Poesía sin fin (Endless Poetry)

I cannot tell whether this is blissful homage or cautionary tale.

Y es, I’ve seen weirder. After all, I grew up on David Lynch and John Waters. But you gotta hand it to a film that never comments on the fact that mom sings all her dialogue, opera style. And then ruins two homemade layer cakes in the first ten minutes. Grandma deliberately face-plants with the strawberry cake out of sympathy for a child lost to … asphyxiation by strawberry cake.

Writer, director, and main character Alejandro Jodorowsky (played young by Jeremias Herskovits, as an adult by real life son Adan Jodorowsky, and as an old man by himself) has a lot of personal history issues to work out. Was his father (real life son Brontis Jodorowsky) a disgusting bully? Was his poetic inspiration the female Chilean Divine (Pamela Flores)? Did his gay cousin really commit suicide because he couldn’t get a piece of Alejandro?

Old man Alejandro introduces us to his old neighborhood magically transforming a current nothing into a dated thriving boomtown. Li’l Alejandro is late for work cuz a guy got gutted on his doorstep. That kinda sets the tone as Alejandro’s dad Jaime immediately exacts shopkeep justice on a pair of thieves – he kicks the man repeatedly, encouraging his son to do so as well, and then strips the woman nude right in front of the store to the jeers of the masked audience. At a command, the audience disperses.  Stage direction is so precise in this film that Alejandro rarely lets his actors breathe. Every time a character has to put an object down, a black-clad phantom takes the object from their hand while the actor pretends this is normal. The latter has the effect of both distracting us from and pointing us to the inadequacies of the actors in the movie.

Of course, li’l Alejandro doesn’t have a taste for beating shoplifters, nor does he desire to be the doctor his father insists upon; Alejandro wants to be a poet, and defies his clan by chopping down a backyard tree while dad is playing poker with the family homosexual, grandma, and a rabbi. I feel like the poker table set-up is an elaborate set-up for a punchline, but I just didn’t get the joke. The scene ends as it should, with Alejandro escaping forever.

It hard to encapsulate such a bizarre film in exactly one moment or set of actions – could it be grandma cheating in the family poker game? Could it be the day when Alejandro and his best friend decide to walk an exact straight line across town, obstacles be damned? Could it be when Chile’s Divine insists upon grabbing Alejandro’s genitals whenever they walk together? No, if I had to boil down Poesía sin fin to one scene, it happens at a house party where an aging medium grabs Alejandro by the hand, insisting that she read his fortune. The woman drags Alejandro back to a combination bedroom/arboretum where a naked man lies on the bed. The woman spouts mystic poetry and places oversized tarot cards on the man’s chest, which highlights the fact that this human piece of furniture is now sporting an unfortunately small (but full) erection. Yup, I don’t get that, either.

Somewhere in between the oversized tarot/undersized erection and graphic “thank you” sex with a combo B-cup/D-cup midget on her period, I realized there’s no way this plotless meandering was random. Good God, this is biographical, isn’t it? Yup, these are the real life adventures (or the drug-induced versions thereof) of the real life Alejandro Jodorowsky … well, no wonder he became an artist.

Now, normally, I’d tear into a film I didn’t understand well. I think the act of making a film deliberately confusing is a hostile one, exacerbated by the fact that too often (many) critics react as if the deliberately confusing is a sign of genius. I see it the other way. There’s no question here that Poesía sin fin is damn confusing, but it’s not an untouchable confusing. The bizarre is thrust upon our hero, and Alejandro is a sympathetic protagonist, not an aloof one. Yes, I was bothered that Adan Jodorowsky isn’t much of an actor. I was also retrospectively ruffled by the idea of a father directing his son as himself involved in all sorts of sexual situations. So, you wrote/directed your real life son acting out your oft naked adventures? Is it me or is there something just kinda creepy about that?

No matter. Poesía sin fin is a “What’s with the midget?” film [RIP, Rodney Dangerfield]. Of course, such implies I understood everything except the midget, which is far from true. I’ll put it this way: For those like me who love film, here is something you haven’t seen. Really, really, haven’t seen. But don’t try this at home; I am a professional.

A South American boy and his willie
Have adventures most would deem quite silly
He deifies dad’s abuse
Contracting an odd muse
For bizarre, this is some five alarm Chile

Unrated, 128 Minutes
D: Alejandro Jodorowsky
W: Alejandro Jodorowsky
Genre: What’s with the midget?
Type of person most likely to enjoy this film: People who are up for anything
Type of person least likely to enjoy this film: Prudes

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