If you’re already familiar with the outré cinema of Alejandro Jodorowsky, then you’re going to have a whole lot of fun spotting the real-life influences on his 1989 surreal horror Santa Sangre in this exuberant follow-up to his 2013 auto-biopic The Dance of Reality.
In 1940’s Santiago, alienated youngster Alejandro (Jeremias Herskovits) has an epiphany that his destiny is to become a poet. When he finally rebels against his ultra conservative father, Alejandro (now played by the director’s real-life son, Adan) moves in with a group of young anti-establishment artists, where he turns his hand to puppetry and clowning. Immersing himself in this carefree creative world, Alejandro’s metamorphosis leads him to discover an inner truth: that every path in life (both good or bad) is meant to be lived…
This is one Jodorowsky’s most personal films, where he strips away layers of ego to lay bare his inner self – and, in doing so, reveals up his influences for Santa Sangre. It’s also very much a family affair (both on and off-screen), for at the heart of his second auto-biopic is the troubled relationship that the director’s twentysomething self had with his father Jaime (played by another of Alejandro’s sons, Brontis).
Jodorowsky’s portrayal of Jaime is very much like the character of Orgo in Santa Sangre, which centred on the circus performer’s unstable son Fenix (who were played by brothers Adan and Axel) enacting revenge in the guise of his dead mother.
Watch carefully and you’ll spot a man with missing arms appearing in Endless Poetry. This is another reference to the director’s brilliant surreal horror in which Fenix’s mother Conchita has her arms cut off by Orgo after pouring acid on his testicles. Two other characters also appear – the Tattoo Lady (in the form of Alejandro’s red-headed muse) and the tutu-wearing Alma (as a dance-obsessed member of the art collective).
In Jodorowsky’s universe symbolism is everything, and here he weaves a visually-rich tapestry in which every image is a metaphor or signifier linked to the Tarot’s cycle of birth, death and renewal. Some images are quite strong – almost too much so, like the sex scene involving a dwarf having her period – but in Jodorowsky’s hand, these images become transformative rather than for shock value.
Others – like the incredible Day of the Dead carnival sequence – are just pure exalted joy. United these stunning images bring to visceral life the chaotic paths that we must all take to seek out our own inner truth, self enlightenment and life’s ‘endless’ poetry, which only Jodorowsky can get away with describing as ‘the luminous excrement of a toad that swallowed a firefly’ and make it sound truly beautiful.
In an unnamed European town, seemingly populated only by women, the cruel and vindictive lepidopterist, Cynthia (Borgen‘s Sidse Babett Knudsen) inflicts daily sadistic humiliations upon her submissive lover-cum-maid, Evelyn (Chiara D’Anna). But as time goes, the pair begin to reveal themselves, and it soon becomes clear that the humiliation may not all be of Cynthia’s design…
British director Peter Strickland’s follow up to his leftfield 2009 thriller Katalin Varga and his 2012 giallo homage Berberian Sound Studio is his strangest film to date. Sensual, shocking and steeped in atmosphere that echoes the 1970s Euro-sleaze of Jean Rollin and Jess Franco, The Duke of Burgundy is a wildly perverse exploration of the rituals of S&M in which Strickland turns the viewer into a ‘peeping Tom’ on the activities of these kinky lovers.
Breathtakingly visual, featuring painterly autumn-hued production design, and complemented by an evocative soundtrack from Cat’s Eyes (aka Faris Badwan of The Horrors and Rachel Zeffira), this is a twisted tale indeed, but one that might also test your patience as much as Cythnia tests the limits of poor Evelyn… Oh, and if your wondering the film’s title refers to a rare British butterfly (Hamearis lucina).
The Duke of Burgundy gets its Film4 premiere in the UK on Thursday 28 April 2016 at 11.15pm, and is also available on DVD and Blu-ray from Artificial Eye
Holy Motors (2012) | Take a surreal spin around the weird side of Paris in Leos Carax’s barking mad fantasy drama
With Film4 screening French auteur Leos Carax’s 2012 fantasy drama Holy Motors today at 11.50pm, followed by the documentary Mr X, here’s my original review which first appeared on Movie Talk in line with the Blu-ray release.
Ever had one of those crazy dreams where you try to create a narrative out of the many images that came to you while sleeping? Well, that’s the effect that Leos Carax’s Holy Motors will have on you.
From dawn to dusk, the mysterious Monsieur Oscar (Denis Lavant) is driven around Paris in a stretch limo by a female chauffeur (Edith Scob), adopting a number of personas and engaging in a series of increasingly surreal scenarios…
This madcap odyssey will either have you scratching your head in utter disbelief, or praising it for being so ‘out there’. If you’re a fan of the surreal worlds of Luis Buñuel and David Lynch, and the comic manners of Charlie Chaplin, then this will be arthouse cinema nirvana for you. If you’re not a fan, then you’ll probably switch off before the opening scene has morphed into the first of Oscar’s increasingly bizarre appointments.
Kudos goes to Eva Mendes and Kylie Minogue for their brief but memorable cameos – Mendes is a mute model who gets her hair eaten, while Minogue is a singing air hostess contemplating suicide. If you do last the distance, you’ll have to make your own mind up as to what exactly it all means. Totally barking – but I’m all for watching it all over again.
DID YOU KNOW?
Edith Scob, who plays Oscar’s elegant chauffeur Céline, is best known for her performance as the disfigured daughter of Pierre Brasseur’s obsessed doctor in Georges Franju’s 1960 horror classic Eyes Without a Face (aka Les yeux sans visage), which gets a UK Blu-ray release this week from the BFI.
Holy Motors is also available on DVD and Blu-ray from Artificial Eye