With El Topo, Alejandro Jodorowsky gave birth to the countercultural phenomenon of the Midnight Movie and carved out a place in history as one of cinema's most unique and visionary filmmakers, impressing John Lennon and Yoko Ono so much that they enthusiastically endorsed the film at one of its first New York screenings. Part Luis Bunuel, part Sergio Leone, this bizarre, ultra-violent Western features a brutal, black-clad gunslinger who, accompanied by his young son, sets off on a murderous mission to challenge four zen masters of gunfighting. When his mission is complete he then goes on a quest for peace and personal redemption, but finds that death is never far away.
On the truly positive side, the Mexican settings are wonderful. Maybe Jodorowsky should have made landscape documentaries.
There are also many moments of inspired, stoned humour and surreal imagery.
On the cheesy but amusing side there's lots of very fake gore and absurd jump cutting. Also a tinny and bombastic soundtrack that ramps up the melodrama.
On the negative side, there is an overwhelming sense of an egomaniac at work, a man with a Jesus complex spilling his half-baked ideas in a self-indulgent rampage. And the sexual politics are embarrassingly dated.