‘A poem reaches perfection when it burns.’
Endless Poetry is the sequel to The Dance of Reality (2013), another autobiographical film from surrealist writer/artist/director Alejandro Jodorowsky, this time focusing on his young adulthood. Anyone familiar with the auteur’s work will know that they should rush out and see this immediately, but if you haven’t come into contact with his fascinating oeuvre, this is a start (well, the second part) of a journey into a unique visual and intellectual aesthetic.
The shattered dreams of his early childhood become cardboard memories as Alejandro (Adan Jodorowsky) and his parents depart from Tocopilla to a new life in Santiago, Chile, setting up a new shop. It is a time of political and social upheaval and life becomes increasingly difficult for the teenage Alejandro to interpret, especially when his father Jaime’s continued interpretation of masculinity, which he expects his boy to abide by, conflicts with his son’s own desires. Alejandro, to the mortification of Jaime (Brontis Jodorowsky), wants to be a poet, an artist where he can indulge in the rich language found within his books and he seeks a creative life rather than the medical career his father has chosen for him. Fortunately his cousin points him in the right direction and he joins an artistic community, heading for the decadent post-midnight avant-garde art venue Café Iris. Captivating colourful Stella Díaz Varín (Pamela Flores) catches his attention with her lurid violence, bohemian character and capacity for beer. She soon becomes his muse…
‘Poetry is an act!’
The key to Jodorowsky’s film-making, accentuated in his autobiographical films, is the total normality of the surrealism that takes the stunning, confronting artistic environment beyond conventional narrative even as it appears intrinsically natural and profound. The characters and scenarios are not dictated by their appearances but rather their environmental and cultural situations. This makes his ‘normal’ father appear to be far less agreeable than any of the bizarre artists or circus performers who embrace the imagination of the poet. The father’s machismo which manifests itself with occasional violence contrasts sharply with his nurturing mother whose dialogue, again, is entirely in operatic form. And how do we know that this is all based entirely on fact and not a messed up fictional narrative? Well of course we don’t, that is partly the point, but we do have the central character playing himself as the on-screen narrator, popping up occasionally to emphasise, criticise and reflect on the events that have occurred. And of course, it is Jodorowsky’s own sons respectively playing both him and his father. And so the film is chock full of metaphorical and political statements with contrasting images, ideals and visions of times and incidents.
All of this is perfectly shot by Christopher Doyle, who maintains the look of realism amidst the surrealism in a visually stunning manner which enhances each and every scene. And what scenes there are, from Stella’s suggestion that they ‘bow before the vengeful vagina’ to Pequeñita (Julia Avendaño)’s electroshock treatment following her pregnancy.
A remarkable work of art from the artist, about the artist, featuring the relatives of the artist (on and off screen) depicting the relationships of the artist, Endless Poetry is essential viewing for cinephiles.