You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘Endless Poetry’

Alejandro Jodorowsky's 'Endless Poetry' is the most accessible movie he has ever made, and it may also be the best. It's Felliniesque and moving.

Adan Jodorowsky, Pamela Flores, Brontis Jodorowsky, Lenadro Taub, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Jeremias Herskovits, Julia Avedano, Bastian Bodenhofer, Carolyn Carson, Adonis. (Spanish dialogue)

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4451458/

Over the extraordinarily diverse course of his career, Alejandro Jodorowsky has been a director of plays, a writer of comic books, a poet and novelist, a “psychomagic” guru presiding over therapeutic salons, and — oh, yes — the creator of a psychedelic Western splatter opera, “El Topo,” that in its scrappy-surreal midnight-cult way transformed the world of movies. Jodorowsky’s life has been one long prodigious outpouring (and he didn’t even get to make his version of “Dune”!). But now, well into his eighties, he has managed to reinvent himself in the most spectacular and unlikely way.

“Endless Poetry,” the second in Jodorowsky’s proposed cycle of five cinematic memoirs (the first was 2013’s “The Dance of Reality”), is a work of transporting charm and feeling. It’s the most accessible movie the director has ever made, and it may also be the best. Jodorowsky is on record as saying that his favorite filmmaker is Federico Fellini, and indeed, the ghost of Fellini hovers over “Endless Poetry” in more ways than one can count. The movie has dwarves. It has clowns. It has temptresses with pendulous breasts. But more than that, it has an ingratiatingly wide-eyed and adventurous autobiographical hero, Alejandro Jodorowsky (played by the filmmaker’s youngest son, Adan Jodorowsky), who meshes with the bohemian enclave of Santiago in the ’40s and ’50s and wanders through this nightworld of sex and art and passion and destruction with a fervor of discovery that recalls the hero’s journey in the 1953 Fellini classic “I Vitelloni.” Make no mistake: “Endless Poetry” is still very much a Jodorowsky film, dotted with his trademark phantasmagorical conceits, which are like candified bursts of comic-book magic realism. Yet more than any previous Jodorowsky opus, it’s also a work of disciplined and touching emotional resonance. With the proper handling, it could be his first movie to truly hook the art-house audience.

“Endless Poetry” starts where “The Dance of Reality” left off, with the teenage Alejandro (Jeremias Herskovits) struggling to wriggle out from under the shadow of his oppressive and bullying father, Jaime (powerfully portrayed, once again, by Brontis Jodorowsky), who doesn’t want to hear one word about how his son plans to be a poet. These scenes ground the movie in a universal reality, because the issue, apart from what a grumpy affectionless cad Jaime is, is that Alejandro remains torn between pleasing his parents and pleasing himself. Is there anyone who can’t identify with that? One of Jodorowsky’s most ingratiating cockeyed gambits is that while the boy’s father speaks in raging insults, his mother speaks in…opera. That’s right: She sings every line (as she did in “The Dance of Reality”). And there’s a beauty to the idea, because it captures how a mother, to a troubled son, can be in her own lyrical protective world, one of solitary tenderness.

For Alejandro, poetry is about more than staying up nights reading his idol Federico García Lorca. It’s about the lure of the unknown. At one point, he spurns the advances of his gay cousin, who’s in love with him, but where in the hands of a different filmmaker this might have been a conventional rebuff, Jodorowsky gives us a lingering fleshy close-up of the two boys’ one and only experimental kiss. That shot speaks volumes about how Alejandro, even though he’s not attracted, still longs to dare, to do the unprecedented, to go where he’s scared to go.

The film cuts to 10 years later, when he’s now a shy but strapping dude in his twenties, drawn, as inexorably as Ewan McGregor’s Christian was to the Moulin Rouge, to a downtown haunt called Cafe Iris, which has been given the incongruous look of a steel-gray-walled 21st-century designer art bar. Once there, he meets Stella Diaz (Pamela Flores), the boho demimonde’s reigning punk siren, and an arrestingly offbeat presence, with her flaming red wig and matching lipstick, her dagger eyebrows, her full-figured sensuality, and her attitude of take-no-prisoners fury, which whisks Alejandro right under her spell. “Every time we walk together,” she tells him, “I will keep hold of your private parts!” And she does. But this is a good example of how the movie works, with Jodorowsky weaving ticklishly funny metaphors into the action. In this case, it’s all about how the downside of Alejandro’s initiation into sex is what a controlling vamp Stella is, and that take-the-bad-with-the-good mix is exactly what makes the experience authentic.

Adan Jodorowsky gives Alejandro a winsome appeal. The actor looks like Sacha Baron Cohen with a touch of Jon Cryer, and the movie rolls along on his guileless eagerness to embrace whatever’s coming next, even though we can see that he’s basically a conventional and even rather timid person. The adventure that’s in store for him keeps getting wilder. He befriends the poet Enrique Lihn (Leandro Taub), and winds up being seduced by his girlfriend, a dwarf named Pequeñita (Julia Avenado), who insists that he have intercourse with her during her period. The scene that follows has an element of real shock value, but it’s staged with a convincing matter-of-factness, so that the audience, like Alejandro, finds itself in the position of giving itself over to whatever’s happening. It helps that Pequeñita has a beguiling sadness.

At moments, “Endless Poetry” can be a bit of a ramble, yet it’s an engrossing and pleasurable one. What holds it together is an underlying melancholy that seems to emerge from deep within the filmmaker’s Chilean temperament — and also, perhaps, his 87 years. Jodorowsky himself shows up on screen, as he did in “The Dance of Reality,” to “talk” to his younger self, and there’s something transportingly direct about that. It’s what we all do, on some level; Jodorowsky is just using the medium of film to act out that meditative instinct. One of the messages of “Endless Poetry” is that to be the kind of bohemian that Alejandro longs to be is to become an actor, to do things before one feels them. Alejandro is trying to break through to life, but inside, he’s still longing for his daddy, and when he confronts that longing in the movie’s culminating encounter, you may find yourself moved in a way that you’d never imagined a film by Alejandro Jodorowsky could move you. He first gained fame as a midnight moviemaker, but for Jodorowsky, it now seems as if the day is just starting.

Film Review: 'Endless Poetry'

Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (Director’s Fortnight), May 14, 2016. Running time: 128 MIN. (Original title: “Poesía sin fin”)

Production: (Chile-Japan-France) A LePacte (in France) release of an Operizor, Satori Films, Le Soleil production. (International sales: Le Pacte, Paris.) Produced by Alejandro Jodorowsky, Moises Cosio, Abbas Nokhasteh, Takashi Asai. Executive producer, Xavier Guerrero Yamamota.

Crew: Directed, written by Alejandro Jodorowsky. Camera (color), Christopher Doyle; editor, Maryline Monthieux; production designer, Alejandro Jodorowsky; costume designer, Pascale Montandon-Jodorowsky; music, Adan Jodorowsky; sound, Sandy Notarianni, Guadalupe Cassis.

With: Adan Jodorowsky, Pamela Flores, Brontis Jodorowsky, Lenadro Taub, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Jeremias Herskovits, Julia Avedano, Bastian Bodenhofer, Carolyn Carson, Adonis. (Spanish dialogue)

More Film

  • Hugh Jackman Sings Happy Birthday to

    Hugh Jackman Leads Massive One-Man Show Crowd in 'Happy Birthday' for Ian McKellen

    Hugh Jackman may have had to skip Ian McKellen’s birthday party to perform his one-man show, “The Man, The Music, The Show,” but that didn’t mean he couldn’t celebrate his “X-Men” co-star’s 80th. Jackman took a moment at the Manchester Arena Saturday to lead the sold-out audience — some 50,000 strong — in a rendition [...]

  • Netflix, Shmetflix: At Cannes 2019, the

    Netflix, Shmetflix: At Cannes 2019, the Movies Needed Every Inch of the Big Screen

    In the May 24 edition of The New York Times, there was a column by Timothy Egan, entitled “The Comeback of the Century: Why the Book Endures, Even in an Era of Disposable Digital Culture,” that celebrated those things that come between two hard covers as a larger phenomenon than mere nostalgia. The column keyed [...]

  • Aladdin

    'Aladdin' Dominates International Box Office With $121 Million

    Disney’s “Aladdin” is showing plenty of worldwide drawing power with $121 million overseas for the weekend, opening in first place in nearly all international markets. The reboot of the 1992 animated classic has received strong family attendance with a significant gain on Saturday and Sunday. China leads the way with an estimated $18.7 million for [...]

  • Aladdin

    Box Office: 'Aladdin' Taking Flight With $105 Million in North America

    Disney’s live-action “Aladdin” is flying high with an estimated $105 million in North America during the four-day Memorial Day holiday weekend. It’s the sixth-highest Memorial Day weekend total ever, topping the 2011 mark of $103.4 million for “The Hangover Part II.” The top total came in 2007, when “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” [...]

  • Agustina San Martin Talks Cannes Special

    Agustina San Martin Talks Cannes Special Mention Winner ‘Monster God’

    CANNES – An exploration of the ramifications of God, “Monster God,” from Argentina’s Agustina San Martín, took a Special Mention – an effective runner’s up prize – on Saturday night at this year’s Cannes Film Festival short film competition. It’s not difficult to see why, especially when jury president Claire Denis own films’ power resists [...]

  • Atlantics

    Netflix Snags Worldwide Rights to Cannes Winners 'Atlantics,' 'I Lost My Body'

    Mati Diop’s feature directorial debut “Atlantics” and Jérémy Clapin’s animated favorite “I Lost My Body” have both been acquired by Netflix following wins at Cannes Film Festival. “Atlantics” was awarded the grand prix while “I Lost My Body” was voted the best film at the independent International Critics Week. The deals are for worldwide rights [...]

  • Stan Lee, left, and Keya Morgan

    Stan Lee's Former Business Manager Arrested on Elder Abuse Charges

    Stan Lee’s former business manager, Keya Morgan, was arrested in Arizona Saturday morning on an outstanding warrant from the Los Angeles Police Department. The LAPD’s Mike Lopez confirmed that the arrest warrant was for the following charges: one count of false imprisonment – elder adult; three counts of grand theft from elder or dependent adult, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content