Though not as well-known as Pink Flamingos or Night Of The Living Dead—in part because it still awaits a proper video release—Alejandro Jodorowsky's El Topo deserves just as much credit for launching the midnight-movie movement of the '70s. A feverishly debated cult item first screened in late 1970, the western, spiritual allegory, and ultra-violent exploitation film presented a reckless collision of imagery and ideas that repulsed as often as it enthralled. If it looks a bit silly today, that may simply be the price it pays as a pure product of its time, the point at which hippie idealism began to curl into the cynically self-involved search for enlightenment. That said, it could only have come from Jodorowsky, an unabashedly eccentric renaissance man who never met a surreal image he didn't like, and whose abiding obsessions (mime, misogyny) run from his first film, 1967's Fando & Lis, through his late-'80s comeback Santa Sangre. Banned in Mexico after creating a scandal at the already tumultuous 1968 Acapulco Film Festival, and long thought lost, Fando & Lis has recently resurfaced on DVD, looking just as unmistakably like the work of its creator. Filmed on weekends using a one-page outline and the director's memory of his friend Fernando Arrabal's play, Fando & Lis concerns the attempts of a sideburn-equipped young man (Sergio Kleiner) and his paraplegic fiancée (Diana Mariscal) to find the mythical city of Tar. Along the way, they encounter a man playing a burning piano, Kleiner's dying mother, a woman with a whip, evil female bowlers, and other assorted oddities. Undisciplined but not without effective passages, Fando & Lis isn't for all audiences, a work of provocation as much as a work of art. Even those who view Jodorowsky only as a historical curiosity will have to admire this exemplary DVD, however. In addition to a beautifully clean print, it features an audio commentary from the quotable director—"For me, pornography was a big mystery, a magic mystery, a mystical mystery; all that enormous things who go inside that enormous hole"—and an informative if uninsightful feature-length documentary on Jodorowsky made for Swiss TV in 1994. Also included is a reproduction of a program (originally distributed at the film's premiere) which contains this Jodorowsky caveat: "The actors enduring a veritable 'Via Crucis' were stripped naked, tortured, and beaten. Artificial blood was never used." If only he were speaking figuratively.

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