“El Topo” – Connor Neste

El Topo is arguably the single most difficult I’ve ever tried to criticize. In a word, El Topo is excessive, as every element this film contains, it does so in copious amounts, and there’s always something new to find. In order to comment on El Topo, I’ve chosen to watch the trailer which is included on the DVD and comment on points of the narration, giving examples of the film and its many excesses. Doing this will allow me to make mention of certain points, without hopefully spoiling anything for someone who may decide to view it.

Narrator: “El Topo is not a religious film; it contains all religions.” This movie has more religious symbolism than any film I’ve seen in my life. It’s like a Dan Brown wet dream. The primary subtext in the film would be the analogue between El Topo (Alejandro Jodorowsky) and Jesus, but this could also be because it is the religion with which I am most familiar.

Narrator: “El Topo is bloody.” One of the first scenes in the film is the main character and a naked child riding into a town which has been slaughtered, animals gutted, and blood pooling in the street. Need I say more?

Narrator: “It is tender.” Not something you’d expect in a western, particularly with the amount of blood and violence involved, but this film possesses many different relationship types: Father-Son, Mother-Son, Husband-Wife, etc. All are viewed differently during the film’s different chapters, but there is most definitely a tenderness in their most loving portions.

Narrator: “It is sexual.” Lots and lots of sex. El Topo includes a very interesting rape scene in which the violators are portrayed with the background sound effects of roaring lions while they ravage the poor victim. Also, monks are stripped down by hooligans and ridden like ponies while they are spanked with cacti. Seriously.

Narrator: “El Topo is miraculous, and terrible.” The best and worst of humanity are portrayed in El Topo. The main character is initially portrayed as a plague or blight, leaving only death in his path. Later in the film, he’s the embodiment of a savior, doing his best to help people even at his own peril.

Narrator: “It’s funny.” I can’t believe I’m saying this, but the movie does have some serious LOL moments. The comedy act between the main character and his tiny companion is memorable.

Narrator: “It’s violent.” Gun fights, whip battles, barbed wire boxing, branding, Russian roulette, and even a few knife wounds — El Topo has all of these and more throughout!

Narrator: “El Topo is monstrous, and cruel.” An interesting note here is that you could use this description for both the movie El Topo, and the film’s main character, El Topo. Bodies are dragged through the streets, a child is accidentally shot in the head.

If I haven’t scared you off by now, then you should watch El Topo. Whereas many U.S. films have the problem of excessive dialogue, El Topo minimizes this and tells a story the same way that an artist does on canvas. The movie screams with WTF visuals and symbolism. I’m sure it has a plot, and I could probably explain what I found it to be, but then you’d have preconceived notions, and that’s the last thing El Topo deserves.

Rating: ★★★½

-Connor Neste

Connor is a shiftless buffoon with no real aim in life, so it only seemed natural he be attracted to movies. His love of the cinematic bizarre introduced him to A.J., and he’s been begging to get on the site since.

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