Your sacrifice completes my sanctuary of one thousand testicles.”– Axon of Neptune
Alejandro Jodorowsky (El Topo, 1970) is revered as a mystifying director by his contemporaries and genre specialists alike for his puzzling, symmetrically shot, yet questionable films. The critics are a different story. His films follow the avant-garde method of narrating an intentionally disjointed plot, presented to the audience with grand imagery, dripping with concentrated surrealism. Once Jodorowsky implicates the viewers by making them take their place of his classification, he goes on to expand on those categories and segments of the film and to flesh out the depravity coming to play on so many different levels. The mad scientist Jodorowsky knows that this is a cruel, wicked, and a sick world (a place we could have easily done without and stayed in limbo, even if oblivious and neutral), and the depiction of the very bad things that the most powerful have undertaken, hence the degenerate inflection, that has George Harrison and John Lennon all excited, so much so that they let Jodorowsky borrow their music producer (Allen Klein of ABKCO Music and Records) and also financed this film to some extent.
The cynicism could easily become overbearing, but it is proof to Jodorowsky’s creativity that this doesn’t really happen. Mountain has some of the most stunning visuals to ever have been put to film, even if extreme in their dramatization and twice as baffling. The grand set-pieces, the superior set design, and the terrific and sublime visuals/imagery that is downright bad or inexplicably breathtaking. The polarity kept me going for some 109 minutes. No, I didn’t stop, the rest 7-8 minutes was the credit roll. I braved this one – even if half-heartedly.
Jodorowsky has a lot to say about a lot of stuff, Lot (the Biblical gent) included. The Hebrew meaning for the word Lut is, to wrap closely or to envelop. It also means excess, and Lut is an architect (Pluto being his association) with a solution to the problem of population growth versus real estate. He convinces the authority of his coffin-like accommodation, where the workers will only sleep at the workplace to conserve energy, et al. Sounds so much like the conspiracy theories surrounding FEMA?
Mountain begins with an asymmetrical shot that resembles a Rorschach, with the titles designed the way Sanskrit is written. It also reveals the influences of the Mahabharata on the director as we hear the Ganesh Puja being played in the back. The influences do not stop here. Later in the film, we can see inspiration from the parables of another such holy book, especially the story of Abraham and his son Ishmael.
From scenes that desecrate the Church in the most debasing ways possible to psychedelic inter-cuts of the acid-kaleidoscope variety, Mountain is on a crusade to anger the viewer and to immediately project a hyper image on screen; like the painting of Madonna and Child, acted out by real people in the most embarrassing and absurd, cringe-inducing ways.
Jodorowsky’s commentary is relentless. He has a view on everything; from frogs being blown by cherry bombs to castrations, The awful, “oh so awful” Socialist Germany, tourists, Mickey Mouse, organized religion, The Church, fascism, the inversed third-person benefits’ of Nihilism, the Unblinking Eye, LOTR, deconstructing Jesus (bad taste), genocide, Christ’s love interest, his loathing for numerous fiber-glass Christ(s), procreation as Venus rises, post-modern art, commercialism, shit, gas chambers, gas schools, gas apartment complexes, gas universities, arms trade, the impotence of Uranus (Urin-enus; not that this sounds any better), brainwashing by comic books, pythons wearing hand-knit sweaters, George Orwell, Buddha, Sartre, selflessness, free-willy enlightenment, Maslow‘s Self Actualization through a per-rectum, Dolph Lundgren, ancient Chinese martial art films, the mistakes of Christ? Timothy Leary, fake messiahs, tarantulas on buck naked woman, man-boobs breastfeeding and on breaking the fourth wall, ad nauseam.
In films like these, it is better not to delve into the directorial achievements or the performances for it serves no purpose. Even a long focus on a log can induce meaning upon empty meaning.
Plus, why do the artists feel the need to use the Church in such ghastly and extreme ways to further their agenda? If anything, it is in bad taste. One cannot just go around pissing on everything sacred in the name of art. It is simply slapping decency and an extremely popular and personal belief, in the face. And if you cannot resist yourself at least put some back and some substance, a hard-hitting message and Willem Dafoe (The Lighthouse; The Last Temptation of Christ), Scorsese, Mel Gibson (The Passion of The Christ) into it. Something, anything except the dirtiest and greediest man alive to play Jesus.
I hated it more than I loved it; but that’s just me, a Rambo fan, wandering off territory.
Yes, Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom is still up there as one of the top ten favorite films (inverted in this case) – although made two years after this atrocity/masterpiece, Salo says so little, shows even less (compared to other avant-garde projects made around that time – rich in symbolism, idiosyncratic and uniquely nausea-inducing) and makes the viewer lose himself in the infinite, crude, unflinching and unapologetic and infinite direction of Pasolini, whose Salo is one of the most barked at films ever, for reasons that cannot be deciphered by man, except Pasolini or The Marquis himself.
The Holy Mountain is completely stoned immaculate (the use of LSD and psilocybin mushrooms was rampant on the set of Mountain, just like Apocalypse Now) and it is the influences that make it cross borders into filth and prettiness and the friction results in an alluring conflict, and with the Space Oddity vibe sending a surge of electricity up the spine every time, Jesus is shown in most unbecoming ways ever.
The ending is a brick wall, offering no respite from the hardened visuals that we’ve just watched. Just when the viewer thinks that the nightmare has ended, Axon goes ahead and pulls off a head the head off of an obviously a crude animatronic as a skull slides up from between its shoulders. What could have been an iconic film, falls short of it due to an abundance of such flourishes and then ends, suddenly.