DNDF: Dogs and Gods

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Saturday, November 9, 2013

DNDF: Dogs and Gods

Alejandro Jodorowsky (born 17 February 1929) is a Chilean-French filmmaker, playwright, actor, author, musician, comics writer and spiritual guru.  Best known for his avant-garde films, he has been "venerated by cult cinema-enthusiasts" for his work which "is filled with violently surreal images and a hybrid blend of mysticism and religious provocation."

In 1967 he directed his first feature film, the surrealist Fando y Lis, which caused a huge scandal in Mexico, eventually being banned.  His next film, the acid western El Topo (1970), became a hit on the midnight movie circuit in the United States, considered as the first-ever midnight cult film, leading rockstar John Lennon to provide Jodorowsky with $1 million to finance his next film.  The result was The Holy Mountain (1973), a surrealist exploration of western esotericism.  Disagreements with the film's distributor Allen Klein, however, led to both The Holy Mountain and El Topo failing to gain widespread distribution, although both became classics on the underground film circuit.

After a botched attempt at filming Frank Herbert's novel Dune, Jodorowsky produced three more films, the family film Tusk (1980), the surrealist horror Santa Sangre (1989) and the failed blockbuster The Rainbow Thief (1990).  We will focus tonight on the incredibly strange “The Holy Mountain” and a film that dared to attempt a sort of remake of our ‘A’ movie, a movie that makes the original seem logical and boring.  I should state that we are going to deal with VERY adult subjects here so, you have been warned.  NSFW people.

 

The Holy Mountain (1973)

  • Original Title: La montaña sagrada
  • Genre: Drama
  • Directed: Alejandro Jodorowsky
  • Produced:
    • Alejandro Jodorowsky 
    • Roberto Viskin 
    • Allen Klein 
    • Robert Taicher
  • Written: Alejandro Jodorowsky
  • Starring: Alejandro Jodorowsky, Horacio Salinas, Zamira Saunders
  • Music:
    • Don Cherry 
    • Ronald Frangipane 
    • Alejandro Jodorowsky
  • Cinematography: Rafael Corkidi
  • Editing:
    • Alejandro Jodorowsky 
    • Federico Landeros
  • Studio: ABKCO Music and Records
  • Distributed: ABKCO Music and Records
  • Rated:
  • Release Date:
    • 11 July 1975 (Mexico) 
    • 27 November 1973 (US)
  • Running Time: 114 minutes
  • Country:
    • Mexico 
    • United States
  • Language:
    • English 
    • Spanish 
    • Dutch

The film is based on Ascent of Mount Carmel by Saint John of the Cross and Mount Analogue by René Daumal, who was a student of George Gurdjieff.  In this film, much of Jodorowsky's visually psychedelic story follows the metaphysical thrust of Mount Analogue.  This is revealed in such events as the climb to the alchemist, the assembly of individuals with specific skills, the discovery of the mountain that unites Heaven and Earth "that cannot not exist", and symbolic challenges along the mountain ascent.  Daumal died before finishing his allegorical novel, and Jodorowsky's improvised ending provides a way of completing the work (both symbolically and otherwise).

The central members of the cast were said to have spent three months doing various spiritual exercises guided by Oscar Ichazo of the Arica Institute.  The Arica training features Zen, Sufi and yoga exercises along with eclectic concepts drawn from the Kabala, the I Ching and the teachings of George Gurdjieff.  After the training, the group lived for one month communally in Jodorowsky's home before production.  Jodorowsky was also instructed by Ichazo to take LSD for the purpose of spiritual exploration.  He also administered psilocybin mushrooms to his actors during the shooting of the death-rebirth scene.

A man (later identified as a thief) representing The Fool, a Tarot card typically depicting a young man stepping off a cliff, lies on the ground with flies covering his face like excrement.  He is befriended by a footless, handless dwarf (representing the five of swords: defeat) and goes into a city to make money from tourists.  The thief's resemblance to Jesus Christ inspires some to use his likeness for the crucifixes that they sell by casting an impression of his face and body.  After a dispute with a priest who rejects the thief's likeness of himself, the thief eats off the face of his wax statue and sends it skyward with balloons, symbolically eating the body of Christ and offering "himself" up to Heaven.  Soon after, he notices a crowd gathered around a large tower, where a large hook with a bag of gold has been sent down in exchange for food.  The thief, wishing to find the source of the gold, ascends the tower, finding the alchemist (played by Jodorowsky) and his silent female assistant.

After a confrontation with the alchemist, the thief defecates into a container.  The excrement is transformed into gold by the alchemist, who proclaims: "You are excrement.  You can change yourself into gold".  The thief accepts the gold, but when shown himself in a mirror he angrily smashes the mirror with the gold, and the alchemist takes the thief as an apprentice.

The thief is introduced to seven people who will accompany him on his journey; they are said to be the most powerful but mortal, like himself.  They are related to planets in astrological terms and portrayed with broad-brush satire, each personifying the worst aspects of his or her planet's supposed characteristics.  The seven consist of: a cosmetics manufacturer (male, Venus), a weapons manufacturer (female, Mars), a millionaire art dealer (male, Jupiter), a war toy maker (female, Saturn), a political financial adviser (male, Uranus), a police chief (male, Neptune) and an architect (male, Pluto).  They are gathered together by the alchemist who instructs them to burn their money and wax images of themselves.  Together with the alchemist, the thief and the alchemist's assistant, they form a group of ten.

After several scenes wherein the characters are led by the alchemist through several death/rebirth rituals, they carry staffs topped with their planets' symbols; the alchemist's symbol is the Sun, the thief's is the Moon and the alchemist's silent assistant is Mercury.  They all journey to Lotus Island to gain the secret of immortality from nine immortal masters who live on a holy mountain.  Once on Lotus Island they are sidetracked by the "Pantheon Bar", a cemetery party where people have abandoned their quest for the holy mountain and instead engage in drugs, poetry or acts of physical prowess.  Leaving the bar behind, they ascend the mountain and each have personal symbolic visions representing each character's worst fears and obsessions.  Near the top, the thief is sent back to his "people" along with a young prostitute and an ape who has followed him to the mountain.  The rest confront the cloaked immortals, who are shown to be only faceless dummies.  The alchemist then breaks the fourth wall and reveals the film apparatus just outside the frame (cameras, microphone, lights and crew) and says "Zoom back camera!", instructing everyone, including the audience of the film, to leave the holy mountain.  "Real life awaits us", he says, and the film ends.

 

Doggiewoggiez! Poochiewoochiez! (2012)

  • Genre: Comedy
  • Directed: Everything Is Terrible
  • Produced:
    • Commodore Gilgamesh 
    • Ghoul Skool
  • Written: I guess it would be Alejandro Jodorowsky
  • Starring: No Actors
  • Music: Unknown
  • Cinematography: Unknown
  • Editing: Unknown
  • Studio: Everything is Terrible
  • Distributed: Self Distributed
  • Rated: NR
  • Release Date: 27 January 2012
  • Running Time: 55 minutes
  • Country: United States
  • Language: English

Those crazed VHS-hunting pupz from Everything Is Terrible! are back with their third inner-eye-opening feature, containing a feat never before attempted in either human or canine history.  EIT! asks but two simple questions, “What if we make a movie composed ENTIRELY out of dog-related found footage?” and ‘'What if this magical movie, made up of thousands of other dog movies, is also a remake of Alejandro Jodorowsky’s 1973 masterpiece The Holy Mountain?”  Well, let’s stop asking dumb rhetorical questions because this never-ending spiral of World-Pup winning, sunglasses-wearing, murder-solving, skateboarding pooches is real!  No Bonez about it, this is it!  Are you dog enough to go fetch it? ARFFFFFF!

I will leave it to the reviews on Letterboxd to paint the picture:

Oh my god they're actually doing this.......there are only dogs......
dogs everywhere.......getting massages.......having sex........dogs barking........THE BARKING THE BARKING MAKE IT STOP!!!!!!.........
my mind is going.......must.......keep........watching.........no.......stop
........WHY DOES THIS EXIST??.........more BARKING WOOF WOOF DOGGIES!!!........THIS IS THE BEST FILM EVER MADE............
OR NOT.............IT IS SCHRODINGERS DOG!..........bad/good/bad/good/bad/good............
good doggie............bad doggie............ZARDOZ!! ZARDOZ!!!............
I'm drooling............The whales are dancing on the sofa! Avast! Avast! Get me my vest! It is lumbering in the forests of the physical meme! The plankton of my soul has solidified in the edifying mess that are my pants!............WOOF............Fetch me my slippers!............and
BARK INTO THE NIGHT!!............ham'

Simultaneously confounding, hilarious and terrifying.  Akin to an enjoyable, feverish, nightmare.


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