I thought Werner Herzog had the market cornered on midget weirdness, but I was wrong!
Written By: Alejandro Jodorowsky
Directed By: Alejandro Jodorowsky
I don’t think it is possible to accurately describe El Topo in a short review, I mean I could try like so many others have but it would be a futile effort. El Topo is full of so much weirdness, allegory, visual imagery and more that in order to accurately describe what is going a thorough breakdown is needed. I am not the man for such a thorough breakdown, but I imagine there have been some sad souls who have broken down El Topo in intricate detail over the years.
Calling El Topo surreal is an understatement, but throughout it remains a highly surreal experience. Whether it is the insane nature of the characters, the settings, the way shots are framed, the structure of the story, pretty much any facet of El Topo you can name is surreal in one way or another. The most surreal aspect of El Topo is the color of the picture, it looks like some sort of bright flooded hybrid of technicolor and modern cinema. El Topo is as bright as any film I have ever seen, giving the entire picture an artificial feel. this creates a sense of detachment throughout and helps aid the philosophical guide book that El Topo wants to be.
It would be hard to look at what El Topo is trying to say if it were presented in a normal fashion. The bright flooded out look of the picture allows the viewer to see the violence, freak show characters or odd sex for what it is, a meaning for something else. Without any deep breakdown I think it is fairly easy to figure out El Topo’s general direction, and by that I mean it’s want to be the film equivalent of a college philosophy course. Some may find this pretentious, and without the style to go along with the college level philosophy I would have too. But, the style elevates the basic philosophical musings that Jodorowsky wants to put across and gives you something to think about beyond what shroom addled college students come up with on a Saturday night.
I wouldn’t call El Topo a great film, it is a very good film that borders on great at times. It is unique in its presentation and style, but it does suffer from the allegory pitfall where certain sequences don’t appear to have any deeper meaning but are only included for shock value. However, it uses style and its unique nature to overcome its faults and remain an experience every movie goer needs to undertake at least once. The key word is experience, because El Topo isn’t a movie, but an experience.