El Topo (1970)

Where does one begin when talking about a movie like El Topo?

I think that Ebert’s post about the movie sums things up quite well. If you have to ask, ‘What does it mean?’ it probably doesn’t mean anything. I am paraphrasing, of course, but I want more than anything to convey the fact that I will not be discussing what could have been meant or what the deeper undertones of the movie were. I want to talk about the movie. Pure and Simple.

El Topo is always described as a western. This is true, but not totally accurate. Why is it that western movies always ring about old men looking to seek vengeance or saving horses or cattle. If you tell me that El Topo is a western, I will not watch it. If you tell me it is a surrealist period piece, I will watch it.

Consequentially, I feel that most westerns should be referred to as Period Pieces and not westerns, barring they don’t violate some conventional cliche fundamentally prescribed to the Western Genera. But, as a whole, Period Piece that takes Place in the West just sounds like it is going to be a much deeper, richer plot than cheap pulp styling that the term ‘Western’ has come to envelop.

The movie stars out with a long shot of a man in black riding a horse in the desert with a nude child riding at his back.

So, already, you think to your self, ‘What am I watching?’ and you know that, good or bad, this movie is going to be something like you’ve never seen. They continue to ride the horse to a cross planted firmly in the ground. They dismount and approach the cross. The Man in black places a photo next to the cross and begins to speak to the boy, who we find out is his son and the cross is the simple marker for the place where his wife, the mother of the nude boy, is buried.

So begins our Surrealist Epic/Period Piece…

Along the way, El Topo is faced with challenges and has to redeem him self for the sins, real or perceived, before his life is complete.

The movie is part freak show, part horror show, part spectacle. It isn’t clear exactly what is happening, it just is happening. The movie begs to be watched over and over again. The movie has a clear plot, but motives are unclear. I dont know what he was trying to make, but he made something beautiful.

This is a film that anyone who is interested in film should watch, if only for historical / educational point of view. However, it is moving and interesting and beautiful all at once. An intensely stirring film.

Watch it.

*******************BEFORE EDIT*******************

I have had a draft of a review for Persona i have been working on for almost a month. I am afraid that it will take me as long to write about this movie.

Firstly, I am surprised that I have never seen it. A movie like this, I wonder why I was never told about it until I was over 30. This seems to be a movie that I would have watched repeatedly and worn out the VHS copy like I did with my first copy of RHPS.


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