Sunday, January 25, 2009

Santa Sangre(1989)d/Alejandro Jodorowsky

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If you're a cult cinema enthusiast and still haven't seen any of Jodorowsky's films by now,what the hell are you waiting for?The enigmatic Chilean man is an alchemist of film,creating on celluloid what the mind visualizes on heavy psychedelic substances.Director of what can be effectively called the first "midnight movie" with El Topo(The Mole) in 1970,he formed a movement in theater and literature revolving around the demigod Pan with Topor and Arrabal early on in his career.As well as attending university in Santiago,he's also been a clown,a mime,and puppeteer,and more recently,done work in comics with Moebius,though his return to film,King Shot,scheduled for release later this year,is eagerly awaited on this end,as it boasts an AMAZING cast which includes Asia Argento,Udo Kier,his son Adan,and David Hess!
Holy Blood,as it has been translated to,is an amazing experience,and serves as an excellent introduction to Jodorowsky's unique and highly surreal films.The cinematography is breathtaking,the music is superb,and remarkable performances are turned in by the entire cast,which includes three of his multi-talented sons(the fourth,Brontis,has a cameo as one of the orderlies at the asylum!).Co-written and produced by Dario Argento's younger brother,Claudio,the film has an Italian horror feel throughout.Though I'll include an entire summary of the movie,I won't even be scratching the surface of the emotion the images and sounds will evoke from you in watching it for yourself,which I suggest you do,with all speed.
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The Holy Blood!Concha protects the memory of a young girl who was raped and murdered.
We're introduced to Fenix(Adan,then later Axel Jodorowsky),a man who's lost touch with his own humanity,eating raw fish with his bare hands and swinging around on a rope in a mental asylum full of handicapped individuals.As a boy,he traveled with his parents,deranged performers in a circus;his father,Orgo,a burly tattooed strongman and knifethrower,his mother,Concha,an acrobat and head priestess of a small church dedicated to a local girl whose arms were chopped off before being brutally raped and left to die in a pool of her own blood,which still soaks the ground inside their temple.After being denounced by a Vatican representative as blasphemers,the church itself is bulldozed,leaving Concha to return to the big top with her weeping son,only to find her two-timing husband entranced by the tattooed sex of his promiscuous assistant.Fenix befriends a mute girl named Alma,who is both cared for by the tattooed woman,and abused into walking a flaming tightrope by her keeper.When one of the circus' elephants dies,the performers dress in black and parade an enormous coffin through the streets of the city in a mock funerary procession,before dumping the hulking box onto the impoverished shanty-dwellers on the edge of town,who tear the dead beast to pieces out of hunger.During a performance for the townsfolk,Concha notices Orgo again courting the tattooed temptress,driving her into a jealous frenzy and causing her to douse her husband's genitals with acid(!).Instants later,he cuts his wife's arms off and cuts his own throat with one of his throwing knives,leaving their sobbing son locked in a trailer,and destined for a complete mental breakdown,as we have already seen.
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This is what I call making films with your cojones.
After a night on the town with his retarded peers that involves cocaine and a grossly overweight prostitute(and a sighting of the tattooed woman,now also a prostitute),Fenix is visited at the asylum by his armless mother,inspiring him to escape out a window.He performs a variety show with her where he serves as the woman's arms,singing,dancing,miming, and playing the piano for the audience.In the meantime,someone brutally murders the tattooed woman with a knife,freeing Alma,still living under the woman's iron will.She immediately sets out to find Fenix,who we find has been committing murders for his matriarchal stage partner,who wills his arms to carry out the bloody deeds.When he isn't being dominated by his mother,he's aping the experiments of his favorite movie character,the Invisible Man,perpetually furious that he himself is still visible despite his best attempts.Several murders later,Alma catches up with her childhood friend,only to discover that Fenix has created the homicidal mother in his own mind,and surrounded himself with the memories of former long forgotten circus performers and clowns.Once she's convinced the tormented man to let go of the memories of his friends and the nightmare of his mother,the two tragic figures leave his flat to face an enveloping squad of police and detectives.When Fenix is ordered to raise his hands,like his namesake,he joyously rises from the ashes,a complete man,in control of his own hands.
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"A little sniff of this...and we'll see."
Besides the obvious paen to Italian horror movies of the decade,the film is a tale of ironic rebirth,discovery,subtle comedy,and grotesque yet beautiful complex images too powerful to be easily ignored or interpreted, and Jodorowsky's most mass-accessible film to date,enjoying both critical acclaim and global distribution.He was the original director of Dune,before being replaced by David Lynch.Also to be noted,Jodorowsky performed the marriage of Marilyn Manson(also to star in King Shot) to Dita Von Teese in Ireland in 2005.This entry is filled with little nuances and tributes to the director's lifelong influences that you'll catch after multiple viewings.While I was taking screenshots for this review,I realized nearly any shot would make a visually haunting addition to the entry.It comes with my highest recommendation,and remains one of my favorite movies across any genre.I was introduced to his work in my teens and I STILL make new discoveries everytime I decide to sit down and watch one.There's several region 2 DVDs available,for those who can't wait for the U.S. copy.I bestow upon it:
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"It's always roosters or swans! You never see anything else in your ridiculous hallucinations."
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13 comments:

Balberith said...

Since when is Asia Argento worth recognition for a 'good cast'? I am on fire today ;)

I have heard of this movie and noticed it has beautiful shots, but for some ungodly reason never got around to watching it. Slap me around if you want, but I have to pass up your review so I don't spoil anything because now I have to see this, though it may take a pinch because this seems to be a fairly expensive movie for a VHS copy

beedubelhue said...

Are you locking at the joints,speaking Aramaic,and spitting green pea soup today,too?Wowie wow,as Christopher Walken would say.You passed over HESS to take a dump on Asia?I'm coming over there with a holy man and christ-power in a bottle,and I'm not leaving until we've got Victoria back!Hahaha,somebody's a salty cracker today.

Balberith said...

Haha! I love my Hess man, I just don't think to highly of Asia. I know.. I know.. I really need to calm my ass today. I noticed you went right on past my new reviews, I am not being THAT cruel.. am I? :)

beedubelhue said...

No,no,no.I'm just folding clothes over here.You know full well how I enjoy looking spiffy at all times.I'll check 'em out when I get done,I didn't even notice!In a rush with everything today.

Balberith said...

Oh okay, I thought I was facing punishment from you ;)

beedubelhue said...

Well...I guess you could be!What's it gonna be then,the rack or the iron maiden?

CryoGypsy said...

I look forward to watching this flick with you very soon. :) I'm very intruiged and curious.

Bunche said...

I was lucky enough to see this on the big screen when it came out and I loved every second of it. This film turned me into a Jodorowsky fan instantaneously, and the only film of his I like almost as much as this one is THE HOLY MOUNTAIN (which I made the very BIG mistake of watching while ripped to the tits on a bag of mushrooms).

beedubelhue said...

I've watched Holy Mountain several times under the influence of certain high-powered hallucinogens,and for me,it just heightened an already amazing movie!I'll tackle the Italian Region 2 Special Edition forthwith!Thanks for the words!


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