The Old and New Testament scrambled as a most sustained 'shroom hallucination, one sight at a time out of Alejandro Jodorowsky's bottomless tank. The Thief (Horácio Salinas) lies with flies on his face, then awakens tied to a cross; he tokes reefers and heads down to the local Sodom, bovine carcasses are crucified while public massacres are applauded, it is a bestial world out there. The conquest of the New World is enacted by the Great Toad & Chameleon Circus, obese centurions hawk religious paraphernalia on the streets; the protagonist's likeness to Jesus is noted by a gang of Mary Magdalenes (plus a chimp), and also by idol makers, who use his form to churn out a roomful of Christ effigies -- dialogue is garbled to stay out of the way of the acid images, but the Thief's scream is clear enough to impel the story toward its next stage. Jodorowsky is at the center of the apparitions, a ringmaster-guru (or, why not, God) up in the tower where the hero gets a sauna and, as an epiphany and Zen prank, witnesses his shit turn to gold. The tower, surveyed from an overhead geometric angle, is a Dali museum, the picture is a scattered deck of tarot cards, and Jodorowsky's send-up of group therapy is a procession of guffawing symbols not easily forgotten: an armless dwarf in military helmet kicks a mannequin, a hippie-chick strokes HAL's crank until the computer ejaculates a bouncing robot-baby, birds flutter out of bullet wounds, et al. The Thief and a batch of disciples (each with their own wacky digression) yearn for immortality, so Master Jodorowsky leads them to the Holy Mountain, a place for truth amid ersatz idols, body parts, selves. Or is it? The El Topo maestro has an impish view of enlightenment, and, after stringing the characters through a Mt. Everest of obscurantism, capriciously trades "you will know nothingness, it's the only reality" for "search eternity through love." The shaggy meta-joke at the end crumbles his own portentous edifice, illuminates the miracles of his camera, and sends a laugh from The Last Movie rippling to A Taste of Cherry. With Zamira Saunders, Juan Ferrara, and Valerie Jodorowsky.
--- Fernando F. Croce