With bizarre artifice and sheer ingenuity, Jodorowsky’s second autobiographical film celebrates life and art.
Dir. Alejandro Jodorowsky
2016 | Chile | Biography / Drama / Fantasy | 128 mins | 1.85:1 | Spanish, French & English
R21 (passed clean) for sexual scenes and nudity
Cast: Adan Jodorowsky, Brontis Jodorowsky, Leandro Taub
Plot: In 1940s Santiago, 20-year-old “Alejandrito” Jodorowsky vows to become a poet against the will of his disciplinarian father. Leaving home, he is introduced to the inner circle of the artistic and intellectual avant-garde of the time, and immerses himself in a world of poetic experimentation.
Awards: Official Selection (Cannes)
International Sales: Le Pacte
Subject Matter: Mature
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: Niche/Cult Arthouse
Viewed: The Projector – Perspectives Film Festival
First Published: 1 Oct 2016
Not many know of Chilean director Alejandro Jodorowsky, but those who do, remember him for two reasons: he was the controversial mind behind the cult films El Topo (1970), which sparked the term ‘midnight movie’, and The Holy Mountain (1973).
He also infamously failed to complete his passion project ‘Dune’, an adaptation of Frank Herbert’s seminal science-fiction novel—this was the subject of the wonderful documentary Jodorowsky’s Dune (2013).
Endless Poetry is the second film in Jodorowsky’s planned series of five autobiographical movies, beginning with The Dance of Reality (2013), which heralded his return to filmmaking after 23 long years.
Of course, the notion of ‘autobiography’ in Jodorowsky’s world would mean a mix of real-life stories, breaking the fourth wall as himself, and most certainly, infusing an array of surrealistic flourishes that continues to mark him out as one of the medium’s most distinctive—and bizarre—of filmmakers.
His youngest son, Adan Jodorowsky, plays Alejandro when he was a young adult, desiring to be a poet, and by extension, an artist, despite his father’s objections. To complicate things further from a meta-filmic perspective, Alejandro’s screen father is played by his older son Brontis Jodorowsky.
By casting his own sons to play himself and his father, the director forces an act of catharsis by appearing as himself in the final sequence, a symbolic reunion and reconciliation across time and space—through the medium of art no less—that ranks as possibly the most emotional point of Jodorowsky’s career.
Considerably more accessible than most of his output, Endless Poetry is a good window into Jodorowsky’s sensibilities. There are stunning images, shot by cinematographer Christopher Doyle (of Wong Kar Wai fame), and the production design takes pride in its exaggerated artifice. For example, cardboards or painted sheets act as visual placeholders for people and settings.
Its carnival-esque aesthetic is enthralling, though it can be exhausting to take in after a while. Still, Endless Poetry celebrates life and art wholeheartedly, and with Jodorowsky (all of his 87 years of age) still up and raring to go, he is—and should be—a figure of inspiration for all of us.