If you are at all familiar with the movies of madman director Alejandro Jodorowsky — like the ’70s cult hits “El Topo” or “The Holy Mountain,” or his aborted effort to adapt Frank Herbert’s “Dune” — then you have an inkling of the divine weirdness that fills his autobiographical drama “Endless Poetry.”
If you’re new to Jodorowsky’s work, I have two words for you: Buckle up.
“Endless Poetry” shows Jodorowsky applying his surreal visions to this story of his younger self’s sexual and creative awakening. His symbolism is sometimes comically over the top (e.g., the guy on stilts in the Gestapo uniform) and rife with full frontal nudity and stylized sexuality. It’s not for every taste, but offers emotional rewards for those who tune into Jodorowsky’s odd wavelength.
“Endless Poetry” is the second chapter of Jodorowsky’s autobiographical films, following his childhood recollections in 2013’s “The Death of Reality.” Seeing the first movie isn’t a prerequisite for enjoying this one, and Jodorowsky helpfully offers a prologue to help newcomers catch up.
The new movie begins with the young Alejandro (played by Jeremias Herskovits) and his parents — stern Jaime (played by Jodorowsky’s older son, Brontis) and doting Sara (played by Pamela Flores) — moving in the 1940s from their bucolic small town in Chile to the bustling, crime-ridden capital, Santiago. Alejandro finds a book of poetry, and the power of its words inflames his brain and he decides he wants to become a poet.
Jaime forbids his son’s newfound passion, ordering Alejandro to study his biology texts so he can become a doctor, a much more reputable profession. Sara, who has stifled her passion for the arts (she literally sings every word she utters, like an opera diva), just wants her son to be happy and successful.
Young Alejandro rebels against his family and runs away to live with a commune of rebel artists. He grows up there, and as a young man (played now by Jodorowsky’s younger son, Adán), he seeks to find his artistic voice.
He meets his first muse in the flame-haired poet Stella Diaz, who paints her body with rainbows and confronts the male poetry establishment with her brazen sexuality. Stella is also played by Flores, and you don’t have to be Freud to figure out the connection when Alejandro becomes smitten with her. Ultimately, Stella’s tempestuous nature — and her desire to save herself “for a man with a divine face” — leaves the virgin Alejandro frustrated.
More encounters shape Alejandro’s life. He befriends a fellow poet, Enrique Lihn (Leandro Taub), with whom he shares beers, outlandish poetic performances and a 3-foot-tall girlfriend, Pequeñita (Julia Avendaño). Then there’s the tarot card reader (played by American choreographer Carolyn Carlson) who predicts Alejandro will create many great works and bed many women.
Through all of Alejandro’s ups and downs, the one relationship that fuels “Endless Poetry” is the one with his father. Sometimes the director himself steps in front of the camera to tell his youthful self, and the audience, that the young man must resolve his issues with his father — if not in life, then through his art.
Collaborating with the great Hong Kong cinematographer Christopher Doyle (“In the Mood for Love”), Jodorowsky turns his obsessions — he’s as fixated on the penis as David Lynch is on “The Wizard of Oz” — into art that’s both confrontational and confessional. In its mix of the absurd and the beautiful, “Endless Poetry” puts into images the sweeping emotions of Jodorowsky’s big, beating heart.
* * * 1/2
The outlandish director Alejandro Jodorowsky gets emotional in this surreal autobiography, showing his formative young-adult years and his strained relations with his father.
Where • Tower Theater.
When • Opens Friday, Sept. 15.
Rating • Not rated, but likely NC-17 for graphic nudity and imagery, sex scenes, stylized violence, and language.
Running time • 128 minutes; in Spanish with subtitles.