THE HOLY MOUNTAIN (1973) Review


aka THE SACRED MOUNTAIN
Directed & written by Alejandro Jodorowsky
Starring Alejandro Jodorowsky, Horacio Salinas, Zamira Saunders, Juan Ferrara, Adriana Page, Kurt Kleiner, & Valerie Jodorowsky

THE HOLY MOUNTAIN, Alejandro Jodorowsky’s surreal epic gets the BluRay/DVD treatment finally this month. There are those who deem the filmmaker a master and I have to admit, I admire the guy’s artistic skill, but out of all of the Jodorowsky’s films, THE HOLY MOUNTAIN is the most frustrating. The film couldn’t be more artsy and I can acknowledge the value of that. THE HOLY MOUNTAIN is a surreal treat for those looking to have their eyes stimulated with images that are both beautiful and bizarre. Looked at only as a visual exercise, you won’t be able to find a more warped treat, but if I wanted to introduce the work of Jodorowsky to someone unfamiliar to his work, I don’t think THE HOLY MOUNTAIN would be my first choice.

Basically, THE HOLY MOUNTAIN plays as a stream of consciousness journey as a Christ-like figure stumbles from one reality to another, meeting one offbeat character after another, and witnessing one mad act after another. If I were to have a party and wanted to play some trippy shit for folks to check out while talking, drinking and partying, THE HOLY MOUNTAIN would be the film to put in the BluRay player. As long as you don’t pay attention to the very loose narrative, this is a fantastic film. Sitting sober through this film, though, is a bit of a chore.

The religious iconography, I’m sure will piss some sensitive types off. Rabbits are crucified, Pope-like figures are found spooning a life sized crucifix, a statue of Christ’s face is eaten; even for me who is not a religious person, this was kind of tough to watch. Some of it, I’m sure Jodorowsky was going for shock value. And he achieves that goal here. Some of the other imagery is gorgeous, though. The temple the Alchemist resides in is a surreal masterpiece, with huge checkerboard walls and mounted goat statues. The scenes early on where frogs are dressed in Holy Crusader garb then blown up is another image that is both haunting, disgusting, and gorgeous all at once. Other imagery, though, mostly involving the crucifix, just kind of feel like lame attempts to piss off the establishment. I know this was filmed in 1973 and I’m sure the imagery was much more controversial then. But occasionally while watching THE HOLY MOUNTAIN, I felt like I was watching a lame art school student’s demo reel where he wants to rebel against his mom and dad who put him through art school in the first place.

Don’t get me wrong. Any fan of Jodorowsky must have this DVD/BluRay release on their shelf. It’s a gorgeous transfer and you’ll never find a better looking version. The imagery IS haunting, though the story is rather light. There’s an especially tedious sequence where people representing planets are introduced and given attributes relating to human society. Occupying numerous set pieces, this sequence goes on and on and on… The saving grace of THE HOLY MOUNTAIN is the surreal craziness that has become Jodorowsky’s style that loosely laces the story together. I’ll be reviewing EL TOPO later this month (which has a much stronger narrative, in my opinion, though not as strong as SANTE SANGRE) which is also being released on BluRay/DVD. If you like surreal and disturbing imagery, THE HOLY MOUNTAIN is for you. Though the story won’t blow you away, your eyes will be stimulated and your hunger for the bizarre will most definitely be filled.

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