Tag Archives: alejandro jodorowsky

Santa Sangre – Review

26 Jun

If you have read my blogs before this, then you know that writer/director Alejandro Jodorowsky is no stranger to the bizarre. Santa Sangre may not be Jodorowsky’s most strange and confusing film, but it is certainly his most disturbing. Let me put it this way: El Topo is Purgatory, The Holy Mountain is Heaven, and Santa Sangre is Hell.

A man finds himself in a mental hospital, and refuses to act like a normal human being. Cut back to his childhood. Fenix (Adan Jodorowsky) is a circus performer along with mother (Bianca Guerra) and father (Guy Stockwell), who is having an affair with the tattooed woman (Thelma Tixou). Fenix is abused by his father and hates the life he was given, but finds solace in the new mime, a deaf and mute girl named Alma (Faviola Tapia). One night, all of the conflict in his life collides, and we are then transported again to the present where the older Fenix (Axel Jodorowsky) is still in the mental hospital. He escapes to find his armless mother and lives with her to be her arms. Every chance Fenix now has at love is crushed by his mother who can now control his arms and uses them to kill the women, maybe even his original love, Alma (now played by Sabrina Dennison).

This is one of those movies that when the credits begin to roll, the viewer is forced to just sit  staring at the screen and contemplate what they just witnessed. So much happens in Santa Sangre that it’s almost difficult to take it all in. The movie is loaded with family dynamics, love deeper than the surface, possible incest, mental disorders, and the plight of mortality. Now that’s a fully loaded movie.

For fans of El Topo and The Holy Mountain, some people might be disappointed with how linear and down to earth this might be. In fact, I was on the IMDB message boards for this movie and people were complaining that it wasn’t “trippy” enough. If that’s the only reason you’re watching a Jodorowsky film, than yes, Santa Sangre won’t really be enjoyable for you.

For me, this was an incredibly moving and haunting experience. As I said before, this film is hellish in a surreal, but also very real kind of way. It shows sides of the world that I don’t particularly know a lot about, but does exist. There’s the side of living with a torn family and also a side of living with overwhelming guilt and shame. If you aren’t sympathetic towards Fenix, then you must have been born without any sense of feelings, because he may be one of the most tortured characters ever in a movie.

While Santa Sangre tries to keep itself down to earth, it still has a beautifully unsettling surreal atmosphere to it. I still feel distanced from this world the Jodorowsky created, but that’s fine because I never want to be there. It’s terrifying. Is it surreal for the sake of being surreal? Or is it because Fenix’s view of reality s distorted due to the abuse and traumas that he has suffered. I like to think that the answer falls in the latter category, especially since we get glimpses of reality throughout the movie.

Santa Sangre is a magnificent piece of film making that may be difficult to sit through for some and may bore others entirely. It is not a movie that is to be watched for solely pure entertainment, but to reflect on your own psyche and your impressions you leave on other people. The personal evils are brought to light in this haunting Jodorowsky film, and I can honestly say that what I have seen, I will not forget.

The Holy Mountain – Review

13 Jun

After seeing Alejandro Jodorowsky’s El Topo, I knew that my next review would have to be The Holy Mountain. These two films can be considered cousins, as in they are both alike but also very different. Take the Zen and religion from El Topo and add a deeper layer of spirituality, condemnation of society, and, in my opinion, an infinitely more complicated storyline. This would make The Holy Mountain.

A Man (Horacio Salinas) wakes up after an unknown amount of time with flies covering his face. He soon meets up with a armless, legless man whom he soon befriends. After witnessing a hook drop out of a tower with gold in exchange for food, he climbs on and rides it back up. While in the tower he meets the Alchemist (Alejandro Jodorowsky). The Alchemist gathers seven other people who represent the planets and, also, his silent assistant and promises them immortality if they climb the holy mountain on Lotus Island and defeat the gods who are stationed there. Only after much spiritual training will they be able to undertake this task and achieve eternal life.

This film was an absolute marvel and made me think about who i am as a person. This pondering was done on a strange level that I never really explored before. I thought about what made up my being and what I truly believe in. The scary part was that I’m not 100% sure I know who I truly am. This and a message of reality vs fiction were huge messages amongst many in The Holy Mountain. Jodorowsky implores the viewer to go out and explore the world, and in so doing find yourself.

Those with a weak stomach may want to stay away from this film because the shock value has been turned up since El Topo. There are scenes in this movie that would make Takashi Miike cringe. I know I did. These scenes aren’t in the movie to simply shock an offend, though. If you see something that is trying to get your attention in this film, take note, because that means Jodorowsky is trying to say something important.

It’s fair to say that many people may be offended by the use of religious imagery. This is, indeed, a very controversial film and was called the “scandal of the Cannes Film Festival.”  Instead of condemning the use of these religious symbols, icons, and practices, open your mind a little more than usual and try to see past them. In other words, try to understand what their uses truly mean both in real life and in The Holy Mountain. What is Jodorowsky  trying to do with them? Getting offended by this movie would take away from the experience of it all, and even though it is a huge statement by Jodorowsky, it is just a movie and one man’s opinion. Get over it.

But, what did I think of the movie? It was like nothing I’ve ever seen before, and may never see again. Films aren’t made like this anymore, and that’s very unfortunate. Besides a few Indie gems and the occasional foreign film, audiences around the world are catered to just so the studio can make money. The Holy Mountain has messages on religion, war, big business, sex and its fetishes, spirituality, life, and death. Think about the blockbusters coming out this summer. Will they have even half of those messages, or just rehashed ones thrown in to give the movie some “depth?”

Bottom line, The Holy Mountain may be one of the finest films that I have ever seen. I truly loved everything about it, and I will love it more every time I watch it since it demands multiple viewings to be fully understood. Take a glimpse through the looking glass, ride the snake, or tune in, whichever one you want to use. Find this movie somewhere and watch it. Chances are, it will give you new insight on the world and yourself.

El Topo – Review

12 Jun

Described as a mixture of Sergio Leone, Luis Buñuel, and Sam Peckinpah, El Topo is a surreal western from the bizarre and philosophical mind of Alejandro Jodorowsky. It’s violent, passionate, religious, and sexual, packed to the brim with images created to enlighten and disturb. This isn’t just a movie, it’s an other worldly experience.

El Topo (played by Jodorowsky himself) is a violent wanderer traversing the wilderness with his seven year old son (Brontis Jodorowsky). He soon begins a mystical journey to find and defeat the four gun masters in order to prove himself as the best. His journey leads him across barren deserts, a cave filled with deformed people crying out for help, and to a town inhabited by cultists who find murder on a large scale to be enjoyable.

Trying to summarize El Topo without giving much of it away is very difficult because the story is told mainly using powerful imagery. When it was first released in 1970, it was received very well by the underground film goers and, of all people, John Lennon who demanded that it be marketed better. Marketing this film proved to be a challenge because of the controversial topics and scenes that are meant to startle and confuse. Ultimately, it was lost for a number of years until its DVD release in 2007.

Unfortunately, this movie seems to drag on at points, and I feel that it might’ve worked a little bit better if it was shortened. It isn’t necessarily long, clocking in at just over two hours, but for an avat-garde quasi-western surrealist work of philosophical brutality it sometimes got difficult to sit through. Although I never recommend stopping a movie, and coming back to it later, I would understand why some people would want to do that for El Topo.

Even though the movie seems too slow at some points, it truly is a wonder to look at. The color of the sky blends very well with the barren look of the desert, and the added imagery makes it horrifying, beautiful, and moving. The editing also helps to create the mood of surrealism with sometimes choppy cuts to contrasting images, making a very unorthodox montage that would give Sergei Eisentstein a heart attack.

I would be lying if I were to say that I completely understood this film. I’d be lying if I said I understood most of this film. There’s a lot to absorb in El Topo, and practically all of it is not obvious symbolism. I read a review that said it was more of a Zen-like experience than a piece meant to be analyzed. It was all about the trip that the viewer takes, and the images and moods they are exposed to. I partially agree with this, but with the symbolism that I understand, I firmly believe Jodorowsky wants this film to be viewed multiple times, analyzed, and eventually understood.

Out of all the movies I have reviewed thus far, I can declare that El Topo might be the most estranging film. I can see where many people would stray away from this movie because of the attention to aesthetics and meaning rather than a strong storyline. For those who are looking for a strange take on the western with an intense look at western and eastern philosophies and religion, than El Topo is your movie. Be warned that it can get to be a little slow, and there may be times where you just want it to end. Still, this film is truly and experience that, like it or not, you will be glad you had the chance to witness.