Endless Poetry – Review (Cannes Film Festival)

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Alejandro Jodorowsky is a fascinating figure in film and a unique talent, but he’s also a director that is still perhaps best known for two films he made in the seventies, El Topo and Holy Mountain, and the film he famously didn’t make, Dune. But now in his eighties, Jodorowsky is carving a new career within cinema, making a series of highly revealing autobiographical features.

The first of these films – he plans to make three more – was The Dance of Reality in 2013, a highly enjoyable Fellini-esque kaleidoscope that took us through Jodorowsky’s childhood and his highly complicated relationship with his abusive father. That film ended with Jodorowsky, his father and his mother boarding a boat to leave their rural home in Tocopilla and travel to the city. Endless Poetry picks up where that film left off, with the final scenes actually replayed at the beginning of Endless Poetry.

Early in Endless Poetry Jodorowsky’s son Adan steps into the role of playing Alejandro – another of Jodorowsky’s sons, Brontis, plays his father, as he did in The Dance of Reality – and he does so with great gusto. Adan is a remarkable physical performer, with the grace of a dancer and an incredibly wide-eyed and expressive face. He seems utterly convincing when he steps into every wild situation with enthusiasm and a slight sense of naivety.

And there are plenty of wild situations for him to get caught up in, as Alejandro is now exploring the life of being a poet and interacting with women for the first time. One such woman is Stella Davis, another poet and a hard-edged woman who literally holds Alejandro’s balls in her hands at all times. Pamela Flores plays the parts of Davis and Alejandro’s mother, but the two characters are so far apart that you could be excused for not realising that they were both being played by the same person. Flores is superb in both roles, continuing to sing all her lines as his mother, as she did in The Dance of Reality, and playing Davis with so much fire that she threatens to frequently pull focus away from our protagonist.

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The only unfortunate flat note in Endless Poetry is a sequence set in a gay club in which the men there attempt to rape Jodorowsky. This, coupled with the fact that Jodorowsky’s realisation that he’s not a “faggot” – as the film describe homosexuals – being treated as great success, suggests a disappointingly negative attitude towards homosexuality. Something that is incredibly surprising, given how utterly open Jodorowsky appears to be to people of all walks of life.

The filmmaking on display in Endless Poetry is some of the most rigorous of Jodorowsky’s career, with legendary cinematographer Christopher Doyle playing things surprisingly restrained and in keeping with the first film’s look. But there’s still plenty of anarchic content, and Jodorowsky is clearly still far more interested in truths than he is in reality, frequently breaking the fourth wall and using deliberate artifice to startling effect.

Another phantasmagoric delight from Alejandro Jodorowsky, Endless Poetry is a wonderful continuation of the autobiographical series he began with The Dance of Reality, and thanks in part to scenes in which he comes to terms with his bullying father, almost certainly his most emotionally wrought and touching film to date.

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