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 fucking 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.
Drama, Horror, Mystery, Thriller
2 hours 3 minutes
UK Release Date:
21st of September 2012