Saturday, July 26, 2014

"Jodorowsky's Dune": The Unmade Magnum Opus

Now Available on DVD and Blu-Ray

Here I am, once again struggling to think of what to say about a documentary.  It’s good.  Yeah, let’s start there.  Jodorowsky’s Dune is a really good documentary, and your enjoyment of said documentary is going to depend largely on your interest in film production, science fiction, and the nature of the film auteur versus the commercialism of the Hollywood capitalist production system.  I found myself fascinated by it, but that’s because I’m a huge film nerd with leanings toward science fiction and artistry independent from money-making concerns.  I will say that I would have loved to see Alejandro Jodorowsky’s version of Dune produced, but barring that, I can now appreciate the unmade film’s influence on such works as Star Wars and Alien.

Alejandro Jodorowsky is a Chilean-French director, probably most famous for the cult classic El Topo.  At the height of his career in the 1970s, Jodorowsky was given the opportunity to make any film he wanted, and he decided he wanted to tackle Frank Herbert’s sci-fi epic, Dune.  Through interviews with the would-be film’s production team, the documentary unravels the tale of recruiting the perfect people for the job, including Dan O’Bannon on special effects, Moebius and H.R. Giger on art design (the three of which would later go on to work on Alien), Salvador Dali and Orson Welles as actors, and Pink Floyd on musical score, just to name a few.  Seeing the enthusiasm that each piece of this puzzle had for making this film is truly inspiring, and it makes me wish I saw more of that enthusiasm in modern, big-budget film-making.

The unmade film lives on in the storyboards that Jodorowsky pitched to film executives, and those have been converted into animatics in small portions for this documentary.  Of course, we have no way of knowing how these would have turned out in an actual film given the technology of the time, but Jodorowsky’s ambition and confidence that it could be achieved certainly made a believer out of me.  About half the film’s runtime is devoted to interviews with Jodorowsky himself, and his eccentricity is that which only a person obsessed with their art could produce.  He’s very entertaining to watch, and he has a charisma about him that made me want his film to be made.

I think this documentary is partially a plea for someone to just go ahead and make this version of Dune.  The pre-production is already finished, and it wouldn’t necessarily be difficult to produce the storyboards as an animated picture.  I’d certainly go see it.  However, while that’s probably not a likely possibility, this documentary does a good job of exposing a lay audience to the film that never was.  Jodorowsky’s Dune is a must-see for film aficionados and sci-fi nerds alike.

Is there an adaptation of a novel that you’d like to see made for the screen, but has yet to get there?  Let me know in the comments below.

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