Sacrilegious Surrealism

The Holy Mountain is Alejandro Jodorowsky’s most notorious and provocative film. The surreal and deeply eccentric tale caused an uproar at the 1973 Cannes Film Festival with its sacrilegious imagery and shocking religious content. A Jesus-like character ventures through a series of grotesque scenarios laden with heavy symbolic weight, ending in a bizarre spiritual journey towards enlightenment.

The polarizing allegory incorporates Latin American history and religion in a bruising manner. The Holy Mountain can be read as a scathing attack on the Catholic Church, capitalism, politicians, and any number of other convenient targets prone to corruption. Jodorowsky’s social and political commentary is folded into several graphic set pieces. The extreme material is intended to produce outrage and provide ironic commentary.

Made in the freewheeling early Seventies after his success with El Topo, Jodorowsky took his psychedelic mastery up a notch for The Holy Mountain. He prepared by undergoing a pseudo-spiritual boot camp, including training in the mystical arts on LSD and rituals that included a week of sleep deprivation under the supervision of a Zen master.

The Holy Mountain is personal, indulgent filmmaking by Jodorowsky that feels like a bad acid trip

The main plot chronicles a quest for New Age enlightenment under the guidance of The Alchemist, played by Jodorowsky himself. The Alchemist assembles a diverse group of people representing each planet in the solar system. Going through bizarre mystical ceremonies, they leave their worldly baggage behind as they ascend the Holy Mountain to displace the gods who secretly rule the universe.

The Holy Mountain is personal, indulgent filmmaking by Jodorowsky that feels like a bad acid trip. Controversial content aside, there’s little dialogue. Jodorowsky lets his demented set pieces and blasphemous visuals carry the narrative. The garish storytelling starts dragging towards the final act, when many viewers will have grown tired of Jodorowsky’s increasingly tired tricks.

The surreal adventure isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. The Holy Mountain is what happens when an arthouse director gets a large budget and lets his imagination run wild without external pressures holding him back. Distasteful to many in the audience, Jodorowsky makes a personal statement on his beliefs, which makes for a memorably trippy movie. However, the hippie ethos and generally underwhelming narrative arc makes The Holy Mountain a partially failed experiment.

Video

The  Alejandro Jodorowsky: 4K Restoration Collection was restored by ABKCO Films and Arrow Films from the original camera negative under Jodorowsky’s own supervision. The included booklet details the exact nature of the new film transfer:

The original 35mm 2-perf Techniscope camera negative was scanned in 4K resolution at OCN Digital Labs, CT. The film was graded and restored at Silver Salt Restoration, London. The audio mixes were remastered from the original optical negatives at Deluxe Audio Services, Hollywood. Review screenings for approval were carried out at Eclair Labs, Paris.

Handled with best practices, it’s a strong effort that produces a striking film-like presentation at 1080P resolution. Showing marked improvement in color tonality and contrast over the old Starz BD, this is a substantial upgrade in picture quality. Grain reproduction is satisfactory and naturally replicated in the top-notch AVC encode. The elements are in fine condition, free of debris and other signs of film wear. The 1973 production isn’t tack-sharp yet has a pleasing clarity with solid black levels.

Audio

While I’m not sure a vintage production like The Holy Mountain absolutely requires a full 5.1 surround remix when the original audio was only in mono, a serviceable 5.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack works around the recording’s limitations. Newly remastered, a little more life and vitality can be heard from the dated audio recording.

The moody, occasionally dissonant score does most of the heavy lifting. Dialogue is fairly recessed and somewhat thin. Moderate dynamics and dubbed dialogue make for audio with limited impact. Minor atmospheric elements are shifted to the rear, largely bolstering the ominous chants and other strange instrumentals.

Optional English, Spanish, and French subtitles play in a white font inside the scope presentation. The original monaural soundtrack is included in 2.0 PCM.

Extras

Made in conjunction with Arrow Video and ABKCO, The Holy Mountain is reissued on Blu-ray as part of the Alejandro Jodorowsky Collection alongside Fando Y Lis (1967), El Topo (1970), and Psychomagic, A Healing Art (2019). Not to mention a previously unavailable short titled Le Cravate (1957) and CD soundtracks for both The Holy Mountain and El Topo.

This is a gorgeous box set outfitted with a fantastic 80-page book and full-sized, double-sided movie poster fold-out. Out of print for years, this new set blows the original Anchor Bay/Starz BD available for The Holy Mountain out of the water. The Blu-rays are coded for Regions A and B. Each movie is given its own white case with reversible artwork.

Filled with both archival and new special features, this is a packed-set that demystifies Jodorowsky’s films with informed insight. It features a book with photos and essays as well as newly filmed interviews with Jodorowsky and his long time personal assistant Pablo Leder. Jodorowsky’s son Brontis, who makes his acting debut as the young boy in  El Topo, is interviewed. In addition there are new introductions by Columbia University professor Richard Peña, a  mini-documentary narrated by Jodorowsky biographer Ben Cobb and more goodies.

Audio Commentary by Alejandro Jodorowsky – The director gives this commentary in Spanish with English subtitles provided. Lots of fascinating anecdotes from behind the scenes. Over 35 hours were filmed but much of it was lost and/or damaged. Jodorowsky breaks down the visuals, often explaining their symbology.

“Jodorowsky Remembers The Holy Mountain” 2019 Interview with Alejandro Jodorowsky (14:07 in HD)

An Introduction to “The Holy Mountain” by Richard Peña (10:51 in HD)

“Pablo Leder: Jodorowsky’s Right Hand Man” featurette (20:25 in HD)

“The A to Z Of The Holy Mountain” video essay by Ben Cobb (28:38 in HD)

Deleted Scenes With Commentary by Alejandro Jodorowsky (05:39 in HD)

“The Tarot” featurette (7:52 in HD)

Original Trailer (2:41 in HD)

Animated Script Gallery (4:06)

Image Galleries

– Production Stills

– Posters

– Set Panels

– Awards

– Papers and Ephemera

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

The Holy Mountain
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Alejandro Jodorowsky’s most garish and notorious film takes viewers on an uneven acid trip with New Age spirituality.

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