Dir: Alejandro Jodorowsky
Producers: Alejandro Jodorowsky / Allen Klein / Robert Taicher / Roberto Viskin
Cinematography: Rafael Corkidi
To give you a bit of a back story to where The Holy Mountain came from, Alejandro Jodorowsky is a Chilean who started out by working in a travelling theatre troupe as a clown. Alejandro’s rapid climb to fame was due to him directing El Topo (1970) a Western that came at a time when Sergio Leone’s Man With No Name series and Once Upon a Time in The West (1968) made stylistic Westerns accepted and in demand with the public.
As a side note Django (1966) dir. Sergio Corbucci was also in heavy demand on the B films circuit. The film would serve as inspiration for Django Unchained (2012) and when Django says the ‘D is silent,’ the man who answers him and says ‘I know’ was Franco Nero, Django from the original movie.
El Topo (1970) was a hit as it combined philosophy, with nudity as well as clowns and midgets. It was possibly the most famous Acid Western made.
Among others, John Lennon and George Harrison saw this. Lennon wrote a cheque for $1 million for Alejandro’s next film and George Harrison was interested in starring in it. This would become The Holy Mountain.
Harrison reluctantly retired from the starring role after Alejandro refused to back down on a scene in the script that required George Harrison have his asshole cleaned on camera. As you can imagine, he declined. Alejandro has subsequently said that he should have been a little less immovable on the scene as having George Harrison would have brought in the cinemagoers a little more.
So, the anus-washing scene stayed in the script. And The Beatle was no long the lead actor.
In a small way, Harrison’s legacy in the film industry was far greater than just this film. Handmade Films (Harrison’s production house) greenlit a surprising number of films from the Monty Python films to Withnail & I (1986) and even The Long Good Friday (1980) (which in itself will be a future blog post).
The Holy Mountain (1973) is a film of unparalleled imagery. It chiefly focuses on eroticism while deconstructing societal values. It’s a film that pulls philosophy and concepts and creates a series of surreal visual metaphors for them. And there are midgets. And clowns. And a menorah gun.
Imagine Salvador Dali on acid. Everything from an Octopus being extracted out of someone’s back, to frogs and lizards re-enacting the Spanish conquering of South America exists in this film. If that isn’t enough of a tease, here’s one more. Everything from feeling genitalia when making business decisions through to inhaling your own poo exists in this film.
Such a review almost begs for a list to be made of all the bizarre images in this film. But the less said the better. Make no mistake. It’s not really a Judi Dench sort of a film. And despite all of this weirdness, the film tells a cohesive and compelling plot, which for us is perhaps the greatest achievement of this film.
The Holy Mountain (1973) in a way is like a gateway drug… a film that once you have seen it you can’t help but delve more and more into the weird, the cult and the foreign.
As for Alejandro he never really topped the grand heights of The Holy Mountain afterwards, deciding to direct a series of lower budget but generally spiritual films. He spent 10 years planning to direct Dune, only for the project to be shelved
There’s much too much to write about The Holy Mountain, but all the words in the world won’t do it justice. It is an experience, which is best left without being deconstructed at length. We hope you can check it out and be captivated by it like we were.
Tips to enjoy The Holy Mountain (1973)
- Not that we are at all advocating the use of drugs at ObscureFilm, but if you were to watch this film, a partaking of illicit substances of the ‘green’ variety may well enhance the experience.
- Avoid bright lights and things that make you feel bizarre straight after watching the film.
- Watch El Topo (1970) as a warm up for a double feature night of craziness.
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