'Endless Poetry' an Exuberant Celebration of Life and Art

Dir. Alejandro Jodorowsky—4.5 STARS

If every Harvard student were required to watch Alejandro Jodorowsky's “Poesía Sin Fin (Endless Poetry),” one imagines that the number of students pursuing art might triple. The veteran Chilean director’s new film impresses with contagious passion and stunning imagination. Its flamboyant cinematography and set design sync perfectly with its theme of celebrating life and art, resulting in an unforgettable carnival.

The story is simple and certainly not novel: Young Alejandrito rebels against the career in medicine that his parents have planned for him and instead chooses to pursues his dream of being a poet. In the course of this adventure, he meets like-minded friends and lovers exploring all forms of art. The artist commune central to the film is easily compared to the Bauhaus school of the 1920s, the Beat movement of the 1950s, or that of the director’s own experience—Jodorowsky is himself a poet; the childhood scene in the film was shot on the street where he grew up; and he plays the older version of the protagonist who shares his name.

What makes “Endless Poetry” great is how it tells its story. Far from being a realistic biopic, the film is full of surreal plot elements, fantastic set design, and narratives that constantly break the fourth wall. Shot by Christopher Doyle, who famously collaborated with Wong Kar-Wai on works such as “In the Mood for Love” and “2046,” the picture features a sumptuous color palette that itself seems like a work painted by the artists in the film. And like those young talents, the director follows no rules when it comes to artistic creation. An earthquake shakes the scene when the protagonist gets into a furious argument with his parents, and a carnival sweeps the streets after he comes to the realization that the meaning of life is to revel in the moment. In one standout scene, Alejandro meets his first love, a poet with long scarlet hair, in a somber café where everyone dresses in black and moves in slow motion.

Also contributing to the euphoric energy of the film is its brilliant soundtrack: Spanish guitar and folk music inflect the film with a taste of Latin American exuberance. The characters often dance together to such music, sing out their dreams, and improvise performances. In such scenes, the director deftly conveys the idea that the beauty of art lies in its power to express emotion.

If there is any problem with “Endless Poetry,” it is that every shot looks like the craziest, and every scene tries to be the most memorable. Excessive artistic creativity leads to a slight imbalance in storytelling, and it seems sometimes that style eclipses content. Portions of the film could benefit from more traditional storytelling and cinematography choices that, if nothing else, would better prepare viewers for the more impassioned parts by allowing them a moment’s rest. However, this minor imperfection is one often spotted and easily forgiven in a young artist’s work.

“Endless Poetry” truly lives up to its title: It flows like a poem, powered by emotion and imagination. It inspires and radiates and is surely here to stay.

—Staff writer Tianxing V. Lan can be reached at tianxing.lan@thecrimson.com.

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