ALEJANDRO Jodorowsky went 23 years without releasing a film, and in the last three years he’s given us two. Considering his love of the tarot, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that there’s some sort of numerological game afoot. Endless Poetry continues the autobiographical story begun in The Dance of Reality, where little Alejandro became the mascot of a fire brigade while his father narrowly failed to assassinate the fascist dictator Ibanez. (‘Autobiographical’ may be stretching things.) This time around the focus falls squarely on the son, as he abandons his family to pursue the life of a poet.
Transforming from a skinny adolescent into a full-grown man overnight, Alejandro quickly realises that he’s in need of a muse. He finds one in the shape of the ferocious Stella, a body-painted Amazon who pledges herself to him until the day a man with a ‘holy forehead’ arrives to impregnate her. In the meantime they make love, recite poems and get into fist fights in seedy gay bars. But Alejandro remains mysteriously dissatisfied. Abandoning his mistress, he sets off on a voyage of self-discovery, guided only by poetry, the ‘burning butterfly’ that lights his path – that is according to an old tramp he met in the street.
Strip away the magical details and the plot of Endless Poetry would be a standard artist’s coming-of-age tale: overbearing father, downtrodden mother, escape into a parallel universe of freaks and dreamers. But that would be like ironing the clocks in a Dalí painting (which, come to think of it, sounds like a scene from this movie). What we get instead is a carnival of absurdist images and situations, often sustained by nothing more than sheer force of invention. The sublime and the farcical collide with disorientating frequency, making it difficult to determine what’s serious and what’s a joke. But that has always been the case with Jodorowsky, who once spent $1m of John Lennon’s money making a film where a naked Jesus lookalike shits into a dish and turns it into gold.
Eager to pass on his wisdom, the man himself appears intermittently throughout the film, exhorting both his younger alter-ego and the viewer to abandon the search for meaning and ‘Live! Live! Live!’. It sounds a little more convincing in Spanish (or at least it does if you don’t speak Spanish), but you can’t fault him for exuberance. At 86 years old he has more energy than Baz Luhrmann directing a Fast and the Furious movie. If he lives to be 100 I don’t know how we’ll cope.
Endless Poetry is currently playing at Home.