Saturday, July 17, 2010

EL TOPO (Spanish) (1970)

“If you’re great, ‘El Topo’ is a great picture, if you are limited; ‘El Topo’ is limited.”
- A. Jodorowsky

Alejandro Jodorowsky is ‘El Topo’ is as revelation for me as watching Fellini’s ‘8 ½’ and Kubrick’s ‘A Clockwork Orange’ for the first time. It’s a revolutionary film and though I’m limited I must say it’s a great film. El Topo is cult western and perhaps the one and only of its kind in depiction of disturbing images of sex and violence juxtaposed with impregnable symbols of existentialism. Though having many elements of spaghetti western, it crossed the line in terms of bringing innovations both in form and content in western filmmaking. Some critics coined a special term for it- ‘Acid Western’-a western where protagonist is like an existentialist hero and plot with inherent allegorical references.

The film is about the journey of violent gunfighter's quest for enlightenment. As movie progresses we witness the quest and journey of the protagonist towards enlightenment. Here’s plot synopsis if anyone interested-
The gunfighter El Topo (Alejandro Jodorowsky himself as an actor) and his young son ride through a desert to a village, whose inhabitants have been massacred. They witnessed severe massacre in nearby village. El Topo rescues a woman named Mara, who leads him on a mission to find and defeat the four master gunmen of the desert. Leaving his son with a group of monks, they complete the mission, accompanied by a mysterious woman in black. The women leave El Topo wounded in the desert, where he is found by a clan of deformed people who take him to the remote cavern where they live. Awakening years later, he goes with a dwarf woman to a nearby town, promising to dig a tunnel through which the cave-dwellers can escape. They find the town run by a vicious sheriff and home to a bizarre religious cult. El Topo's son, now a man, is a monk in the town. The completion of the tunnel leads El Topo, the townspeople, and the cave-dwellers to a bloody and tragic end.

Combined with various biblical and eastern religious allegories, the film has many disturbing surreal scenes featuring graphic nudity and violence. Jodorowsky reconstructed the whole film layer by layer and give it surreal and spiritual height never attempted before or after in Western genre. The four cult masters, deformed men in drums, dwarf lady, an almost naked blind man and his power, the bloody duel shootout scene, sex in the desert sand, dead rabbits and duel shootout aiming heart and head, the goat crucified as Christ, the odd background music, the redemption and the chaotic ending…I bet you have never seen something mind-blowing like this! The way he gave the whole film seedy, rustic, deglamorise look with bizarre ideas and frames deserves standing ovation.


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