Santa Sangre

by Jim Gladstone
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Tuesday Feb 1, 2011
Santa Sangre

Amidst the flapping, honking hoopla surrounding Darren Aronofsky's multi-Oscar nominated Black Swan (aka Swangina) comes the long overdue American DVD release of director Alejandro Jodorofsky's Santa Sangre, as if to declare: "You think that's a phantasmagoric psychosexual freak show? I'll show you what a phantasmagoric psychosexual freak show looks like!"

The first essential element is freaks. Jodorofsky--a Chilean-Jewish polymath best known for his psychedelic 1970 film El Topo, but also a therapist, philosopher and comic book writer, sets Santa Sangre in the milieu of a Mexican traveling circus complete with a pelvis-grinding tattooed lady, a knife-throwing Lou Albano look-alike, a turban-topped midget named Aladdin and a dusty, woebegone elephant that eventually gets dumped over a cliff and is instantly swarmed by starving villagers who devour it, like "pachydermal" manna dropped from heaven.

You think Black Swan’s a phantasmagoric psychosexual freak show? I’ll show you what a phantasmagoric psychosexual freak show looks like!

The psychosexuality is embodied by protagonist Fenix, young son of Orgo the philandering knife-thrower and trapeze artist Concha, who addresses her husband's indiscretions with a liberal application of sulfuric acid to his genitals. As an adult, Fenix remains embroiled in a dangerous symbiotic relationship with his mother, whose arms have been amputated. In the riot of colorful composition that visually dominates the film, the most chilling image is spare and haunting: Concha sits at a piano, her limbless torso in a formal gown; Fenix embraces her from behind and, his arms draped in sleeves that match her dress, mother and son play a two-person solo.

The two DVD set is loaded with hours of extras: interviews, featurettes and a presentation by Jodorowsky (now 82 years old) that serves as a short course on this idiosyncratic and under sung master. But the film itself is so spellbinding that non-scholarly viewers may prefer to leave its black magic unanalyzed.

Santa Sangre

Jim Gladstone is a San Francisco-based writer and creative strategist.


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