El Topo & The Holy Mountain
by Jef Burnham
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Alejandro Jodorowsky’s cult classic pictures, El Topo (1970) and The Holy Mountain (1973) debut on Blu-ray April 26, 2011 from Anchor Bay Entertainment. I’ll be looking at the releases of both films in this single review, for these are certainly must-owns for any Blu-ray-capable cinephile, and frankly, it’d be a tragedy to own one without the other.
To detail the plots of the films would do their considerable depth an immense disservice, therefore I will resist doing so. Suffice it to say that El Topo is a mystical western of sorts, and The Holy Mountain is about a spiritual journey that explores the intersection of religion and militarism. El Topo was in fact the first of the “midnight movies,” screening at midnight for seven straight months at New York’s Elgin Cinema beginning in December 1970. And The Holy Mountain created an uproar at the Cannes Film Festival in 1973 with its wealth of iconoclastic imagery. It was produced by The Beatles’ manager, Allen Klein, and it is perhaps no coincidence then that, among Jodorowsky’s biggest supporters were John Lennon and Yoko Ono.
These films are indeed both epic and difficult— beautiful and disturbing— and, to be honest, defy brief description. Over-flowing with ideas and symbolism, these releases are well worth the cost, for the films absolutely demand multiple viewings. Moreover, the films themselves are characterized by unbelievable art direction and production design, with The Holy Mountain becoming the most expensive Mexican production to date. However, it should be noted for those who have not yet experienced a Jodorowsky film that these two pictures are indeed intensely graphic in most every way, and are littered with animal corpses.
The HD transfers are everything you’d want for these releases, as is evident in the incredible restoration process featurette on The Holy Mountain. The picture is sharp and pristine (except for the occasional awkwardly-located scratch on the El Topo print) with vibrant colors and a crystal-clear soundtrack. The audio is appropriately dynamic, but not so much so that a sudden rise in action will threaten to burst your eardrums.
In short, I cannot recommend these releases enough.
The Holy Mountain Tech Specs / Bonus Features
Jef Burnham is a writer and educator living in Chicago, Illinois. While waging war on mankind from a glass booth in the parking lot of a grocery store, Jef managed to earn a degree in Film & Video from Columbia College Chicago, and is now the Editor-in-Chief of FilmMonthly.com.
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