The Holy Mountain. (18.)
Directed by Alejandro Jodorowsky. 1973
Starring Alejandro Jodorowsky, Horacio Salinas, Zamira Saunders, Juan Ferrara, Adriana Page, Burt Kleiner. 113 mins.
For the new year, Arrow Films are putting fabled Chilean film provocateur Alejandro Jodorowsky's first three films back in cinemas. His international hit, acid western El Topo was out two weeks ago and now we get the follow-up. Made with over a million dollars of Beatles manager Allen Klein's money, it is a rambling, boundless extravaganza of nudity, violence, animal cruelty, religious symbolism and spiritual mumbo jumbo, done on a massive scale. Surreal seems too modest a word for it.
It is best approached as a series of performance pieces committed to film. Often these involve the actors performing religious/ spiritual rituals or enduring some physical hardship such as lying naked in the desert covered in tarantulas. You had to be 100% committed to be in a Jodorowsky film: this is real method acting. It isn't always pleasant – I could happily unsee an old pervert taking out his glass eye to give to an underage prostitute – but is filled with remarkable pieces of visual imagination and striking set design.
The mark of quality surrealism is that the viewer isn't bothered about not being able to understand what is happening and Holy Mountain easily passes that test. I had no idea what was supposed to be happening or what it might symbolise. Indeed, given Jodorowsky's interest in any and all bits of spiritual claptrap he comes across, I'm happier not knowing what the deeper significance might be.