Endless Poetry – VIFF 2016 Review


Roger Ebert once said that “a good movie is never long enough and a bad movie is never short enough,” and if those words hold as much resonance as I feel they do, Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Endless Poetry is a 128 minute endurance test. Would bamboo chutes underneath one’s fingernails be as agonizing? Well, maybe, but they wouldn’t be as glib, patronizing, and bombastic as Endless Poetry, either.

This exhausting biographical exploration of Jodorowsky’s youth, before he became a filmmaker and instead wanted to write poems unspools in Santiago, Chile, in the 1940s and 50s and stars his son, Adan Jodorowsky, in the inappreciative central performance as his dad, Alejandro.

For much of the first act Endless Poetry is actually pretty enjoyable; the genius lensing of cinematographer Christopher Doyle is a huge boon to the picture, and as always for a Jodorowsky film, there are many striking visual images and oddities, but this is all a far-cry from the midnight mayhem of El Topo and Holy Mountain, and while, narratively speaking, Endless Poetry is pretty uncluttered, it’s also at the same time an absolute navel-gazing disaster.

At its best Endless Poetry has some moments of Marx Brothers-like mayhem––a piano is pulverized in a way the Brothers surely excited––and there’s some gags that could have been in a Monty Python film. But, all told, Endless Poetry feels like a sidelined fringe festival performance of a shitty Fellini film.

Alejandro’s mother sings all her lines like she’s in an opera none of the other characters in the film are in, and that’s an okay gag. There’s a dwarf dressed as Hitler, a dancer forever in a tutu, a Mexican Wrestler in love with a contortionist, and other colorfully OTT caricatures. Some are amusing, but they all wear out their welcome, and by the time Adan has sex with the menstruating dwarf wife of his friend, well, Jodorowsky claims this is biography.

But Jodorowsky says a lot of things and he frequently appears in the film, usually to break the fourth wall, and always to be self-congratulatory. At one instance Jodorowsky and his son stare straight into the lens of the camera and recite treacly cornball platitudes about life like some kind of tepid inspirational meme your religious aunt always shares online.

Jodorowsky spends so much time sermonizing about how everyone should live that it soon becomes clear that maybe this man, still a strong visual stylist, on a purely intellectual level, is actually old-fashioned, even for a guy in his eighties (sexist, homophobic, and his take on suicide is atrocious), extremely shallow, and certainly big-headed.

What Jodorowsky repeatedly bludgeons the head of the viewer ad nauseum with is that he’s lived a charmed life, even though daddy wasn’t warm to him, he was a trailblazing genius anyway and that, holy shit, isn’t that awesome? He lived sensually, genuinely, openly, like a mad poet. Only he’s not a poet, he’s an overweening narcissist who takes a long time to say what amounts to so very little. Endless Poetry is a dismal disappointment.

Taste of Cinema Rating: 1.5 stars (out of 5)

Author Bio: Shane Scott-Travis is a film critic, screenwriter, comic book author/illustrator and cineaste. Currently residing in Vancouver, Canada, Shane can often be found at the cinema, the dog park, or off in a corner someplace, paraphrasing Groucho Marx. Follow Shane on Twitter @ShaneScottravis.