Back in the mid-70s, a wild cult-movie director assembled an epic team of artists and made a glorious attempt to adapt the classic science fiction novel Dune. After spending over two years in pre-production, they had just a bit further to go to obtain funding, but Hollywood refused to respond and the film, as intended, didn’t get made.
It’s the greatest film that didn’t happen, and from this documentary you get a good idea of what Jodorowsky’s version of Dune might have been. It would have starred Mick Jagger, Orson Welles, and Salvador Dali (in human and robot form). The art direction would have been executed by such giants as Moebius (Heavy Metal), H.R. Giger (Alien and general goth luminary) and Chris Foss (every sci-fi paperback cover in the 1970s). Also, Dan O’Bannon (Dark Star, Alien) was tapped for special effects. It would have been surreal, outrageous, and most likely would have completely changed the direction of the science fiction films that followed. Instead, that film that did this was Star Wars, a very different beast altogether.
The most beautiful thing about this most beautiful film is that you don’t need to know a damn thing about Frank Herbert’s Dune, Alejandro Jodorowsky (El Topo, Holy Mountain), or who any of the people involved are. This film is about living a life of joy, about being a participant in the journey of life, and about the reason for art itself. As Jodorowsky rattles off the tale of putting his team of “warriors” together, about what he wanted to do with the film (“change the minds of every viewer”), and even how in failure we succeed, you can’t help but be swept away by his vim and verve. At 84, the zeal that he projects is absolutely infectious. You want to be in the room with this guy — he makes everything so damn vivid.
He speaks quite a bit about aspirations, his as well as those who joined him. When the film died, it was a complete crusher to all involved, but it was not the end. All of that energy, all of the ideas created, the concepts – they trickled down and found life in other films and projects – Alien, Bladerunner, Prometheus, various graphic novels, and so on. In a way, because this film wasn’t made, many great things that are loved by many now exist.
There’s a moment towards the end when Jodorowsky describes being dragged to a screening of the version of Dune that was produced (David Lynch’s Dune) and how reluctant he was to see it. “I will just die,” he says. That despair turned to joy when he explains that he realized what a terrible movie Lynch made (this is a fairly universal sentiment). You can’t help but laugh and be happy for him, but this film is not about failure. It’s about the process of creating, and with that comes victory and defeat. The important thing is to keep going and embrace all of it.
Walking out of the theater, I couldn’t help but see the world in a slightly brighter light.
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