes the difference.
Impressively weird, weirdly impressive.
There's no one to describe this movie without listing its details. The movie is encompassing, it talks about sex, about religion, about different cultures and philosophies, in that regard, it's universal. But it's also terrifyingly personal, it's a product, a vision of a mind so distorted and unique that trying to make sense and piece the pieces together would only be in vain. El Topo is like an abstract painting, it's probably laden with symbolism, but I think it's better to enjoy at face value and immerse in this bizarre world.
El Topo (The Mole) is a 1970 Mexican kind of western film directed by and starring Alejandro Jodorowsky. The first thing to say is that it is totally surreal. In part 1 El Topo rides through the desert searching for the four gun masters so he can challenge them to a duel, but to be honest I don't know why I'm trying to describe the plot! The film is a kind of religious allegory punctuated by symbolism and bizarre characters and occurrences.
Stylistically and symbolically it is quite interesting and diverting, and the film is definitely funny in places, but so much of it just makes no sense whatsoever.
The rare movie that truly is unlike anything I've seen before, it offers a funhouse mirror for just about every portion of society. Child exploitation, sexual norms, high culture, storytelling genres, the diseased, and especially religion all get skewered by what appears to be one man's, El Topo (played by director Alejandro Jodorowsky), subconscious.
Jodorowsky's compositions -- the four master gunfighters' respective desert lairs especially -- pop with surrealism. He plays with the spaghetti western genre then in vogue, with the overdubbing voices, zooms, and blood straight out of a Franco-American can.
His most damning and effective visual representation is saved for organized religion toward the end of the film, when the young priest, reacting to a tragedy his fanatic stunt caused, tears down the religious iconography in his church to reveal a Christian cross beneath everything. It's gorgeous, evocative, and subversive in the best way. Multiple viewings/unpackings will likely reveal an even greater appreciation.
I don't know how well I "got" this, but it was never less than completely hypnotic. The film follows a gunslinger as he duels four master gunmen, then has a rebirth of sorts among an underground society of deformed people, and seeks to help them escape while coping with the cruel world outside. The film employs western and religious iconography quite consciously. The story is divided into different sections and given titles with biblical connotations. The bandits and townspeople the hero encounters are like stock villains pulled out of a spaghetti western, going through genre tropes in a parodic manner. The master gunmen also seem to place great importance on their rituals as they prepare to fight the hero, and…
"You shoot to find yourself, I do it in order to vanish."
El Topo is the bizarre story of El Topo, an old western gunfighter, as he journeys through the desert to defeat the great warrior masters, in an attempt to find some kind of enlightenment. At times overly swamped with latent Buddhist and Christian imagery, El Topo does a wonderful job of establishing the tone and surreal atmosphere of a Jodorowsky film, but lacks the substance of his later work.
What El Topo boils down to his the character of El Topo finding his meaning in life. While on his journey through the desert each of the masters he kills teaches him a little about the way you should…
Perhaps it's because I saw Holy Mountain first but this was far less interesting or enjoyable. El Topo traffics almost exclusively in tired "shocking" imagery. Nudity, deformed bodies, dead animals, sacrilegious iconography--it's all here in spades. I know it must have been a real head trip when it came out but now it's rather tedious. Holy Mountain is far more inventive. And funny to boot!
That's not to say there isn't some great stuff here. Jodorowsky does occasionally stumble across some really strong compositions. My favorite shot tracks a newly castrated general as he lunges nakedly for a gun and blows his brains out. (If you're looking for subtle go elsewhere.) The sound design in that shot, as well as…
Just one word..... WHAT!!!
- 12 Angry Men
- 2001: A Space Odyssey
- 25th Hour
- 3 Women
- A Trip to the Moon
- The Great Train Robbery
- The Birth of a Nation
- Les Vampires
All the films from all the editions, including those subsequently removed, presently totalling 1154. An easy way of seeing how…
- Citizen Kane
- 2001: A Space Odyssey
- The Rules of the Game
- Tokyo Story
Another year, another update. 2012 List can be found here.
The following is a really extensive and great list of…