Santa Sangre - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Santa Sangre Reviews

Page 2 of 28
Cinema-Maniac
Super Reviewer
July 24, 2014
Santa Sangre follows a young man named Fenix from his traumatizing childhood through the present attempting to live a normal life. The film narrative is straightforward while the way it tells it story is surreal. Right from the introduction of Fenix we understand this young man is not well. Once the flashback begins you receive the foundation that structures religion, sexuality, obsession, and identity into it central themes. Each introduce in odd context that triggers an array of emotions. One scene in particular that stood out occurred after the funeral of a circus Elephant. A huge coffin carrying the corpse is hauled by a truck to a ravine and tipped over the edge to get eaten by the locals in a shanty town. Not only does this easily telegraphed how distraught a young Fenix must be feeling, but also illustrate the contrast between the joyous surreal circus life and the cruel reality when it comes into the picture when Fenix is a full grown adult. It's a scene that imprint an odd image as much as it does fuel interpretations on its possible meaning. Every scene is easy to read and the meaning upon receiving development become layered. It's a film that while reliant heavily on metaphors has dialogue that directly gets across the main story. While the metaphors are tackling the subjectivity behind faith indirectly. In the center of attention is the more direct physiological torment of Fenix. Whose unable to free himself from the control of his mother. Fenix and his mother are in hindsight very complicated characters. One lives with a mask of following a faith she herself doesn't live purely by her faith. Another is a man whose unable to form an identity of himself.

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.
½ July 6, 2014
My first Jodorowsky and I can not wait to see more. It was weird and twisted, I really enjoyed this movie.
June 13, 2014
How do I even begin to describe this one? What a strange, perverse, and glorious world this movie inhabits. In a way, to label it under any genre seems a grave disservice to a movie that exists in a genre, or rather in a world, of its own. For the sake of simplicity, one might call it a horror movie. It certainly evokes Hitchcock's 'Psycho' in its depiction of a man possessed by a cruel mother, and the violence has a grandiosity akin to Dario Argento's best work. Yet there is also a surreal, poetic, and even romantic touch to the filmmaking. I was reminded of the works of Lynch, particularly his earlier works such as 'Eraserhead' and 'The Elephant Man'. Director Alejandro Jodorowsky has a similar fascination with the freakish and the ethereal.

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.
June 4, 2014
It's an Art House film on crack!
June 3, 2014
Así como F (C)nix era las manos de Concha,
JODOROWSKY es alma del subconciente surrealista.
April 29, 2014
The first Alejandro Jodorowsky film I watch, it is a complete new expereince to me, such a surrealist film that takes beyond your mind until the twisting ending, and there's was an effect that appeared on me, fear, yes the film frightened me, in a way it made me watch my deepest fears, how I loved that movie! And it made me to hate circus!
April 11, 2014
Not as edgy as Jodorowsky's more underground films (which aren't really so underground anymore thanks to official DVD releases). It's still probably his third best film though, and definitely worth watching for his fans.
March 23, 2014
Another visionary, highly creative production from master director A.Jodorowsky. Hard to follow, very disturbing & bloody, this film is unlike anything i have ever seen. Completely different from El Topo or The Holy Mountain, this film is nevertheless filled with incredible characters, beautiful cinematography, great costumes & great soundtrack. Completely deserve a viewing.
February 21, 2014
Filmed in English in Mexico City's Zocalo, this bizarre thriller is Jodorowsky's most accessible film (!), in which the caricaturesque meets the grotesque. It's as the filmmaker has remade Robert Bloch's Psycho seen through a Lynchian filter. With a spectacular score mixed with rancheras and mambos, Felliniesque characters, and an irresistible almost incestual relationship played to perfection by Blanca Guerra and Jodorowsky's sons at different ages. The younger Fenix is now the musician Adanowsky.
January 17, 2014
Para salir de la rutina de los Oscar nada mejor que el maestro Jodorowsky y miren que me la estaba debiendo pero no podia encontrarla ya que es un escandalo hablar de esta pelicula en Mexico.

No se para que se espantan si he visto cosas peores pero siendo honesto fue una gran experiencia ver Santa Sangre, llena de mistisismos y simbologias es un deleite ver esta pelicula.

Yo me pregunto Que tendra el maestro Jodorowsky en la cabeza?
January 14, 2014
Intense and very crazy, just like the name suggests.
December 29, 2013
I enjoy a little psychedelic films once and a while.
½ October 24, 2013
An exercise in the macabre, I think this is my first Jodorowsky experience. I watched this at home in a double bill with Jean Rollin's Fascination so needless to say I was left in a state of perturbedness by the end. This is unconventional horror but for those who have the stomach for it, it is worthwhile.
October 20, 2013
Amazingly complex, tons of symbolism that manages to be trippy and thought provoking all at the same time. A thrilling ride that is strange and never stops being interesting.
August 13, 2013
Santa Sangre (Alexandro Jodorowsky, 1989)
[originally posted 3Apr2000]

I'm not sure I have the language to describe this film. Room is being made on my 100-best list for it as we speak. [ed. Note: as of this writing-13Aug2013--it sits at #11.] I was stunned, astounded, left with my mouth hanging open. Okay, so I'm usually more fooled by the twist ending than most people, and that may be the case again here, but... wow.

Fenix (Jodorowsky's son Axel) is a young man confined to a mental institution after witnessing the gruesome mutilation of his mother, Concha (Blanca Guerra) by his father, Orgo (Guy Stockwell-- yes, he's Dean's brother) after Concha catches Orgo with another woman (Thelma Tixou). After committing the disfigurement, Orgo kills himself. Fenix is witness to all this, and we see it in an extended flashback. As well, Fenix is falling in love with Alma, who's the daughter of the other woman-- and so, when the other woman flees, she takes Alma with her.

The present, in movie time, is twelve years afterwards. While on an outing with others from the institution, Fenix happens to see the other woman in a crowd of prostitutes, and the next morning, his mother comes to see him at the institution, and effects his escape. His mother, who is without arms thanks to his father, uses Fenix's arms in order to exact revenge. And it only gets weirder from there.

Many people seem to consider Santa Sangre a horror film. I'm not exactly sure why this is. There are elements of the horror film in it, but there are just as many elements of other genres (most notable psychodrama and black comedy, but others as well). In the end, it's pretty much unclassifiable, and that's much of the reason the film works as well as it does; it's impossible to pin down, lending even more to the atmosphere of disjointedness, "otherness," that the events themselves open up.

The casting is immaculate, even if it does show the hand of nepotism inherent in Jodorowsky's films. Axel looks like a demented cross between Alexandro himself and Bronson Pinchot, and is at his best when playing his role as "less is more." Jodorowsky has that seemingly rare gift of being able to say more with facial expression than with words, and he does it quite capably here. Guerra, Stockwell, and Tixou all perform exceptionally well. But ultimately, it is Axel Jodorowsky and the stunning Sabrina Dennison-- in her only film role, as the adult Alma-who carry this film.

Love it or hate it, it is impossible to walk away from this film unaffected. See it at your earliest opportunity, and go to whatever lengths you need to. It's that good. *****
½ June 19, 2013
Alejandro Jodorowsky's Santa Sangre is another marvel of filmmaking prowess. It's a beautifully-composed and well-executed film from a man who captivates us all with all of his work. My only problem with the film this time around is the fact that it's so linear that it actually sticks out a bit. Don't get me wrong though. I don't think that it's a defect, but it certainly doesn't require as much brain work as a lot of his films do. The film is gloriously violent and bloody at times, as well as sickeningly beautiful. There are shots that are nasty and disgusting but composed so well that you can't look away. The score is also extremely well-done. It's just another masterpiece from a master filmmaker, and kudos to Severin Films for making the film available on home video in the U.S. where it previously wasn't.
May 19, 2013
A tale of a disturbed young man, trying to escape his crazy mother's armless clutches, surrounded by odd imagery. Watch it.
½ April 14, 2013
Disconcerting , worth it more for the style and the religious quality of the symbolic all depicted in as much gorgeousness as trash. The story itself is high camp taking itself very seriously but it actually takes itself So Seriously you cant really help but go along with it
½ March 4, 2013
I was 13 years old when I first saw Santa Sangre. This was at a time when I was discovering world cinema and was addicted to the films shown on SBS. Santa Sangre was one of many that left a huge impression on me... others included Benny's Video, Homework, A Short Film About Killing and The Double Life of Veronique. Once seen, Santa Sangre cannot be unseen and so you can imagine the impact it would have on a 13 year old. Avant Garde is a term you don't hear much of anymore but that describes the film perfectly. Directed by renowned filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky, its a Mexican-Italian joint production about a boy who grows up in the circus and witnesses his mother have both of her arms severed by an enraged husband. Ending up in a mental asylum the boy grows up in a primate state, disconnected from being human. As an adult his mother walks back into his life and together they perform as expressionists. She being armless, he stands behind her and acts as her arms, delivering a bizarre and mesmerising show. Before long their attachment becomes a dependancy and an obsession that leads to jealousy and murder. It's a strange and wonderful film. Ultra violent, often sexual and completely unique... its a daring piece of surreal cinema that demands your attention. Watch it as an art film and you will be caught up in its trance. I've watched it dozens of times and it gets better with each viewing. Expect a graphic and beautiful mind-fuck!
½ February 27, 2013
My first Jodorowsky film. It is bizarre and disorienting but at the same time carefully put together. Through all of the weirdness, and there is plenty, this is at its core a pretty interesting movie. I started to like it more after thinking about it a bit and I think more viewings will only improve it.
Page 2 of 28