Nothing can prepare you for The Holy Mountain. Alejandro Jodorowsky’s surrealist masterpiece draws its symbolism and hallucinatory imagery from The Great Beyond.
The Holy Mountain (1973)
Few filmmakers have been as committed as Alejandro Jodorowsky in supplying grotesque, surreal, symbolic, and hallucinatory images. But even his most famous work, the 1970 acid Western El Topo, has nothing on The Holy Mountain, which invests meaning in sequences that might otherwise be mere fodder for midnight trippers. Granted, the trippers will be more than satisfied: After introducing a thief (Horacio Salinas) who appears like a modern-day incarnation of Christ, Jodorowsky uses the next few minutes to show him nearly crucified by naked boys with green-painted genitalia, getting rescued by a limbless dwarf, and chewing on a wax representation of himself before sending it to the heavens on colorful balloons. And then things get a little strange.
The story, such as it goes, introduces Salinas to an alchemist (Jodorowsky) who proves his mystical powers by turning the thief’s excrement into gold. From there, they embark on a spiritual journey, accompanied by seven figures from different planets who represent terrible aspects of life on this one, from a weapons manufacturer (religious and cultural symbols, like a menorah, are turned into guns) to a “cosmetics” person who specializes in prosthetic, age-masking faces. There’s also a giant sex machine that gets prodded into orgasm, an art museum with interactive living nude sculptures, and a general mood of amorousness to go along with the political and religious bomb-throwing. There are times when Jodorowsky’s surrealist impulse leads to weird-for-its-own-sake cult-movie fodder, but The Holy Mountain more often has a satirical bite, with a sinner’s contempt for the church and a rebel’s distrust of authority. Seen today, it functions as a wondrous time machine, transporting viewers back to a day when movies (and audiences) were up for anything.