‘Endless Poetry’: Director Alejandro Jodorowsky, in a dialogue with himself
In the fearless, unpredictable cinema of Chilean-born director Alejandro Jodorowsky, you will find: a couple who converse without opening their mouths; a room full of people who suddenly break out in a mysterious dance; a woman who insists on holding her young lover’s genitals as they walk together through town. His latest film, the autobiographical “Endless Poetry,” is no less dreamlike — or strange.
“Poetry” picks up the coming-ofage story begun in Jodorowsky’s “The Dance of Reality.” As in that 2013 film, which was something of a comeback for Jodorowsky, the filmmaker’s adult son Brontis - who, as a boy, appeared naked in his father’s 1970 cult classic “El Topo” — plays the director’s abusive father. Opera singer Pamela Flores reprises her role as Jodorowsky’s mother, Sara, while also portraying Jodorowsky’s outrageous older lover, poet Stella Díaz Varín.
As Sara, Flores sings all of her lines — a gimmick that didn’t quite work in “Dance,” which was Jodorowsky’s first film in 23 years. The device is better suited to “Poetry,” which revels in its operatic surrealism with more confidence — and success — than the earlier film.
Immediately immersing the audience in its distinctive aesthetic, “Poetry” opens with young Alejandro (Jeremias Herskovits) and his parents departing from their home in Tocopilla for Santiago, as their ship pulls away from a pier crowded with black-and-white cardboard cutouts of the people they’re leaving behind. As in “Dance,” Jodorowsky himself appears on camera, guiding his younger self as a child and, later, as a young man (played by Jodorowsky’s son Adan). Defying a repressive father who argues that all artists are homosexuals, young Alejandro writes florid verse, falling in with such Chilean poets as Diaz, Enrique Lihn (Leandro Taub) and Nicanor Parra (Felipe Rios).
Confronting his own past — literally — Jodorowsky has written a script that tends to feverish dialogue, even if much of it occurs between different versions of himself. In the role of his own father, Adan Jodorowsky asks, “What is the meaning of life?” To which, Jodorowsky, in the role of guide, urgently replies: “Life! The brain asks questions. The heart gives the answers.” In lesser hands, such a platitude would likely land with a maudlin thud. But Jodorowsky sells it with his enthusiasm and uninhibited personality. He shares those qualities with the entire cast, many of whom - including his two sons - have no qualms about exposing their less than perfect bodies to the camera.
Now 88, Jodorowsky’s autumnal resurgence was spurred by “Jodorowsky’s Dune,” a 2013 documentary in which the director proved himself to be a charming and gregarious raconteur when talking about his sometimes impenetrable films. While “Endless Poetry” is far from conventional, it nevertheless manages to translate some of that breathless storytelling into a movie whose images are disturbing but never boring. Tinged with madness and heartbreak, “Endless Poetry” is the unmistakable byproduct of, as the character of Alejandro puts it, “a heart capable of loving the entire world.”
Alejandro Jodorowsky, right, tells an autobiographical tale in which the filmmaker guides his own story and essentially advises himself at different stages of his life.