ENDLESS POETRY (Alejandro Jodorowsky)–I see a huge number of films. Very few of them lead me to wonder “What the hell did I just see and what do I think about it?” while the credits are rolling. ENDLESS POETRY is a film that defeats snap judgments, but by the time I got off the subway and started walking home, I had decided it was close to greatness. The films that made Alejandro Jodorowsky’s cult reputation, EL TOPO and THE HOLY MOUNTAIN, played to stoned hippie audiences in midnight,screenings through the ’70s. (I was a child at the time. Is anyone reading this old enough to have gone to those screenings at the time?) They’re still frequently revived as midnight movies in New York now. While I’ve never seen EL TOPO, I think THE HOLY MOUNTAIN has stood up pretty well, although maybe more for the sheer scale of its weirdness than as a work of spiritual depth. ENDLESS POETRY is Jodorowsky’s second autobiographical film, starring his son Adan as himself circa age 20. His middle-aged son Brontis also appears in it, in a magnetically nasty performance, as does the director himself. If you’re not willing to indulge “Fellini + Bunuel on strong weed” weirdness like a key character whose dialogue is wholly sung and another who wears a toxic red wig, ENDLESS POETRY might seem…well, endless. And Jodorowsky’s distance from the values of 2017 are evident left and right. In most respects, this is refreshing, but it’s also risky. The film flirts with homophobia, especially in a bizarre near-rape scene, but winds up depicting it as a virus passed from father to son rather than actually succumbing to it. There are individual scenes here that show more visual imagination than entire mumblecore films, but an entire 130 minutes of this does get excessive. ENDLESS POETRY is saved by the fact that its heart lies on its sleeve. It bears no direct connection to Roberto Bolaño’s novel THE SAVAGE DETECTIVES, but in some ways, it’s a very similar depiction of a Latin American youthful Bohemia where poetry reigns supreme. It’s undeniable that ENDLESS POETRY indulges gratuitous weirdness, but there’s absolutely no irony in it. It’s an utterly serious defense of the value of devoting one’s life to art, in which the director takes genuine risks with his real family. I can’t think of a young North American filmmaker who would make such a film right now, and we’re weaker for it. I saw ENDLESS POETRY with a packed house at a press screening. Usually, New York critics show absolutely no reaction at the end of such screenings: in fact, the most memorable reaction I can remember is the disgust with which we responded to Lars von Trier’s ANTICHRIST. My audience cheered this film. Did anyone stumble out of a screening of EL TOPO at 2 AM in 1972 and imagine that its director would wind up making one of 2017’s best films, at the age of 87?

 

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