Jodorowsky’s Dune (2014)
Release Date: March 21st, 2014 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Frank Pavich Actors: Alejandro Jodorowsky, Michel Seydoux, H.R. Giger, Richard Stanley, Nicolas Winding Refn, Chris Foss
une’ will be the coming of a god,” exclaims writer/director Alejandro Jodorowsky, who had set out to make a tremendously ambitious, mind-blowing epic that would change the public’s perceptions of moviegoing forever – starting in 1974. But it was not to be. For the most part, the monumental amount of work that went into the conceptualization, over a 2 ½ year period, is documented in a book (of which there are only two left in the world) designed to sell the project, kept at Jodorowsky’s home. The film could have been “Star Wars” before that singular space opera masterpiece influenced generations of viewers, or bigger and more resonant than “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Its failure to reach fruition is a tale of what is likely the greatest sci-fi movie never made.
Jodorowsky had been driving people crazy ever since the riot-inducing “Fando and Lis,” started in 1967; his revolutionary “El Topo,” and the following million-dollar-budgeted “The Holy Mountain” of 1973 were similarly met with awe. Perhaps his most winning quality was complete artistic control over his pictures. In 1974, with producer Michel Seydoux, a castle in France was rented as the base of operations for writing the filmic adaptation of “Dune.” Author Frank Herbert’s work was a worldwide publishing success and the holy bible of science-fiction devotees, though the rights were obtained for practically nothing, as if Hollywood was certain it could not be shaped into a marketable movie.
Jodorowsky wanted to make a film that would give audiences a fabrication of the effects of LSD; a visual experience as close to the hallucinatory effects of the crystalline compound without actually taking the drug. To tackle this lofty aspiration, he sought out creative warriors, ranging from visual effects technician Douglas Trumbull (who was dropped due to clashing spiritual wavelengths), to famous artist Jean “Moebius” Giraud (tasked with sketching over 3000 storyboard panels), to Dan O’Bannon, the production designer and editor of John Carpenter’s “Dark Star.” He went on to approach actor David Carradine, the band Pink Floyd, his own son Brontis for the lead character of Paul, spaceship artist Chris Foss, the eccentric Salvador Dali and his muse Amanda Lear, iconic Swiss surrealist H.R. Giger (before he would work on Ridley Scott’s “Alien”), Andy Warhol’s great actor Udo Kier, the inimitable Mick Jagger, and the sizable Orson Welles, among many other talented people.
It definitely required a touch of madness from all involved to attempt such an undertaking. It was to initiate with a lengthy “Touch of Evil” opening scene (but better!), intended to be a tracking shot traversing the entire galaxy before zeroing in on spice pirates, and included sand worm confrontations, Baron Harkonnen’s head-shaped fortress outfitted with huge knifelike barriers, Paul’s messiah-like demise, and a riveting finale, altered drastically from the source material. The visionary ideas are breathtaking, but combining the likelihood of exceeding the $15 million budget and studios’ notable fears of Jodorowsky’s spectacularly unconventional filmmaking, the entire product was just too ahead of its time to take a chance on.
The documentary itself chronicles a bit of Jodorowsky’s career leading up to “Dune” (with clips of his strikingly bizarre films), interviews with intrigued filmmakers and critics, numerous artists involved with the doomed production, and Alejandro himself, imparting plenty of details about his endeavors. Significant points of the storyline are explained, accompanied by paintings and animations, but the vastly different avenues explored for this take on Herbert’s creation regularly begs for greater enlightenment. Colorful illustrations repeatedly pose the general reality that the optical translation couldn’t possibly have been accomplished in 1975. There’s also amusing commentary on the reception of David Lynch’s long-awaited 1984 version. And yet, despite many staggering images, from a technical standpoint, the documentary is standard at best. A surprising amount of time is spent hearing Jodorowsky slowly narrate the processes of recruitment, seconds are wasted on a cat being picked up and held, and the lack of more prominent, current industry talent for interviews is disappointing.
– Mike Massie
Releasing July 8th, 2014 is the Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack of “Jodorowsky’s Dune,” complete with over 45 minutes of never-before-seen deleted sequences, which joyously gives audiences the opportunity to see more of the concept art and storyboards behind Jodorowsky’s ill-fated project. For those critical of the limited scope of the feature film, those precious additional minutes adds to the grandness of an epic built by some of the industries’ greatest talents.