Sign up for the Film Comment Letter today to get original film writing delivered to your inbox every week! >>

Short Take: Endless Poetry

(Alejandro Jodorowsky, Chile/Japan/France, ABKCo Films, Opens July 14)

A poets’ café staffed by elderly waiters dressed like pallbearers. A tarot reading jointly performed by an aged American dancer and a naked twink on a bed. A young Alejandro Jodorowsky celebrating the fact that his parents’ house has burned down. Whether any of these moments are entirely true, totally fabricated, or representative of some larger, psychological truth doesn’t matter when you’re in the hands of this consummate visual artist. Picking up where The Dance of Reality (his return to filmmaking after a 23-year absence) left off, Jodoroswky’s latest “autobiography” explores his days as a young poet in Santiago, Chile.

While the story follows young Jodo as he experiments with words, wine, and a very brash muse (Pamela Flores, who also plays his opera-singing mother), the main conflict exists between Alejandro (Adan Jodorowsky, a son of the director) and his strict, disciplinarian father Jaime (Brontis Jodorowsky, Adan’s brother)—and the psychic real estate Jaime takes up in Alejandro’s head. As little Alejandro attempts to write his first lines of verse, Jaime’s giant, superimposed head sits on his bed and barks “Faggot!” at him.

Nevertheless, this film, like its precursor, is ultimately about forgiveness: as Jaime attempts to stop the film’s Alejandro from sailing to Paris, the filmmaker appears on screen as himself and mediates their farewell. “By not loving me, you taught me that love is an absolute,” the young Alejandro murmurs. In the hands of a lesser artist, this would seem pretty trite; here, its sincerity shines through.