It has been a while since I have seen Alejandro Jodorowshy’s avant-garde film Santa Sangre (1989) but with its recent re-release I thought it might be just the time to reassess this marvellously bizarre cult movie. At it’s most basic it’s the story of Fenix, a boy who grew up in a circus, we follow him through his adolescence into his adult life. But this film is not your basic coming of age drama. Were taking about a film that was made by an underground Chilean filmmaker who specialises in surrealism and the theatre of the absurd and who is obsessed by shocking imagery that can include, blood, lots of blood, inhumane violence, nudity, mental disability, mutation, real freaks of nature and God forbid we forget, religious themes and devotions. Which can all be found in Santa Sangre (Holy Blood), the closest he has come to making a movie that would fit the horror genre, and incidentally his most accessible and accomplished film if you don’t believe me give El Topo (1970) a try described by one critic as ‘the most shocking and controversial head-trip ever made’ but that may be the subject of a further ramble.
Written by Jodorowsky along with Dario Argento’s younger brother Claudio and Roberto Leoni and shot in Mexico City it relates how Fenix mother Concha (Bianca Guerra) a demented circus trapeze artist who is also the leader of a religious cult worshiping a shrine to a local girl who was raped and murdered after having her arms cut off. When Concha finds her husband, the circus master Orgy (Dean Stockwell’s brother Guy) having sex with the ultra flexible Tattooed Women she pours acid over his private parts. He in turn cuts off both his wife’s arms in revenge before cutting his own throat. Fenix is an unwilling witness to these events and thereafter looses his sense of reason and is assigned to a mental institution. When we next see this damaged individual he is a young man and formulates his escape. Meeting up with his mother he is forced to become her ‘arms and hands’ standing close behind her assisting with not only her theatrical act but also with her more private moments.
|The ultra flexible Tattooed Lady.|
The best description of this film is by David Flint who describes it as ‘a dazzling effort which successfully blurred the boundaries of art and exploitation, mixing scenes of darkly poetic beauty with moments of outrageous gore and violence, blending bizarre imagery and ideas into an ostensibly conventional narrative to create something genuinely unique’
|Fenix helps his mother during theatrical and more private moments.|
Yes this is a genuinely unique experience full of surreal moments and one in which music forms an integral part of the dialogue. Made by a man who is too often dismissed by those who denigrate artistic freedom, for the rest of us: go see this movie your find it a real treat!!
|A film that includes religious themes and devotions.|