Follow by Email

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The Holy Mountain

Alexandro Jodorowsky is one of the names that I see in Film Comment or elsewhere (you can get a t-shirt with his name on it at the IFC Center in Greenwich Village) but I didn't know anything about him or his films. So I came to his 1973 film, The Holy Mountain, with no expectations. I almost didn't make it through it, falling asleep half-way through, but the second half is pretty good satire.

Jodorowsky is a surrealist, or absurdist, or avant-garde, or whatever -ist you want to assign to someone who doesn't play by the rules. The film opens with someone in black stripping and shaving the heads of two women (I'm always intrigued by hair-shaving scenes because it has to be in one take). I don't believe we ever seen these people again. Then we see a man, who is only known as "The Thief," lying near-dead with his face covered in flies. He is rescued by a man with half-arms and legs, and he is mock crucified. He looks so much like Christ that a company makes a plaster-cast model of him to make life-size Christ figures.

In this first half there is also a lot of public executions. Jodorowsky is Chilean, and given what was going on in Chile at that time this is understandable. But he turns the executions into forms or art, with birds or ribbons or marbles coming out of the wounds.

After I took a nap, I returned to the film and a semblance of a plot takes shape. The Thief, along with eight other people, become the acolytes of a man called The Alchemist (played by Jodorowsky himself). These people represent the planets, including an architect from Pluto who has come up with a design for people living in coffins, which isn't far off those teeny little Japanese hotel rooms. The Alchemist tells them that no matter what they have, they will die, but they can learn immortality from nine men, 40,000 years old, who live on top of a mountain, and he will take them there.

The film is rich in symbolism and is probably best viewed under the haze of a hallucinogenic substance, which is apparently how Jodorowsky came up with it. His actors certainly gave their all--there's lots of nudity, and in addition to being covered with flies, another man is covered, naked, with tarantulas.

The final scene is a clever one, as The Alchemist reveals that this has all been a film. "Zoom out, camera," he says, and we see the crew, the lights, etc. He then says that the story never ends. The film does, though.

No comments:

Post a Comment