El Topo

El Topo (1970) movie poster

(1970) dir. Alejandro Jodorowsky
viewed: 06/22/07


This is one of those movies that almost everyone has seen and is typically considered a piece of surrealistic midnight movie genius, as is director Alejandro Jodorowsky.  But not probably by everyone.  And that would include me.

I mean, I like the idea of this.  On the surface it sounds interesting, some bizarre Western with heavy religious/soul-searching themes with juxtapositions of bizarre and humorous happenings, philosophical yet not overly self-serious.

Yeah, but it sucks.  I can say that I didn’t like it from the first few minutes, which is always a worrying feeling to have going into any movie of length.  It often betells of films that I will ultimately despise.  El Topo actually got more interesting in the second half, though by the end of the first half, I was hoping that it was the end of the movie itself.

The first half follows the titular El Topo as a ruthless gunslinger, going around and killing other “gunslingers”, playing with a standard Westerns theme, but these gunslingers are all clearly representational of philosophical tenets or something, playing a series of head games with the man, who is spurred by a woman to fight the fights.  These interactions are ponderous and frustrating in their mix of pretense and nonsense.

The second half has “the mole” as a dedicated monk in a cave with a bunch of deformed and misshapen people, played with several people who could have been the cast for Freaks II or something.  But he connects with a pretty woman who is a dwarf and they strive to save the people in the cave from the crass and horrible townspeople who live nearby.  I guess this part had a bit more of a narrative despite the fact that you don’t really know where its going…

Maybe it’s just lame of me, but I liked the second part a bit better.  Though I was thrilled to see the film finally end.  I read a quote by Jodorowsky that reads: “If you are great, El Topo is a great picture. If you are limited, El Topo is limited”.  I guess that I am limited.  I will say that I could theoretically come around to it, but for now, I am going to cut all the Jodorowsky films from my queue and simply respect its status to others and say that it ain’t my bag.

One Reply to “El Topo”

  1. Ken —

    I liked the second half better on this one two where Jodorowsky actually seemed to be getting down to the business of making an interesting movie instead of shoring up a massive pile of cow shit dedicated to his own ego. Jodorowsky should have added if he’s limited that makes you a great person or somesuch. It is an original movie, but originality doesn’t always feed the monkey. I’d rather watch anything by Sam Peckinpah or even Roy Rogers for that matter.

    There is some visionary stuff here but I feel the same way about this movie I feel about marijuana: there’s nothing wrong about it, it’s just not my drug of choice since it usually leaves me wanting to take a nap.

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