By Eric Kohn | Eric Kohn February 18, 2011 at 2:30AM
Beware: The following clip is NSFW, unless you work somewhere awesome.
Courtesy of the fine folks at Severin Films, here's my favorite scene from Alejandro Jodoworsky's "Santa Sangre," the cockamamie director's most refined work, a delirious homage to virtually every European auteur in the history of the medium. The synopsis, courtesy of Amazon, where you can buy the newly-released 2-DVD Special Edition:
A young man is confined in a mental hospital. Through a flashback we see that he was traumatized as a child, when he and his family were circus performers: he saw his father cut off the arms of his mother, a religious fanatic and leader of the heretical church of Santa Sangre ("Holy Blood"), and then commit suicide. Back in the present, he escapes and rejoins his surviving and armless mother. Against his will, he "becomes her arms" and the two undertake a grisly campaign of murder and revenge. (synopsis by Marty Cassady)
Despite enough spurting blood vessels in this scene to retroactively connect it to the erstwhile "torture porn" movement, Jodoworsky displays a powerful awareness of film language firing on all cylinders at once. We begin with the POV of the former circus boy tracking down the abusive tattooed woman whom he encountered in his youth, and she meets a grisly end by his blade. The next morning, the deaf-mute girl who used to play his mine assistant at the circus discovers he has liberated her.
It's impossible not to admire the fluid camera movement, the sudden "Psycho"-inspired arrangement of the slashing, that abrupt cut from the chaos of the murder to the abandoned streets littered with calaveras blowing through the Mexican streets the next morning. Then there's the deliciously ironic juxtaposition of mariachi music and the girl's shock at discovering the body of her former captor, and the sudden look of understanding that crosses her face as she turns to the photo of her childhood. Surreal, batty, thrilling and divine.