Having left provincial Tocopilla for 1940s Santiago, Alejandro Jodorowsky (Adan Jodorowsky) abandons his misanthropic shopkeeper father Jaime (Brontis Jodorowsky) and timid mother Sara (Pamela Flores) to learn about life and love, while pursuing his poetic aspirations in the Chilean capital's bohemian quarter.
Not many film-makers embark upon five-part movie memoirs in their eighties, but Alejandro Jodorowsky has never been one for the expected. Following on from where The Dance of Reality left off, the second part of this ambitious autobiographical cycle pitches the teenage Alejandro (Jeremias Herskovits) into a bustling city neighbourhood, where a dwarf Hitler declares war on prices to entice customers into his father's store. But kicking shoplifters is not for this sensitive soul (latterly played by the director's son Adan), who tries his hand at puppeteering, poetising and clowning in the circus before sailing to Paris to save Surrealism.
This episodic rite of passage is staged with innovative bravura by the typically eclectic Jodorowsky, who also designed the cardboard extras and faux façades that restore his youthful environs to their remembered glory. He also crops up occasionally to offer reassurance to his younger self, as he seeks to shock the literary establishment with fellow poet Enrique Lihn (Leandro Taub) and rebel against his strict upbringing by bedding red-haired punk siren Stella Diaz (opera-singing mother Pamela Flores in a mischievously Freudian dual role) and Lihn's dwarf lover Pequeñita (Julia Avenado), who indulges in a little menstrual seduction to Fred Astaire's `Cheek to Cheek'.
Lustrously photographed by Christopher Doyle, set-pieces like the carnival meeting of some skeletons and red devils and the 1952 election triumph of Carlos Ibáñez del Campo bring some shoestring spectacle to the demimonde dalliances. But this is a surprisingly intimate, if sometimes meanderingly melancholic recollection that allows the 87 year-old maverick a chance to bid a fond(ish) farewell to the forbidding father whose brutally intolerant failings helped shape his own character.
Vibrantly recreating a seminal period in Jodorowsky's personal and artistic development, this bullishly played saga has enough quirky detail, audacious incident and visual panache to sweep the storyline through its less persuasive phases.