Alejandro Jodorowsky has had a long and productive life. In addition to directing midnight-movie classics like “El Topo” and “The Holy Mountain,” he has composed music and written many books. He is an expert on the tarot and psychotherapy. But in his two recent autobiographical films — “The Dance of Reality” and now “Endless Poetry” — Mr. Jodorowsky, at 88, shows the irrepressible energy of a man who is just getting started.
The main character in “Endless Poetry” is exactly that: a 20-ish Alejandro (played by the director’s son Adan) discovering his literary vocation in Chile in the late 1940s. Burning with ambition and existential hunger, Alejandro makes his way through bohemian Santiago, collecting friends, lovers, mentors and muses among the city’s artists and writers. Some of their names — Nicanor Parra, Stella Díaz Varín and Enrique Lihn — can be found in the annals of 20th-century Chilean literature. Along with Pablo Larraín’s “Neruda,” this film would be a useful assignment in an introductory course on the subject.
Realism is not on the agenda, but Mr. Jodorowsky nonetheless evokes the chaotic, passionate spirit of a time and offers astute insights into his own psychology. He uses masquerade, puppetry, theatrical lighting and set design and the luridly expressive cinematography of the great Christopher Doyle to create a world of hallucinatory artifice. Alejandro’s mother, Sara, who sings all her dialogue in fluting operatic tones, is played by Pamela Flores, who also plays Stella, the young poet’s beer-drinking, cigar-smoking protector and sort-of lover. This doubling is mirrored by the resemblance between Adan Jodorowsky and Leandro Taub, who plays Alejandro’s pal and sort-of rival Enrique Lihn.
For all of these characters, poetry is fundamentally a sensual undertaking, and Mr. Jodorowsky is a voracious poet of the flesh. It’s too easy to describe his interest in unusually large and small bodies, in wounded and painted skin, in amputation and contortion as perverse, freakish or provocative. That language belongs to the patriarchal world of propriety and repression, against which Alejandro’s life is one long protest. The images in “Endless Poetry” are arresting and sometimes disturbing, but there is an earnest commitment to ecstasy and authenticity that renders moot any question of offensiveness or exploitation.
Coherence may also be beside the point. “Endless Poetry” is never boring, but it has a tendency to meander and repeat itself. Mr. Jodorowsky is a poet in the broadest sense, a restless artist whose temperament isn’t wedded to any particular form. He seems to embrace cinema out of convenience. He can’t beam his visions directly into your brain, or tattoo his words on your body, but this is the next best thing.— A.O. Scott, NY Times
Tue & Wed September 19 & 20, 2017, 7:30 PM, Muenzinger Auditorium
Chile, in Spanish with English subtitles, Color, 128 min, 1.85 : 1 • official site
Screenplay: Alejandro Jodorowsky, Director: Alejandro Jodorowsky, Cast: Adan Jodorowsky, Brontis Jodorowsky, Pamela Flores, Leandro Taub, Alejandro Jodorowsky