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Holy *#!@: The Holy Mountain review


Holy Mountain (1973)

The first film I saw from Chilean underground director Alejandro Jodorowsky was Santa Sangre. I was attending film school at the time and my friend Damian Rosa, who is a very mild mannered man with a passion for heavy metal and Bergman films, recommended this film to me. I was pretty intrigued by the cover art, a girl mime posing with the letters of the tittle in yellow, green, and red highlights. I ventured into this film with no clue what it was about but I expected some kind of bizarre trip. Yes, I did get that, a weird, Felliniesque story of a mother and son knife throwing tandem. It was also a very profound tale of the search for truth and self worth that provokes thought, but most importantly, moves your heart. No, it's not Stepmom or Terms of Endearment, no need for a hankerchief. I was very impressed and interested to find out more about this crazy, intelligent man's work.

About 10 years ago, Jodorowsky's films had been hard to find on DVD since there seemed to have been an issue with the company that owned his movies. I believe his movies were available on VHS, but there we hard to get even in some specialty rental stores. 3 or 4 years went by before I got to see El Topo, Jodorowsky's cult classic about a outlaw gunslinger, recluse from the world after a betrayal by his lovers. If Sergio Leone, Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef had taken a massive hit of LSD(or had interest in some sort of Eastern religion), this is what The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly would have turned out to be. It seems that Jodoroswky enjoys to piece together all the things that he loves and somehow makes it work, even though being under the influence couldn't hurt.

Recently and thankfully, the distribution issues seem to have been solved and a series of his films are finally on DVD(El Topo and Fando y Lis are included) as is The Holy Mountain. I've heard from many mouths that this is the best movie of all time, mind you half these mouths reeked of pot. Nevertheless, I finally got my hands on this bad boy and wanted to see what made this movie one that gets intellectuals and artists so wired. I must say, the movie is a multilayered satire on faith, religion, paganism, politics, and society that was conceived by a unique artist given carte blanche, a handful of groupies, and an undisclosed location in the zeniths of Mexico. This is the movie that was produced by a drug trade, handed over to an idiot savant with a worldly knowledge of the human soul and metaphenamies. This movie is the bastard child of Luis Bunuel and Michelangelo Antonioni, the piece of pop filth that Andy Warhol and Paul Morrissey wish they had made.

A Christ-like thief (Horácio Salinas), allied with a limbless man, has been used as a mold for the manufacturing of Jesus statues and mannequins. The Thief wonders the villages with only a cloth to cover him, decides to kill an alchemist that lives on top of a pinnacle. The Alchemist, played by Jodorowsky, is a wise master of the tarot cards, and stops the Thief from killing him, giving him the option to enlighted his path towards immortality. The Alchemist recruits nine other people, all politicians and industrialists, whose desire to be forever powerful have sought the means for vida eterna. However, all the disciples learn that they must give up all their lust, greed, fortune, and even their bodies, to achieve nirvana as a collective. As their hopes to become gods on the top of The Holy Mountain approaches, the Thief and his companions realize the absurdity of being a deity when the qualities of love, unity and understanding are unique rewards offered to mortal men. The Alchemist has humbled and made better people out of the puppet masters.

Jodorowsky, who last directed The Rainbow Thief in 1990, has been acclaimed by the likes of Marylin Manson(don't let that discourage you from seeing his movies), and been peered with David Lynch as the forerunners of modern cinema surrealism. In Holy Mountain, some of the symbolism is quite obvious, like a weapons dealer with machine guns and revolvers shaped like crosses and Buddha, are played for shock value and humor. In other instances, when the Alchemist shows the savagery and dependency of the meek by the Thief's faux attempt to multiply loafs of bread, condemn the control the Catholic Church holds on Mexico's poor, similar to Bunuel's infamous staging of The Last Supper with drunks and degenerates as Jesus and his Apostles. Jodorowsky, who at the time was still a relatively young filmmaker, goes for a sensory overload that is visually gratifying and thematically compelling, but perhaps the unbalanced use of symbolism prevents it from being more than a doper's paraphernalia. Still, these are the types of movies that were truly guerrilla, a 35mm backstage party with a most fascinating Master of Ceremonies. -JR

P.S: For some reason, I compare The Matrix to this movie. Both are full of various religious and philosophical explorations, both show drugs as the doorway of truth, and both are strongly influenced by pop culture. It's not as crazy as it sounds.


Alejandro Jodorowsky, review, The Holy Mountain, bitter balcony Alejandro Jodorowsky, review, The Holy Mountain, bitter balcony



Directed by: Alejandro Jodorowsky

Screenplay by: Alejandro Jodorowsky

Cast: Alejandro Jodorowsky, Horácio Salinas, Zamira Saunders

Source of the Bitter: John Rojas

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