Scen.: Alejandro Jodorowsky. F.: Rafael Corkidi. M.. Federico Landeros. Scgf.: José Durán. Mus.: Alejandro Jodorowsky, Nacho Méndez. Int.: Alejandro Jodorowsky (El Topo), Brontis Jodorowsky: Miguel (il figlio di El Topo da piccolo), Robert John (il figlio di El Topo da grande), Mara Lorenzio (Mara), Jacqueline Luis (la nana), Paula Romo (la donna in nero), David Silva (il colonnello). Prod.: Juan López Moctezuma, Moshe e Saúl Rosemberg, Roberto Viskin per Producciones Panicas. DCP. D.: 124’. Col.
A man in black rides the desert vastness of Mexico with a naked child in front of him on the saddle. Three hee-hawing gunmen appear from out of hiding, laughing that they have been sent to kill him. The man carefully places the child behind him on the saddle.
So opens Alejandro Jodorowsky’s El Topo (1970) […]. A lone rider confronted by gunmen is nothing new in the Western. A naked child is, and adds a queasy undertone of danger and transgression. Jodorowsky finds a way to evoke that uneasiness throughout the film, and all of his work. There is always something incongruous, something unexpected that does not belong. […]
In my review when the movie opened, I wrote: “Jodorowsky lifts his symbols and mythologies from everywhere: Christianity, Zen, discount-store black magic, you name it. He makes not the slightest attempt to use them so they sort out into a single logical significance. Instead, they’re employed in a shifting, prismatic way, casting their light on each other instead of on the film’s conclusion. The effect resembles Eliot’s The Waste Land, and especially Eliot’s notion of shoring up fragments of mythology against the ruins of the post-Christian era”.
I still agree with that and do not think the symbols add up to a conclusion. But now having seen more of Jodorowsky’s work, I think Jodorowsky’s method is not without a purpose. What is El Topo seeking in the desert? Why, he is seeking symbols, images, bizarre people and events, with which to fill the film.
The ceaseless shocking images on the screen, are what made El Topo an underground hit in one New York theater for months in 1970. Not the story, not the performances, not the stars (Jodorowsky himself plays El Topo and the child is his own son). The images. John Lennon and Yoko Ono saw it, loved it, and convinced Beatles manager Allen Klein to buy and release it. The film went on to play all over the world and engender countless interpretations. Jodorowsky encourages such speculation by titling sections of the film after books of the Bible (‘Psalms’), and making El Topo perhaps a Christ figure. […] The film exists as an unforgettable experience, but not as a comprehensible one.
Roger Ebert, El Topo, “Chicago Sun-Times”, 6 October 2004