Film is often described as a collaborative medium, but if there ever was one movie that could be described as authored – the work of one artistic mind – it’s Endless Poetry. Not only does it show off Alejandro Jodorowsky’s style at its most bizarre, but it’s also about the surrealist filmmaker’s own life, following 2013’s The Dance of Reality as the second part of an autobiographical trilogy. Not to mention the fact that both the young Alejandro and his father are played by Jodorowsky’s sons, and that the octogenarian director himself shows up from time to time to give advice to his younger self.
Endless Poetry actually begins with the teenage Alejandro, played by Jeremias Herskovits (another relative of the director – his grandson), reprising his role from the first film. After a moment of sexual revelation, Alejandro matures overnight into the Adan Jodorowsky incarnation, and soon leaves his family behind to join a bohemian community of artists in Santiago, Chile’s capital. Across the 1940s and ‘50s, this eclectic bunch frequent bars way into the early hours, improvise poetry at each other, and have a raucous time being abrasively avant-garde. Alejandro has a fling with Stella Diaz Varin and befriends Enrique Lin, who were both real-life poets, but don’t feel you need to know anything about them before watching the film.
The astonishingly weird story isn’t afraid to depict its characters in unusual ways – Alejandro’s mother sings all of her dialogue in an operatic style – or to go off on narrative tangents – at one point, he decides almost spontaneously to become a clown. But all of this is carefully composed to capture both the vivid and extraordinary life of this cultural scene and this important period in Alejandro’s life, with the overall tone being that of a director looking back fondly but analytically on his past. It’s anchored by an enjoyable performance from Adan Jodorowsky, who conveys the passion of his father’s artistic exploits but also constantly seems somewhat baffled, allowing us into this insane world through a character who doesn’t quite know what’s going on either.
Yes, the concept has potential to become indulgent or patronising, but instead Jodorowsky presents it with a sense of humour and a deftness of touch. Later in the film, the younger Alejandro is feeling down and wondering just what the point of it all is. His older self offers the advice that “life does not have meaning, you have to live it”. Take that ethos into the film – don’t try to work out why everything is the way it is, just live this offbeat, electrifying experience.
ENDLESS POETRY / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: ALEJANDRO JODOROWSKY / STARRING: ADAN JODOROWSKY, BRONTIS JODORWSKY, LEANDRO TAUB, PAMELA FLORES / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW