It’s the grandaddy of all midnight movies, predating even Pink Flamingos (1972). Coming on the scene in the (literally) heady era of 1970 and endorsed by no less than John and Yoko, El Topo rode to cult fame on a combination of surrealism and shock-for-shock’s sake. Whatever else can be said about it, it survives 40 years later with both those things intact. That’s something of an accomplishment in and of itself.
This is not the first, nor even the second time I’ve written about El Topo. The earlier reviews can be found in the Xpress archives: http://www.mountainx.com/movies/review/el_topo and http://www.mountainx.com/movies/review/el_topo_re
This may, however, be the last time I do so, because another look at the film tends to confirm what I’ve long suspected—that the movie offers nothing new on subsequent viewings. I don’t believe there’s anything more to be gotten from the film on the fifth viewing than there was on the first. This isn’t necessarily a criticism, however, since there’s also nothing less to be gotten. It simply remains—as if it were trapped in amber—a weird, disturbing, fascinating experience. If there is any actual mystery at its center, it doesn’t seem to me that watching it again gets you any nearer to what it might be. If you’ve never seen it—and you have a taste for the cultish—then it’s probably an essential. What I would like to see myself is for some enterprising soul to dust off Jodorowsky’s Santa Sangre (1989) or The Rainbow Thief (1990) for reappraisal.