Posted by: detourmag on November 30, 2007 at 5:00 pm

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EL TOPO (Alejandro Jodorowsky, Mexico, 1970)
If not the granddaddy of cult films, El Topo is at least the progenitor of Midnight Movies, that strain of micro-genre or weirdo niche art films best enjoyed at the witching hour. El Topo is the bastard son of the Spaghetti Western and French performance art spectacle, and the Panic Movement. Alejandro Jodorowsky, a founding member of the Panic Movement (based in part on Antonin Artaud’s Theater of Cruelty), wrote, directed, and starred in this fabulously absurdist film.

Topo is split into two. The first half has El Topo (the mole) murdering a band of fetishistic outlaws before falling in with a woman (Mara Lorenzio) who puts him on a spiritual journey to become the best gunfighter. Each of the four gunmen that the black clad El Topo faces present him with a challenge that requires answers a gun can’t provide. He faces these challenges with a mix of Zen understanding and abject treachery.

Redemption is the theme of the film’s second half. El Topo is taken in by a group of subterranean misfits who feed and feminize him, and with the help of a dwarf (Jacqueline Luis), El Topo attempts to play messiah to the societal cast-offs. He promises to dig a tunnel which will free the underground dwellers and allow them to rejoin the town nearby which embraces a pagan religion and where Russian roulette sessions demonstrate an act of faith on the part of congregation (“You protect us, oh Lord!”). Things don’t work out so well once the freaks and misfits come back into the sunlight, however. It’s a dirty and violent world. Watch the crazed trailer below to find out more about a film that in many ways defies characterization. As the announcer says, “El Topo is monstrous and cruel.” But he also says it’s a mystic film, so… — Mike White

Trailer for El Topo:

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[tags]Alejandro Jodorowsky, El Topo, Panic Movement[/tags]

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