El Topo Reviews

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Super Reviewer
½ July 16, 2014
Alejandro Jodorowsky crafts a stunning, visceral and action packed Western film that can actually be compared to some of the genres finest works. El Topo is a great film, a film that is unprecedented in its raw energy, and fluid direction. Cult director Judorowsky also acts, and he delivers a film that is remarkable in the way that it showcases its violence. No other Western has taken such an approach as Jodorowsky. Brilliantly shot, acted and with a great story, this is a fine picture that is almost a forgotten classic of the genre. As far as Westerns are concerns, I would call El Topo as one of the finest along with Once Upon a Time in the West, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly and The Wild Bunch. The film should definitely be rediscovered by genre fans, but due to some of its striking images, this may not appeal to everyone. If you're looking for something a bit different in the genre, El Topo is that film to watch. Alejandro Jodorowsky is a terrific filmmaker, and he doesn't compromise whatsoever. His vision is striking, unrelenting, and the sheer raw power of El Topo will grab your attention from the moment in starts. The story is well crafted and it is a film that resonates well, as Jodorowsky crafts a film that is very unique in the Western genre, a film that displays certain ideas that are the director's trademark. El Topo is a pleasant film, one that ranks among the finest in the genre, and if you've enjoyed many of the Spaghetti Westerns, you'll surely enjoy this one. The film has a raw power that makes it memorable due to its visuals, and you are simply enthralled at what you are watching. If you enjoy obscured, cult cinema, then El Topo is a film very well worth your time.
Super Reviewer
February 24, 2013
Though always intriguing and making use of stunning visuals and an evoking atmosphere, this esoteric Western of religious references is still an unripe Jodorowsky, clearly lacking in narrative structure before he started developing better his ideas in later works.
Super Reviewer
September 5, 2012
An unique western classic full of surrealist, violence and symbols. El Topo is a mistical work that tells the redemption of a gunslinger that look for perfection, but just find his ending. After this we met a different face of El Topo that, again bring he to his strange end.
Super Reviewer
January 11, 2008
This was Alejandro Jodorowsky's first recognised cult movie in the early seventies. Shot in Mexico, El Topo (or the mole in English) is a gunslinger (played by Jodorowsky), who, dressed completely in black leather, rides on his horse with his seven-year-old son through the desert; until they come across a massacre of people. One of the survivors tells El Topo who the culprits are, and he then takes on the guise of God and seeks revenge. There is a lot of surrealistic imagery from then on as Jodorowsky explores violence, racism and religious themes, but it is absorbing and the ending is very obscure. An easy candidate for a cult movie.
Super Reviewer
October 4, 2011
This has to be the most F_-_ Up Movie I have ever seen, What I thought was going to be a spaghetti Western turned out to be anything but. Those that called this a master piece, well I guess I would have a hard time understanding you. Don't think this ever hit the big screen in the US. I will give it 2 stars for each hour of my time it wasted.
Super Reviewer
½ August 5, 2007
A surreal and mystical western that depicts the journeys of a messianic gunfighter. A rare mix of Bu˝uel's satire and anti religious imagery and Peckinpah's ultra violent frontiere.
If it wasn't for Jodorowsky's pretentious guru crap he tries to profess in all of his films, it probably would have worked better.
Super Reviewer
½ February 22, 2009
leone meets bu˝uel
Super Reviewer
January 1, 2009
How does one describe El Topo, the original midnight movie? It's bizarre, it's over the top, it's as if Quentin Tarantino directed a Sergio Leone western.
Super Reviewer
½ December 23, 2008
A killer fights four mystical master gunfighters in the desert, then becomes a pacifist and helps freaks trapped in a cave to tunnel their way to a fascistic Western town. Jodorowsky's impossible to describe mix of spaghetti Western and art-house surrealism is jaw dropping, obscene, pretentious, and brilliantly inventive; whether you end of loving or hating it, it's a movie that demands to be seen once.
Super Reviewer
June 25, 2007
El Topo is probably one of the few films that truly embodies the term "cult movie". Hard to get for more than 30 years, almost to the point of making it a sort of urban legend, claimed to be adored by everyone from John Lennon to marketing tools like Marilyn Manson. El Topo ends up being, like many cult flicks, less of what you might think, and a lot more of what you didn't expected.

First of all, this is not a movie that can be easily pin to a single genre. While is mostly sold as a spaguetti western this is not your typical Leone-esque flick. The story is simplier from what many would think, the usual "lonely tough hero" following the usual path of the hero, falling from grace and then redemption. There is a lot of pseudo-spiritual and religious imagery and concepts all mix together that just don't stick well together. But i'll give credit to Jodorwsky for being quite creativy in terms of visuals, and for managing to give the usual "hero" arc story a viciously ironic twist.
Super Reviewer
½ July 24, 2007
Never exciting but often incredibly interesting. Jodorowsky truly has a knack for poetic language, and one can only wonder what he could have done with a big budget.

The sparse dialogue only increases the surreality of the film.The Spanish with English subtitles makes it all the more epic. The philosophic gems seem all the more rare and wise.
Super Reviewer
December 6, 2007
What a pretentious, narcissistic, masochistic piece of crap! I can't believe John Lennon thought so much of this, but that's what marrying a conceptual artist will do to you; I prefer the earlier Lennon, cynical of intellectuals, who once declared that 'avant garde' was French for bullshit. I can't recall ever being so disappointed by a film I've looked forward to seeing so much. It's not the impenetrability of it that I object to--indeed, if you accept in on its own surrealist terms it makes a reasonable amount of sense--so much as the vanity of its director, who casts himself as the messianic hero then wallows in his own suffering. The most disgusting aspect of this horrible film is its shameful parading of genuinely deformed and disfigured people, which is freakshow-ish exploitation that no amount of intellectualisation can disguise. "El Topo" is also frequently boring and at least half an hour overlong. The best thing I can find to say about it is that some of the Dali-esque desertscapes in the first half are stunningly beautiful.
Super Reviewer
½ May 20, 2007
I'm not going to say I liked El Topo, but I will say it kept me engaged.

Jodorowsky's film should be a rallying cry for film students. If this guy can get a film this crazy made, than anyone can get there personal vision up on the screen. You just have to want it as much as Alejandro did.
Super Reviewer
December 19, 2007
Probably the most important Mexican film ever and certainly the trippiest film I've ever seen.
Super Reviewer
½ June 11, 2007
El Topo could be re-titled Weird Western... Alejandro Jodorowsky directs and stars as "El Topo" a leather-clad gunfighter who crusades around the desert with his young son in tow, shooting up filthy bandits, rapists and murderers; but not finding any satisfaction in it all. He seeks out other quests to try and find himself and ends up changed forever. There are unexpected religious overtones which add a great flavor to the scenes and blows it out of the Western genre. Beautiful landscapes and music with off-kilter scenes and freaky actors make much of it hard to forget after viewing.
Super Reviewer
½ May 26, 2007
El Topo walks the very thin line between complete brilliance and utter bullshit. It's got enough going through its look to clearly state its status as art, but at the same time El Topo seems to constantly have it's hand a little bit more up the thigh just to see how much more it can get away with in the Pretentious Shock Value Department. El Topo is definitely out there but as it shows you how Out of the Box it can be you find yourself slowly but surely not giving a shit. It thrives on attention in the most obnoxious of ways and I often questioned how much more I could take. I was almost all the way there when a kickass ending blindsided me to the point where I was generally okay with this movie. Do not expect to see anything resembling anything you've seen in your life before and you should be okay. Prepare to be generally upset the first time you watch it.
Super Reviewer
½ March 29, 2008
[font=Century Gothic]"El Topo" is a supremely violent, sexual, and extravagantly visual religious allegory about the loss of innocence. At the start of the film, a gunfighter(Alejandro Jodorowsky, who also wrote and directed) is traveling with a young boy(Brontis Jodorowsky) who is naked(wrong on so many levels but not on all of them). He tells him to bury his first toy and a picture of his mother. They come across a town that is ruled over and ritually terrorized by The Colonel(David Silva). Following the form of a typical western, the gunfighter does battle, winning several duels and triumphing. It is only the beginning for him as he leaves the boy behind with some monks(clothing him in traditional robes) and takes The Colonel's concubine with him and christening her Mara(Mara Lorenzio).[/font]
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[font=Century Gothic]Before The Colonel dies, he claims to be god. On the figurative side of the equation, he did have the power of life and death over people. While on a literal side, the gunfighter moves on to the desert(remember what I said about deserts and religion), gaining mystical powers that help them to survive. Then, he has to face four different challenges...[/font]
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[font=Century Gothic]So, one god replaces another. Does this make the world a better place?[/font]
Ryan M
Super Reviewer
½ January 8, 2012
**** out of ****

After seeing but two of the four major works of surrealist cult filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky - "Santa Sangre" and "The Holy Mountain" - , I came to a sudden realization; there were still two more of the acclaimed director's films that I needed to tackle. One of those films is "El Topo"; a film that I have tried many times before to sit through; each time failing to succeed in doing so. What can I say; this is not an easy film. It doesn't follow a conventional narrative; it tells its story mostly through symbolism, grotesque imagery, and rare moments of spoken dialogue that never last for too long a time. Every instance where I had given the film a chance, I knew I was watching something, but the question still lingered: what? What was I watching? After borderline forcing myself into a much recommended mind-set; I finally sat down and tried my hand at finishing "El Topo", and found myself able to this time. Now, I find that my question has been answered.

The film begins with a sad - yet hopeful - scene in which a tough, violent gun-slinger dressed in black (none other than the titular character, El Topo, played by Jodorowsky himself) approaches the horizon of a long, winding dessert by horse; with only his young, naked son to accompany him. I suppose the sad part of the scene comes with the burial of the son's stuffed bear - along with his mother's photograph - in the sand; clearly some sort of metaphor for the transition from child to (young) man. The hopeful part, however, is that the journey has yet to begin.

Shortly after, the two come across a lonely town; in which all the people have been slaughtered and left for dead. El Topo demands to know the butcher behind the massacre; and gets his final answer from one of three goading bandits. The murderer is a man known only as The Colonel; a fat, balding leader to a group that accompanied him on his killing spree. El Topo is quick to kill the man, along with the other assistants in murder, and like always, he continues to ride on. But this time, he leaves his son with the monks - who were being held captive by the Colonel and his perpetrators - and takes the enemy's woman slave.

At this point, I suppose the grand journey has finally begun. The woman tells El Topo of four gunmen who he must defeat in order to become the greatest "warrior" in all the land. El Topo accepts the challenge out of honor and spirit; tracking down each gun master and successfully defeating every one of them in combat. Each one shares with El Topo a piece of their mind on the spiritual journey to enlightenment that he has mapped out for himself; he learns a lot from each encounter.

In all honest truth, "El Topo" is a difficult film to describe. It is, in theory, pure cinema; it is pretentious, it is bold, it takes risks seemingly impossible to overcome, and best of all, it comes from the mind of an undeniable intellectual. What I love about Jodorowsky is that he never forces his philosophies down our throats; you're either willing to see his movies through or not. Reading through some reviews in which differing opinions on the film are given, I see that not everyone adores the film and that's just fine. I don't imagine that Jodorowsky could have wanted it any other way.

Like the work of a great artist, "El Topo" cannot be fully understood unless you are, in fact, Jodorowsky. There's a handful of religious symbolism - many characters represent different religions of the world and the like - and I understand that those can be easily understood as well as you are well-read on such matters, but there are scenes of stunning beauty that clearly mean something; although it's as if they mean nothing to the viewer and everything to the maker. This angers people and it certainly angers me, but not to the point where I fail to recognize my un-ending admiration for this ambitious, intellectual work. I feel that "El Topo" is a great film not because of its ability to befuddle us; but for its many moments of unrelenting awe. This is, at the core, a violent Western with otherworldly sensibilities seldom found in any given Western. It is not a classic for its genre - because it does not have merely one - but it does stand out as one of the many great "weird works" of the 1970's.

However, I must caution certain viewers; if you have a weak stomach, or a faint heart - than perhaps you should steer clear of this film. In the journey ahead, there shall be castrations, corpses decayed by honey-bees, animal slaughter, and a whole lot of bullets. If you feel prepared for all the mentioned things - and even more - then you're also ready for "El Topo". Just go in knowing that it is a deeply-felt work of art; humanistic, spiritual, and completely relevant - whether its detractors decide to acknowledge that or not. Nevertheless, I think the fans have the upper hand; the advantage. Proof: the midnight showings at the IFC Center in New York City. It's not every day that a film finds an escape from obscurity and instead, a loyal fanbase. "El Topo" must be something really special; and much like the animal (the mole) that the title literally translates to, it's a film that will continue to dig until the end of time.
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