La Montaña sagrada (The Holy Mountain) (1973)
directed, written, staring: Alejandro Jodorowsky

We were bored, my boyfriend Den and I, sitting around the apartment one Friday night. We asked a few friends over, and started digging through old video tapes. "The Holy Mountain--what's that?" one friend asked.

"Um... you might not want to see it," Dennis said.

"Why not?"

The last time Den had seen it, he was very, very stoned--and the film he described sounded like an absolute nightmare. Exploding toads. Crucified Jesus. Plotless desert wandering. "And I think it was really long, too, but I don't know if that's just 'cause I was high."

"Well," I said, "we have to see this."

And so we descended into hell.

The Holy Mountain isn't like anything I've ever seen. The first half truly is a descent into hell--but then, that's Jodoworsky's point. We're introduced to a guy who looks like Christ but is called the Thief; he and his deformed midget friend (who saved him from being eaten by flies and bothered by children) head off to a Mexican city, where Thief comes into contact with various forms of surreal depravity--hookers (including one who falls in love with him and follows him around), glass-eyed old men hitting on children, political unrest, circuses with frogs and lizards battling as Spaniards vs. Aztecs (complete with the frogs and lizards being blown up), and a very strange group of men dressed as the Virgin Mary and some Roman centurions, who get the Thief drunk and use his body to make life-size statues of Jesus.

The Thief awakens, and goes on a rampage. Things basically get weirder and weirder until you just want to shut the tape off. The Thief stumbles upon a strange tower. A rope is lowered, and he climbs to the top, only to enter a strange chamber, where he meets the Alchemist/Cabbalist, played by Jodoworsky.

And then, suddenly, the movie starts to make sense. Which was one of the most startling things I've ever experienced.

First, we see a rather graphic display of the process of turning base matters into gold. (Yeah, you read that pipelink right--but it's all perfectly based on early-modern alchemical texts). The Alchemist invites the Thief and seven industrialists/politicians who represent both planets and sins. (The section on the industrialists is pretty typical late sixties/early seventies satire. Fun, but unsurprising, at least after that scene where the Thief eats Jesus' face.)

Now nine, the group travels across the sea to the island where the Holy Mountain lies. Their goal is to become immortal and replace the gods. Scream therapy and other silly new agey things go on, as well as hot cupping (some sort of heat therapy) and acupuncture. They're tempted by a resort where people eat, drink, have sex and do drugs, but they pass it up on their way to the mountain.

Finally, they ascend the mountain and see the table where the gods sit...

And I'm not telling you the rest.

The film is at least in part based on "The Ascent of Mt. Carmel" by St. John of the Cross and "Mt. Analogue" by Rene Daumal. I've not read either of these works, but they can't be anywhere near as surreal as this movie.

The next morning, we found out a friend who'd seen the movie with us was taken to the hospital with appendicitis. We facetiously blamed it on the movie.

Honestly? This is the weirdest, most disturbing thing I've ever seen. And I've watched G.G. Allin clown porn. ('Cause clown porn is more disturbing than G.G. Allin.)