Jodorowsky’s Dune

Jodorowsky_s_Dune-153803568-largeI am not convinced Jodorowsky’s Dune would have been a great movie. I am quite convinced it would have been a terrible Dune. Though Frank Herbert’s book is ultimately about the mind expansion of religion, and planet ecology and the effect of an environment on its inhabitants, it is also, however dense, a story. It begins, middles, and ends.

Jodorowsky’s vision, as shown in this documentary, would have been a weirdness, probably too much weirdness, piled on a weird story. A perfect (or even good) Dune movie has yet to be made and may never be made. It’s too sprawling and strange for a feature film, and may not be sprawling and strange enough for Jodorowsky’s version of it.

It was a version he was preparing to make all the way back in 1975, and for which he collected an extraordinary cast of artists and creators to realize a pretty daffy vision. But, for all his artsy impulsiveness and passion, one of the main impressions I got from this documentary about the ill-fated attempt to make Dune was Jodorowsky’s earnest conscientiousness. His Dune, however improbable as a motion picture prospect, did not exist as something nebulous in his head. It is not all effervescence, but rather a concrete plan, as evidenced in the book he produced. The book is a central figure in the documentary – a visual script, which is mainly a collaboration between Jodorowsky and Moebius, whom he discovered from his cowboy comics.

As it discusses a movie that was never made, Jodorowsky’s Dune doesn’t have a lot of clips to show us, so most of the visuals (beyond talking head interviews) are taken from this book, and the art created for it. Art from Giger, Chris Foss, and Moebius himself shows a deeply realized world, one that would have been nearly impossible to construct with 70s special effects.

But watching this doc, you have the feeling that if Jodorowsky had the money, he could have gotten it all done. Nicholas Wending Refn wonders how it would have changed cinema if this had come out instead of Star Wars (which, indeed, steals a ton from Dune, and, as speculated in this documentary, lifts some visual elements straight out of Jodorowsky’s visual script). That misses the point, I think; Star Wars was successful because of populist elements. The mind-blowing of the Dune movie would have been limited to those who were interested in having their minds blown. Much of the potential audience would have scoffed and said bullshit – right or wrong.

But as a portrait of the artist as a hard worker – as a man who identifies his damned ducks and gets them in a row, this is an invaluable document.

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