Legendary director Alejandro Jodorowsky played a pivotal role in creating the idea of the “Midnight Movie” with 1970’s surrealistic Western El Topo, saw his career effectively destroyed with 1973’s never-properly released The Holy Mountain, and fried the minds of horror fans with 1989’s deeply disturbing Santa Sangre. But to many younger cinephiles, the now 88-year-old Chilean-born filmmaker is best known for the film he didn’t make, thanks to Frank Pavich’s 2013 documentary Jodorowsky’s Dune, which detailed his ultimately unsuccessful attempt back in the ’70s to bring Frank Herbert’s epic science-fiction novel to the big screen.
“A person came, he says, ‘I want to shoot you,'” recalls Jodorowsky. “I think he’s crazy. I say to him, ‘Well, I’ll give to you six days, you shoot me, but I will [say] whatever I want.’ He said, ‘Yes, do whatever you want.’ I did whatever I wanted. I told these stories. My cat came. But I think nobody will see that. I was very happy [with the documentary]. I made the impossible. I made a famous picture that doesn’t exist! You need to go do the impossible and something will happen.”
Jodorowsky delves even further back into his personal history for his new film, Endless Poetry (out Friday), the second in a planned quintet of autobiographical movies, whose first entry was 2013’s The Dance of Reality. The film details how the young “Jodo” rejected his store-owning parents’ desire that he became a doctor and instead embarked on a career as a poet while living among a very Bohemian community of artists in the Chilean capital of Santiago. Cast members include two of Jodorowsky’s sons—Brontis, who portrays the director’s stern father, and Adan, who plays the young Jodorowsky. The director himself, meanwhile, appears as his older self.
When your writer meets both Alejandro and Adan at the Manhattan offices of ABKCO Films, which is distributing Endless Poetry in the U.S., the affection between father and son is obvious. But neither denies the movie’s Chilean shoot was a testing experience.
“I would say it was a pleasure? No,” explains Alejandro. “It was a not a pleasure. It was really, really, really difficult because when I direct, for me, it is so important. I am not a good person — not a bad person — but I must not be his father.”
“It’s difficult, because when you’re your father’s directing, there is something emotional coming in — and it’s a story of the family, also,” says Adan. “So, it could be a lot of fights. But it wasn’t real fights. It was more nerves, to do it well. And so that’s why, he’d say something to Brontis, my brother, and Brontis would say it to me. And at the end, we decided to not eat together, to not eat dinner together after the movie. We had to rest a little bit.”
In typical Jodorowsky fashion, the film is full of strange touches, such as the fact that the character of his mother (played by Pamela Flores) sings all her dialog. “My mother, all the time, wanted to be an opera singer,” says the director. “And all the time was singing, ‘Alejandrito!’ She was all the day in a little store, all the day, she was working, working, working. And she never realized [her dream] herself. And then I say, we will realize her. In memory, I will give to my mother what she wanted.”
Judging by Endless Poetry, Jodorowsky recalls his father somewhat less rosily. But the director also argues that it was he, as much as anyone, who accidentally helped set the Jodorowsky on his artistic path. “Now I say, I forgive him,” he explains. “I say it was very useful. He [gave me] nothing, not culture, no nothing. I needed to find all my values myself. He didn’t give me any value, only to be strong. Well, I was very strong. I am here! I did what I wanted against everything, no?”
Endless Poetry was partly financed by a Kickstarter campaign and was very much a labor of love, and art, for Jodorowsky, who sets his own output apart from what he calls Hollywood’s “industrial” releases. “Myself, my wife, we put money in, we don’t want nothing, and Adan wanted nothing, he did it,” says the director. “These pictures are not industrial. I make something very incredible for this society. I say, I will make a picture in order to lose money, to make money will be not the goal. The goal will be to make an artwork, something which is useful for me, for the actors, and for the public, something which will heal something, something which will give you a value you don’t know. And in order to do that, you need to put [in] your own money and work for free. But if God gives you a chocolate, open your mouth! I believe in movies, myself. It is the biggest art, the biggest of all. But it is the most prostitute-ive art. It is only money! Industrial is necessary, to have fun, but we also need the other thing, no?”
Jodorowsky looks to continue doing what he wants for a while yet. “I am planning movies, I am planning comics, I am planning a lot of things, I am multi-player, like this,” he says, pointing to an iPhone. “Not like an old telephone. Old telephone is one thing, this is a lot of things!”
Watch a clip from Endless Poetry, above.