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Santa Sangre's Coming to Town

By Steven Pate in Arts & Entertainment on Dec 14, 2011 8:00PM

2011_12_12_santasangre.jpg Pity the careless moviegoer who sees "Santa" on the Portage Theater marquee this Saturday and somehow finds his or herself in the aisles as the the first images of Santa Sangre flash onto the screen. Awakenings probably do not come much ruder.

Yes, we realize that a mere glance at a poster would spoil the surprise. And that even a rudimentary level of Spanish would reveal its title to be "Holy Blood." And that in 2011 people don't just wander into movie theaters because they were passing by them.

No, this Saturday's screening of the extremely rare Alejandro Jodorowsky cult film is a gift for film buffs, and we must have been very good this year. The Chicago Cinema Society has their hand on the only 35mm print in North America, and are screening the surreal circus horror epic on a double bill with The Last Circus.

Santa Sangre tells the story of Fenix, a mental patient and former magician who witnessed his parents commit unspeakable (though not unfilmable) acts of violence. His armless mother, the leader of a religious cult, compels her son to act as her arms as she goes on a killing spree. While not as epic in scope as his best known mind-melters, El Topo and The Holy Mountain, Jodorowsky jams each scene with lurid colors and adds surrealist flair to his Fellini-esque kaleidoscope. With enough cockeyed Fruedian imagery to power a thousand half-baked dissertations, this is magical realism on bad acid. It says something about a film when the creepy girl in the mime makeup is the least disturbing part.

Also playing will be Alex de la Iglesia's The Last Circus, which Quentin Tarantino and company awarded the prize for best director and best script at last year's Venice International Film Festival, a totally different venture into the circus landscape via the midways of genre. Animated short film from Robert Morgan, Bobby Yeah is slotted in between, and musical guests are promised.

Santa Sangre plays at the Portage Theatre, 4050 N. Milwaukee, at 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 17. Tickets are available online.