The Jodorowsky Collection
El Topo / The Holy Mountain / Fando & Lis

Starring: Alejandro Jodorowsky, Diana Mariscal and Sergio Kleiner
Tartan Video
RRP: £49.99
Certificate: 18
Available 14 May 2007

There are few who would disagree that Alejandro Jodorowsky (born 1929) is a restless soul. He has had his fingers in more creative mediums than I care mention here. Always innovative and possible a little mad - the planned sixteen hour version of Frank Herbert's Dune sounds great until you realise that there is a good chance that a proportion of your audience is likely to expire or at the very least wet themselves - he has produced graphic stories in the prestigious Metal Hurlant; engaged in mime with Marcel Marceau; and presided at Marilyn Manson's marriage to Dita Von Teese - now if that's not a full life, I don't know what is.

Depending on where in the world you mention his name the response will be varied, though in both the U.S.A. and Britain he is best known for his trippy, surrealist film making. Although his output has not been prodigious it has had some important influence on other film makers. Due to the extremes of opinion that his films usually generate, you will see him portrayed as both genius and fool, but then that's not such a bad thing. Jodorowsky made films without deference to anyone and this singular vision was always going to lead to controversy.

This box set is going to be a Jodorowsky fan's wet dream. Tartan has really pushed the boat out to make this six disc set a must have. Apart from the films El Topo, Holy Mountain and Fando & Lis, all lovingly restored, the set contains the soundtracks to the first two films. You also get La Constellation Jodorowsky, a ninety minute documentary. I am reliably informed, by the PR blurb, that purchasers of the box set will also get DVD notes written by Ben Cobb, who has written a book on Jodorowsky. If you don't fancy the whole six disc box set, El Topo and Holy Mountain are to be released as stand alone discs.

El Topo (1970) was really the film that gave Jodorowsky his reputation. It's most probably the nearest thing to a cinematic acid trip your likely to experience, which means that your either going to love it as a cult classic or stare at it in dumbfounded confusion. With hindsight, the mixture of imagery and philosophy most probably seemed more profound under the influence of mind altering substances, but whatever your personal view, nobody ever walked away from El Topo without forming a strong opinion. John Lennon so loved it that he not only championed its showing but also helped Jodorowsky make his next film.

To define what the film is about is a little more problematic. The main thrust of the film revolves around El Topo (the mole) who inhabits a mesmerising version of a spaghetti western. That said, you have to add generous layers of religious and mystical counter culture imagery, a few hundred buckets of blood, dwarfs, monks and the general detritus of a deranged mind. El Topo goes about engaging in quests in his ever present need to, like his namesake, dig his way through the world he finds himself in.

The film comes with a nice set of audio options; Spanish and English stereo with a Spanish 5.1 track and directors commentary. For extras the disc has a seven minute featurette, with Jodorowsky discussing El Topo, and the original theatrical trailer.

Holy Mountain (1973) was financed by John Lennon and Yoko Ono and if anything is even more extreme a product than El Topo. Once again narrative structure, character development and all the usual silly things that one may expect from a film are pretty much ignored in favour of philosophising and dense surrealism. There is a loose plot about a thief who joins forces with a group of the rich and powerful to travel to the holy mountain in search of the secret immortality, but like El Topo the narrative is secondary to the kaleidoscope of images and ideas, the maniacally whirling dancing veils of imagination.

The biggest problem with the film is that the overall effect is much the same as El Topo, great if you loved it, but just as impenetrable if you never understood the first film. The film comes with the option of either an English 5.1 or stereo track with a director's commentary. On the extras side, the film comes with a short piece about the films restoration; deleted scenes with commentary; the original theatrical trailer; and an eight minute piece on the tarot. Tarot is important to Jodorowsky, he can even be found in a café near where he lives reading the tarot for whom ever may ask.

The last feature in the set, and not released as a stand alone DVD, is Fando & Lis (1968). In this movie Fando and the partially paralysed Lis go off to find the fabled city of Tar. Yes, I know, even I think that looks like a no brainer when it's written down. Unlike the first two films Fando is in black and white. Also on the disc is La Cravatte (1957) which is a short mime film based on a work by Thomas Mann. The disc also contains a five minute film about La Cravatte's restoration and another detailing Fandos restoration. If that were not enough there is a director's commentary for Fando.

About the only thing you don't get with the box set is the necessary pharmacological products of dubious providence to put you back in the seventies. Marking the films was always going to be problematic, if your of a mind to think that Jodorowsky is a genius, and lets face it half the people do, then your not going to get much better than this box set. Of course if your not in that half these films are going to be heavy going.

Charles Packer

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