Dir. by Frank Pavich - 1 hr. 30 min.
by Clayton Hollifield
In film history, some of the craziest films ever made were made in the late 1960s and 1970s. That might even be an understatement. What "Jodorowsky's Dune" is about is a film that was designed to be revolutionary, by a director that no one would trust with this material and the required budget to film it. That's right, this is a movie about the movie that Hollywood collectively drew the line in front of, a grand "what could have been" that not only shares a wealth of staggeringly inventive concept art, and the storyboards that give a hint at what this version of "Dune" could have looked like, but also does it through the words of Alejandro Jodorowsky, as well as others who were involved in the development of the film.
Straight off, Jodorowsky says that his intent was to make a film that would be like the experience of taking LSD, a film that would radically alter the thought processes of the youth of the world. After a series of successful cult films (like "El Topo" and "The Holy Mountain"), Jodorowsky decided to get ambitious. The goal was to adapt "Dune" (well, not really adapt, as Jodorowsky explains - it was definitely going to be his version). So he tracked down his "warriors," the development team that would turn his ideas into reality. This included artists like Jean "Moebus" Giraud, Dan O'Bannon, Chris Foss, and H.R. Giger, which is a murderer's row, if you know anything about artists. Jodorowsky set about lining up his cast, which included people like Salvador Dali, Mick Jagger, and Orson Welles. And when it was time to move past concept and to start making this a reality...
There is a book featured in this movie, the book that Jodorowsky and his producer, Michel Seydoux, used to pitch this project to Hollywood studios. This book has complete storyboards by Moebius, concept art by the various artists that contributed. It's a hefty, thick book. It's a book that I'd literally punch the Pope in the crotch to spend five minutes flipping through. There are supposedly only two of them in existence. I find it hard to believe anyone who would have even mild interest in "Dune," as made by Alejandro Jodorowsky, wouldn't love to see first hand. But as much as that book is the totem of all of the ideas behind this project, the key to "Jodorowsky's Dune" is the lengthy interviews with Jodorowsky himself. He's a force of nature, a natural antagonist and a deep thinker. He's also the guy who said, "Most directors make films with their eyes, I make films with my testicles." He's a charismatic madman, and one who gets things done. It's impossible to get the idea of what his version of "Dune" would have been like without spending some cinematic time with him.
There are other people interviewed here, as well. Unfortunately, Giraud passed away in 2012, and there's nothing from him in any form here. Dan O'Bannon, who would go on to create "Alien," passed away in 2009, but there is an audio interview and letters that he wrote to his wife included here. H.R. Giger, the concept artist for "Alien," is interviewed specifically for this film. Probably the biggest function of these interviews, and O'Bannon's words in particular, is to show that Jodorowsky carried himself pretty much exactly like he claims he did. The picture that he paints of Jodorowsky jibes with Jodorowsky's persona, and of his fantastic stories about trying to convince various actors to be in the films. You might think they're all bogus, or slightly inflated, but when you get the other perspectives, it all falls into line.
You might wonder what happened to the one guy that Hollywood deemed to be too far out there; that's one hell of a distinction. That's a complicated question, and not one that's addressed specifically. Putting together an ambitious project the likes of which had never been seen before, and then not being able to see it come to fruition can be devastating. But Jodorowsky didn't stop, even if he didn't continue on making films at a very prolific clip.
"Jodorowsky's Dune" is a fascinating look at a film that was designed to change history. It was to be a big-budget sci-fi film before "Star Wars," a film about crazy big ideas, executed in the most stunning, flamboyant manner possible. Instead of that, we get this film, which is not only about trying to create art, but the frustration of trying to create art in something that's a fundamentally capitalist environment. There's enough in the original ideas, and in the words of Jodorowsky to get across what could have been. When you look at what some of the people involved in the development of his version of "Dune" did with their careers, it's clear that this work influenced film heavily, even though this project doesn't exist in it's intended fashion. And Jodorowsky's own perspective is fascinating (and very human). All of this adds up to a spellbinding movie (even if it's this one, and not "Dune"), a great "what-if" tale, and must-see documentary.
4.5 / 5 - Theatre