Matthew B.’s review published on Letterboxd:
Here we are, at the dawn of a new year, with my final review of my final film of 2017. Happy New Year to all. How I've managed to reach 100 followers, I'll never know, but I do appreciate each of you who take the time to read my reviews and lists. Here we go...
Alejandro Jodorowsky's The Holy Mountain is a colorful, bizarre, and, at times, an incomprehensible mess. It is also a pretty brilliant piece of film-making that is absolutely unlike anything else you've ever seen. Colorful, surreal, and poetic, this film is a far superior follow-up to Jodorowsky's classic midnight movie, El Topo and a really interesting way to ring in the new year.
What narrative does exist here focuses on the journey of the film's protagonist, known as the Thief (Horacio Salinas), as he and seven others are led by the mysterious Alchemist (Jodorowsky) on a quest to the titular Holy Mountain. Thematic elements include satires of religion (the Thief's resemblance to Jesus Christ is one of the more on-the-nose bits of of symbolism), consumerism, colonialism, and militarism... just to name a few. The film is also crudely sexual and disturbingly violent. The Holy Mountain is the definition of a "hard R" film rating.
The visuals here are arresting, shocking, and absolutely insane. They also have a stunning beauty that makes it hard to avert one's eyes, and the surreal imagery Jodorowsky incorporates definitely takes precedence over the film's thin plot. While watching The Holy Mountain, you are viewing a poem, not a novel. For example, troubling yourself over exactly why you are watching a scene of toads dressed as conquistadors destroying a scale model of an Aztec civilization (populated by lizards dressed as the Aztecs) would sort of miss the point. Sure, there is an anti-colonial statement to be made there, but its placement in the film, at this particular point, does not need to be rationalized. Jodorowsky takes his viewers on a stream-of-consciousness, LSD-fueled fever dream, and one must simply settle in and accept the ride.
I am very happy to report that, for a movie that spends a lot of time making very little sense, it absolutely sticks the landing. Without giving too much away, Jodorowsky really knows how to end a film like this, and the finale here is one of my new favorite endings in cinema.
There is perhaps no other film that represents true auteurism more than this. Alejandro Jodorowsky's fingerprints are on every element of this film. He exists not only as the writer-director-star, but also assisted with the editing, scoring, production design, and costuming of the film. His complete control of the production is evident throughout, and the way he presents his vision--incomprehensible as it may be at points--is truly admirable. The sheer fact that a film like this exists is impressive, and, while it certainly isn't for everyone, it is absolutely an unforgettable experience for those willing to tackle it.
Goodbye to The Holy Mountain. Goodbye to 2017. "Real life awaits us."