El Topo is just stupid!

I made it as far as them cutting down the monks, then they start dancing with them and french kissing them. Then they ride them naked across a field in a race.

Yea this movie is a fucking joke.

I’m convinced this is a early version of “Gay Cowboys Eating Pudding” AKA a joke.

I disagree. It’s not Jodorowsky’s best work (that would be Santa Sangre, IMO), but it’s still an interesting story with terrific imagery.

Here’s the thing tho: if you didn’t like El Topo, I doubt you’d care for Santa Sangre or any of this other films.

I like independent and foreign films, I like ponderous films(I love both Stalker and Quintet for fucks sake!) I like films with unusual visions.

The problem I had with El Topo is that it does not seem to be a coherent reality or vision, I feel like the creator is punking me. It swings between serious and farce in minutes, horror and slapstick, the characterization is inconsistent(the gunslinger lets bandits circle him and touch his face?) and sometimes just plain nonsensical(there is a scene with a latex balloon in the old west?!).

I feel he made this as a prank, and is laughing his ass off at people digging for symbolism in it. And the foley work is HORRIBLE, when they ride into the town the same buzzard call is played in a loop for minutes, ditto in the church with the hanged men as the same creaking sound effect is played in a loop.

The movie is intentionally surreal in an obnoxious way.

As someone who was always too much of a non-conformist for the non-conformist set in San Francisco in the early 1970s, I was heavily criticized for saying that El Topo was aimed at the “If they don’t understand it, they’ll think it’s deep” crowd. Now that I’m older and have had a chance to consider it in more detail, I think it was aimed at the “If they don’t understand it, they’ll think it’s deep” crowd.

Sounds like Jodorowski all right, yes. I have met him a couple of times, he mentioned that when he took drugs it was in an attempt to being able to describe his inner visions more coherently/clearly, but they evidently weren’t working so he doesn’t bother.

Dude simply isn’t understandable; if you didn’t like a piece of his better stay away from the rest (he’s worked in other media, including for example comics with Moebius).

I liked the segment where he was fighting the different master gunfighters, but the rest of it was more weird than entertaining.

This assumption that people who like something bizarre necessarily think it’s “deep” is strange. No one I know who likes El Topo (I’m not a fan of it) appears to believe it’s full of veiled profundity or allegory or anything like that - as far as I can tell, they just think it’s trippy and atmospheric.

A prank?

It’s very difficult to imagine that any film maker would waste millions of dollars of somebody else’s money to make a prank.

If they ever did that, don’t you think that would be the very last film they ever made?

I sure do. It would be the end of them and I very much doubt any film maker would ever do that if they ever wanted to make another film.

When you speak of “El Topo”, are you referring to the 1970 film made by Alejandro Jodorowsky?

I remember seeing it around 1971. But I was not really old enough to appreciate it at that time. It was just too advanced for my young mind to handle.

What millions of dollars? I don’t think you realize the kind of budgets some people work with… Almodóvar’s first movie cost the film and cameras.

Casey Affleck and Joaquin Pheonix did just that.

Wikipedia estimates the budget for El Topo at $400,000, which was a tiny amount even then.

Heh! Heh!

Well said. You are quite correct. Lots of film makers waste all the money in their budgets no matter how much or how little that is.

You realize El Topo is avant garde cinema, right? Are you really looking for coherence here?

It’s a bit like saying you don’t like a Laurie Anderson song because you can’t dance to it.

The young pseudo-intellectuals I hung with at the time were always claiming (“Emperor’s New Clothes” style) to find profound meanings in obscurantist cinema that they could never quite describe with mere words, beyond insinuating that I was a thoroughly ignorant boor for not seeing.

El Topo is a great movie but it is surreal and absurd. It is grotesque at times and ridiculous most of the time… practically the exact opposite of Stalker. Very few directors play at the same level as Tarkovsky did. Still a pretty cool film though.

I haven’t seen El Topo–as I’ve gotten older I’ve found myself less and less interested in the avant garde–but I still think Jodorowsky’s Dune would have been something to see. Pink Floyd, Orson Welles, Salvidor Dali, H.R. Giger, Chris Foss and Moebius all making a film together? No doubt it would have been a complete mess, but it would have been a spectacular mess at the very least.

Jodorowsky was also planning to make a film adaptation of The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway with Peter Gabriel. I’m sure that would have made Pink Floyd: The Wall look like a mainstream blockbuster in comparison. You have to admire the balls Jodorowsky has to attempt such projects, if nothing else.

OK, but the problem there is with the audience, not with the movie - plenty of works with the best of intentions get misinterpreted by tools. (That said, “emperor’s new clothes” never strikes me as being an intelligent or perceptive critical comment.)

I believe they couldn’t put it into words because they didn’t understand it themselves–and that there was little or nothing there to understand, but they felt they couldn’t run the risk of admitting that.

That’s the thing. Avant garde cinema is still suppose to have a point. You’re still trying to say something. It’s not just putting random things on the screen and saying it doesn’t have to make sense. It’s absudity, not randomness. The latter doesn’t even need a creator.

But it’s also not images for the sake of images. It’s a pretty linear Western (the so-called predecessor to acid westerns) but instead of being a morality tale - a lone hero trying to tame the wild west - it’s more of a spirituality adventure, a lone hero trying to attain enlightenment. In the literal sense, he has a family he trades for passion, and he wants to be the best gunslinger in the land to impress his new damsel. But the four best marksmen in the land actually represent four different philosophies, so when he kills them in succession, it’s really him outsmarting their different beliefs - he kills them by being more cunning.

In searching for enlightenment, he forgoes passion, family, and the four prevalent religions of his day.

And in the end, it’s not good enough. His quest was based on ego - he wanted to outsmart them, not learn and understand their beliefs. And so he is “killed”, but really he meditates for a long time on what they told him and resurrects as a Christ-like figure in a cave of human suffering, which he vows to end.

And he tries, but it doesn’t work. But more importantly he is killed in the act of saving others, which is to say he’s finally lost his ego, finally reached a state of enlightenment. We also know he reached enlightenment because the four marksmen he had slain earlier - men who had reached enlightenment in their own philosophies - had their graves covered in bees, the same as the lone gunslinger at the end of the film.

Now, can you find any more meaning in the film then that? A little, but not too much. It’s definitely a soup of different religions (especially eastern ones, Buddhism especially - enlightenment is only possible by divorcing yourself from ego, etc) but I don’t think exactness was the point. It’d be a boring, pedestrian film if the four different marksmen were exact metaphors for different religions, or if anything was spelled out much more.

Really the film is about the quest to find meaning, a quest that’s behind so much of human history and lore and art and culture. But that quest is so prevalent and so universal that to deal with it in a direct, head-on way would be boring and lifeless. If it was the gunslinger reenacting Buddha’s quest exactly, it’d be interesting but have no lasting power, it’d be just another religious tale.

Whatever power and intrigue lies in El Topo is because Jadorowsky tries to abstract that quest, generalize it, and make it into a watchable “action” film. The fact that you can read it as a Buddhist, Christian, Islamic, or Taoist allegory is not an easy thing at all to accomplish with a film.

And I do agree it’s pretty unintelligible at times, and seems random for the sake of random. I don’t at all believe that there’s exact hidden truths behind every symbol used, etc. But not all the symbols are random - like the bees on graves, for instance - and not all of it is a meaningless mess. There’s definitely a story in El Topo, but whether you find it interesting or not just depends on what you expect from it.

And no, I don’t think making a western where the protagonist searches for enlightenment rather then law and order is pretentious, nor do I think it’s deep just because. It’s a choice, and a perfectly valid one, and at least something different then all the Westerns that were being produced at the time. YMMV.