Santa Sangre is a bonkers
Re-released this week,
Santa Sangre is a bonkers, absolutely stunning, work of demented genius that
could only have escaped from the mind of Alejandro Jodorowsky!
Even when it was first released back in 1989, it was a throwback to a
type of filmmaking that simply didn’t exist anymore; the bold, intense,
kaleidoscopic, excessive vision of a true avant-garde artist. Over twenty years later, at the end of
a Summer that’s seen the cinematic wasteland littered with such soulless,
anaemic failures of wit, imagination and intelligence like Dark Shadows, Prometheus, Battleship and the Total Recall remake, seeing Santa
Sangre is an experience as alien as stumbling across a crashed flying
saucer while walking in the woods.
They just don’t make ‘em like this anymore.
Fenix (the director’s younger son Adan
Jodorowsky) is a child magician in a Mexican circus run by his father,
hypnotist and knife-thrower Orgo (Guy
Stockwell), and trapeze artist mother, Concha (Bianca Guerra). Mom’s
also a mystic and the leader of a religious cult which worships as a saint a
little girl who was raped and had her arms cut off by her attackers. Fenix’s best friend is Alma (Faviola Elenka Tapia) a young deaf girl
who is a tightrope worker and daughter of the carnival’s Tattooed Woman (Thelma Tixou). When Concha sees Orgo cheating on her
with the Tattooed Woman she sets in motion a terrible cycle of violence. She mutilates his genitals with acid
and, like her idol, he cuts off her arms before committing suicide by slitting
his own throat.
Years later, a mute, naked man sitting in a tree in a Bedlam-esque
asylum for the disabled and the insane is revealed to be the adult Fenix
(Jodorowsky’s elder son Axel). When his mother visits him in the night
and he discovers the Tattooed Woman is now a prostitute who is forcing the
adult Alma (Sabrina Dennison) into
the sex trade. Escaping the
asylum, determined to save Alma, Fenix and his mother form a new mime act where
he inserts his arm through her sleeves and they perform acts of mimicry. However, it becomes clear that Concha
is able to actually control Fenix’s arms and is soon using him to kill any
woman she sees as a threat to their special mother-son bond…
The Chilean-French son of Jewish Ukrainian parents, Jodorowsky is a
filmmaker, actor, author, comic book writer and mystic perhaps best known for
films like the acid Western El Topo
and the hallucinatory The Holy Mountain
as well as his abortive ‘70s attempt to adapt Frank Herbert’s Dune to the screen, a project which saw him
collaborate with Pink Floyd, French
comic artist Moebius, HR Giger, Orson
Welles and, reportedly demanding a fee of $100,000 an hour, Salvador Dali.
Surreal, unsettling and, at times downright, terrifying, Santa Sangre is possibly the most
accessible of Jodorowsky’s output.
No mean feat for a film that’s filled to bursting with surreal religious
symbolism and visceral, hallucinatory images. Sex, violence, dwarves, clowns, circus freaks, a funeral for
an elephant that ends with starving peasants ripping the carcass apart, serial
killers, Oedipal fixated mutes and coked up people with Downs Syndrome f*cking
an obese prostitute; Santa Sangre
really is a film that has it all.
A nightmarish, beautiful, utterly insane, unforgettable carnival of
absurdity, depravity and redemption, Santa
Sangre defies description and boggles the mind. It is a film that you simply have to experience.