For nearly 50 years, Alejandro Jodorowsky has been dazzling audiences with his modern surrealist movies such as El Topo and The Holy Mountain. In recent years, as he’s entered his 80s, Jodorowsky has taken his camera and pointed at himself, examining his life and youth through his own unique style. This has taken shape as a planned trilogy with the first film being 2013’s The Dance of Reality. Now the surrealist master has his second installment with Endless Poetry, which continues this autobiographical look at his life in Chile. Endless Poetry may not stand among Jodorowsky’s best work, but it’s still a fascinating work of cinema that could only be made by this legendary maverick.
Alejandro Jodorowsky breaks into his own film, sometimes operating as a narrator or ringmaster for this chapter of his life’s story. Opening at the family shop in Chile, a young Alejandro (Jeremias Herskovits) struggles to live under his domineering father Jamie (Brontis Jodorowsky). Alejandro’s mother, Sara (Pamela Flores) is much softer in demeanor than the patriarch, and every line of dialogue that she delivers is presented in musical form. His father demands that he abandon any interest in poetry and art because it’ll make him a homosexual, pushing his son to study medicine in the hopes that he’ll become a doctor. Young Alejandro rejects this and winds up leaving home to join a group of artists in the hopes of become a celebrated poet. Now slightly older, Alejandro (Adan Jodorowsky) lives the life of a struggling artist, searching for a muse to drive his creative fervor. He finds this in Stella Díaz Varín (Pamela Flores again), a fiery haired woman with a massive thirst for beer. Soon, Alejandro tests the limits of art and poetry with his friend and collaborator Enrique (Leandro Taub). Personal demons, the limitations of making a living in art, and the eventual installation of a fascist dictator leaves Alejandro feeling trapped in his homeland.
The first half hour of Endless Poetry crackles with Jodorowsky’s wild, fantastical visions. These early scenes present the surrealist filmmaker working on an incredibly high level, with black and white cardboard cutouts transforming the modern city street to look as it did in the filmmaker’s youth. Jodorowsky recreates aspects of his youth but boldly plays with form, twisting reality and logic into some stark, powerful scenes. The legendary director creates that sense of yearning from his younger self and counteracts that with the oppressive attitudes of his father, who is more concerned with money and status than allowing his son to follow his heart.
Once Adan Jodorowsky steps in as his father, though, Endless Poetry loses a bit of its momentum. It’s not the fault of the director’s son who is serving as his star. It’s that the film more or less stays in a similar place for the rest of the movie, one of a cabal of artists and eccentrics struggling to survive and fit in. The film never loses Jodorowsky’s trademark surrealism, but the narrative aspects seem to lose their power. Relationships blossom and crumble against the backdrop of these visually astounding settings. The director steps in front of the camera every now and again to give his own aged wisdom to his younger self, a sense of reflection and introspection that makes Endless Poetry a powerful work of autobiography even if it’s not the best work by Jodorowsky.
Endless Poetry concludes with a stunning parade, angels and demons dancing about as the young Jodorowsky gains his wings, a sense of freedom and purpose filling the heart of the artist. Alejandro Jodorowsky has created a surrealist autobiography that will certainly enrapture the fans of the filmmaker. Even though I find Endless Poetry not among the best works of the filmmaker, it’s a singular movie that could only be made by Jodorowsky.
- Overall Score
While not the best work from surrealist filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky, Endless Poetry still features astounding visual flair and a touching autobiographical story of the filmmaker’s youth in Chile.