Director John Borowski’s Bloodlines: The Art and Life of Vincent Castiglia is a fascinating documentary about an artist who uses his own blood (and later on, the blood from others) to paint gorgeously provocative pieces of art. This was a hard movie for me to sit through. I’m that guy who can’t handle seeing real blood flowing through tubes. When I get my own blood drawn, I can’t look otherwise I get woozy and lightheaded. I’m a horror and gore fan that has a strong stomach for the fake stuff, but there’s just something about real blood, vials, and tubes that make my hardness go straight out the window. If these sort of things bother you, you’re in for a real nightmare. If you can force yourself through the discomfort, the film is a wonderful and inspiring story of a man who works through his childhood trauma full of physical and mental abuse, as well as shocking pain and deformity to express himself in a beautiful, yet incredibly unconventional way. There’s something hypnotic about Vincent Castiglia’s work, and Borowski does a great job of depicting Castiglia’s tragic inspirations.
The film’s beginning really focuses on the nitty-gritty process Castiglia implements to bring his thoughts, ideas, and feelings to life. Again, I cannot state this enough, it’s very tough to watch if you’re someone who can’t handle the sight of blood. He basically extracts blood from his veins, works with the consistency, and commits the drawn DNA to a specially made canvas in order to exorcise his personal demons and manage his addictions. His work is indescribably macabre, oozing with religious symbolism despite Castiglia claiming himself to be non-religious. He depicts decay and deformity in confrontational ways, and he has an obvious influence from the work of the legendary H.R. Giger. One of my favorite parts of the film features Vincent speaking about how he showcased his art for Giger and what that meant to him personally. His love and affection for Giger’s work are absolutely touching and genuine.
“…Borowski does a great job of depicting Castiglia’s tragic inspirations.”
There are some really cool talking head interviews by metal music legends that are fans of Castiglia’s art. I don’t want to give them all away, but I was delightfully surprised to see Kerry King and Gary Holt from Slayer make an appearance. Castiglia’s personal friends and bandmates frame the story of the lows, depressions, addictions, and demons that Castiglia draws from to create his work. I do have a bit of criticism regarding these interviews, however. Some of the sentiments about addiction get repetitive. I feel like the film tries to use that repetition to hammer home how an addict views and experiences their distorted world, but there’s a point where one of the interview subjects repeats himself almost verbatim. Another minor complaint I have is the structure of the film, particularly how it deals with Castiglia’s struggle with drug addiction. At a certain point, I felt like the film painted a very clear picture about his battles with substance abuse, and it was ready to move onto something else, only for the addiction thread to come back into focus. This felt off and out of place to me, but you can also look at it as a storytelling device to showcase the concept of relapse. Just when you think you’re done with it all, it comes back more prominent than ever.
“…an honest and inspirational look into a unique and incredibly talented artist’s soul. “
I highly recommend Bloodlines: The Art and Life of Vincent Castiglia for those who have an iron stomach. It more than competently tells Vincent Castiglia’s captivating story while providing in-depth examinations into his style and choices. This film is not for everyone due to some of the more graphic details, but it is an honest and inspirational look into a unique and incredibly talented artist’s soul. Watch this film, even if you have to turn away for some of it, your endurance will be more than rewarding.
Bloodlines: The Art and Life of Vincent Castiglia (2018) Directed by John Borowski. Starring Vincent Castiglia, Martin Eric Ain, Michael Alago, Gregg Allman, Kerry King, Gary Holt, Margaret Cho, Sandra Beretta.
8 out of 10