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Alejandro "Chuckles" Jodorowsky's reputation rests on the fact that for some time its been difficult to see his three best movies ("Fando & Lis", "El Topo" and "The Holy Mountain"), alongside the incidental bonus that there are some incredible sequences in these films. And as anyone with their head screwed on would expect, there is a strong element of charlatanism running thru the career of John Lennon's favourite director. "Chuckles" Jodorowsky started his cultural life as a student actor in his native Chile, and went on to establish both a theatre troop and a heavy duty rep. as a righteous thespian before 'throwing it all away' to go and study mime and organise happenings in Paris. The mime routines Chuckles developed proved influential, but his happenings involving "well built" topless "dolly birds" and live rock music are more to my taste; and among other things the whip wielding element of these art events appear to have been purloined by derivative but influential pop pickers like the Velvet Underground. Around this time Chuckles was also working alongside latter-day surrealist Fernando "Duckwalk" Arrabal (later 'immortalised' in Abba's 1976 chart topper "Fernando") and together they set up the Panic Movement because the bozos clustered around Andre Breton were aesthetically feeble petit-bourgeois plonkers. Jodorowsky eventually left the city of broken light bulbs and settled in Mexico. Back in The Americas Chuckles got a new theatre troop together and for several months performed "Duckwalk" Arrabal's play "Fando & Lis". When the production was closed due to public disinterest and a consequent lack of funds, the rich father of one of the aspirant actors Chuckles had in thespian training came up with the readies to make a film of the play.

Fando & Lis (1968)
"Fando & Lis" is Jodorowsky's best film. Shot in black and white, Fando pushes his crippled companion Lis on a cart as they search for the mythical city of Tar. Aside from flash backs to the unhappy early lives of the title characters, on the road Fando and Lis encounter orgies in mud pools, drag queens, corpses rising from graves, blood drinking vampires and bikini clad whip wielding "uber-chicks". The best of this flick's many good scenes is Fando and Lis indulging in a body painting session in a room filled with toy dolls; this harks back to the happenings Chuckles organised in Paris in the mid-sixties and also proved influential on "beneath the underground" film-makers such as notorious Neoist tENTATIVELY a cONVENIENCE, who rips the sequence off shamelessly in his excellent "fun guerrilla" short "Fucking @". There are even those who argue that "Fando & Lis" was a major influence on Antonioni's "Zabriskie Point", another road movie gone wrong. Allegedly when "Fando & Lis" was first shown at a Mexican film festival it caused a riot. Hard to believe now, but I guess it might have been possible in 1968. Less credibly, Jodorowsky couldn't resist a bit of carny showmanship by claiming every last piece of violence in "Fando & Lis" (including the blood drinking) is "real", ho ho! Still this is a great movie and a real slumber party somnambulist shot in the arm for sixties surrealist cinema, since "Fando & Lis" is essentially Luis Bunuel crossed with self-consciously low-brow trash aesthetics.

El Topo (1971)
Jodorowsky's 'break through' flick "El Topo" (The Mole) is a lot more problematic than "Fando & Lis". Basically a "pseudo-Zen Western" this was John Lennon's favourite film and one of the first "midnight movies" to break out from the art house and grab the attention of drug-fucked countercultural weirdos who didn't give a shit about art but loved exploitation schlock. Dressed in black leather, Jodorowsky plays self-obsessed loner The Mole - basically a fantasy version of Chuckles himself. "El Topo" opens with Jodorowsky forcing his naked son to bury toys and a photograph of his mother in the desert, so that he can become a 'man' just like his dad, ho ho! Father and naked son then ride into a village where there has been a massacre - there are bodies and ridiculous amounts of blood everywhere. After moving on to kill a character called The Colonel and some of his shoe fetish bandito cohorts who were responsible for the slaughter, The Mole leaves his still naked son with some monks (who put the kid in a robe) and rides off with a chick played by Mara Lorenzio. Chuckles is on a quest to achieve 'enlightenment' by out-gunning The Four Masters who reside in the desert. Master 1 is a blind Christ-like guru waited on by cripples; specifically a legless raspberry who perches on the shoulders of an armless ripple - watching the two of them climbing the ladder into Master 1's fortified den is seriously surreal. Master 1 believes he is immune to bullets, but Chuckles wipes him out. Master 2 is dressed in a ridiculous Russian fur hat and once again The Mole gets the better of him. Master 3 is a bunny rabbit freak, and he cops it too, as do the bunnies who start to drop dead the moment Chuckles approaches them. Master 4 is yet another Zen-style idiot but he commits suicide to prove that life means nothing to him, and to simultaneously undermine The Mole's quest. This is the turning point in the film, since having been foiled in his attempt to bump off the last Master, Chuckles finds himself stuck in a hole in the ground with a load of raspberries. After some pervy midget sex, the return of his first son, and the birth of a second, Chuckles blasts his way out and is blinded by his own enlightenment - just like the mole that seeks the sun is blinded by its light. And it all ends in Vietnam monk-style self-immolation. Groovy man, except this film like those that followed it is too long and I found myself feeling bored shitless towards the end. If this was cut down to around eighty minutes it would be a real corker since there are a bunch of great sequences, but as a two hour experience it flops (unless, as Lennon no doubt was, you happen to be on the "right" drugs). And making the whole thing even more problematic, Jodorowsky possibly provided the starting point for the ongoing and never proven rumours of South American "snuff" films (in which people were allegedly murdered on camera) with his publicity efforts for "El Topo". Jodorowsky has claimed that he "actually" and "4 real" raped actress Mara Lorenzio when filming a desert sex scene to achieve his "realist" effect. While the beginning of this sequence - in which The Mole rips Lorenzio's clothes off - appears vicious, there is no evidence of actual "hardcore" sex going on in the scene. Likewise since the actress has never confirmed this stupid macho claim or sued the director, we are probably safe assuming this is merely a pathetic and ill-considered attempt at hype on Jodorowsky's part.

Holy Mountain (1973)
Following on from the "underground" success of "El Topo", John Lennon convinced Beatles accountant Alan Klien to finance "Chuckles" Jodorowsky's next movie "The Holy Mountain", which is possibly the greatest 'drug' flick ever made. If you haven't seen "The Holy Mountain", imagine the result of giving a talented but self-indulgent skid row visionary a serious budget and a load of mescaline, then leaving them to their own devices to make a movie. The opening is great, it includes among other things real frogs dressed as Spanish conquistadors in miniature uniforms restaging the conquest of The Americas; and hundreds of actors done up as storm troopers marching past the main Catholic Cathedral in Mexico City with crucified skinned lambs held aloft on crosses. Like this is seriously nuts, but Chuckles then spoils it by introducing something that resembles a plot. Nine disciples journey to The Holy Mountain in their quest to discover the secret of immortality. After giving "The Holy Mountain" an underground release in the US, Alan Klien withdrew it, thereby ensuring "Chuckles" Jodorowsky's legendary reputation as a persecuted and censored "genius". "The Holy Mountain" remains jaw dropping simply because you cannot believe anyone (not even the Beatles' accountant) would have poured so much money into this surrealist freak show. You've seen a million things like this produced on poverty row budgets, but never before or since with such serious financial backing! "The Holy Mountain" is way too long but it still looks a lot better than much of the underground film-making it inspired including assorted Neoist shorts by Istvan Kantor starring himself as "Monty Cantsin". Rumour has it that "Chuckles" Jodorowsky and Alan Klien have overcome their differences and both "El Topo" and "The Holy Mountain" may be re-released in their pristine glory shortly.

Santa Sangre (1989)
The only other "Chuckles" Jodorowsky movie worth talking about is "Santa Sangre" (Holy Blood) which was financed by gallio director Dario Argento's brother Claudio Argento. As you'd expect from a union of the Argento family and "Chuckles" Jodorowsky, "Santa Sangre" features armless raspberries and women being butchered with knives; while Jodorowsky's long established obsession with depicting and "overcoming" so called "Oedipal" fantasies rages completely out of control. The opening circus sequences aren't bad but once again this movie is far too long, and there is nothing here to compete with the best scenes in "El Topo" or "The Holy Mountain", let alone "Fando & Lis".

The Jodorowsky Constellation (1994 French TV documentary)
Both the Anchor Bay two disk DVD release of "Santa Sangre" and Fantoma issue of "Fando & Lis" include on their extras a 1994 French TV documentary entitled "The Jodorowsky Constellation". This includes some groovy footage of Jodorowsky's mid-sixties happenings alongside clips from "El Topo" and "The Holy Mountain". It also shows Chuckles at work as a Tarot card reader and 'psychic' 'healer'; here he uses leading questions to fool those who are determined to be fooled into believing he has "special" powers - whereas his real talent mainly lies in the bullshitting department. Jodorowsky clearly uses his experience as a director and actor to do this, and is instantly identifiable as a charlatan by any objective standard. But since all artists are essentially con artists, this only adds to my enjoyment of Jodorowsky's better films, while simultaneously reinforcing my conviction that anyone who puts their faith in this all to obvious fake as a 'psychic' 'healer' is clearly a complete flake. And like most of Jodorowsky's movies, this documentary about 'the man' is also way too long.

Sleaze cinema (reviews of cult movies)

From London In The Raw to Strip (sexploitation)

Last Cannibal On Skid Row (experimental cinema goes digital)

Shamen Of Discontent (TV films of Iain Sinclair and Chris Petit)

Sweet Sweetback ’s Baadasssss Song

Weird World Of LSD



El Topo movie poster

El Topo movie poster

Fando and Lis movie poster

Santa Sangre DVD cover

The Holy Mountain DVD cover

Stewart Home with his Barbie dolls
Watching too much trash cinema as a young man led to Stewart Home doing 'unspeakable' things with Barbie dolls - here he is in a threesome with two of the dolls he kidnapped from a thrift store.

The reviews here were written before Tartan Films UK announced they would be releasing "Fando y Lis", "El Topo" and "The Holy Mountain" as part of a 6 disk box set on 14 May 2007. This package includes a ridiculous number of bonus features; but the US box set from Anchor Bay announced at more or less the same time appears to me to provide much better value.