A riddle for you: What do Alejandro Jodorowsky, H.R Giger, Salvador Dali, Pink Floyd, Mick Jagger, Jean ‘Moebius’ Giraud, David Carradine and Orson Welles all have in common?
Famously insane and engaging cult director Alejandro Jodorowsky wanted his forth feature film to change the game entirely; he wanted it to be the cinematic epic to end all epics; a film that all others following would be judged against; one that would define film as the new greatest form of art and expression. He proclaimed that the legendary and so-called “un-filmable” Sci-fi opus Dune by Frank Herbert would be this very project… having never read the actual book in the first place. This tells you all you really need to know about the man. His passion and energy precedes him; even on his own endeavors.
Jodorowsky had already made a name for himself within art-house cinema with his unabashedly unique works El Topo and The Holy Mountain in the 70’s, catering to the obscure and esoteric. He made films completely his own and on his own terms. After cementing a niche doing just that, the auteur wanted to make a film that would change not just his fans minds about film and its possibilities but any audience about the filmic medium. He turned to Frank Herbert’s endearingly complex sci-fi epic as the framework for this undertaking. In order to do so he put together a team that rivals any ensemble cast in cinematic history. He wanted his so-called “Spiritual Warriors” involved in every department and facet in his passion project, which included some of the greatest contemporary pop-artists across the artistic spectrum.
After seeing John Carpenter’s Dark Star he sought the screenwriter Dan O’Bannon to pen the script. After first going to legendary movie special effects man Douglas Trumbull he turned to a couple of artists outside the cinematic medium to craft the hypnotic sci-fi elements in comic book illustrator Jean Moebius Giraud and surrealist painter H.R Giger. Some of the standout moments from the film are as the sequences and sets the two designed are animated spell-bindingly. For the casting he had some, shall we say, interesting ideas including David Carradine, Orson Welles, Salvador Dali, his own son Brontis and of course Mick Jagger. All these decisions are related by the director and some of the very people he choose in candid and often hilarious interview segments. Through it all Jodorowsky shows us how he could get people to believe in his vision; his affability, his passion, his charism and above all sheer gall making Dune his way on his terms with his dream team.
Many a Hollywood legend has been told are about passion projects that fall through, game-changing films that never were, and cinematic milestones that never saw a single scene printed. Every kind of filmmaker from Kubrick to Gilliam has one of these stories in their careers. It all speaks to how difficult getting a film made is; however, the effort is not in vain this time around. Jodorowsky’s Dune chronicles the dream of many and the hard awakening of potential never fully realized, but the dream team that was assembled trickled into other prominent filmmaker’s projects. Many a indelible Sci-Fi film from the late 70’s onward has it’s roots firmly with Jodorowsky’s Dune. The spirit lives on in many frames of other great works.
Most audiences going into this one will be fully aware that the Dune that was released to the general public was a David Lynch film, and one of the poorest efforts in the director’s filmography. Many of the problems stemmed from staying too true to the source material without giving more creative energy to the adaptation. The documentary here does not seek to say beyond a reasonable doubt that Jodorowsky would’ve bettered Lynch in his own adaptation; it only seeks to question and ponder what could’ve been. At the same time saying that even when an endeavor as passionately cultivated as this one fails to build itself up, it can still bear fruit in the most unsuspecting and gratifying ways.