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Review: The Holy Mountain

Ever since I experienced the glorious avant-garde weirdness of El Topo a few years back, I’ve been trying to see The Holy Mountain, director Alejandro Jodorowsky’s followup film—a major challenge, thanks to my busy schedule. Well, last night, I finally managed to catch a midnight screening at IFC Center, and…

…hell, how am I supposed to describe the indescribable?

I suppose I should start with what it’s about, which is actually surprisingly straightforward: it’s a scathing condemnation of the commercialization of religion and a meditation on the need to transcend money, materialism, and identity in order to attain spiritual enlightenment. The narrative is so heavily laden with symbols and psychedelic imagery, however, that it loops right back around and becomes sheer nonsense (one character has collected a thousand pairs of human testicles, for Pete’s sake; what do I do with that information?).

Which isn’t necessarily the most terrible flaw. When all is said and done, the movie remains a visual feast, with the surreal set designs and colorful costumes standing out in particular. In terms of its themes, though… while I agree with many of Jodorowsky’s political and philosophical arguments in theory, the idealized collectivist fantasy he concocts isn’t significantly different from the “traditional values” he’s criticizing; ultimately, it feels like just another sales pitch.

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