Alexandro Jodorowsky Is One Crazy Effer

Some might think my rant about Jodorowsky’s DUNE was a little over the top. I’m sick, leave me alone.

I very much like two of A.J.’s films. Yes, he’s A.J. to his friends who don’t call him His Most Excellent Weird Genius Who Babbles About Messiahs.

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I’m not a huge fan of SANTE SANGRE, but I mention it because it seems to be the most accessible of Jodorowsky’s movies. It has a little too much of a ‘Fellini-esque midgets in makeup’ aesthetic for my taste, but it’s a coherent narrative.

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Mom, this is weird.

A parade of asylum inmates, tattoos, and a guy who throws knives for his armless mother and by sheer coincidence kills a lot of women. It’s a mind trip, surreal and gaudy, but it actually grapples with issues most horror movies sidestep, namely the self-delusion of the murderer. I can’t say I’m a fan, but I appreciate AJ’s attempt to wrestle his high-flying ideas to something approaching a story.

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I said something about really liking two of his movies.

At no point is EL TOPO as normal as this poster makes it seem.

EL TOPO, “The Mole,” used to be celebrated for being one of the original Midnight Movies of the seventies. Its mix of ‘acid western,’  mysticism, bloody violence, nudity and general wackiness marked it as something for the out-there crowd. (John Lennon was a fan.) These days it is notorious for actually killing animals on-screen, in great numbers. You don’t have to be an animal rights person to find some of this stuff disgusting. Ye have been warned.

Other than the maimed and dying rabbits, EL TOPO is recommended for its weird take on the post-Leone western aesthetic. El Topo the character is a spiritual wanderer in the desert who must pass through trials to attain some kind of level of spiritual awakening.

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EL TOPO is sort of like a druggier version of the T.V. show KUNG FU, minus the auto-erotic asphyxiation. Jodorowsky himself stars as El Topo, and he’s no worse than any other Chilean director starring in his own drug-drenched violent western.

While there’s violence a-plenty, what made this jump out at the time was the druggy aesthetic, symptomatic of the era’s outsider art. The violence, the sex, the freaks, but especially the drugs-lead-to-mind-expansion made it something the ordinary folks were afraid of, which made it something the freaks and college kids wanted to see. All those pot-smoking Pink Floyd fans were stumbling over each other to hand over their cash for the next big thing that would bug The Straights.

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Only a great artist could make lesbianism so un-hot.

Sex, violence, drugs, philosophy, midgets/dwarves/little people/non-tallists–EL TOPO is a greatest hits of Midnight Movies because it helped start the whole Midnight Movies thing. Check out J. Hoberman and Jonathan Rosenbaum’s book on the subject to learn about the distribution and cult adoration that started the whole thing. (If you can find one at a reasonable price.)


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No animals were killed in the making of–oh…
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At least you’re honest.

EL TOPO is a crazy mess. What’s not to love?

My favorite AJ movie, coming up.

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John Stephen Walsh

Writer of neo-noir (The Ruthless Son), end of the world/quasi-zombie horror (The Year of Silent Light), humor (Ebollionaire), and a short story collection (Love Has A Taste) on Kindle. Have worked in social services, retail, video, etc. etc. I love movies, film scores, and painting poorly.