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The Valve - Closed For Renovation

Happy Trails to You

What’s an Encyclopedia These Days?

Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Intimate Enemies: What’s Opera, Doc?

Alphonso Lingis talks of various things, cameras and photos among them

Feynmann, John von Neumann, and Mental Models

Support Michael Sporn’s Film about Edgar Allen Poe

Philosophy, Ontics or Toothpaste for the Mind

Nazi Rules for Regulating Funk ‘n Freedom

The Early History of Modern Computing: A Brief Chronology

Computing Encounters Being, an Addendum

On the Origin of Objects (towards a philosophy of computation)

Symposium on Graeber’s Debt

The Nightmare of Digital Film Preservation

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Norma on Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

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William Ray on That Shakespeare Thing

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William Ray on That Shakespeare Thing

JoseAngel on That Shakespeare Thing

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Tuesday, July 05, 2011

El Topo

Posted by Bill Benzon on 07/05/11 at 05:57 AM

Ever see two hot chicks on horseback, in the middle of the desert, fight with bull whips? The winner licks blood off the back of the looser. Then they kiss.

Hot, hot, hot!

Followed by, still in the desert, a black crow on the back of a white rabbit, dead.

Whoa! mystical symbolism? An omen?

No, just plot furniture in El Topo (the mole), Alejandro Jodorowsky’s 1970 surreal spaghetti magical mystical western tour with blood and guts and deformed people and a gunslinger with slick black Jimi Morrison pants. Lots of sun and sand and sending the intellectual rubes up the flag pole.  With meaning.

Did I mention the two hot chicks? The four masters? And the umbrella over a naked boy on horseback behind the guy with the slick leather pants, his father.

Well, the boy grows up to be a priest, after the gunslinger deserts him for one of the hot chicks. The one he took from the colonel manqué he’d castrated. Whose men had massacred the village we saw at the beginning.

But why did black pants cover the third master with dead rabbits? White ones.

More furniture. And we’ve not even gotten to the second half of the movie. The part about the village of corrupt bourgeois who play Russian roulette in church and brand slaves. Hot, hot, hot. Leaves ugly scars.

Now black pants has a shaved head, no guns, and wears a brown robe of rough cloth. And does it with a midget. Tenderly. The son returns, vengefully. First in brown priest’s robes. Then in slick black gunfighter gear. Get it?

Villagers kill deformed people, who were liberated through the work of midget and brown robe the father. Brown robe kills villagers. Immolates self. Midget gives birth.

Rides off with infant and with gunfighter the son.

The end.

That was exciting stuff when I saw it back in, I guess, 1971 or 1972. I’d never seen anything like it. It was disgusting, but thrilling! My god it was a roller coaster ride of mystical meaning. I probably saw it twice.

Wikipedia tells me the film has tons of artsy fans: David Lynch, Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, Bob Dylan, Marilyn Manson, Peter Gabriel, and John Lennon. I can believe it. We’re all young once.

But it doesn’t hold up. John Emerson put it succinctly in a Facebook discussion: “Once your innocent vulgarity and stupidity is lost, it can never be restored, and one class of peak experience is inaccessible forever.” Yep.

Gimme Uma Thurman in Kill Bill, 1 & 2. She had a mystical sword forged just for her. She’s hot, hot, hot. And her daddy’s a Buddhist priest.

For realz.


I saw this in a movie theatre on 2nd Avenue in the East Village.  As the two girls were flourishing their knives at each other, a drunk in the audience shouted, “Bullshit.  Get your shit together.” I knew at once that the drunk knew too much about knife fighting and that, yes, the movie was pretentious, and set in a fantasy Mexico.

By on 07/05/11 at 09:51 AM | Permanent link to this comment

The looser?

Well, it sounds like at least your high opinion of this film puts you in good company....

By Shelley on 07/05/11 at 06:10 PM | Permanent link to this comment

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