Jodorowsky’s Dune

Jodorowsky's Dune photo starrating-4stars.jpgJodorowsky’s Dune is a fascinating documentary because it posits “what could have been?” Chilean born director Alejandro Jodorowsky is known for his avant garde films. El Topo (1970) and The Holy Mountain (1973) in particular were mainstays of the 1970s midnight movie circuit in the United States. Neither gained widespread distribution, but both became classics of underground cinema. Then in 1975, the cult director optioned the rights to Frank Herbert’s science fiction classic Dune. He then proceeded to amass an impressive assemblage of talent: artists H. R. Giger and Jean Giraud for character and set design, Dan O’Bannon for special effects, Pink Floyd for music, and a cast that would include David Carradine, Mick Jagger, Orson Welles and Salvador Dalí. The group became what he refers to as his “spiritual warriors” – people with whom the director felt a kinship in manifesting what was to be his masterpiece. Douglas Trumbull, in contrast, was considered for special effects first. The director’s personality didn’t gel with the talent behind 2001: A Space Odyssey and he was not hired.

Jodorowsky’s Dune is a engrossing document because it provides the history behind a bizarre movie that never came to fruition. In his fertile and uninhibited imagination, the production becomes sort of a no-holds-barred, anything is possible fantasy with limitless possibilities. Whether an unproven director could have successfully produced an opus of this magnitude is unclear. The undertaking soon ran out of funds. Jodorsoksky burned through more than $2 million of producer Michel Seydoux’s money and hadn’t yet shot a single frame. They appealed for more cash. Apparently the studio was not convinced and shut down the project before it had the opportunity to continue.

Jodorowsky’s Dune makes an entertaining case that this is the greatest sci-fi film never made. The massive Dune storyboard book circulated through various studios in Hollywood as the proposal sought financing partners. The blueprints contain attributes which correlate to visual aspects in Star Wars, Alien, Flash Gordon, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Blade Runner, The Terminator, Masters of the Universe, The Matrix and others. Alejandro Jodorowsky is an intriguing personality and it’s fun hearing him reminisce about something in which he is still so passionate. He was able to charm a lot of people into initially believing in him. As charismatic as he is, I am certain the man is also stark raving mad. There’s no way the final product could have possibly lived up to the potential that this feature suggests. However, that doesn’t lessen the impact of this captivating document on filmmaking. Ultimately Dune would reach the screen in David Lynch’s infamous 1984 adaptation. Jodorowsky’s reluctance to see someone else’s vision of a project he was so close to, is understandable. Even his climatic recounting of that story is worth the price of admission.

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10 Responses to “Jodorowsky’s Dune”

  1. Great review. I stumbled on the preview for this the other day and was intrigued. “a cast that would include David Carradine, Mick Jagger, Orson Welles and Salvador Dalí” – I love this. What a totally nutso cast. Would have been a site to see.

  2. Very very interesting documentary. I’ve never seen “Dune”, so I have nothing to compare this with. That didn’t matter. I was fascinated by all the plans and creativity. This was fun. I will probably force myself to see “Dune” in the future. How awful can it really be? 3 1/2 stars

  3. I am quite interested in this documentary. I know nothing about the “Dune” concept or the filmmakers past films. However, the poster is cool, the reviews are positive and I am super interested in film-making so I do believe viewing this is necessary! The latter is the main reason why!

  4. The stories of films that never came to be are fascinating. I remember reading a book called Tales from Development Hell, which is all about movies like this or versions of films that couldn’t escape the development phase after years of effort. This tale sounds like it would fit in nicely with that group and be equally as interesting because it sounds like Jodorowsky is off his rocker. Definitely intrigued by this doc.

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