Aug 18, 2014

[Movies] Jodorowsky's Dune (2013)

As a Dune fan, one of the more interesting aspects of the lore behind the franchise is the fact that Chilean-French surrealist director Alejandro Jodrowsky once attempted to adapt Dune into a movie even before the infamous David Lynch version. Different bits and pieces of information about this adaptation have surfaced online more and more in recent years including character sketches, storyboards, casting lists and all that good stuff. And if anything, it seems that this adaptation was supposed to be either completely insane or amazing brilliant.

Jodorowsky's Dune is a documentary film that tries to explore the story behind this adaptation and of course why it eventually failed. And to-date, it's probably the most in-depth exploration of this unmade film ever done.

The one thing that everyone can agree on is the fact that it's clear that what Jodorowsky wanted to put together was by no means meant to be a faithful adaptation of the book. It was something else entirely that could have indeed been something rather awe-inspiring had it ever been made.

Synopsis: Jodorowsky;s Dune is a 2013 documentary film directed by Frank Pavich. It first debuted at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival as part of the Director's Fortnight. It eventually saw a wider release earlier this year.

Director Frank Pavich conducted a series of interviews with Alejandro Jodorowsky and other individuals connected with the Dune project to learn exactly what happened. Beyond the interviews, the movie features a lot of the concept art, storyboards and other behind-the-scenes details that Jodorowsky shared with the production team. They go even further by providing modest animation to bring some of the storyboard images to life, further enhancing the narratives provided in the different interviews.

Thus we learn that this was a movie what would have featured designs by artists like H.R. Geiger, Chris Foss, and Jean Giraud. And there would have been acting talent like David Carradine, Mick Jagger, Gloria Swanson, Amanda Lear, Orson Welles, and even Salvador Dali. It was a movie that would run for some 14 hours or so given Jodorowsky's goal to sort of recreate the effects of drugs like LSD without the actual need for narcotics. It was this larger than life fantastical story that went way over budget in its early days and never really got off the ground. And thus it remains a Hollywood story, but a pretty great one.

When I first read about the original Jodorowsky project and the details on what he had in mind, it was easy to first think that the guy must be nuts. Dune purist thinking aside, the sheer size and scope of what he had in mind was practically insane. And the fact that it failed just sort of supports that - the fact that he had envisioned something that was beyond what 1970's movie-making could have accomplished on its own.

But that's what this documentary helps to dispel - it helps bring us into the mind of Jodorowsky and showcases just how passionate he is about this project. What he had in mind was practically a religious experience and it goes beyond just being a movie. He wanted to created something that was more like a vibrant, living piece of art or something like that. And given his past movies, I suppose this also makes sense.

And what's even more inspiring is the just to what lengths he went to get this movie project rolling. From securing the rights to a book that he had never read to the various individual negotiations to get the various actors and other talents to sign on with him. From the ridiculous salary for Salvador Dali to the promise of a personal chef for Orson Welles - Jodorowsky wasn't going to let anything or anyone get in the way with making the movie precisely as he wanted to create it.

At the same time, the movie also shares the argument that the work that went into this version of Dune eventually spun out to influence other movies. And while some of the examples that they presented were a bit of a stretch, overall it's hard to deny that the project must have had some effect on different projects. Just looking at the H.R. Geiger designs that went into things and Geiger's later projects, the similarities are hard to deny. Thus we also see that even for a movie that was never made, it can have quite a number of effects on other projects later on.

At its core, this is more than just a documentary about a failed movie project. This movie is more about a man having a creative vision and his willingness to do whatever it took to get it done. And that's a universal message that any of us can totally embrace. At one time or another we've all wanted to create something - maybe a short film, a story, a poem, a piece of art, or even just a funny YouTube video. And far too often we let practical constraints hold us back - the fear that it won't be financially successful or that it won't be well-received. Jodorowsky just wanted to create something because he believed in it - and more of us could get into that mindset as well.

Jodorowsky's Dune works on multiple levels - it's an interesting documentary about a movie that could have been and it's a message about the need to pursue free expression without fear. And whether or not you're a Dune fan, this movie has a lot to share with anyone who takes the time to watch it. Thus this documentary more than deserves a full 5 amazing concept sketches created for the movie out of a possible 5.

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