Santa Sangre
and The Cabinet of Living Cinema

The Cabinet of Living Cinema was founded in London in 2010 by Kieron Maguire. Performing as the Cabinet will be Kieron Maguire (flamenco guitar, viola), Robert Parkinson (dulcimer, deconstructed piano), Tim Karp (banjo, flute) Joe Perry (percussion, foley) and Robin Harris (brass).

In this new piece, specially commissioned by Nomad, the Cabinet of Living Cinema continues its exploration of scoring live music to experimental and surrealist cinema. The Day of the Dead festival presents a newly restored print of Alejandro Jodorowsky's iconic, Santa Sangre. The restoration took place as recently as January 2011, the film’s first re-release since its inception in 1989.

Set in Mexico, Santa Sangre tells the story of child magician, Fenix, son of knife thrower, Orgo who runs the 'Circo del Gringo'. Felix's mother performs as an aerial artist, but is also priestess to the 'Church of Santa Sangre' (Holy Blood) whose patron saint is a raped and murdered armless girl. The unfolding plot borrows heavily from The Hands of Orlac, which is, coincidentally, a film shown on repeat in Malcolm Lowry's Day of the Dead literary classic Under the Volcano. Although Santa Sangre shares the twisted Oedipal urges of Hitchcock's Psycho, it is unrecognisable as a conventional horror, instead walking a tight-rope rope between B-movie slasher flick and surrealist film.

The combined themes of carnivàle and religion alone make the film a perfect backdrop for a Day of the Dead celebration, but it is the parade of carnality, exaggerated performances and grotesque surrealism, including an elaborate funeral procession for the expired circus elephant, which create the sense of excess embodied in Mexican fiesta culture.

Alejandro Jodorowsky (b. Chile, 1929) spent time in Mexico during the 1960s where he settled in Mexico City. It was here he encountered Ejo Takata, a Zen Buddhist monk under whom Jodorowsky became a disciple eventually turning his home into a zendo. Moving between Paris and Mexico at this time, Jodorowsky had contact with surrealists André Breton and Leonora Carrington.

Often starring in his own films, Jodorowsky has a background of mime, theatre and performance, and since 1966 he has continued to create and release a comic series.

Santa Sangre was the filmmaker's comeback after nearly a decade away from the cinema, during which time he developed a therapeutic method called psychomagic rooted both in mysticism and psychoanalysis. Being influenced by such diverse modalities as Artaud's 'Theatre of Cruelty' through to a Jungian inspired 'family unconscious' in which one must kill and free oneself from the monster of one's 'family tree', Jodorowsky is an individual who has devoted his life to questions of enlightenment, and his work is inseparable from this quest. Jadorowsky has said, "I ask of film what most North Americans ask of psychedelic drugs. The difference being that when one creates a psychedelic film, he need not create a film that shows the visions of a person who has taken a pill; rather, he needs to manufacture the pill."

Text by Bronwyn Carter

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