The Holy Mountain

The Holy Mountain ★★★★

A continuation (conclusion as it turns out) of the journeying-for-enlightenment themes commenced in the Director’s Fando & Lis and El Topo. This, the more straightforward of the three, is a series of tableau underpinned by a pick n’ mix gnosticism overawed by striking visualisations.

With little added to the transformative beliefs previously established, attention is largely grabbed or grounded by the relative success of the art direction (which is considerable). Characters, dwarfed by primary-coloured towering backdrops or being putty for the often outrageous props, are emblematic (seven sins to overcome despite the otherwise ecumenical nature of the belief sampling), shunted around by a director caramelising symbolism with indulged spectacle.

Despite Nature providing a grounding, the latter sequences are the least interesting with the outdoor rituals providing exposition over invention. This is a problem with psychedelic smorgasbording (Ken Russell’s Tommy encountering similar issues) where there’s a contradiction with the excess-to-be-criticised usually benefiting from the most arresting visuals, whilst the sequences of redress come off as bread and gruel. 

The concluding address-to-camera falls somewhere between cop-out and a sensible over-to-you baton pass (and a berating for enjoying the preceding scenes).

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