MOVIE REVIEW: Jodorowsky’s Dune (2014)
JODOROWSKY’S DUNE (2014 Sony Pictures)
Directed by Frank Pavich
What do Alien, Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Flash Gordon, Masters of the Universe, The Terminator, and Blade Runner all have in common? They all bear the imprint of Alejandro Jodorowsky’s attempt to make a film version of Frank Herbert’s Dune in the mid-70s. 2001: A Space Odyssey was the definitive space movie, and Star Wars was just a gleam in Lucas’ eye. Dune, considered by many to be unfilmable, was perfect for Jodorowsky. The Chillean-French director was considered a madman, albeit one with a sky-high imagination. Of Dune, he sought to give the audience a druggy trip without the drugs. But he also sought to make so much more – “a prophet”, he described it. Something that would change the consciousness of the audience, and the future of movies. Free the imagination, the mind, the soul. He saw it as something much bigger than making a film, and so he assembled a team of “spiritual warriors” to join him in making his vision real.
His warriors included the Swiss genius H.R. Giger, known for his biomechanical style. Comic artists Chris Foss and Jean “Mœbius” Giraud were on board. (Ian Gillan fans will recognize Foss’ style from the cover of his Clear Air Turbulence album.) Special effects genius Dan O’Bannon sold all his possessions and moved to France to work with the team. Pink Floyd and Magma were assigned to do music for specific planetary settings. Mick Jagger, Orson Welles, Salvador Dali, David Carradine and Udo Kier signed on, with Welles to play the grotesque Baron Harkonnen. Jodorowsky convinced him by offering to hire his favourite French chef for his catering. As the key character of Paul Atreides, the messiah of Dune, who could he cast but his own son Brontis? The boy went through gruelling physical and mental training for the role.
The team assembled what is now known as the Dune book, an incredibly detailed shot-by-shot storyboard, several inches thick, and filled with images that found full motion and sound later on in the aforementioned films. Giger’s designs are especially recognizable, including one that foreshadows his famous Alien Xenomorph.
Jodorowsky used Herbert’s Dune as the basis for his own, but began to drastically change the storyline. Some of his original ideas were brilliant, but his ending is completely baffling. In an “I am Spartacus!” moment, Paul dies, which does not happen in the book. Suddenly his consciousness transfers to the people of planet Arrakis, who all proclaim to be Paul. The planet comes back to life, with green jungles and blue oceans appearing. Arrakis then breaks orbit, and shoots through space to share its new joined consciousness with the universe. Heady stuff perhaps, but a sharp change in direction to Herbert’s more serious science fiction style. Jodorowsky believed in his story, with an unbelievable passion. He is visibly angered at what comes next.
When movie executives told him that the film had to come in at 90 minutes, it was the beginning of the end. No, he said. Eight hours, or 20 hours, he would make the movie he needed to make! Studio executives don’t like hearing such things, and fearing budget overruns, cancelled the Jodorowsky version of Dune. His team scattered, with many such as Giger, O’Bannon and Foss meeting soon again on Ridley Scott’s Alien. The Dune project was handed to David Lynch, who Jodorowsky believed was the only other person who could have realized the movie the right way. It filled him with feelings of dread that soon turned to glee when he saw just how bad Lynch’s Dune turned out. Yet he knew, it had to be the movie executives who ruined it.
This is the story of Jodorowsky’s Dune, a documentary film by Frank Pavich. You will be stunned by the images that this team created, and by Alejandro’s deep passion for making his art. This is your own chance to see what might have been. Blu-ray recommended.
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