MadZack’s review published on Letterboxd:
Jodorowsky is a chronic masturbater. The Holy Mountain has got to be the most self-gratifying film I have ever seen. It's a ham-fisted romp through tarot grammar and cacophonous symbolism. It's a film that fails in every single dimension. The Holy Mountain is a catastrophic mess.
It's a film that relies heavily, almost solely, on symbolism and playing with archetypes. Jodorowsky makes the mistake of cluttering his film with too many poorly expressed icons, painting them without masks, and failing to regulate each emblem's intrinsic value and individual strength, causing unintentional meanings that thwart his original ambitions. Most of the symbolism employed by Jodorowsky is only sufficiently usable within the parameters of subtext, in The Holy Mountain subtext is a nonexistent source. The allegory is incredibly superficial, it's a surface discovery that cannot be ignored. The Holy Mountain is populated with easily recognizable emblems that identify themselves in very obnoxious ways. The symbolism clashes with itself, as Jodorowsky doesn't seem to understand that diametrically opposed symbols do not coalesce, they simply contradict without culmination. The Holy Mountain is a grab-bag of new-age "wisdom" dressed up as a metaphysical art film.
The Holy Mountain suffers from the rock opera syndrome that was popularized in the mid-seventies by other trainwreck films like Tommy and Jesus Christ Superstar. The Holy Mountain follows the same doomed visual aesthetic and perpetuates a nauseatingly dull rhythmic pattern. Films like these can't help but collapse in on themselves. When sensory overload is your stylistic base, you have no other choice but to build on top of it. The film's foundation was unstable to begin with, the causal affect of patterning your film after rock opera aesthetics is that failure is a pre-established outcome. This might be Jodorowsky biggest misfire. Had he chose a dialectal approach, an absurdist approach, or had he continued to explore the pop art elements he toyed with around the middle-marker, The Holy Mountain may not have received such a low score from me. This is what I find most unforgivable about Jodorowsky's direction: he chose self-gratification over self-realization and he favored populist practice over artistic solutions.
I am not a person who is impressed by the profound or the vulgar and I am particularly unmoved by the mixing of the two. It's easy to tell when a filmmaker is trying to be edgy. There's nothing more nauseating or embarrassing than an artist trying desperately to prove that he's an artist. Jodorowsky's desperation manifests itself in pleads for controversy. This sad man is begging for you to call him brave. He uses cheap tactics, obvious and overtly childish strategies that he hopes will somehow cement his value. Jodorowsky builds nothing, he simply attempts to benefit from the built-in value of ancient emblems. This kind of artistic forgery is cowardly. He tries to align himself with the likes of Dali through the juxtaposition of the holy and the profane without comprehending the systemic complexities apparent within Dali's surrealist motifs. Jodorowsky is an impostor in borrowed clothing. He's a pretender and not a very convincing one. An imitator without charm isn't worth the hoax he claims to have faked.
Jodorowsky tries and fails to make a plethora of statements about the material world through capitalist culture shock therapy but he lacks the sophistication necessary to express his positions without sacrificing the possible value of his many muddled messages. He would much rather sacrifice artistic intent than dilute his own inane sensibilities so that he could best express his philosophy of material and religious dichotomy. Jodorowsky prefers discord. He'd rather be perceived as complicated than in any way exact. His own moral philosophy is laughably immature, so he chose to overwhelm the film's teachings with the impressions of profound meanings. These "profound meanings" aren't there because Jodorowsky's philosophy is valueless. The Holy Mountain is an empty film, made worthless by Jodorowsky's massive ego he just couldn't help but continually stroke.
The Holy Mountain is so unconscionably awful that it's kind of insulting to the cinema itself. Films like these deserve to be destroyed for their complete lack of artistry, for their shamelessness, their pretension, and for their shallow intent. It's all cacophony. It's meant to make you realize how just how fucking brilliant its maker is.
Jodorwosky should not be applauded for this. He should be humiliated.
It is a total and absolute embarrassment.