It's no coincidence that as directors continue to age their movies become more personal and introspective. For example, Martin Scorsese’s Silence reckons with the limits of the director’s faith. Meanwhile, Sir Ridley Scott explores his notion of legacy and creation under the guise of sci-fi horror in Alien: Covenant.
This trend is very evident with revered avant-garde director Alejandro Jodorowsky as he grapples with his own life. 2013's The Dance of Reality/La Danza de la Realidad, his first movie in 24 years, looks at his early childhood in his hometown of Tocopilla, Chile. His latest film, Endless Poetry/Poesia Sin Fin is about a man taking stock of his life and recognizing the creative wonders that youth affords as depicted through the director's outlandish and impressionistic visual style.
In Endless Poetry, Alejandro (Jeremias Herskovits) escapes the rigid confines of his home life and searches for his personal and artistic identity amidst a colorful cast of characters. One day while working at his father's store, Alejandro identifies and beats up a thief who drops a book by Spanish poet García Lorca. This accidental discovery begins Alejandro’s obsession with the art of poetry and a need to venture out into the world.
Finding himself at odds with a family that frowns upon his artistic drive, Alejandro finally snaps, chops down an ancient family tree, and runs away after a disastrous dinner. He finds refuge in a house owned by two artist sisters.
After taking the world's longest nap, pre-teen Alejandro reemerges as a young man in his late teens/early twenties now played by Adan Jodorowsky. He writes. He explores his sexuality. He builds puppets and puts on plays in the sisters' house. But they and the other artists around him see that Alejandro’s talent has plateaued. He must go and gain inspiration from life beyond his bubble.
The sisters tell Alejandro to check Cafe Iris for inspiration. Expecting a den of authors, poets, painters and eccentrics engaged in spirited debate, Alejandro discovers a monochromatic and sterile beer bar with snoring drunks littering the tables. The only source of color in the room is Stella Dias Vann (Pamela Flores, who also plays his mother) with her rainbow legs, big boots, and a wild red hair. Having already inspired another Chilean poet, Nicanor Parra (Felipe Rios), she immediately draws Alejandro to her.
In this scene, Jodorowsky (the director) posits that not only is an artist as good as his or her muse but that a muse is the only thing that matters when creating art. Thanks to Stella, he's able to improvise poems of increasing quality. She also challenges his beliefs and notions of what art can be.
Endless Poetry focuses on Alejandro's growth as an artist. But looming over this transformation is Alejandro’s relationship with his father, Jaime (Brontis Jodorowsky). Jaime’s strict worldview of politics and masculinity foments a tumultuous relationship between father and son, filling their brief scenes together with resentment and name-calling. But instead of recoiling from his father’s insults, Alejandro uses them as fuel to further his career. By the end of the movie Alejandro has been a poet, a host to raging parties, a puppeteer, and a circus performer.
Jodorowsky takes the surrealism a step further by inserting himself into the movie at key emotional scenes. He uses this device to express judgments and lamentations on his own life and dictates how he wishes his younger self would have acted.
When we tell stories of our lives, they all contain a mix of doe-eyed nostalgia for a simpler time, wish fulfillment, and sobering realization of past mistakes. Endless Poetry is the ultimate expression of this type of storytelling in a visual medium. Let's keep our fingers crossed that Jodorowsky will continue telling his story.