"Review: 'Sanctuary in Endless Poetry'" by Jamé McCraw

Alejandro Jodoworsky’s Endless Poetry is the second installment of the Chilean director’s autobiographical trilogy. It continues where The Dance of Reality (2013) leaves off, in Santiago, Chile, exploring the artist’s years as a young adult. Although Endless Poetry is the first film I have seen by this well-known filmmaker, I found it to be an incredibly accessible introduction to a body of work that began nearly five decades ago.
In act of open rebellion, the crestfallen and irate young Alejandro Jodorowsky fells a family tree after being ridiculed for his dreams of being a poet by his father and comically cruel and deceitful extended family. His cousin, who is never shown without his beloved dog in his arms, is his only ally after the event. He leads Alejandro to his new home and family where he lives in the company of artists and dancers, including a ballerina who is in perched in toe shoes for the duration of the film.
His mother, portrayed by Pamela Flores, is also at odds with the extended family. She aims to please to no avail. Every line she speaks is sung in a billowy soprano but this characterization, unique only to her, seems to tie the young poet to his mother under the umbrella of art. She is suppressed and constrained in her life, figuratively and literally, by the tight corset she wears. Her young son does not wish to live such a suppressed life.
To portray the push-and-pull dichotomy the filmmaker had with his father, Jodorowsky symbolically cast his own sons in the roles. His oldest son, Brontis Jodorowsky, plays his father, and his youngest son, Adan, plays himself. The director bends the scope of time by inserting himself, an older man at this point, into scenes throughout the movie. He offers advice to the ghost of himself, as if to offer peace and consolation, influencing the course of events to a different outcome.
While under the care and guidance of his new family of misfit artists, young Alejandro flourishes. He improvises poetic verse on the spot to a captive audience. He is directed to a nearby bar to find a muse to further influence his pursuit of beauty, poetry, and life. He meets the voluptuous and bold Stella Diaz with shocking long vibrant red hair and her body painted. Her mannerisms are comically bold. She pounds booze, brawls with brutish strength, and laughs loudly with disdain. Pamela Flores, the same actress who plays Alejandro’s demure songbird mother plays Stella. She is hardly recognizable. In a moment of emasculating chaos, Alejandro distances himself from this overwhelming influence of Stella.
He eventually finds a faithful friend and accomplice in performance and poetic pursuits in Enrique Lihn (played by Leandro Taub). In one memorable scene, the two attempt to prove they need not break stride for obstacles and continue walking a straight path through town by bounding over a produce truck and politely passing through the home of a stranger.
Endless Poetry features many comical moments of rebellion. It is endearing to see the cast of characters “yes-and” one another’s impulses in organic moments, be they energetic bursts or more organized settings.

Even when there is discord or pain, a celebration can be found in the act of reconciliation or while processing grief. There was much care put into this film, and the tenderness is evident in each beautiful moment. Jodorowsky celebrating his life in this way is very touching and an inspirational reminder to any artist with a dream. And whether or not you have found your tribe of misfits, rest assured you will feel welcome into the loving group of friends portrayed in this movie.

*Endless Poetry will be playing at Texas Theatre with multiple showings Friday, July 21 - Friday, July 28.

Jamé McCraw is a current student at DCH and performs with Watermelon. She enjoys watching squirrels through the windows of her little old house while holding hands with her cat, Stanley.