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Film / El Topo

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"I am laid low in the dust of death."

The desert is a circle. To find them, we must travel in a spiral.
El Topo

El Topo is a 1970 Spanish-language acid Western film written, directed by and starring Alejandro Jodorowsky. It combines the violence and gunplay traditionally associated with the Western with Jodorowsky's obsession with mysticism and the occult. It's also intended to evoke a similar reaction to a psychedelic experience (Jodorowsky occasionally fed acid to his actors before filming), so that may explain some of the odder elements in the plot.

The movie is divided in three parts. During the first part, a gunslinger known as El Topo (who travels with his naked 7 year old son) murders a group of bandits in revenge for the massacre of an entire village. The bandits are strangely dressed, degenerate and led by a fat, balding Colonel. In the process, he liberates a woman he calls Mara (who the bandit leader was using as a slave). El Topo falls in love with Mara and rides off with her, abandoning his son at the monastery the bandits had occupied.

In the second part, Mara convinces El Topo that before she can love him he will need to be the best gunfighter in the world. In order to do so, he needs to find and kill four Great Masters who live in the desert. With the aid of a semi topless woman who speaks with a man's voice (see above re: LSD) El Topo tracks down the four Masters and kills them all by means of tricks. Once he has killed them all, the mysterious woman shoots him, seduces Mara, and leaves him to die.

The third part begins with El Topo awaking in an underground cavern filled with deformed people, who believe he is some kind of god. He discovers they're trapped in the cavern, and their deformities are the result of inbreeding. After sucking on a psychedelic beetle (see above re: the LSD, again) and undergoing a symbolic rebirth (ummm... never mind, you probably get it by now) El Topo volunteers to dig a tunnel out of the mountain and in the process falls in love with a dwarf girl and destroys America, or at least Capitalist Amerika.

Yup. Acid.

The film provides examples of:

  • Bilingual Bonus: Desconocida means "Unknown".
    • El Topo means "The Mole".
  • Corrupt Church: The Church of the All-Seeing Eye in the third part. In one instance, the head priest loads a revolver with a blank round and claims that Divine intervention will protect the shooter; the priest's cynical assistant, El Topo's son, switches the blank for a live round. It doesn't end well.
  • Crucified Hero Shot: El Topo at the end of part two, complete with stigmata in his hands, feet, and side.
  • Gainax Ending: After finally freeing the trapped lepers from the mountain, the townspeople respond by massacring them. In a rage El Topo charges at them, and despite being hit with heavy gunfire he scares the townspeople away and in a dying act, immolates himself.
  • Gorn: Lordy, look no further than the opening of our hero stumbling on the slaughtered villagers.
  • Groin Attack: When El Topo castrates the Colonel!
  • The Gunslinger: El Topo and the four great gun masters.
  • Heroic BSoD: El Topo has one after he kills the gun masters and his girlfriend leaves him for another woman.
  • Immune to Bullets: The first great gun master.
    • And El Topo by the end, as the bees on his grave would imply.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Have you tried to shoot a crow in the heart?
  • Lady Macbeth: Mara turns out to be this, as she urges El Topo to go on killing even as the emotional toll it's taking on him becomes obvious.
  • Left for Dead: Desconocida shoots El Topo and leaves him for dead in the desert and the end of part 2.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: The priest's protege is El Topo's son.
  • Mind Screw: NOBODY can understand it.
    • Mind Screwdriver: ... and then the DVD with the Director's commentary came out.
  • Oh, Crap!: The second desert master's expression when he realizes he's been outwitted by El Topo. Though it's more of an exasperated version.
  • Platonic Cave: A very literal approach to this trope with the third part of the film.
  • Pre Ass Kicking One Liner: Colonel: "I don’t even know who you are?!" El Topo: "I am GOD!" This is followed by the Colonel being castrated by our hero.