So, let’s get this out of the way early. Endless Poetry may be one of the most prophetically titled films to come out this year, and yes, I’m well aware we’re barely past the numerical starting line. Clocking in at just over two hours this bizarre, hyper-indulgent film did feel somewhat endless. And, to be clear, I’m not talking ‘visionary’ or ‘epic’, I’m talking about achy bum inducing. However, if I was to say ‘It sure felt endless!’ to anyone who asked about this film (and I did) it’s really only to service the gag that’s begging to be made. In truth, I rather enjoyed this film, achy bum and all.
Visionary director Alejandro Jodorowsky, whom many will know as the helmsman behind freak out masterpieces such as El Topo and The Magic Mountain, makes a turn for the strictly autobiographical, but no less weird. Endless Poetry sees the 87 year old Chilean looking back on his formative years as a young artist in Santiago. But, of course, this is only to give the most skeletal of descriptions for a film that attempts to cover topics such as fascism, sex, bohemia, work, family and boozing.
The carnival-esque giddiness is certainly what saves this film from becoming what is keeps threatening to be; namely, another Terrence Malik film. Thankfully Jodorowsky makes his philosophy clear from the get go and espouses that deep introspection can only get one so far. Jodorowsky argues that a life well lived (or at least lived poetically) is a life in which one engages fully with the world, being open to continuous mistakes and vulnerability. While Malik’s recent offerings are hampered by his penance towards trying to articulate the meaningless of the universe, Jodorowsky theories that while life cannot be perfectly understood, it can certainly be lived! Therefore how one chooses to live is of the upmost importance. So, less Tree of Life and more Glee of Life.
While some parts of the film left me pinning for answers, I was more often than not left grinning merely at the films unabashed ‘artfulness’. With a line up consisting of opera singers, drag acts and panto fascists, the film recalls the grand tradition of masterful European art house cinema. Being a film autobiographical in nature and demented in is stagecraft the most obvious point of reference here is Fellini’s Amarcord. While Fellini’s film runs this way and that, introducing and losing characters at will, Endless Poetry does thankfully anchor the madness with a leading man; the directors own son no less, Adan Jodorowsky. Relishing every inch of the spotlight Jodorowsky Jr. is a delightful and graciously comic presence. With pantomime levels of face pulling and a readiness to mime, dance and strip his way through his dad’s past, Adan can be thanked for making Endless Poetry a challenging but ultimately likable feature.
Dir: Alejandro Jodorowsky
Scr: Alejandro Jodorowsky
Featuring: Adan Jodorowsky, Brontis Jodorowsky, Pamela Flores
Prd: Erick Aeschlimann, Takashi Asai, Moisés Cosío
DOP: Christopher Doyle
Music: Adan Jodorowsky
Run time: 128 mins
Endless Poetry is released at cinemas in the U.K. on the 6th January