⋆⋆⋆½ out of four stars
Unrated by the MPAA. Nudity and sex. In subtitled Spanish.
A master of midnight cinema in the ’70s with marvelous psychedelic blockbusters including “El Topo” and “The Holy Mountain,” Chilean director/actor/author Alejandro Jodorowsky may be the only cinema visionary more lively and eccentric than David Lynch. His latest film, the dreamlike, surreal autobiography “Endless Poetry,” lives up to its title. At 88, Jodorowsky is still unfolding artistic flourishes as if he were a magician with an endless supply of rabbits in his top hat. It feels sometimes like a soulful ballad, at other moments like funny doggerel, and always like Fellini at his most spectacular and colorful.
The new film is another chapter of the uproariously unruly life story he introduced in 2013’s “The Dance of Reality,” which followed young Alejandro from childhood to early adolescence in the Chilean seaside town of Tocopilla. Moving into the 1950s and ’60s here, things have changed (the nation’s reactionary Ibáñez dictatorship has simmered down) and stayed the same (Alejandro’s kin are still world-class eccentrics).
As before, the protagonist moves through an abstract family mythology where father (Jodorowsky’s son Brontis) is a relentless bully, and while mother (opera star Pamela Flores) sings her dialogue in golden soprano tones she is clearly the diva of her exclusive solo opera.
This time, Jodorowsky’s youngest son Adán plays the main character, with every bit of his bloodline’s handsome looks and performing energy. Alejandro is an odd artistic duck. He regularly slips away from home to become a poet in secret, and also to connect with a busty, Wagnerian poetess who could become his muse — or more. But Father will have none of that. He insists that his son become a doctor and rise above his own limited status as a haberdasher.
In Jodorowsky’s signature style, the screen is packed with bizarre minor characters who could occupy separate films of their own, and no opportunity to launch a ribald love scene is ignored. Much of the story is told in theatrical artifice, with black-clad stagehands unrolling huge sheets of graphic backgrounds and delivering props to the players. They are truly special effects, their frank fakeness much superior to everyday computerized illusions. Joining his sons on-screen, Jodorowsky appears as himself now, explaining what the turmoil of the moment means to him from the perspective of age. It’s a flourish of magical realism perfectly suited to a wise, silly film of exhilarating beauty.
⋆ out of four stars
Rated: R for violence
Halle Berry stars as a woman who pushes her minivan — and her psyche — to the limit while retrieving her young son from abductors in the scanty thriller “Kidnap.” There’s not much more to it than that — a fierce single mom who’s got wheels and knows how to use them.
Produced by Berry, it offers the star a chance to prove her physical might in a low-budget genre piece. But there had to have been better screenplays out there than this. It doesn’t contain any suspense or tension at all. As for Berry’s performance, it’s not necessarily “good,” but it is effortful. She is at full-throttle, wild-eyed, teeth bared in a Halloween mask grimace. It’s a wonder that no one accuses her of being crazy, which at least would have added some dynamism to the tale.
Katie Walsh, Tribune News Service
City of Ghosts
⋆⋆½ out of four stars
Rated: R for atrocities.
“City of Ghosts,” a blunt instrument of a documentary, is an urgent and heart-heavy account of Syrian resistance from the ground up. It recounts the activism of the RBSS, a citizen-journalist initiative that emerged in April 2014 to secretly record the atrocities committed by the Islamic State.
Directed by Matthew Heineman, it primarily focuses on three RBSS activists identified by their first names — Aziz, Hamoud and Mohamad. They come across as ordinary men made extraordinary by circumstance. Heineman is clearly passionate and sincere, But along the way, he furnishes only a sketchy look at the various players and geopolitical stakes, glossing over Syria’s historical complexities.
Manohla Dargis, New York Times