Thursday, September 18, 2014

Jodorowsky’s Dune (2013)

Jodorowsky’s Dune (2013)

Director: Frank Pavich

There are certain documentaries out there that really dive into what it means to really make a film, a side of movies we hardly ever see, the creative side, the side that struggles to make ideas come to cinematic life. All we have to do as an audience is sit, and take in the movie; sometimes we forget just how grueling an experience making a film can be. I mean, it’s not just shooting a film, you have to go through the whole process of writing the script, of casting it, of assembling the team that’s going to help you bring your dreams come to life. One of my favorite documentaries that explores this side of filmmaking is Lost in La Mancha (2002), which chronicles the rise and fall of what could have been Terry Gilliam’s take on Don Quixote, a film that was to be called ‘The Man Who Killed Quixote’. Unfortunately for Gilliam, the whole project collapsed on him through a combination of raging storms that destroyed equipment and a protagonist who fell ill, amongst other catastrophes. Many millions were lost and the film never got made, but what an incredible spectacle it is to watch it all happen! That documentary is special because they actually filmed the whole disaster as it occurred. I always recommend it because it’s a brilliant peek into the frustrations of a filmmaker who desperately wants to make a film, yet the universe conspires against him. Gilliam is still trying to get that film made believe it or not, I hope he finally gets there because there’s nothing worse than a director who never got to make that one film he or she has always wanted to make. This brings to mind Jodorowski and his adaptation of Frank Herbert’s sci-fi, Magnus opus, Dune. A film that sadly never got made. This documentary goes into all the pre-production work that went into the film, and the reason why it never took off.

Jodorowsky (left) next to what would have been one of the Emperor's Saudukar Warriors. To the right, Michel Seydoux one of the films hopeful producers.

Alejandro Jodorowski was eighty four years old when they shot this documentary, but boy, his mind is as clear as if he was 30! I mean at 80, most people are with one foot in the grave, begging for forgiveness, yet here is Jodorowski alive and kicking, still a creative force to be reckoned with. I mean, to this day, Jodorowsky still directs films! His most recent one is called The Dance of Reality (2013), which I will be seeing and reviewing here soon. He writes for a French sci-fi show called ‘Metal Hurlant Chronicles’ and every now and then continues writing incredible comic books and graphic novels. I love the guy, I want to be like him when I get old, just writing and creating cool stuff. Which is why I think it’s such a tragedy that he didn’t get a chance to make his version of Dune. If his pre-production archives are any indication, this movie was going to blow everyone’s mind!

The Man, The Myth, The Legend, Alejandro Jodorowsky

To hear Jodorwski talk is pure delight, he speaks like a genius mad man, a point that the documentary makes clear. There cannot be great art without some madness. Hearing Jodorowsky say how his Dune was going to change the world, you believe him. Then you see the story boards for the film, and it becomes evident, this film was going to be something special. But it was not to be, the powers that be shied away from greatness. I mean, here’s a project that has influenced many others after it, and it wasn’t even made! Can you imagine how it would have influenced other filmmakers, had it actually gotten made? Jodorowsky planned this movie so well that he had this giant ass storyboard book he printed that included every scene, shot and camera move. There’s a myth amongst movie buffs that says that many a Hollywood director/producer copied from this book, George Lucas included. Elements from Dune have always popped up all over the Star Wars saga and I’ve always noticed them. Could it be that George Lucas simply loved Frank Herbert’s Dune and was influenced by it? Or did Lucas get a peek at a copy of Jodorowsky’s storyboard book? I don’t know the answer to that one my friends, but there are some blaring similarities between what could have been Jodorowsky’s Dune and George Lucas’s Star Wars.

H.R. Giger working on conceptual artwork for Jodorowsky's Dune, these paintings would go on to be some of Giger's most recognized works. 

There’s this moment in the documentary where Jodorowsky totally looses it and his anger emerges, you can see he is truly upset that after so many plans and after so much time spent, his version of Dune never took off. He is so passionate about the film that I’d give him the money if I had it! Instead, he offers the film to any other young director out there willing to take a crack at it, Nicolas Winding Refn the director behind Drive (2011) and Only God Forgives (2013) seems to admire Jodorowsky enough, so much so that he dedicated Only God Forgives to him, maybe their kinship will give us Jodorowsky's Dune someday? Here's hoping!  Let’s see, many directors have been about to make the new Dune, but as of yet, nothing. It’s so sad because you can see that what happened to Jodorowsky is the typical situation in which Hollywood detects weirdness and runs away from it like a child running away from the boogeyman. Movies with strange premises, films that they don’t know how to sell, films that don’t follow a formula or a structure, auteur directors with a knack for the bizarre, these are just some of the things that Hollywood tries its best to run away from. It’s sad seeing true artistes like David Lynch, Terry Gilliam and Alejandro Jodorowsky struggling to make movies. I mean, here’s a bunch of directors who can truly add something to cinema, yet these are the voices that Hollywood silences. Worst part is that they shut the door on Jodorowsky and crew, yet just a few years down the road the project gets done with an even bigger budget and with a similar production plan. I’m sure this was a slap in the face to Jodorowsky, getting doors shut in your face only to see Hollywood copy your idea and do it their way.

A promotional poster for the would be film. 

Jodorowsky says he was relieved when he saw Lynch’s film because according to him it was terrible, which is kind of weird seeing one ateur hit on the work of another like that, but Jodorowsky makes it clear, he knows Dune was taken from Lynch and that it was a film done primarily by the producers, he actually aknowledges Lynch as a true creative force. Many film buffs and critics don’t consider Lynch's Dune a true David Lynch film, Lynch himself included. You ask me, I don’t hate Lynch’s Dune (1984), I in fact love it. Out of all the adaptations of Herbert’s work, it’s the biggest and most epic of all, production wise. And even with all the bitchin’ and moaning you hear about how supposedly “bad” Lynch’s Dune is, when we get down to it, it’s a pretty close adaptation of Herbert’s book. But rest assured my friends, Jodorowsky’s Dune would have been something else entirely different. There’s this line in the documentary that has to be the best line in it where Jodorowsky says that when you adapt a book, you cannot do it exactly the same, you have to rape it. And then he says, “that’s what I was doing, I was raping Frank Herbert!” Then he pauses and says: “but in a good way…” Jodorowsky’s mind, it really is  brilliant, I hope that when I am 84 I can be as cool and as sharp as he is. This documentary is a testament to his genius.  It lets us see once again how afraid Hollywood is of anything different, or anything with the desire to “change the world!” This documentary is a fascinating peek into Jodorowsky’s mind, anyone who appreciates art, Frank Herbert’s Dune novels and filmmaking in general will have an amazing time watching this, highly recommend it.

Rating: 5 out of 5  



robotGEEK said...

Buddy, I agree with you 100% on this one on all fronts. This doc was very entertaining, and I feel like I have been waiting forever for it to finally hit blu ray. I like your assessment of Lynch's version, because I quite agree. I love that movie, despite everyone's criticisms. And you're right, Jodorowsky would have given us a much more surreal, larger than life epic take, and it would have been amazing. Even if someone gave him the money to do it today, it wouldn't be the same since we've sadly lost almost all of the people he had tapped for the creative process like the actors and production. Great review man!

Franco Macabro said...

I think that Lynch's Dune doesnt get the credit it deserves, even from it's own director. I understand why even Lynch himself disowns it, but dammit, I think even with the studio intervention, we got a great adaptation of the book and an amazing film in so many ways, especially production wise.

I guess we'll never know what Jodowskys version would have been like...filmmaking and everything has changed so much as well...but it is amazing to wonder how it would have turned out. I'd love to get my hands on that book with all the storyboards...that book is like a gem of filmmaking. It should be printed, I'd love to have it.

Glad you enjoyed the review, and if you enjoyed this documentary, check out the one on Terry Gilliam's aborted Don Quixote's a true marvel....seeing Gilliam pull the plug on a project right on camera is chilling! And riveting all in one.

robotGEEK said...

I have. Saw Lost in La Mancha a long time ago and loved the shit out of it. I keep trying to get my girlfriend to watch it, especially now that it's streaming on Netflix, but so far no luck. LOL. We love documentaries about films. I finally showed her Heart of Darkness the other day. I forgot how great that one was.

Franco Macabro said...

Thanks for reminding me I need to see Heart of Darkness!


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