Monday, March 7, 2011

Santa Sangre: Joining the Circus

I've been getting writer's block more and more frequently. Every time this happens I search for a way to get my creative juices flowing and always end up at Santa Sangre. By all accounts, Santa Sangre should be the key to unlocking a mind that is stuck in boring limbo--but for some reason it only makes my mind cloudier. I get lost for those 2 hours in a world of surreal circus life, elephant funerals, mambo music and Oedipus complexes. My creativity flies out the window every time the tattooed lady thrusts her gigantic tattooed boobs at me. Is it possible that Santa Sangre is less of a muse and more of a distraction? A good distraction anyway. After all, I'd much rather be stuck in the divinely surreal world of Alejandro Jodorowsky than be forced to return to normalcy. If you don't see me for a couple days, consider me lost to Santa Sangre.

I've watched Santa Sangre about 3 times now, and every single time I find something new to get excited about. It's one of those special films that I like to refer to as a life changer. A film that knocks you off your feet and forces you to just watch. This is a movie for people that like to see things differently. It's not for everyone and in fact, I can think of a handful of you that will despise it without regret and that's fine. But for those of us that appreciate the joy and wonder of an armless crazy woman---let us dive deeper.

Released in 1989, Santa Sangre tells the two part story of a man named Fenix. We begin in a mental institution where Fenix as a grown man has taken to pretending that he's an eagle. Soon he starts recalling his childhood and we are brought to the Circo del Gringo. Here, Fenix performs as a boy magician alongside his crush, a deaf mute girl named Alma. Fenix's father Orgo, is the knife thrower. He is American and he resembles what I can only assume what Bret Michaels will look like someday.

Fenix's mother is Concha, a trapeze artist and leader of the religious cult Santa Sangre.

A church that worships a young woman whose arms were cut off after she was raped.

When Concha sees that the circus' newest performer, the tattooed whore (also Alma's abusive mother), has taken a liking to Orgo, she grows insanely jealous and demands that she stays away or suffer the consequences. In the middle of Concha's circus act, she notices the tattooed lady and Orgo have left. In a violent rage, Concha leaves the stage and finds the two doing some very naughty things to each other. Concha picks up a jar of acid and throws it onto Orgo's crotch.

In his anger and pain, Orgo tacks Concha onto the knife throwing target and slices off her arms--just like the martyr for Santa Sangre.

Orgo than slices his own throat, and the tattooed woman and Alma drive off into the night, leaving behind a terrified and distraught Fenix.

Now in his early adulthood, Fenix is beckoned out of the mental institution by his armless mother. We next see the tattooed woman in the present day, being a whore and trying to offer up Alma to drunk patrons. Later that night, the tattooed woman is killed by someone with long red fingernails.

We soon find that Fenix has joined his mother in a new act, one where he becomes her arms and hands. We learn that Concha does not approve of any sexual relationship that Fenix finds himself in. With her motherly hold on Fenix, she forces him to kill the women that make advances on him.

As Fenix's control of his own life begins to get further and further away, we start to question the extent of his mother's sanity as well as his own.

There is more of course--but why give it all away?!

I could blab on and on about all the cool things happening in Santa Sangre but I feel like that might just take all day. So to make things easier here are a few of the things I would like to call attention to.

The music in this is absolutely mind blowingly awesome. The death scene of the tattooed lady especially is a thing of pure wonder. Think Suspiria only with mambo music instead of Goblin. Instead of biting colors--there is biting music. It's one of those things that shouldn't technically work as well as it does and yet it is perfect. Aside from that scene the rest of the music is equally fascinating. The theme of Santa Sangre is creepy and twisted. It's like an evil and sweet rendition of circus music. But it's also sad and carries this strange heaviness with it.

I've said a few words about the elephant funeral but I think a few more words would be fitting. First of all, I have never been so horrified to see an elephant dying in my entire life. Well technically I've never seen an elephant dying, but if on the off chance that I do come across one, I pray to god that this is not really what happens.

But also, have you ever given thought to what you would do with a dead elephant? Hopefully, if you are as cool as a circus troupe in Mexico, you will give it a full fledged Elephant style funeral. Complete with an enormous elephant casket. You will grieve and grieve, and the clowns will squirt tears from their eyes. You'll lead the procession all the way to a large cliff and then throw the casket off the side. Then you will watch in horror and sadness as all the Mexican children and adults violently rip apart the casket and start chopping off bits and pieces of the elephant. It will be an elephant feast indeed.

Yes, the elephant funeral was quite the experience and I'm pretty sure I am holding it responsible for my inability to sleep at night. Aside from the horror it was actually a pretty impressive scene. I elephant casket. AN ELEPHANT CASKET!

Next up is probably the most hilarious and terrifying thing I have ever seen. Later in his adult life Fenix encounters the strongest woman in the world--or something of that nature. Whatever the official title the key word is "woman". And ain't she a beauty?

I find it hilarious that we are made to believe this is a woman. Hmmm I wonder why she has an enormous amount of feathers covering her crotch area? Honestly, I have seen very few women who are this attractive in my life.

Really, truly, remarkable.

Keep in mind there is actually a nude shower scene involving this....woman. But I did not have the heart to post pictures. I'm sure there was some body swapping or something involved since as you can tell in the above picture, those boobs are very fake. Regardless....horrifying.

Santa Sangre recently became available to watch instantly on Netflix BUT if you have anything resembling a strong urge to see this film I suggest you buy it on DVD right away. Severin Films released the film recently with over 5 hours of special features. If you've never heard Alejandro Jodorowsky talk about his films, I suggest you remedy that immediately. The man is hilarious, a genius and at times a little scary. Watch the full length making of documentary and hear great stories like how Jodorowsky crawled under his son's chair (who plays young Fenix) during the knife, tattoo scene and pinched his legs to make him cry. That's why that scene is so authentic looking!

Also you'll learn about his favorite color (purple) and hear Spanish people talk about meeting him for the first time and exclaiming about how they had never seen purple shoes before! Other hilariousness is when Jodorowsky talks about the infamous removing of the ear scene.

Alejandro exclaims that the man came up to him and told him he was capable of doing it. Ever since they filmed that scene people have been asking him what on earth it means, what does it symbolize? Surprise! Jodorowsky has no fucking clue. It was just weird and it just fit. These little anecdotes are truly something to watch. So do yourself a favor and buy this right away.

What else is there to say? I'm obsessed. Fully and hopelessly obsessed. This film is insane, beautiful, sad, creepy and extremely amazing. I wish I could just have it on a loop playing continuously throughout my day. So maybe things won't magically get better after watching Santa Sangre, but they do magically go away for those 2 hours and that's just fine with me. There's plenty to say about the film, and its meaning and all of that good stuff but for now I think it's important that you just watch it. Forget about the symbolism for now and just experience it.


B.STANK said...

Bret Michaels! Unbelievable! HAHA!
You're right, this movie is definitely "life changing". It's grotesquely magical. I watched it last night and I feel like I felt after seeing Cemetery love. It's such an amazing feeling when you connect to a movie like makes sifting through all the shitty ones worth it. I can't wait to see all the bonus material. Great review!

Dod said...

Looks like I have another one to add to the "must see soon" list...

I have a feeling I'll like it.

Hhhhh said...

I didn't read anything but the first and last sentences for now because I just got a copy of this (along with 3 or 4 of his others) and will be watching it soon. That was probably enough to put Santa Sangre at the top of the stack though.


Yes this film is insane. I actually made people watch it at my 25th birthday party. There were many glares directed my way but I loved every second of it!

The movie not the glares...

Franco Macabro said...

Recently bought this one and reviewed it, its an experience! I love the scene where they are doing this sad sad procession on the streets for the death of the funeral, everything looks sad, dark, bleak...all the characaters, even the clowns are freaking sad!

You are right about the extras, they are hilarious! Loved hearing Jodorowsky tell his tales about the making of this film. The one about the tatooed lady and how she didnt bathe for weeks on end so that the tatoos wouldnt wash away! Made me think of those scenes where she got really close to Orgo, you know, the scene where she practically puts her ass on his face! Ha!

Anyhows, great film! Loved everything about it, and considering its all based on the life of a real life killer...who ended up being a national hero! Well, loosely based on his life anyway, Jodorowsky gave it his own twisted surreal touch of course.

Pearce said...

I first saw this movie as a teenager, and it warped my tiny little mind.

Years later, after seeing many more movies (including most of Jodorowsky's - I still haven't got hold of Tusk), I watched it again and was struck by the idea that this is Alejandro Jodorowsky's version of a giallo. Noticing that Claudio Argento produced and co-wrote the movie may have inspired this realisation, but think about it: if Dario Argento had been a far-out Chilean mystic, he might have made a movie like this.

For extra fun, it's well worth reading The Spiritual Journey of Alejando Jodorowsky. He truly is an inspired nutbar. I couldn't get into his comic books, though.