Endless Poetry (4 stars)

Endless Poetry

Chilean auteur Alejandro Jodorowsky continues his personal journey in inimitable style

How do memory and inspiration interact in the formation of creative work? In the realm of cinema, there have been directors notably preoccupied with interrogating their own histories and obsessions – Federico Fellini springs to mind – and others, like David Lynch, who choose to remain stubbornly enigmatic in terms of their personal lives. Trust Alejandro Jodorowsky – Chilean poet, novelist, psychedelic guru, clown and cult film legend – to do things a little differently.

Endless Poetry is the second segment of a planned five-part autobiopic (which began with 2013's The Dance of Reality) that reveals the origins of a spectacular artistic legacy via a carnival-esque theatricalisation of his life. The spirit of the aforementioned Fellini looms large, in part because of the two directors' shared affiliation for circus imagery and grotesque subversions of conventional cinematic glamour. But Jodorowsky, now in his 80s, is a one-off, and his interpretation of his own story is no less idiosyncratic.

His transformation of the domestic and social context of his early life into a big top fever dream is funny, touching and insightful, as well as lurid and strange. In particular, it confronts the idea that excess and theatricality displace or negate real emotion. Here, art – the more flamboyant the better – is the key to authentic emotion, not a suspect distortion thereof. Every time the young Alejandro's put-upon and bullied mother (Pamela Flores) speaks, she does so in operatic song, a sign of her stubborn need to make the best of things and to create beauty; the same impulse turns the young Alejandro into a relentless, unique and stubbornly optimistic interpreter of the human condition.

Jodorowsky turns a pivotal segment of his life – from his uncertain adolescence (where he's played by Jeremias Herskovits) to his earnest, showy twenties as a poet and theatre-maker (here his youngest son Adan Jodorowsky takes over the role) – into a pageant. It's grandiose, for sure, and sometimes a touch repetitive in its visual preoccupations, but charged with ceaseless curiosity and infectious energy.

Selected release from Fri 6 Jan.

Endless Poetry

  • 4 stars
  • 2016
  • Chile / France
  • Directed by: Alejandro Jodorowsky
  • Cast: Adan Jodorowsky, Jeremias Herskovits, Pamela Flores

Director Jodorowsky looks back at his own youth in Santiago in the 40s and 50s. Funny, touching and insightful second segment of a planned five-part autobiopic; grandiose and sometimes repetitive, but full of curiosity and energy.