Santa Sangre

1989 Jodorowsky funk

Rating: 17/20

Plot: A boy is traumatized by some horrible experiences that took place during his young life with the circus involving a tattooed woman, his knife-throwing daddy, and his mother who worships a no-armed woman with the religious cult across the street. Following his release from an asylum, he tries to put his life back together again. That's made difficult when he runs into his no-armed mother who controls him and demands the use of his arms. His childhood sweetheart and a little fellow try to help him out.

It's really the type of movie that makes a plot synopsis pointless which explains the half-hearted effort I gave it up there. This is a psychosexual Freudian (aka Freddian) horror-comedy that is probably unlike anything you've ever seen or in some cases unlike anything you'll ever want to see. My plans were to make Santa Sangre my Oprah Movie Club pick before I got depressed about that whole thing and passed. I'm sure it would have been dug by all. This is Jodorowsky's third best film after Holy Mountain and El Topo, and although it's not as bizarre as those two, it's pretty bizarre compared to everything else. I still chuckle a little when I see this labeled as one of his most accessible. Jodorowsky seems to have had more of a budget to work with in this one, and he uses it to compile some artful visuals and utilize his vivid imagination. Not that he needed much money to help him out anyway. Drenched in film-school symbolism and saturated in cartoon colors and Part-Fellini (probably just the circus thing), part-Psycho, part-Bunuel, and all Jodorowsky, there are scenes throughout this that will linger in the mind for a long time. There's an elephant funeral that has to be seen to be believed, and the choreography and timing required for the scenes where the mother "uses" her son's arms is impressive. There's also a great little person, Jesus Juarez as Aladin. And you get a scene where some actors with Down Syndrome visit a prostitute. Exploitative? Yeah, probably. Original? Definitely. Oh, and there's a scene where a guy peels off his own ear. I'm sorry. I should have warned you all about spoilers before typing some of that. It's a challenge, but it's a thoroughly entertaining one. Shame about the dubbing though. It's also a shame that this guy can't get financing so that the rest of us can see his dreams. I keep reading that he's making a movie, but then I'll see where the Russian producers "just disappeared mysteriously" and then there's no movie.

By the way, I follow Alejandro Jodorowsky on Twitter. Highly recommended despite 95% of his tweets being in a language I don't speak. I think probably Canadian. He's like an advice columnist. One follower asked him, "Any advice for mental clarity?" and he answered, "On Sundays, lock yourself in the house and repeat, incessantly, one word: ass." It's sound advice.


rio blanco racing said...

just a tidbit: the son as an adult is jod's son.

Shane said...

Both of them are his sons!

Matt Snell said...

Like your take on Santa Sangre - I kinda feel like it's not as watchable or revelatory as El Topo or the Holy Mountain, but I'm still extremely grateful it exists. By the way, I worked for a year in Mexico and my boss was into Jodorowsky as a guru, without ever knowing he made movies.

I also need to see Rumble Fish for the Waits appearance. Have you seen Cold Feet? I haven't but I like the idea of Waits in a lead role playing a bumbling hitman.

Glad you dig Yuxo, too. I've listened to Voices of Anxious Objects and like it, thought it's not quite in the same hour-of-sustained-joy category for me. You're probably onto Moondog if you're onto Hans Reichel, but if not check out his two self-titled albums from 1956 and 1969. Nobody has ever made better use of field recordings.

Shane said...

Yeah, I need to watch both 'El Topo' and 'Holy Mountain' again so I can give them the 20's they rightfully deserve.

No, I haven't seen 'Cold Feet' and although I'm sure I at one time knew it existed, I must have forgotten about it. I see it's available on Netflix, so maybe I'll check it out. Tonight maybe! Looks like a stinker though. I like Waits as an actor. Have you gotten a chance to see 'Big Time'? It's also available on Netflix, good since it's out of print and unavailable elsewhere.

'Voices of Anxious Objects' is enjoyable in smaller doses, I think. But no, it's no Reichel.

Yeah, love Moondog!