An early scene in Endless Poetry has Ricardo, a newly self-accepting gay friend of Alejandro Jodorowsky’s, telling Jodorowsky that he wants to be more than friends. Jodoroswky rejects Ricardo on account of his being straight. “We can still be friends,” he says. Ricardo replies: “Impossible. I would have to hide my erections.”
Endless Poetry is not a movie that has any interest in hiding its metaphorical (or literal) erections.
A semi-autobiographical film from acclaimed Chilean director Alejandro Jodorowsky, Endless Poetry is a film that’s not easy to talk about, let alone review. The framing device Jodorowsky uses, in which the 88-year-old filmmaker himself infrequently shows up to do a bit of on-screen narration, allows the film a good deal of leeway with which to juggle stageplay-theatricality with old-school, schmaltzy cinema. Quite literally, stagehands in full-body black latex scurry around the screen throughout, handing props to the actors and rearranging the art design in the background. Jodorowsky’s mother speaks exclusively in operatic song for the entirety of the film. It’s surreal and impressionistic and makes the viewer feel as though he’s sitting with Jodorowsky in person, listening to the famed filmmaker recount the story of his life, rather than sitting in a theater with an audience who are all experiencing the same finite piece of art.
It’s gorgeous, hilarious, bizarre, grotesque, and vulgar. Want to watch a young Jodorowsky (Adan Jodorowsky) engage in passionate, explicit sex? Maybe the idea of a bunch of Chilean Jews playing poker while “Kol Nidre” and Fiddler on the Roof’s “If I Were a Rich Man” play on the soundtrack appeals to you. Endless Poetry’s got both, and more – giant erect-penis sculptures, a Torah which is revealed to be a cigar box, a decent amount of off-screen vomit. The list goes on.
It’s a ridiculously beautiful movie to look at. The story, characters and dialogue are excellent – mildly inconsistent, but excellent – but the soul of this movie is buried in its visuals. Suffice it to say, Jodorowsky is a brilliant and unique mind, and the images he constructs are distinctly his.
Jodorowsky’s relationship with his father is of utmost importance here. His dad, played by Brontis Jodorowsky, insists on him going to medical school, but he wants to be a poet. So Jodorowky runs away from home as a young kid to shack up with a group of hipster impressionist artists. He only interacts with his parents periodically from that point on. The scenes where he does see his parents, however, are the most potent in the film. Brontis brings a raw, angry, almost rabid energy to the table, infusing every one of his scenes with tension and sadness.
The film has one of the strangest movie romances I can recall, with Jodorowsky falling for a Chilean poet named Stella Diaz Varin (who, apparently, was a real person, but is here played by Pamela Flores). Stella is a drunk, perpetually covered in elaborate body paint and glitter. Her hair is an eyesore-neon shade of red. Jodorowsky and Stella combine their pretentious attitudes toward art and poetry (they both self-identify as “poets,” never a good practice in my humble opinion) until they become, collectively, the most annoying thing to ever happen ever. Flores’s performance is off-the-wall crazy; it’s loud and brash and in-your-face. She’s quite good. Adan Jodorowsky is a Chilean Andy Samberg; he shares not only the distinctive facial features of the American comedian and SNL alum, but has the same goofball screen-presence.
It’s this goofiness that sometimes makes it difficult to take Jodorowsky seriously as an artsy-fartsy poet. He’s constantly making huge proclamations about the purity of the artform, but it only ever seems as though he’s a dumb kid who wants to be liked and is pleased that others are projecting import onto his words. Which is a fine story to tell, but I’m unsure what the intent was with the character. Toward the film’s end, Jodorowsky announces, “I have the heart of a poet! A heart capable of loving the whole world!” He’s a loveable dude, but a bit full of himself.
Endless Poetry is currently playing in theaters around the country. To see if it’s playing in your city, check out the film’s official website at https://www.endlesspoetrythemovie.com/screenings.