Straight male filmmakers are drawn to the semi-autobiographical coming-of-age film like cats to a cardboard box: even if it makes little sense for them to do it, they’re compelled to jump in and see how it feels. It’s the rare director who can do justice to the well-worn template—and when that director is venerated surrealist Alejandro Jodorowsky, the man behind eye-popping midnight movie classics El Topo and The Holy Mountain, things get curiouser and curiouser.
Endless Poetry is the Chilean artist’s sequel to 2013’s The Dance of Reality, which covered his pre-teen days—here, we follow young Jodorowsky (played with charm and verve by the director’s son, Adan) as he decides to pursue a life of letters. It’s a move that alienates him from his parents, but sends him into the arms of a colorful group of fellow artists who encourage his budding talents as a poet.
The spirited yet occasionally strained relationships that Jodorowsky shares with this ensemble give Poetry plenty of comedy and drama, but the director goes deeper. Endless Poetry is a visual stunner, rendered in warm reds and yellows by ace cinematographer Christopher Doyle to evoke the mood of a long sunrise, with hyper-realistic set design that gives everything the sensation of a slightly skewed memory. Jodorowsky also sneaks in small homages to the directors and films that inspired his journey to moviemaking, including Marcel Carné’s Children of Paradise and Fellini’s Amarcord.
For all the poignancy that’s stirred up through Poetry, what Jodorowsky concentrates on is the power and beauty of the arts. The perfect line, the perfect brush stroke, the perfect dance move—those are the moments that the 88-year-old filmmaker still finds great joy within. After watching Endless Poetry, you will too.