In the Vicinity of Absurdity: Endless Poetry (Chile, 2017) by Alejandro Jodorowsky


Endless Poetry (2017)
Director/Writer: Alejandro Jodorowsky
Cinematographer: Christopher Doyle
Music: Adan Jodorowsky
Actors: Pamela Flores, Brontis Jodorowsky, and Jeremias Herkovitz.

my introduction to the wild and improbable imaginarium of chilean filmmaker  alejandro jodorowsky came in july 2018 with the indescribable experience of his Dance of Reality (2013). it’s an autobiography of sorts, distorted through the storytelling lens of magical realism, with a focus on the director’s childhood prominently featuring a lunatic of a father (played with fanatic dedication by one of jodorowsky’s own sons, brontis jodorowsky). the director’s other creative endeavours have him listed variously under the categories of composer, novelist, puppeteer, screenwriter, psychologist and psychoanalyst, playwright, spiritual guru, essayist, sculptor, stage director, theatre producer, painter, actor, draughtsman, film editor, graphic novelist, philosopher, and mime. as well as, in the official sense, a poet. this last profession is the obsession that his 2017 follow-up, Endless Poetry, holds as the narrative aperture through which even the most random happenstances of his adolescence are vivified as a necessary cobble in his path towards the birth of his unstoppered creative output. though employing compositional structures that qualify it as magical realism, magic as a vector for metaphor——as in the case of Dance of Reality——is no longer the core concept. it’s been replaced instead with absurdity for absurdity’s sake. but because it’s jodorowsky, the absurd isn’t left cold and dangling without adequate context; every creative decision feels beyond debate, a testament to the inexhaustible licence of a man completely in love with the life of the artist——and, at bottom, a man in love with life and the very thereness of it. 

i’ve not been able to escape the luminous orbit of his Dance of Reality in the year since watching it, for it’s an indescribable satisfaction when a creative project cuts all its reins and becomes a skiff in the filthy frothy sea of absurdity that a rotund and fecund imagination joyously swims in...and is yet able to build a bridge back to relatability through the inexplicable calculus of its moral compass. this was the momentum i rode coming into Endless Poetry, ripe on the crest of a readiness to go along with all of jodorowsky’s bizarre obsessions and fetishes, with near-absolute faith in the profound meaning behind it all. but it took me half the film’s length to come to terms with 1) how little prevalence he gives to moralizing, at least in comparison to Dance, and 2) how, in a quite obvious way, that is exactly the point. 

poetry, when it succeeds, even in its most elementary iteration, is an event that is in no way at all on its way to anything else. perhaps it’s this need for a destination that distinguishes Spoken Word from Poetry. ‘Everything you are going to be you already are’ was the tagline for Dance. the spirit and logic behind that tagline, however, seems to be better expressed in this 2-hour serenade of the poetic life. indeed the film does follow a kind of poetic logic: like stanzas, scenes seem to exist independently of each other; images bump into each other without a prolonged interest in cohesion; and no character seems quite real enough for realism, their personalities are glimpsed in passing like a falling photograph, while their eccentricities are exaggerated by the kaleidoscope of memory. above all, there is barely any sense of resolution. as this lack of a need for resolution is a feature unique to poetry (perhaps even more than music, for part of what makes a melody particularly satisfying is how one part of it resolves the ‘questions’ of another), it’s only aproppo that a film about poetry is in no hurry for resolution. 

the concept of the ‘story’ in Endless is similar to that of Dance——it’s the same family, the same stern and serating presence of maniacal father, the same song-happy and voluptuously bosomed mother (pamela flores’s performance is once again simply unbelievable). this time however, the meek and hapless but nevertheless vibrant child has reached an adolescent age wherein he must make the decision on what type of a man he is. will he be another pebble in the seemingly ineluctable stream of hard and small men, who shrink themselves into something of a nine-pound hammer, and then proceed to treat everything else as a nail? the adolescent jodorowsky (played by a now slightly older jeremias herkovitz, reprising his role from Dance) announces his decision as unequivocally as possible: by breaking away from a gathering of the enveloping clutch of family members——each busy cheating and lying their way through a card game——to cut, axe in hand, the ‘family tree’ in the backyard. from thereon his poetic disposition is undeniable, and the rest of the film is a wild romp of the variously appalling scenarios such a disposition is naturally inclined to: some of which are ugly, unseemly, incoherent, desperate, sublime, self-affirming, criminal——but, through and through, as honest as a good poem can be, must be.  

jodorowsky’s films are categorically anti-capitalist, and they arrive at that stance not via the oft fashionable route of some inarticulate melange of aesthetic minimalism and first-world guilt, but from the opposite direction: from an excess of spirit, the bold conviction that of all its innumerable shortages, the worst by-product of capitalism is how much smaller the world needs to be in order for it to work. the austerities of the spirit of capitalism——the exactitudes of its transactions——is always a subject of ridicule in a jodorowsky film. and that ridicule is expressed in the very nature of the filmmaker’s excessive creative indulgences, whereby supply grotesquely outshines demand.  indeed the life lived by the characters in his films is usually like that of a cup pouring into itself, emptied and refilled simultaneously, endlessly. 

and finally, there’s that indispensable element of storytelling that shines through in Endless Poetry: the significance of the formative structure of family, that not even the most rigorous artistic education can liberate. i’m of the firm belief that every human story, no matter how fantastic or absurd, is a story about family——it appears jodorowsky has no misconceptions about that either. 

in summa summarum: i give this film 9.22 ‘wtf haha’s out of 12 ‘omg wtf’s