Monday, April 28, 2008

El Topo

El Topo; Western grotesque, Mexico, 1970; D: Alejandro Jodorowsky, S: Alejandro Jodorowsky, Mara Lorenzio, Brontis Jodorowsky, David Silva, Paula Romo, Robert John, Jacqueline Luis

A man, El Topo, is riding a horse together with his naked 7-year old son. They arrive at a town where all the people have been killed. He finds the bandits who did this and kills them. Then he finds their boss, the Colonel, and kills him too, leaving his child to grow up in a monastery. He meets a woman, Mara, who persuades him to find the 4 master gunmen and kill them to become "the greatest". Using little tricks, he kills them all, except for the last who commits suicide. He then falls in depression while Mara betrays and shoots him. He is found by a group of deformed outcasts and nursed for decades in an underground cave. When he awakens, he shaves his head and decides to build a tunnel that will lead them to the surface. With a help of a small woman, he performs acts in the local town to earn enough to finance such an undertaking, even finding his angry grown up son. When the tunnel is finished, the outcasts go to the town where the people kill them.

Among the interesting curiosities about the legendary underground cult film "El Topo" is also the fact that John Lennon named it his favorite film and even decided to finance director Alejandro Jodorowsky's next film, "The Holly Mountain". Unlike "Mountain", "El Topo" at least has a linear story, that is until the last third when it goes deeply into the surreal territory. Right from the start, it's obvious that this is a very difficult film that directly takes a "take it or leave it" approach, filled with unbelievably mad scenes: one bandit is shooting at dozens of high heel shoes placed on rocks in the desert while the other one makes an image of a naked woman from hundreds of small rocks on the ground and lies on top of it. The duel between El Topo and the bandits starts as soon as an squeaking red balloon runs out of air. El Topo challenges a master gun fighter to a duel who is accompanied by a man without legs riding a man without arms (actual people), who then go wild in the desert after their master looses. Even though it seems like an ego trip at times, "El Topo" is actually the most fascinating when it completely switches it's tables and becomes something of a search for spirituality in the second half where the hero, a master gunman, becomes depressed and feels his life is empty, finding his new meaning in a life with social outcasts where he purifies himself by shaving his head. Those more contemplative directions are very original after a few examples of excessive violence and bring a surprising (Buddhist) spiritual dimension to the seemingly harsh and tough story, maybe joggling with themes about a person who gets tired of his or her life and wants to completely change it. "El Topo" has a wide range and inevitably touches many areas of the mind, yet not all of those areas were rubbed the right way and don't inevitably cause a positive reaction due to it's mad and wild style.


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