j o d o r o w s k y ' s d u n e
28th October 2013 (LFF)
David Lynch’s attempt to adapt Frank Herbet’s novel Dune for the big screen has had a weird life since its release in 1984. Generally unloved on initial release and mocked for, amongst other things, starring Sting in a codpiece, it has garnered a certain cult reputation in later years. It is also still widely regarded as Lynch’s worst film. That Lynch survived it so early in his career tells you something about the man. Lynch was not the first person to attempt to bring Herbet’s opus to the screen though….
Head back to the early 70’s and you find Alejandro Jodorowsky’s attempt, now documented in Jodorowsky’s Dune. Something of a maverick filmmaker in his day, he was responsible for El Topo in 1970 and The Holy Mountain in 1973. I haven’t seen either of those and given the clips on show during this movie, I’ll not be rushing out to rent them. He’s also credited with more or less inventing the ‘midnight showing’ with El Topo. In 1975, off the back of the relative success of The Holy Mountain, he was given some cash and began to put together his dream team to make Dune.
Maybe dream team is the wrong phrase, this was the 70’s after all, perhaps hallucinogenic team is a better phrase. Either way it would have been one hell of a team; Dan O’Bannon, HR Geiger, Chris Foss, Jean Giraud, Salvador Dali, Orson Welles and er… Mick Jagger all made it onto the roster. And yes, if you’re thinking the first three sound familiar together, they of course went on to sculpt Ridley Scott’s masterpiece Alien. Turns out that although this movie never actually got made, it may just be the most influential sci-fi movie never made.
Director Frank Pavich has assembled a wonderful roll call of the surviving team, including Jodorowsky himself and his much put upon son and their enthusiasm for the project remains undimmed to this day. A testament to the sheer insane energy still possessed by Jodorowsky, no mean feat considering he is now in his 84th year. Given that, he must have been a spectacular force back in his day. It’s clear from the interviews here that Jodorowsky lived every minute of his pre-production and this is evidently why he managed to attract such a varied array of talent. He was certainly the first filmmaker to appreciate Foss and Geiger for the astonishing visual talents that they are and it’s undoubted that Alien owes a massive debt to the team that was brought together here. At one point, Pavich morphs a whole series of images from the abandoned production into films that did make it. It’s an uncanny watch as we see the obvious influence of the production book that Jodorowsky touted around Hollywood.
It’s a toss-up here as to which is the main sell of this movie. The failed production or Jodorowsky himself. He is an endlessly fascinating individual. Anyone who can blatantly bribe Orson Welles with a chef has to be some kind of legend (at least, that’s how he tells it). An accomplished artist in his own right, his ability to cajole people to give up their lives and move to Paris to work on this movie is impressive. Pavich also brings in some modern commentary on what might have been in the form of Nicolas Winding Refn, something of an acolyte of Jodorowsky’s and somebody that’s rumoured to be working with him in the present.
Jodorowsky’s Dune is an enthusiastic and fascinating look at a film unmade, but more than that, it effectively traces the effects of the dead production way beyond its initial failure to attract Hollywood funding. Jodorowsky’s movie seemed doomed from the outset, it was too ambitious, too expensive, required special effects that likely didn’t exist and given his earlier work, was asking Hollywood a question that it was never going to answer positively. Hollywood was scared of Jodorowsky and it’s easy to see why. So his version of Dune probably achieved far more by not being made than it ever would have if it had been made. Jodorowsky stated that he wanted to make a film that gave everybody the experience of taking LSD without having to take the drug, it’s impossible to tell how close he would have got to that but in failure, he achieved an influence on science fiction movies that resonates today. This movie is a fantastic view of that fantastic failure and should be required viewing for anyone with even a passing interest in science fiction movies.
Check out the trailer here.