White-hatted Gaston is visiting Dr. Maillard’s psychiatric hospital when they’re met at the gate by a loony-acting guard, and I suddenly realized this was based on the same Poe story as Svankmajer’s Sileni, and is going to suffer in comparison. Gaston is welcomed into the asylum, led by the swirly-robed man on the DVD cover, while his red-hatted friend (Martin LaSalle, star of Pickpocket) is attacked in the woods and his woman raped. It just isn’t a bad 1970’s movie unless a woman gets raped.

The guy from the DVD cover:

The girl from Alucarda’s DVD cover – what’s she doing here?

The movie’s in English, which the actors are having trouble getting used to – some words are pronounced differently each time they’re spoken. Gaston’s straight Rod Serling line delivery conflicts badly with Maillard’s strangely-accented rapid-fire drama. It wants to look like Vadim’s Spirits of the Dead segment with the careful posing of actors and scenery before the camera. One of those euro-art films, but from Mexico. Moctezuma also made the Satan-in-a-convent movie Alucarda, which I saw but can’t much remember.

White hat and red hat:


This one is more masculine than Sileni, less interested in the daughter/prisoner character Eugenie than in Gaston and Maillard (Claudio Brook – Simon of the Desert himself), but really it doesn’t seem too interested in any of them. There are some half-hearted pursuits and mysteries, and even the tarred/feathered “real doctors” in the basement scenes have little explanation (and nothing like the terribly doomed finale of Svankmajer’s version). The “hero” never does a thing; the prisoners escape on their own. It’s a series of crazy scenes, signifying nothing.

Claudio having an epic shout:

Eugenie’s revenge:

In 1966 Oregon, Kristen (Amber Heard of Drive Angry 3-D) burns down a house, is arrested, sent to The Ward at a psychiatric hospital, given mean looks from the nurse and orderly, but patience from the doctor (Jared Harris, the guy who isn’t Iggy Pop or Billy Bob Thornton in my favorite scene of Dead Man). She gradually gets to know her fellow patients, none of whom are real because the movie has a massive Tyler Durden ending. The ghost story (“Alice is killing us one by one”) and murder mystery (“who killed Alice?”) are all Kristen/Alice coming to terms with her identity, after some traumatic shit went down in that farmhouse from earlier.

Here’s Meryl Streep’s daughter again (as Emily, the one who also wants to escape) with much more to do than in Larry Crowne. We’ve also got Danielle Panabaker (of Friday the 13th Remake) as Sara the sexy one, Laura-Leigh as Zoey the girly pigtails one, and Lyndsy Fonseca (of the Femme Nikita TV show) as Iris the smart one. Some traumatic electroshock therapy and murder by medical instruments, the most easily-escapable psych ward ever, and the non-MST3K version of Bert I. Gordon’s Tormented on a television set.

It’s all pretty boring, an average 2010-era teen shock-horror flick, sub-Drag Me To Hell, except for one cool bit at the end with editing to the beat of the doctor’s metronome.

This was pretty incredible. Nude man in asylum thinks he’s a monkey. Flashback to when he was a young boy in a false mustache in the circus, watching a tattooed hottie force a deaf-mute girl to walk a burning tightrope. The boy’s mom is chief priestess at the santa sangre temple, which is torn down after being disavowed by the church, claiming the armless woman they worship is not a saint. Later she catches her awful drunken husband with the tattooed lady, and he cuts off her arms then kills himself, and the young mime tightrope walker is driven away from the traumatized boy.

Then after that first 45 minutes, the unthinkable happens: the movie got boring. Later I changed my mind about this, figure it just changed mood and speed and I wasn’t able to follow along, because retracing the story through the million screenshots I took, it sure doesn’t look boring. Anyway, now the boy and his armless mom have a stage act where he hides behind her, being her arms, imagining himself invisible. A bunch of people, including the tattooed woman and a cross-dressing wrestler, get brutally murdered – mother commanding son to kill with his/her hands. He hooks up with his midget best friend from the circus, who may have never existed. Only when he finds the mime girl does he stand up to his mother (and stab her to death), then he and the girl walk outside to start a new life together. No just kidding – they walk outside to find themselves surrounded by police.

Too old to play the young lead himself, Alejandro has his son Axel play the lead, with younger son Adan as young Axel, Blanca Guerra (also in Walker) as his mother and Guy “Dean’s brother” Stockwell as his father. It’s possibly the most coherent Jodorowsky movie I’ve seen, a true horror bursting with ideas and excellently filmed. I hope all the dead or dying animals were just special-effects this time.

D. Lim (who also makes a howler mistake, calling La Cravate a lost film years after it was rediscovered and issued on DVD):

Psycho is hardly the only cinematic influence on Santa Sangre. The circus grotesquerie suggests Fellini, though Tod Browning’s big-top movies Freaks and The Unknown are perhaps even more relevant. James Whale’s The Invisible Man is glimpsed on the television at one point. Also apparent is the lurid imprint of the film’s producer and co-writer Claudio Argento, brother of schlock-horror maestro Dario. But for all its sundry inspirations, Santa Sangre never seems derivative. Jodorowsky’s anything-goes alchemy has a cumulative power, as does the documentary energy of his location photography. It’s a movie bursting with life — interrupted frequently by processions and pageants, shot in actual slums and red-light districts.

You can’t tell from the dim screenshot that this is a white bird rising from an open grave:

An impeccably shot but disturbingly off-kilter comedy-thriller, a very successful genre mash-up with the perfect amount of Ruizian surrealism (not way too much, as in The Golden Boat).

Michel Piccoli, apparently wearing some eyeliner:

In short, a father (Michel Piccoli) is scheming to have his daughter from an earlier marriage (slightly mental, confined to home, played by Ruiz regular Elsa Zylberstein) killed by allowing a murderous psychopath (Bernard Giraudeau) to be released from the asylum and led to his house – but the psychopath and the daughter fall for each other, and he ends up killing almost everyone in the movie but her. Meanwhile a couple of cops, using some kind of ridiculous logic, decide to stay away from the likely crime scene until later in the evening, at which point the father kills himself and the cops arrest the head of the asylum (Féodor Atkine of The Silence Before Bach and Sarraounia).

Below, a portrait of soon-to-be-murdered family members. From L-R:
not sure, Roland (Laurent Malet of Chabrol’s Blood Relatives and Demy’s Parking), Leone (Edith Scob, between Comedy of Innocence and Summer Hours), Luc (Jean-Baptiste Puech), Hubus (Jeunet regular Rufus, Amelie’s dad), Bernadette (Hélène Surgère of Intimate Strangers, who died last month)

The actors, especially our two leads, are amazing. Ruiz gets in some nice long takes, deep-focus shots (not as absurd as the ones in City of Pirates), some anamorphic-lens twisting (a la Comedy of Innocence), some black comic dialogue (twice when people Pointpoirot was about to kill die on their own, he responds “that wasn’t me”), ridiculous story developments (all this murder is over the inheritance of a condiment fortune) and melodramatic elements (I think the valiant, surviving house servant Treffle is the brother of asylum head Warf).

Treffle with Warf’s mustache:

Pointpoirot’s blood-sugar meter during one of my favorite scenes, a one-take cartoon shootout vs. Roland:

Livia is excited at the start of the movie because all astrological signs point to this being the biggest day in her life. In the park she chats with a guy from the easily-escapable local asylum, taking a break from a bike ride with his companions, and someone shouts at Treffle in recognition – I think that’s the setup for his being related to Warf. Piccoli’s ex-wife got the “Salsox fortune,” which the daughter will inherit, so Livia was supposed to die along with brother Luc (she actually kills Luc) – not other brother Roland (shot) or Hubus (heart attack) or Bernadette (stabbed) or Leone (hit by car).


Bernard Giraudeau as Pointpoirot. This was one of his last movies, as he died of cancer last year.

Elsa Zylberstein was also in the movie This Night, which is not a sequel to That Day.

“Switzerland, in the near future,” a once-neutral nation through which tanks are now rolling, evoking images of the military takeover of Ruiz’s native Chile in 1973, precipitating his flight to Europe.

Police chief, with a bit of food in the foreground:


There are more than enough laugh-out-loud moments — Livia and Pointpoirot’s slow dance is scored to the chimes of the dead relatives’ discarded cell phones, while Edith Scob … exults the nuances of bottled sauce — but Ruiz’s best gags are formalist: A cut from the misty outdoors to a dining room has one of the characters polishing the camera’s eye, and the extended chase between Pointpoirot and Livia’s gun-toting brother is staged as a repeatedly advancing-receding tracking shot in a posh hallway. That Day is a Chabrolian parody, just as Colloque de Chiens is a goof on Fassbinder and Shattered Image is an erotic thriller send-up…

Piccoli and Scob:

The original plan (now abandoned, along with all other plans) was to specifically catch up on acclaimed horror movies from the last decade, nothing earlier, which I’d missed so far – and A Tale of Two Sisters topped the list. I watched the well-regarded original by Ji-woon Kim (The Good, the Bad & the Weird), not the Canadian remake (retitled The Uninvited) nor the 80’s movie based on the poetry of Charlie Sheen (I am not making this up).

Firstly, who decides how Korean names are written in English? Su-yeon sounds like “Cheh-neh” to me. Secondly, I saw the ending coming from the very first scene (girl alone in an asylum tells story about herself and her sister = she never had a sister) but I still liked it plenty.

How many sisters:

Of the two sisters, Su-mi (Su-jeong Lim, above with the cute hat – star of I’m a Cyborg But That’s OK, another movie where she is deluded in an asylum) is the more outgoing, and Su-yeon is withdrawn and afraid and has a bad haircut. They’re off at the summer vacation house with loving father and evil stepmom (Jung-ah Yum, star of the thriller H). Actually stepmom seems very nice. It’s hard to tell who is evil, and what exactly is happening, since the movie is full of things that happen which did not actually happen. Su-yeon sees ghostly things and has bad dreams, and everyone worries about a certain bedroom closet, and a guest who comes for dinner has a fit and sees a ghost, and there are birdies in the movie so of course they get killed (why else put birdies in a horror film?).

Eventually it’s clear that Su-yeon died when the bedroom closet fell on her after she found her mom dead inside, and Su-mi is having fantasies that her sister is still around. I can’t tell if Su-mi actually has a bloody all-out fight with her stepmom throughout the entire house or if that was part of the fantasy too. Anyway, stylish flick, excellently made, and totally enjoyable even if I apparently would have to watch again to make sense out of it all.

“You’re botching my gramophone!”

Jean-Pierre Mocky (also the film’s writer, who would later write/direct/produce/star in something called Mocky Story) is our rebel star, a fuckup biker who borrows money all over town and carries on affairs with pretty ladies. The sister of the husband of one of those ladies (Anouk “Lola” Aimée) comes by to warn Mocky away, but she instantly falls for him because he is bad. Then he goes home, burns some of his dad’s work papers, and gets arrested and committed to a mental institution.

Movie slows right down, becomes an exposé of institution life, and more importantly, the impossibility of ever leaving. Mocky meets Charles Aznavour (who was in this and Testament of Orpheus before starring in Shoot The Piano Player), who seems alright but falls into seizures at moments of great stress, and the two talk about being (or seeming) cured, or of simply escaping from the facility.

Not my favorite kind of story, but Franju keeps it visually amazing, as he always does. He and cinematographer Eugen Schüfftan (Eyes Without a Face, Port of Shadows) do such a job with the black-and-white, I can’t imagine it being filmed in color (one of these days I’ll get around to watching color Franju film Shadowman). Some memorable moments: a patient gets violent with a saw, Aznavour has a fit during an escape attempt, he and Mocky ride a little train around the facility, the two doctors coldly discuss their patients outside a cage full of doves (symbolism, anyone?) and Edith Scob (below), in her first film, starts singing.

The “good” doctor (if Aznavour can be believed) whose ward is always full is noble-looking Paul Meurisse (Army of Shadows, Le deuxième souffle, Diabolique), and our man’s doctor (distinctive-looking with his beard and spectacles) is Pierre Brasseur (Port of Shadows and Children of Paradise, later star of Eyes Without a Face and Goto: Island of Love). Mocky’s evil dad is Jean Galland (the masked dancer in Le Plaisir, also star of Renoir’s Whirlpool and Pál Fejös’s Fantomas).

Another failed escape: Mocky tries to walk out with Anouk Aimée on visiting day: