Movies

Movie Review

Alejandro Jodorowsky returns to his life story in ‘Endless Poetry’

Adan Jodorowsky in “Endless Poetry,” directed by his father, Alejandro Jodorowsky.
Satori Films
Adan Jodorowsky in “Endless Poetry,” directed by his father, Alejandro Jodorowsky.

When we last saw the now 88-year-old Alejandro Jodorowsky (“El Topo,” “Santa Sangre”) in his oneiric portrait of himself as a young man in “The Dance of Reality” (2013), he was trying to come to grips with the overweening influence of his father, who in that film takes on the guise of Josef Stalin. Dad (played by Jodorowsky’s son, Brontis ) is back in the more lighthearted volume two of Jodorowsky’s cinematic autobiography, “Endless Poetry.” Here père has switched to a burlesque Nazism, with a dwarf Adolf Hitler and an SS officer on stilts beckoning people into his sundries shop in Santiago, Chile.

Perhaps this might be too much belaboring of an Oedipus complex, especially since in “Endless Poetry” the same actress (Pamela Flores) plays both Sara, the opera-singing mother, and Stella, the anarchic muse of the young Alejandro (played as a youth by Jeremías Herskovits and as an adult by Jodorowsky’s younger son, Adan). But any Freudian analysis is transcended by the hallucinatory imagery (photographed by Christopher Doyle); there is probably more visual genius in these two films than most filmmakers have come up with in an entire career.

Who else could dream up the Café Iris, where aged waiters in black suits and homburgs sidle perpetually back and forth like a Magritte painting choreographed by Pina Bausch? Or the Brueghelian scene where two skeletons on horseback lead an army of marching skeletons into an army of scarlet devils at carnival time? Plus, the poetry itself, recited by Alejandro and his versifying buddies — many of whom are real Chilean literary and artistic figures — is pretty good, too.

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But before he can start out on his poetic quest, Alejandro must first escape from his father’s fiat that he become a doctor. He does so by literally cutting down the family tree — a stunted shrub in his grandmother’s backyard. This so impresses his gay, aesthetic cousin that he introduces him to a studio of artists eager to greet the neophyte. From there he finds his muse at the Café Iris, loses her at the Mute Parrot bar (after she rescues him from being raped by a gang of poetry-hating, zomboid lowlifes by K-O’ing everyone in the club), becomes fast friends with Enrique Lihn (Leandro Taub), a fellow poet, and then betrays him in a sex scene that is even more bizarre than the nude tarot-card-reading sequence that sets Alejandro back on course to his poetic calling.

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As befits his youthfulness, Alejandro’s tale in this film takes on a more picaresque, jauntier tone than that of the earlier film. But hovering over it all is the old man that the young man will become, appearing on screen on occasion to console his younger self with his retrospective wisdom. As young Alejandro is about to set sail in a purple tugboat surmounted by a naked, winged figure of death for Paris (which one hopes will be the setting of another autobiographical installment) , the aged sage he will become tells him that his harsh, anarchic experiences have prepared him for a “world where poetry no longer exists.”


ENDLESS POETRY

Written and directed by Alejandro Jodorowsky. Starring Brontis Jodorowsky, Pamela Flores, Adan Jodorowsky, Leandro Taub, Jeremías Herskovits. At Brattle Theatre. 128 minutes. Unrated (nudity, sexual situations). In Spanish, with subtitles.

Peter Keough can be reached at petervkeough@gmail.com.