Like all self-proclaimed visionaries, Alejandro Jodorowsky once found himself in a bit of a pickle. How do you top El Topo, the 1970 spaghetti Western-cum-Gordian knot that established him as a master snake-oil salesman for the psychedelic age? After much transcendental meditation and rubbing of narcotized brain cells together, the filmmaker finally found his answer: Keep the concept of cinema as a one-stop head shop—only this time, start shoving once you reach the outer limits. Then, for good measure, add in Marxist mumbo-jumbo, amputees, hermaphrodites, astrology, cannibalism and chimpanzees; make the whole enchilada BYOC (Bring Your Own Coherence), and voil! You’re ready to blow some minds. Heavy, dude. Far fucking out.
A succs de scandale, if not d’estime, when it premiered at Cannes, The Holy Mountain is one of those films whose reputation as first-rate cosmic slop is beyond deserved. Pretentious doesn’t do it justice, especially once Jodorowsky (cast here as “the Alchemist.” Oooh!) revs up his messiah complex to the delusions-of-grandeur max. But seen today, you can appreciate his disastrous dementia as a perversely hilarious time capsule of every hippie-dippy philosophy sprung from too many tabs on the collective tongue. Not even Buuel with a brainful of Woodstock’s bad brown acid could have made something this gloriously screwy.