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- Published on Amazon.com
By its very nature, art is subjective. What seems like art to one person may just be drivel to another. The inherent difficulty in defining art makes it easy to hide behind it as a label for almost any act of real or faked creativity. Which makes judgment of the DVD boxed set, The Films of Alejandro Jodorowsky, complicated. Is Jodorowsky a true cinematic artist, or is he just a producer of New-Age-ish gobbledygook? Opinions vary.
The most prominent of Jodorowsky's movies is El Topo (Spanish for "The Mole") which at least initially has the look of a Spaghetti Western. A man-in-black gunfighter travels by horse with his naked son. (Why is he naked? There may be a symbolic reason, but don't look for much in the way of literal explanations in Jodorowsky's works.) The gunfighter comes across a massacre and deals with the killers, and takes a lover who provokes him to take on the four Master Gunfighters, a challenge that will lead to unintended consequences. Among the three movies in the set, El Topo is the most easily accessible for the casual viewer, but it is also more than a little weird: one master gunfighter is blind and attended to by two men, one armless and one legless who together act as one person (in fact, Jodorowsky has many "freaks" in his films, and like his predecessor Tod Browning, typically views them as people of virtue); another gunfighter lives in a secluded, incestuous relationship with his mother.
Made prior to El Topo is Fando y Lis, a tale of a couple who are on a journey to a mystical holy city called Tar. Fando is a man tormented by what is probably sexual impotence and takes out his rage with various cruelties to his girlfriend, the paraplegic Lis. Their journey is akin to a trip through hell as they wander a blighted landscape and encounter various madmen and villains. The farther they go, the meaner Fando gets; in a way, it is the typical abuser-abusee relationship with him apologetic for his sins and her taking his abuse because she's utterly dependent on him.
Strangest of all the movies is The Holy Mountain, a strange mix of various religious and pseudoscientific (like astrology, tarot and alchemy) ideas. A thief who is also a Christ-like figure wanders a city and eventually comes into the lair of an alchemist who offers enlightenment. The thief will join a band of other people (each representing a different planet) on an excursion to The Holy Mountain where immortality awaits.
There are some themes that run through these three movies, particularly the search for spiritual enlightenment. The outsiders in society - such as freaks and prostitutes - are generally forces of good, while establishment figures - especially the idle rich - are monsters. But generally, the movies are so abstract that each person will get his or her own meaning out of it.
In addition to the three movies, the set does have a lot of extras, including commentaries, trailers, two soundtrack CDs (for El Topo and The Holy Mountain), a short film, La Cravate which is Jodorowsky's first work (and which, though strange, is also rather straightforward) and a documentary La Constellation - Jodorowsky, which adoringly treats the director as something of a modern guru.
These films are not for everyone. If you find David Lynch too odd for your tastes, than you should skip Jodorowsky. Also, although these films are unrated, it is safe to say that if they were, they'd likely be NC-17, so they are not family films. Personally, I liked the films, though I agree with one critic who pointed out more-or-less that just because something is beyond comprehension doesn't make it profound. I found the best way to enjoy these movies is to not try and make sense of them and just take pleasure in the visual spectacle and sheer bizarreness of them. And visually, these are fantastic movies unlike anything else out there.