Tag Archives: Alejandro Jodorowsky

Cinema-Manaic: Santa Sangre (1990) Review

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.

10/10

Cinema-Maniac: The Holy Mountain (1973) Review

Admittedly “The Holy Mountain” is one of the most difficult film I ever had to interpret. Not because it’s story is so complicated it demands your full undivided attention to every detail in a frame, but because it draws its inspiration from Tarot cards (thank you Mr. Edogawa for those long lessons), Christian Iconology, Latin American History, futurism, mysticism, politics, astrology in a combination to strange images that correlate together into a difficult to decipher theme. Never do it characters explicitly tell you the significant of the events, but much like the characters it’s a journey of enlightenment. It’s also one that’ll leave you scratching your head until you realize you hit a nerve in your skull.

The Holy Mountain gives an omniscient view of what social engineering caused by greed has done to the modern world, but shows us how to live and not give in to a material world. That’s one way to put it or more honestly a series of strange visuals, odd metaphors, and a main character who isn’t even involved in the ending. Breaking all logic of a traditional narrative being a witness of the journey is not at any point off putting. It speaks figuratively rather than expressing itself through a literal sense. If taken at face value the film will leave you wondering what in the world you just saw. Much in comparison to the thief we follow, the film asks its audience to either go on the journey and be open to whatever is let out of the floodgates of the storyteller consciousness, or if to be closed off then to might as well leave. Visually exploring what is the significant of immorality, religion, and beliefs pondering if reaching enlightenment is more important than the journey to achieve it. Over the top humor pokes fun of the lack of awareness of the form of escapism in surreal ways that ranges from manufacturing art with a fully functioning conveyor belt for butt-imprint paintings to conditioning children to hate specific future enemies. Scenes all of which are a natural representation of escapism either be through photographs, paintings, videos, or anything that mentally makes the subject escape reality. Before reaching the end the figurative meaning behind it images will culminate into a narrative that touches on various themes. Each of which make sense (in this film logic that is) in the surreal manner they are presented in. Once it reaches the abstract ending is where there’s a glaring misstep. The ending itself spoon feeds everything the viewer witness in a final dialogue that reaffirms what you just saw was nothing more than it just appeared to be. Misguiding half of the meaning it actually was trying to get across. Then again, from a literal standpoint it goes along with the rest of the film.

Alejandro Jodorowsky is the film writer/director/producer/editor/music composer/costume designer/set designer/painter/sculptor/star and his input is on screen all the time. Creating a world that in semblance is no further than our very own, it’s just presented in a different form. At times the film looks absolutely gorgeous and it’s design are eye popping with surreal designs and bright colors. There is a scene where the thief enters a rainbow room with a single holy man and a camel. A struggle breaks out but the primitive learns that he is not worthy to overcome the much wiser man. Suggesting the brighter the color in the rainbow passage the greater the growth. It’s just one of the symbolic nature elements within. This intricate collective designed is sure to challenge the thoughts and translation of the viewer. As well as the set decorations, props, and the costumes and it pays off as the film is gorgeous to look at even if at times it’s a little hard to decipher without an innate knowledge of world religions and the occult. The whole film is a literal two hour intellectual LSD trip. In the scene where Axon of Neptune and his healthy young army massacre a town, the montage we see of blood, dust and guts isn’t entirely wounds overflowing with deep red or gory close-ups of torn flesh. Instead there are sticky greens and blues bubbling from bodies, obvious red ribbons from the gut and, in a rather touching moment from within the violence, little birds fluttering from the chest of a dead body. This barely scratches the surface of the surreal images you’re going to see in the whole film.

The Holy Mountain is surreal, deep, and one of the hardest films to make sense off if there’s any to be found if we speaking in a literal sense. If taken at face value the series of events will have little correlation, but never is it boring because of it surreal images. It’s a difficult film to recommend anyone to see because while it provides no background on everything it tackles. The abstract interpretation on the series of odd images is more than satisfactory for viewers seeking to challenge their minds. That is until it partially misguide viewers toward the end. No matter how the film is interpreted “The Holy Mountain” is never boring for what it bring to the forefront to the viewers that will confuse as well captivate the imagination.

9/10