La montaña sagrada starts in a mysterious room where a shaman figure known as the Alchemist undresses blond female twins, removes their false fingernails and jewelry and shaves their heads. From there, the movie gets really outré.
A scandal when first released, Jodorowsky’s movie is a dazzling, rambling, often incoherent satire on consumerism, militarism and the exploitation of third world cultures by the West. It unfurls like a hallucinogenic daydream, which is to be expected, considering that it’s the follow-up to Jodorowsky’s midnight movie El Topo.
The free-association narrative follows a Christ-like character, the Thief, first seen lying in a dusty street, covered with flies and marinating in his own urine. He is rescued (maybe resurrected) by a partial-limbed dwarf and a gang of naked boys, then wanders through the city observing the madness of modern life, including a massacre of protesters by riot soldiers (an event photographed by rich tourists) and a tribute to the Spanish conquest of Mexico, re-enacted by costumed lizards on a scale model of Aztec pyramids.
The second half finds the Thief joining a group of emblematic religious figures assembled by the Alchemist to attack the mountaintop fortress of society’s rulers, the Immortals. The mission ends with a postmodern punchline suggesting that movies are drugs too, and the revolution can’t happen until we kick our habits.
Matt Zoller Seitz, Modern Life, in All Its Mystery and Madness, “New York Times”, 18 April 2017
Of the firsts that La montaña sagrada can claim, the most ambitious was depicting the legend of alchemy for the first time in film history, with a narrative pretext and characters. In the past it had been portrayed in occult zoo-mythological forms, and in the film Jodorowsky demonstrates accurate knowledge of that symbolism, both in his choice of main characters and in the phases of their journey towards Enlightenment […] Positioned at the confluence of mythology and historical catastrophism, esoteric symbolism and artistic rubbings, between the magical realism of South American fiction (García Márquez and Loyola Brandão) and the oneiric quality of comics, La montaña sagrada is similar to the zodiac. As complete as it is, it contains such a diversity of signs that it hypnotises the viewer, like staring into a gleaming prism with a thousand rotating facets.
Massimo Monteleone, La talpa e la fenice. II cinema di Alejandro Jodorowsky, Granata Press. Bologna, 1993
Cast and Credits
F.: Rafael Corkidi. M.. Federico Landeros. Mus.: Don Cherry, Ronald Frangipane, Alejandro Jodorowsky. Int.: Horacio Salinas (il Ladro), Alejandro Jodorowsky (l’Alchimista), Zamira Saunders (l’assistente dell’Alchimista), Juan Ferrara (Fon), Adriana Page (Isla), Burt Kleiner (Klen), Valerie Jodorowsky (Sel), Nicky Nichols (Berg), Richard Rutowski (Axon), Luis Lomelí (Lut). Prod.: Roberto Viskin, Alejandro Jodorowsky per ABKCO Films, Inc. DCP. D.: 115’. Col.
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