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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Comedy > Surrealism > Counterculture > Independent > Shorts > The Films Of Alejandro Jodorowsky (including El Topo & Holy Mountain/Anchor Bay DVD Set)

The Films Of Alejandro Jodorowsky (including El Topo & Holy Mountain/Anchor Bay DVD Set)


Picture: B-     Sound: B-     Extras B     Films: A-



Alejandro Jodorowsky's two major features, El Topo and The Holy Mountain, set the bar for midnight movies in America with a combination of genre-bending irreverence and whacked out storytelling.  Since their release (El Topo in 1970, The Holy Mountain in 1973), die-hard cineastes and curious neophytes alike have flocked to late-night movie houses to worship at the altar of one of cinema's preeminent cultists.


Both films were released on Blu-Ray by Anchor Bay in April 2011 (that review is up next), and they form the backbone of the DVD set The Films of Alejandro Jodorowsky, originally released in 2007.  The six-disc box also includes the soundtracks to El Topo and The Holy Mountain, Jodorowsky's 1957 short film La Cravate and 1968's Fando y Lis, and is stocked with features, including Jodorowsky commentaries, trailers, photo galleries, documentaries, and script pages.


El Topo and The Holy Mountain are obviously the draws for a set like this, and their presentations certainly justify the purchase.  El Topo looks and sounds great in its HD digital restoration and 5.1 Dolby Digital surround sound, while The Holy Mountain boasts a 2K digital restoration and 5.1 Dolby Digital mix (both films are also presented in 5.1 and 2.0 stereo).  But if these films are the singles, it’s the deep cuts — the other two works — that are the real gems.


The 35-minute La Cravate is a surrealist adaptation of a Thomas Mann story about head swapping with the production values of a high school theater group, the aesthetics of a German Expressionist silent, and the sensibilities of Kenneth Anger.  (If you look at it the right way, you'll also see a progenitor to the work of Guy Maddin.)  Of course it all works, almost brilliantly.  The film was thought lost until its rediscovery in a German attic in 2006, and it looks stunning thanks to a HD digital restoration that makes it look like a product of the early 1980s rather than the late 1950s. (Its 2.0 stereo mix gets the job done — it's a silent film, after all.)  The set alone is worth it for this one work.


But Fando y Lis is nothing to be ignored.  Shot in 16mm black and white and released in 1968, it's Jodorowsky's first feature (at 96 minutes) and the sort of counterculture head trip you'd expect to find in some grimy underground theater in the last '60s (no wonder Dennis Hopper was a fan of Jodorowsky). A man and woman — Fando and Lis — head out into the desolate deserts and rubble of the exterior world and their interior selves in search of spirituality and happiness and, naturally, things go off the rails.  Yet unlike American freak-outs of the era, this film is guided by Jodorowsky's strength as a surrealist storyteller and it never gets boring or silly.  Rather, it's beautiful and almost elegant, with shades of Marienbad, Bergman, and Russ Meyer peppered throughout.  It's the only film in the set not digitally restored; instead it's presented in a letterbox widescreen transfer of the original negative.  So it fares a little worse than the rest of the films in the set, but it still looks decent given its age and low budget and the Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono mix is adequate.


Thanks to El Topo and The Holy Mountain, The Films of Alejandro Jodorowsky has lasting appeal as a kind of DIY midnight movie starter kit.  But if you want to impress your friends, ignore those two films. Instead, start the night with a screening of La Cravate before your fire up The Room.  Or pair some exploitative biker movie with Fando y Lis.  It might throw people for a loop, but choosing either (or both) of these films over the other two will fly in the face of expectation and burnish your cred as a cineaste.



-   Dante A. Ciampaglia


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