Posted by: kfugrip | March 27, 2008

Movie Review: The Holy Mountain


The Holy Mountain, written and directed by Alejandro Jodorowsky, is replete with allegory, sacrilegious imagery, psychedelic imagery, cultural and social critique.  Currently a staple of the midnight movie rotation at IFC Center the film betrays it’s roots when you google a synopsis.  Being a fan of El Topo, The Holy Mountain was next in line for experiencing Jodorowsky‘s potent images.

I have read a few of Jodorowsky‘s comics and The Eyes of a Cat, with art by Moebius, is an excellent indicator of what you are getting with this storyteller.  Seek out the comic if you can.

The Holy Mountain is about a Thief (Horatio Salinius), looking Christlike, who  meets The Alchemist (Alejandro Jodorowsky) and joins a group of wealthy, powerful, mystic beings who go in search of The Holy Mountain in an attempt to become immortal.  Along the way the group are indoctrinated in the ways of the Alchemist through a series of sacrilegious tasks.

What I liked:  The imagery that Jodorowsky commits to film is a work of art unto itself.  From the opening image (see above) of the Alchemist in his black hat shaving the heads of two women, we are presented with a director’s  world view that is unlike anything else in the world.  The story is a bizarre mythological tale that resembles video games more than it does anything else I’ve seen.  This is in part due to my lack of knowledge of Jodorowsky‘s inspiration (a lack that will be remedied when I watch the commentary).

Without giving anything away, the ending makes the film.  Part of me has outgrown (poor choice of words) this esoteric subject matter but the final scene in this film was a master stroke.  I loved it and found it to be totally unexpected.  I would give a recommendation on the ending alone.

What I didn’t like:  My general distaste for anything purposefully weird and “quirky” pushes me away from movies like this but The Holy Mountain isn’t so easily put into that box.  While the music was weird and the film includes a terrible fight scene, it was the film’s use of bad actors that turned me off.  The performances are intentional in their theatricality but it isn’t working and it distracts me from the plot.  I also didn’t care about anyone.  The Thief should have been my entry point but the movie features more about The Alchemist than it does the Thief and the Salinus’ attempt to make this character real fell short.

I think that my rating doesn’t reflect how I would recommend this film.  Sure it’s weird but many of the artists I know would love the pictures that Jodorowsky has made with this film.

3 stars




  1. I’d go four stars. I like this one much better than El Topo, which I remember being too long and meandering in it’s plot. The imagery and cinematography are fantastic. I lose a little interest once they go on their quest, but everything up until then is golden.

    Did you watch the little featurette on the restoration process? This film has never looked so good.

  2. Just to warn you, the commentary is in Spanish, but you can get subtitles in English.

  3. I didn’t watch any special features but I’ll check them out at some point.

    I’m more of an El Topo guy, but this was a good movie.

  4. Sante Sangre is also pretty good. It is his most mainstream effort, not counting “The Rainbow Thief” with Peter O’Toole.

  5. This has been on my NetFlix queue for awhile. Im excited to see El Topo and Holy Mountain while banging out a 19 year old coke head and listening to Steely Dan concert bootlegs.

  6. Mike: I thought you watched my old bootleg copy of El Topo. Hmmm. Netflix that bitch with a little “Dirty Work” and an 8ball. Fuck yeah, dude.

  7. Gene Shallot raves: It was a Black Friday since I Peg-ged El Topo as cool. Reelin’ In the Years, doesnt allow me to Do It Again, I was Hey Nineteen and thinking about it gives me the Deacon Blues.

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