Combustible Celluloid
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With: Alejandro Jodorowsky, Brontis Jodorowsky, Mara Lorenzio, David Silva, Hector Martinez, Paula Romo, Bertha Lomeli, Juan Jose Gurrola, Victor Fosado, Agustin Isunza, Jacqueline Luis, Robert John, Julian de Meriche, Alfonso Arau
Written by: Alejandro Jodorowsky
Directed by: Alejandro Jodorowsky
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Language: Spanish with English subtitles
Running Time: 124
Date: 12/18/1970

El Topo (1970)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Can You Dig It?

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Alejandro Jodorowsky's most famous film, El Topo, begins as a gunfighter, El Topo (Jodorowsky), and his naked son (Jodorowsky's son Brontis) ride across the desert. They come across a town full of corpses, and El Topo meets a woman whom he names Mara (Mara Lorenzio). She challenges him to defeat the four top gunfighters in the desert, which he does, though not without trouble and a bit of cheating. (A mysterious woman in black, played by Paula Romo, shows up at this point.) The two women leave El Topo wounded, and he wakes up twenty years later, having been cared for by a band of cave-dwelling little people. He vows to liberate them by digging a tunnel that leads to the outside world. (The title, "El Topo," means "the mole.")

There's a great deal more, and I'm sure religious scholars will figure out what it all means, but for the adventurous viewer, El Topo is a bizarre, colorful, unforgettable experience, featuring such images as an armless man carrying a legless man around on his shoulders, or a church congregation that plays Russian Roulette. It may be possible that even Jodorowsky didn't know exactly what he was doing in terms of making cinema, but he was imaginative enough to fill every frame with some kind of striking image; you'll hardly see anything ordinary, like a simple two-shot with two people talking. The effect is almost like that of a child, making up a story as he goes along, letting his imagination carry it, and logic be damned.

See also: The Films of Alejandro Jodorowsky.

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