Monday, November 10, 2014


Jodorowsky’s Dune certainly deserves all the praise it’s been getting. It’s a fun documentary about an ambitious project that could have been groundbreaking had everything fallen perfectly in to place. For years the story behind Alejandro Jodorowsky's failed attempt at making Dune was nothing more than a short trivia blurb on imdb to most folks. In Jodorowsky's Dune, director Frank Pavich finally delves in to the real story behind "the greatest movie never made"...

Given my fascination with cinematic influences, stolen ideas & borrowed imagery, this is the perfect movie for PINNLAND EMPIRE. As the film points out, some of the conceptual ideas that came from Jodorowsky's unfinished vision of Dune (in terms of artwork, set design & costume design) clearly found their way in to other sci-fi films over the years...

Jodorowsky's Dune / Masters Of The Universe
Jodorowsky's Dune / Flash Gordon

I also had no idea that Dan O’Bannon & HR Geiger met and collaborated on Dune with Alejandro Jodorowsky prior to working on Alien together, which explains a lot... 

Geiger's conceptual artwork for Jodorowsky's version of Dune / the iconic alien (also created by Geiger) with the signature phallic tongue 
early artwork for Dune / Prometheus
Dune / Prometheus

It should also be noted that in the book Cronenberg Interviews, David Cronenberg calls out Dan O’Bannon for stealing the Alien chest burst scene from his earlier film Shivers

Shivers / Alien

Jodorowsky’s vision obviously never came to life outside of his graphic novel “The Incal” which ended up using elements from the original Dune artwork…

artwork from Jodorowsky's Dune / Artwork from The Incal

Jodorowsky’s own movies ended up influencing The Incal as well...

Artwork from The Incal / Holy Mountain

I don’t really have too many issues with Jodorowsky’s Dune (outside of how many times one of the many interviewees in the documentary says something along the lines of; “if this movie had been made…OMG…it would have been the greatest movie ever and it would have changed the game”). If anything, I have a problem with fans of this doc who automatically assume Jodorowsky's version of Dune would have been this game changer. There’s no guarantee it would have been this amazing masterpiece yet everyone seems to think otherwise. Sure, when you look at Jodorowsky's vision of Dune laid out on paper, it sounds amazing. Beautiful drawings & artwork; Mick Jagger, Orson Welles, Salvador Dali & David Caradine were all supposed to co-star; Dan O’Bannon (who later went on to write Alien) was writing the script; H.R. Geiger (who went on to create the alien designs for the Alien franchise) was going to handle the art direction, and Pink Floyd & Tangerine Dream were going to do the score. When you have a bunch of random talented people working together on one project you can’t help but hope that the outcome will be amazing. But it's never guaranteed. Look at David Lynch’s Dune. As my Pink Smoke friends noted recently, that version is also just as amazing on paper – The young maverick behind Eraserhead & Elephant Man was going to direct (Lynch); Sting was set to co-star as the villain; Toto was going to do the score, etc. 
But we all know how that version of Dune turned out. 
I appreciate the fact that this documentary didn’t spend too much time beating a dead horse. We all know how unfavorable Lynch’s Dune is (although there is a small cult following). Besides one segment in the last half of the film, Jodorowsky’s Dune never really goes too deep in too David Lynch’s version. Instead, the documentary follows Alejandro’s pre-production process all the way up to the plug being pulled on the entire project.

And before we move on, let’s keep it real for a minute…

David Lynch's Dune

David Lynch is a much better filmmaker than Alejandro Jordowosky. I hate to get competitive, but c’mon now…if Lynch, who is a much better filmmaker, couldn’t pull of Dune, what makes you all so convinced Alejandro Jodorowsky could have done it? I don’t mean to sound so harsh and I’m not being bias either (it’s no mystery I’m a big David Lynch Fan). I actually like some of Jodorowsky’s work (especially Sante Sangre). But I’ll put Eraserhead & Elephant Man up against El Topo & Holy Mountain any day of the week. 

It's also a HUGE leap going from something like Holy Mountain to adapting Dune. You all can honestly watch El Topo & Holy Mountain and think the man responsible for those films could have pulled off Dune?

And correct me if I’m wrong but, at no point in the documentary is it even confirmed that the studio that initially agreed to do Jodorowsky s version of Dune gave him the free range that he may have thought he had in pre-production. At a certain point Alejandro’s ideas come off like an eccentric playful little kid in an arts & crafts class full of energy & ideas that wanted to do too much.
Let’s also not forget this all took place during the mid 70’s. Look where special effects were at the time (in order for Dune to work it would have had to rely heavily on special effects). Jodorowsky & Geiger’s beautiful concept art might not have translated that well to live action form. 
Some filmmakers have put projects on hold for DECADES due to restrictions concerning special effects. Terrence Malick originally planned to do an earlier version of what we now know as Tree Of Life in the late 70’s but he was ultimately convinced that he couldn’t pull off the creation scenes & dinosaur scenes because the proper technology didn’t exist yet. And even in 2011 when the movie finally got made, the (dated) dinosaurs in Jurassic Park (1993) were more effective than the dinosaurs that ultimately ended up in Tree Of Life.

The story of Dune not being made isn’t all that unique either. Jodorowsky’s Dune could have easily been Kubrick’s Napoleon, Alex Cox’s Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas or Cronenberg’s Total Recall. There are also a million lesser known ambitious projects that were supposed to have been made but for one reason or another never happened.

Take Breakfast Of Champions...

In the late 70’s Robert Altman was supposed to adapt Kurt Vonnegut's Breakfast of Champions with Peter Falk & Alice Cooper set to co-star. The project obviously never came to life and many years later Vonnegut's story was poorly adapted by Alan Rudolph with an all-star cast of misplaced actors (Bruce Willis, Nick Nolte, Omar Epps, Barbara Hershey, Lucas Haas, etc etc). Again – doesn’t that sound like Jodorowsky’s Dune on some level? A maverick filmmaker (Altman), adapting a book from a famous writer (Vonnegut) with a famous musician set to co-star (Cooper)? There was a period when Terry Gilliam was supposed to adapt The Watchmen (I recently learned that Paul Greengrass was also attached to The Watchmen at one point as well); David Lynch was supposed to make a surreal comedy with Steve Martin & Martin Short; Terrence Malick was attached to Che, etc. I can go on & on. Plenty of awesome sounding film projects get a green light (or semi-green light) and sometimes make it to pre-production then eventually get shut down.

No matter what issues I may have surrounding this documentary, it’s a still a must-see (especially for movie lovers) and will more than likely end up in my “frustrating but rewarding” category at the end of the year. If you’re a fan of science fiction and Room 237Jodorowsky’s Dune is definitely a movie for you.


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