TV Party Tonight! #029

TV Party Tonight! #029

Tuesday, 06 June 2017

El Topo

Blu-ray (Abkco)


If you haven’t seen the movie Jodorowsky’s Dune I highly recommend you stop what you’re doing and watch it immediately. Through the course of an hour and a half you will take this extravagant journey into probably the most ambitious movie ever attempted and into the mind of Alejandro Jodorowsky. To say that he comes across as eccentric might be an understatement, and it’s highly probable that you’ll leave the movie feeling inclined to learn more about the man.


Perhaps the best place to start with Jodorowky would be El Topo, since it’s his best known work that isn’t an absolute mind fuck. That honor goes to The Holy Mountain which we will be reviewing next in this column. Compared to that, El Topo is surprisingly linear, especially after repeated viewings. It tells the story of a cowboy who goes on a spiritual journey in the desert for selfish reasons only to change his ways and try and bring some good in this world. Of course, since this is Jodorowsky, this journey is filled with religious content, grotesque imagery, and perplexing events.  In the end, this movie also defies description.


El Topo made its debut at the Elgin theatre at midnight with the support of John Lennon. It then went on to screen there seven days a week for a whole year, which goes to show how fascinated the audience was by it. And God knows what condition the film was in by the end.


I have to applaud Abkco for the job they’ve done here bringing this independent film to blu ray. The transfer itself looks sharp and not too cleaned up and the audio is rich and present. Also important in this release is Jodorowsky’s commentary track which is a great help in understanding this movie. Jodorowksy, full of personality, walks us through the tougher moments in the film, explaining why certain choices were made and helps us make sense of what we’re seeing on screen. With this, a beloved movie becomes even more enjoyable.


El Topo really has to be seen to be believed… until you watch another of Jodorowsky’s movies. This release serves both as a supplement as a great standard to preserve this important film. Well done.


Some observations from the commentary:


  • El Topo was Jodorowsky trying to make a “normal” movie. He failed.
  • Jodorowksy couldn’t find a Mexican actor who would grow their beard, dye their hair, then shave their head all for the same project. So he ended up having to cast himself. Watching himself on screen so many years later, he’s pleased to find he’s such a good actor.
  • There are a lot of dead animals in this movie. It turns out Jodorowsky bought animals that were scheduled to be slaughtered anyway and used those in the film. Still, no explanation on the legions of dead rabbits.
  • Everyone in this movie is dubbed. Jodorowsky says if he could use the audio to find a better voice for his characters why not do so?
  • Jodorowsky thinks the biggest plague ruining movies are stars. Maybe this is why he cast his movie with relative unknowns he found on the street, and in the case of the black female rider, as a flight attendant on a plane.

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