Santa Sangre Reviews
SANTA SANGRE is definitely an art film with long scenes that seemingly don't serve the plot - or does it really have a plot? The movie could have a plot, as the main twist is fantastic and ripe for drama, but Jodorowsky fills the film with bizarre set pieces and characters, some of which have little bearing on the heart of the story. The cast includes some gems, including three of his sons and many actual carnival performers. It's also positively gorgeous and possibly beyond words.
We follow Fenix - portraied by another Jodorowsky, his son Axel. He is in a mental hospital since he saw some gruesome stuff done to his mother when he was younger. We are served his reasons for his issues as flashbacks, among other happenings.
Then, stories are combined and we get some sort of a film similiar to "Psycho" in way. It's not THAT weird. Well, it got a stolid story around all the madness making a bit less random at times. The horror is desguised in the absurdity and the happy circus music. Blod, guts, nutity and violence is all over, but it's almost unnoticed many times - the story feels surprizingly strong.
Not the weirdest film I have seen, but probably one the best weird-flicks out there. It's actually even a moving film. That's impressive! It evolves into someting both weirder and scarier after the first hour. Even if I like the ending, I liked the first part a lot better. The second half is jaw-droppingly varied and creative though, just as i expected it to be from the very start.
Loads of fun, great filming. It's hard to explain with words - so many things happen here - many of them very far out.
Unforgettable, surrealistic masterpiece, but certainly not a film for everyone.
8.5 out of 10 dying elephants.
Characters arrive in all forms of personality further adding to that surreal nature of the narrative. Fenix and his mother have the most prominent roles in the story being told. Together these two offer a story about redemption and revenge. In hindsight, Fenix childhood sneakily provides clever characterization or a physiological regression. As a young boy, Fenix wears a man's moustache to imitate maturity. During his childhood he shows the least amount of childlike fear or sadness arguably in his mentally assured state. As oppose when Fenix becomes an adult he's unable to detach himself from his mother influence for his own livelihood. Another usage of Fenix characteristics are the usage of birds. When we first meet Fenix, he is locked in a nuthouse, living like a human bird. His obsession with the mime-faced deaf/mute girl centers around her graceful panto of a hawk. Until the birds disappear from visual sight to juxtapose the trap Fenix is in - mentally and physically - with the freedom of being unable to simply 'fly away' from his mother control. The best aspect about these birds narrative usage is even if its missed the same intention gets across. Fenix mother, Concha, is positioned in the story in such a way where nothing ever feels lost when it narrative reaches it conclusion. Concha is a given a backstory that conveys her upcoming downfall and a motivation that is shown in developing in her scenes. Becoming a fleshed out character with her own arc. One key moment in the film that is rather genius is the film twist. I was able to catch the usage of birds as metaphors, but this twist genuinely caught me off guard. Not only does the twist has the potential to catch any viewer off guard, but it's rather fitting for the film surreal nature. Closing the story metaphorically on its themes while directly closing the conflict Fenix faces.
Alejandro Jodorowsky lets his visuals do the speaking more so than his dialogue. The rich color palette adds to the almost otherworldly elements of the visual narrative. Mixing colorful costumes and set designs against the dark context of scene. From the sterility of the hospital gives way to an explosion of vivid colous when we fly to the circus. Before long, this multihued vibrancy is then itself with the bizarre 'elephant funeral procession' is burdened with sobering blacks and charcoal complete with a grey American Flag. Jodorowsky visuals is a story tool giving it more meaning than just simply looking pretty. Laid on top of the visuals is an incredibly convincing musical score. Simon Boswell's soundtrack fluently bonds with the varying moods to become immersed in the Mexican fantasy. Blanca Guerra is excellent in the role of Concha. Her ability to convey far surpasses her co stars who all play characters with their arms in tact. Axel Jodorowsky delivers a more subdue performance which he pulls off. There's hardly a moment of certainty in the way he deliver his lines going hand to hand with his characters. Where these two actors shine are their scenes working in perfect sync. Using Axel Jodorowsky hands to convey the illusion of Blanca Guerra hands movement in several are synce in movement and emotion. It's a convincing sight to behold when the actors have great chemistry and can in sync in such scenes so perfectly.
Santa Sangre (Holy Blood) covers various themes both directly and indirectly that is not accomplished very often in filmmaking. It's a film that has a straightforward story and the viewer understands there's plenty of layers behind the way it's made, but never does it offer a moment of doubt in its execution. Not everything Santa Sangre touches on will immediately come around in full circle for a revelation in how it balanced all of it themes. Neither is it lost on the audience telling a straightforward story that even if not the pieces come together the intention of it is never lost. On a technical level it's an achievement of captivating visuals, the performances are outstanding, and the narrative very fulfilling even without all its meaning being found. Plain and simple it's a masterpiece.
We meet a young boy magician named Fenix(the young Fenix is played by the director's son, Adan Jodorowsky). To say that Fenix has an unconventional childhood would be something of an understatement. He is part of the Circus Gringo, a travelling show of various talented and strange individuals, including Fenix's trapeze artist mother, Concha(Blanca Guerra), and knife-throwing father, Orgo(Guy Stockwell). Other members of the troupe include Aladin, a dwarf and trusty companion of Fenix, and a gentle, deaf-mute mime girl named Alma, who is the object of Fenix's affection. Concha, who is also the leader of an unusual cult which worships a saint whose arms were severed by rapists, becomes furious when one night she chances to see Orgo flirting with the tattooed lady(Thelma Thexou), a lustful woman who participates in Orgo's highly sexualised knife-throwing act. In an act of revenge, Concha pours acid over her husband's genitals; as you do! He in turn chops off the arms of his wife, rendering her an ironic homage to the saint she worships. Viewing these hideous events is the tender young eyes of Fenix. The movie then jumps forward to Fenix at the age of around 20(played by Axel Jodorowsky, the director's other son), and clearly the traumatic events of his childhood have had a potent effect on his psyche. What ensues is a surreal, harrowing, funny, and oddly touching tale of a man trying to overcome the demons of his past.
This is the first movie I've seen from Chilean filmmaker, Alejandro Jodorowsky, and I'm already convinced that he is a masterful director. The greatest filmmakers are the ones who don't just see cinema as another way to let a story unfold, but rather wish to test the boundaries of the medium; To experiment with elaborate set pieces and camerawork; to use pictures rather than words to tell a story; to create characters so surreal and strange that they defy analysis. This movie could not exist in any other form. It's pure cinema at its wonderful and challenging best. It contains a phantasmagoria of haunted, beautiful and, at times, humorous images that leave a lasting impression on the mind. I am thinking of that dead elephant with blood dripping down the concrete steps, as a band of trumpet-playing musicians converge; the voluptuous tattooed lady contorting herself in unholy shapes; the aerialist mother suspended from the ceiling by her hair; a young boy weeping as his chest is carved with a tattoo of a phoenix by a singularly dominant father; The pool of blood dedicated to a cult-worship of a saint with no arms; Our hero controlling his armless mother in some twisted variation of a hand-puppet. These are images I will not forget in a hurry.
One of the movies most arresting visual accomplishments is when we see Fenix acting as his maniacal mother's arms by standing closely behind her, with the aid of modified silk robes to sustain the illusion. In this manner, Fenix can perform virtually any task for his mother- from covering her mouth when she yawns, to gesticulating as she speaks, to playing a sonata on the piano in her stead. Both Fenix and his mother are bafflingly willing to submit to this grotesque pretence. It's a very absurd, sad, yet irresistibly amusing representation of a mother's emotional enslavement of her son.
On the other hand, to write this all off as a sea of disturbing imagery and bizarre storytelling would be a lamentable mistake. Beyond the absurdity and the pomp, the artistic expression is as pure as drinking water, and the moral enquiry at work is earnest. At the heart of the ludicrous happenings is a simple fable about a man doing his utmost not to succumb to his inner demons and to conquer his more evil instincts. Axel Jodorowksky gives a brilliant performance as a man haunted by a dark inner world and the younger Jodorowsky also does very well as the younger version of Fenix. Blanca Guerra gives a suitably creepy performance as the demonic mother, and Guy Stockwell is very good as the sleazy yet brilliant father figure. The film was co-written by Claudio Argento(brother of Dario) and Roberto Leoni, and the script finds poetry and beauty amidst the grotesque and the violent. This is a wonderful movie which pulls us through a surreal rabbit hole with its eye-popping visuals, stunning set pieces, and inventive storytelling.