Arthur Slugworth’s review published on Letterboxd:
Finally, yours truly has experienced the most distilled Jodorowsky picture, the insane amalgam of offensive, yet meaningfully provocative images known as The Holy Mountain. El Topo felt a bit Bunuel, and Santa Sangre felt a bit Fellini/Hitchcock...my expectation for a unique, artistic assertion from Alejandro was well met by this production.
Referring back to my El Topo review, I felt the religious icons in that film as visually undeveloped and misunderstood for their role in the larger surreal, resurrection framework. In this film, A.J. mines these images for their latent, true value in the motherlode first act of repeated western-world signs (lard pastry christ mannequins, amphibian colonial circus performances, amidst others) that fail to signify meaning beyond saccharine amusement for the affectless denizens of who-knows-where dystopia. Christ himself wanders this desolate, consumptive, modern western world, sees his image repeated to no effect, sees men dancing with fascists and sees the bourgeoisie touring executions and taking selfies during sexual assaults.
Disgusted, Jesus rides the 2nd act magical fish hook to find an alchemist, signifying Satan (black outfit, full spectrum of color tunnel, and therefore lightbringer...played by the director), who introduces to Christ, after a Kung fu battle and poop alchemy session, the current power structure of the world: all members of the world's ruling class derive their power from Zodiac/Tarot/Planetary guidance. Those elites each get an interesting vignette that serves as a bizarre visual satire for each facet of western power. These vignettes break up the pace of the film from a journey towards meaning in a meaningless world, to an episodic, hyperbolic western satire. If these set pieces were not so patently striking and outrageous, I would hold this visual shift against the film.
After the episodes, the third act sees the alchemist-master gather Christ and the western world leaders for a journey to the peak of a holy mountain to confront 9 immortals so as to steal their secret to eternal life. This eastern journey meets western pilgrims provides a similar final message to that El Topo: to overcome the pain and suffering of western ills, one must destroy themselves, their philosophy, their goals and their masters to find the one true Self. Even film, as a meta-obstacle, obscures the path to enlightenment...ultimately, big Al chooses us, his audience, for this ultimate message.
Hardly obscure, yet hard to watch, A-Jodo's The Holy Mountain places us upon the summit of the director's oeuvre without question; inspirational, outrageous, provocative and unforgettable, this film deserves its place underground, sculpted in a rainbow hue, in the darkest abyss of cinema's avant-garde pantheon.