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Doogan's Views at The Digital Bits
page added: 5/30/07

Sittin' on a Dock (continued)

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Doogan's Views - Main Page

The Films of Alejandro Jodorowsky

The Films of Alejandro Jodorowsky
1957-1973 (2007) - Anchor Bay

And here it is at last... my personal holy grail film series on DVD where it belongs. I've been waiting for this box set for-ever. And it's finally here. Was it worth the wait? Abso-frickin-lutely. I'm one happy fanboy right now, let me tell you.

Alejandro Jodorowsky is an artist; an artist who has chosen film as one of his canvases. There aren't a whole lot of filmmakers I would lump into this category. I mean, there are plenty of great filmmakers whose work has become art through cinema, but there are many filmmakers who aren't filmmakers an all, simply artists who use celluloid as their medium.

Because of this, it's really hard to "review" Jodorowsky's work. The best I can do is implore you to experience his films for yourself. To that end, I will only guide you through this DVD set, and give you a tour of its contents. Here's a look at what this 6-disc box set includes...

La Cravate

La Cravate
1957 (2007) - Anchor Bay

First up, La Cravate is a short film very loosely based on the story The Transposed Heads by Thomas Mann, that shows Jodorowsky where he began as an artist - specifically, as a mime. This is a film version of a play he wrote previously, which shows a mild-mannered man (played by Jodorowsky himself) who goes to a special shop where you can get your head replaced with a new one. You would think there's more being said about the duality of mind and body with this concept, but in the end, I believe it was just a great concept for mime play, because you get to perform your body in different ways ("Hey look, I'm a burly thug now! Whoops, I'm back to being meek.")

Once thought to be lost, with hope of ever finding it long given up on, the negative of La Cravate was recently discovered. As a result, it now serves as a fun little stand-alone supplement to the other films in this set. It's an enjoyable curiosity piece, well worth checking out.

The DVD's video and audio quality is good, but it does betray signs of age and the film's lack of budget. Shot in 16mm with a Dolby Digital 2.0 mono score, the presentation here still does its job. There are no supplements.

Fando Y Lis

Fando Y Lis
1968 (2007) - Anchor Bay

Jodorowsky's feature length directorial debut is based on a play by fellow surrealist filmmaker Fernando Arrabal (you can read my review of Arrabal's Viva La Muerte here). Fando follows a pair of lovers (an impotent and passionately violent Fando and his paraplegic girlfriend Lis) on a journey through a symbolic wasteland, looking for a mythical city and then coming in contact with a cast of weird and wacky characters. The film is most noteworthy for causing a full scale riot at the 1968 Acapulco Film Festival, where it premiered. It's not an especially good film. Fando is heavy handed, clichéd and, in some cases, pointless. But it's certainly an interesting cinematic debut nonetheless.

Originally released by Fantoma a few years back, this version of Fando on DVD differs not a bit, including the original disc's lack of anamorphic enhancement. The video transfer still looks good, though. It's slightly improved over the original release, although I'm not sure if it's a new transfer or just a new digital remastering of the previous transfer. Sound is presented in Dolby Digital mono, in the original Spanish only.

The extras are ported over from the original DVD release, and include the heavily accented commentary with Jodorowsky, as well as the stellar feature length documentary La Constellation Jodorowsky which explores the man, his art, his friends and his failed attempt to bring us Frank Herbert's Dune (which makes this DVD well worth checking out all by itself).

El Topo

El Topo
1970 (2007) - Anchor Bay

Alright, so here's the first of the two films in this set that have me all excited. And you know what? I don't really want to say too much about the film, except that I'll go out on a limb and just tell you... you have to see El Topo; all of you who are reading this. It's important. It's a major milestone in cinema, and it should be part of every film lover's collection - both physical and mental. On the surface, El Topo is a surreal western. Except that it's not. Really, it's not. It's Jodorowsky's journey as an artist. It's a biography told in a genre.

We begin with him as a man, taking his son and making him throw away his childhood. He then goes on a journey where he first destroys the memory of his own father and then dedicates himself to learning about religion, spiritualism and mysticism. Along the way, he learns he has no respect for women, so much so that even his feminine side, when manifest, is no kinder. So he dedicates himself to his life, his art and a woman who needs him.

Once out in the world, giving of himself, he sees a world that is dirty, shallow and filled with religious contempt. And it's all too much.

El Topo is mesmerizing. It's just a wonderful piece of cinema. It's brain candy, yes... so don't expect a fun-filled romp. But if you love movies as art, and look for inspiration through the experience of handing yourself over to something, El Topo is one of the greatest ways to do so. I love this film.

El Topo is presented in its original full frame on disc, and it looks great. The colors are bright, the blacks are solid and the film overall looks leaps and bounds better than the pirated versions that have floated around on tape and disc for years. The sound is also quite good, given to us in Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 as well as an English dub in 2.0.

The extras are quite fun and very informative. The most important one is the commentary with Jodorowsky, where he breaks the film all down for you. There's philosophy, religious discussion, talk of the biographical elements he brought to the film - just about everything you need to know about the film and its wonderful history is here. Do yourself a favor: The minute you finish watching the film, turn right around and watch it again with Jodorowsky talking you through it. Also on board here is a short interview with Jodorowsky (shot recently). A lot of what he discusses in the commentary pops up here, but to see him saying it is a joy. I hope I get to meet this man someday. You'll also a find the original trailer and a very poorly executed interactive script and still library, that serve no useful purpose as you can't read anything and it zooms in and out of the images so you can't get any idea what you're looking at anyway. This is but a small strike against what is an otherwise great presentation.

Finally, fans will be pleased to learn that you also get the soundtrack CD for this film in the box set, packed separately in its own case.

The Holy Mountain

The Holy Mountain
1973 (2007) - Anchor Bay

As the other big title in this set, The Holy Mountain is a companion piece to El Topo, but has nothing really to do with the earlier film at all. Both are epic tales, both have more going on than meets the eye, and both are symbolic journeys. Holy Mountain is symbolically based in religious mythology, astrology and the tarot. Some of this is quite obvious (the Jesus stuff), while other things here will need to be explained a bit. But like El Topo, the best tour guide for the film is Jodorowsky himself, present in the form of another stupendous commentary track. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Though I love Holy Mountain, I'm not as big a fan of this film as I am of El Topo. Holy Mountain is a great piece of cinema, but it's a bit heavy handed in places and the acting is a bit stiff here and there. Still, you'll learn that's something Jodorowsky intended, as he has real people playing their types and not actors. You'll have to watch the film to understand what I'm talking about. Honestly, Holy Mountain is just one of those films where experiencing is much better than listening to some moron like me go on and on about it.

The video is presented in anamorphic widescreen and it looks wonderful. The sound is English in Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0. Extras begin with the above referenced commentary. Like El Topo, you really should watch the film once and then again with the commentary to get the full blown experience. There's also a short documentary of sorts about the tarot, narrated/explained by Jodorowsky, who is considered an expert in the field. You also get the film's trailer, a short restoration demonstration that's quite enlightening and another barely-functional script/stills waste of time (it's a shame, but shouldn't hurt your enjoyment of the disc any). Finally, like El Topo, you also get a separately packaged soundtrack CD for this film in the box set.

I said it before, and I'll say it again - do yourself a favor and just go pick The Films of Alejandro Jodorowsky up. So many people complain that there are no great films coming to DVD anymore, and yet here is a great example that proves that there's still plenty of gems left to release on disc. Now my only problem is, I have to figure out what my NEXT unreleased and most wanted grail title is...

Yeah, it's a tough job, but someone's gotta do it.

That's it for this time. Keep spinning those discs!

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Atlanta, GA 5/29/07

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