Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5. / , . , . Screenplay by . Cinematography by . Produced by , Alejandro Jodorowsky, . Music by . Production Design by . Costume Design by . Film Editing by .
Alejandro Jodorowsky makes his first film in over twenty years, the initial part of a planned trilogy of autobiographies which he followed with Endless Poetry a few years later. This chapter focuses on his father, played here by portraying his own grandfather Jaime, a Ukranian-Jewish immigrant whose obsession with macho strength and virility belies his own fears of his vulnerabilities. He runs a shop in the Chilean town of Tocopilla with his wife Sara who, because this is a film by a master of surrealism, delivers all her dialogue in operatic singing (and is portrayed by soprano ), and Jaime is relentless in his efforts to turn his artistically minded, emotionally vulnerable son Alejandro into as tough a man as he believes himself to be (every expression of emotion is a sign of dreaded homosexuality). When Jaime is inspired to travel to Santiago to murder right-wing president Carlos Ibanez in the name of saving his country, he goes on an odyssey worthy of Ulysses that nearly costs him his life to return home. Lengthy and dramatic, this film is surprising for how straight-forward it is, the filmmaker famous for acid-trip-level eccentricities treats his own life quite seriously and only indulges in a few artistic flourishes: extras wearing masks in some scenes tell a story about the townspeople he grew up around, a scene in which his younger self masturbates with his classmates is done with giant dummies instead of the real thing, another in which his mother comforts him by getting naked and painting him and herself all black is the kind of risky free-form interpretation that we want from this original thinker. These theatrical devices all display the great artist’s visual wit but there isn’t enough of them, the viewer welcomes Jodorowsky to be so much more unconventional than he dares to be and, on that level, the film is a little disappointing, but it’s quite satisfying as melodrama thanks to the expert performance by Brontis in the lead. Charismatic, physically impressive and always sympathetic even in his most brutal scenes, Brontis has more presence than his brother Adan does in the next film, in which the Jodorowsky portrays his own artistic awakening with even more daring visuals than he does here.