Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Blame It On John Lennon

One night in 1970 John Lennon arranged for a film called "El Topo" to be shown at a New York theatre. That showing was such a sensation that "El Topo" ran at that theatre for a solid year at midnight and became the start of the Midnight Movie genre.

Watching the movie thirty eight years later for the first time makes you wonder just what drugs those 70's hipsters were smoking. The movie's allegorical plot about a spiritual journey with various types of mysticism cited isn't that hard to follow. It's just that the picture plays out so ridiculously with endless treks through deserts, naked kids, circus acrobatics, dead rabbits and a million other bizarre things going on in such an over the top way it's nearly impossible to take the movie seriously.

It also doesn't help that most of the movie's weirder aspects have been seen in the intervening years in subgenres that either didn't exist or weren't accessible to American audiences back in 1970. Legless and armless fighters? Chinese martial arts movies. Incongruous objects buried in deserts? Spaghetti westerns. Take away the sense of surprise from this movie and you're left with a sense of being stuck in a loud and noisy looney bin.

I saw one of Alejandro Jodorowsky's later films, Sante Sangre, several years ago. It was out there too but genuinely moving. I realize the man has talent. El Topo, though, is wackjobbery that just leaves me cold.

No comments: