2017, NR, 128 min. Directed by Alejandro Jodorowsky. Starring Adan Jodorowsky, Brontis Jodorowsky, Pamela Flores, Leandro Taub, Julia Avendaño, Jeremias Herskovits, Alejandro Jodorowsky.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., July 28, 2017
Well into his 80s, Alejandro Jodorowsky, cinema’s utmost surrealist shaman, has found a new burst of film creativity by mining his own personal history. Endless Poetry is the second in a planned five-part autobiographical cycle, and is the follow-up to 2013’s The Dance of Reality, Jodorowsky’s magisterial evocation of his childhood in Tocopilla, Chile, and the film that broke his 23-year film screen silence. Not that there weren’t attempted film starts (relayed, most splendidly, in the documentary Jodorowsky’s Dune), but Jodorowsky has also forged a full creative life, alternately and simultaneously, authoring novels, plays, poetry, and comic books; composing music; reading tarot cards; performing mime; and inventing psychomagic therapy. His 1970 acid Western El Topo helped usher in the midnight movie phenomenon, and his life has been an unrelenting ode to pursuing one’s artistic muse. Endless Poetry is an oblique road map as much as it is a guiding aphorism. It is also a pretty decent summary of what this film has to offer.
Endless Poetry may be the most straightforward (which is also to say, the least phantasmal) of Jodorowsky’s films. Familiarity with its predecessor, The Dance of Reality, will enhance the viewing experience, but is not absolutely necessary. Recounting the young adulthood of Jodorowsky (played by the filmmaker’s son Adan Jodorowsky, who also composed the film’s music score), Endless Poetry offers a portrait of the artist as a young man. It begins precisely where The Dance of Reality ends: on a ship taking Alejandro and his mother and father from their small coastal town of Tocopilla to the country’s capital of Santiago. Jeremias Herskovits, who plays young Alejandro in Dance, also appears in the early scenes of Poetry. His mother and father are played in both films by Brontis Jodorowsky (another of the filmmaker’s sons, who regularly appears in his father’s work, in addition to his own) and Pamela Flores. In contrast to his father, whose manly bravado will not acknowledge his son’s desire to become a poet, Alejandro’s mother operatically sings all her dialogue. It’s a lovely way of portraying the dynamics of this Ukrainian-Jewish family, and much of the early part of the film looks at Alejandro’s conflict between wanting to please his parents and following his own artistic impulses. He ultimately chooses the latter, and we follow his evolution within the city’s creative enclaves, as well as his sexual explorations. This journey concludes with yet another image of a ship vanishing into the horizon as Alejandro chooses to leave Santiago for Paris to begin the next chapter of his life.
Rich with fertile imagery, the trajectory of Endless Poetry nevertheless follows the familiar path of an artist’s growth. Still, Jodorowsky’s singular vision penetrates this landscape. In low-tech fashion, black-clad set assistants crouch into frame and hand actors various props, while elaborately arranged stage choreography and imagery also garnish the screen. There’s not as much postprandial stuff to chew on here as in most of Jodorowsky’s other work, but I guarantee the viewer will not go home unsated.