After a 23-year hiatus, cult director Alejandro Jodorowsky re-emerged on the international cinema scene in 2013 with his autobiographical film The Dance of Reality, which was hailed by The New York Times as “something very close to a masterpiece.” Dance is the first of a projected five-part series that some may consider an “imagination-enhanced” version of the director’s fascinating life.
His latest effort, Endless Poetry, continues the series, following young Jodorowsky’s transformation from troubled teen to twentysomething boho poet, finding himself in the company of such famous writers as Nicanor Parra, Stella Diaz Varin and Enrique Lihn.
As Poetry begins, Alejandro (Dance‘s Jeremias Herskovits) is butting heads with his hot-tempered, working-class father (Brontis Jodorowsky, son of the director), who considers his son’s love of poetry to be an effeminate weakness. Meanwhile, his doting mother (Pamela Flores) literally sings all of her dialogue in an operatic voice.
A visit to his obnoxious relatives finally pushes Alejandro over the edge and, after threatening everyone with an axe, he is taken by his cousin to an artist’s colony where he can allow his artistic aspirations to bloom. He finds a happy home there, writing poetry and building puppets.
Ten years pass, and the now adult Alejandro (played by Adan Jodorowsky, another of the director’s sons) is instructed to go to the Cafe Iris and find himself a muse, as all poets need one.
At the cafe, he is smitten by the zaftig, punked-out poet Varin (Flores again, in a somewhat perverse casting choice), with whom he enters a violently sexual yet non-penetrating relationship. She explains that she is saving her hymen for a holy man who will someday come down from the mountain and into her life. Here, Alejandro becomes surrounded by poetry and those who create it.
The director populates the film with his typically colorful characters, and there are plenty of offbeat visuals. Like Federico Fellini, whom he has cited as his favorite filmmaker, Jodorowsky possesses the ability to offer up images of extreme theatricality and human grotesquerie that never feel exploitative. They’re just a part of the director’s world, and he grants even the strangest creatures recognizable humanity. Endless Poetry will not disappoint his fans — and may indeed attract new ones, since it’s certainly one of his most accessible works.
Talent certainly runs in the family. In addition to playing the lead, Adan composed the film’s score. The director’s wife, Pascale Montandon-Jodorowsky, designed the colorful costumes. The film looks gorgeous, too, with its surreal imagery and vibrant palate nicely captured by cinematographer Christopher Doyle.
Practically 50 years after his El Topo helped to create the Midnight Movie scene, the almost 90-year-old Jodorowsky has returned to deliver more of his unique vision, and the world is better off for it.
Endless Poetry is currently playing at the Nuart in Los Angeles and the Sunshine in New York, Additional engagements can be found here.