..The Game-Changer that Never Was..
Jodorovsky’s Dune is a documentary by Croatian-American director Frank Pavich screened at the 66th Cannes Film Festival as part of Directors Fortnight May 13th and released May 21st 2014. Of the numerous nominations and awards it has received most notable seem to be The Australian Film Critics Association’s Best Documentary and Imagine Film Festival’s audience award The Silver Scream. Making appearances aside from titular Jodorowsky are Dan O’Bannon, H.R. Giger, Gary Kurtz and Chris Foss to name a few.
The film focuses on Chilean director Alexander Jodorowsky and his never actualized interpretation of influential Nebula & Hugo award winning novel Dune by Frank Herbert. Inciting a great deal of what-if sentiment in an enjoyable manner it is a well done nostalgia piece. Pavich lets you behind the scenes into a fraternal world of creative spiritual warriors, Jodorowsky would call them, by weaving tales known only to select insiders and collaborators from a special moment in the past. The film serves as a call to action for visionary dreamers with an ambitious leaning.
At the beginning we are acquainted with Jodorowsky and some experiences making his breakthrough films “El Topo” & “The Holy Mountain” which propel him to cult fame and whose successes at demonstrating his unique take on film led him to be dubbed a father of the Midnight Film genre.
After falling out with distributor of both films and financier of “Holy Mountain” Alan Klien, Jodorowsky meets French producer Michel Seydoux who impressed by his style grants Jodorowsky Carte Blanche in selection of his next feature. Without hesitation Jodorowsky requests Dune.
Following a trail of clues set by Pavich we learn of Jodorowsky’s methods of recruiting his diverse group of Argonauts on this spiritually inspired creative adventure. To peak some curiosity, amongst this motley of heavy hitters are iconic vocalist Mick Jagger, notorious surrealist Salvador Dali, ever enigmatic silver screen icon Orson Welles and pioneering rock group Pink Floyd to name a few.
You find yourself glued to the screen as you learn the herculean lengths the director is willing to go to collaboratively to create something truly great. From inception of idea, to means Jodorowsky utilizes to keep his team motivated and believing in themselves and their gifts. The sense of drive is palpable and uncanny happenstance occurrences further bolster sense of purpose and destiny the endeavour seems to possess.
The documentary inevitably pulls at heartstrings as one realizes the project is doomed, primarily stemming from executives fearing budget size and lacking gumption to venture into unexplored terrain. The sadness progressively turns into disenchantment and suspicion that crew and project were cheated out of their rightful place in history. The overall sentiment being that the bible of the dune, a compiled 3000 picture story board and preproduction book sent to major studios, being years ahead of the industry became a go to source of inspiration for countless Sci-Fi blockbusters which incorporate various visuals and even literary devices (albeit diluting them) making many common place in today’s cinema.
This film I feel set out to ensure the group’s legacy, particularly Jodorowsky’s who had little success post the Dune fiasco, and remind audience and industry alike at the folly of not taking chances creatively. The teams interpretation of Dune appears to be the best movie which was never made and they provide some in the way of perceived evidence for this case. After watching it some of you will wonder if Star Trek and Star Wars would have become as large franchises as they are now? You find yourself feeling if this Dune came out that the Sci-Fi genre and film-making would have received a much deserved dose of creativity and literary perspective on the art form itself.
Interviews are well shot as the camera movement, angles and distances are solid thanks to David Cavallo. Execution of close ups and specific moments was well done, as when focusing on Jodorowskys hands at different times to emphasis a moment.
One complaint is frugal use of Syd Garon‘s & Paul Griswold‘s animations of Moebius‘s (Jean Giraud) story board and H.R. Giger & Chris Foss sketches. You find yourself wishing they merely used story board and quality narration to the tell the entire story of Dune as they intended, but afterall is this is a documentary about making of the film and not the film, nonetheless some graphic exposition shots were cut too short to enjoy the artists’ mastery.
It might have been swell to have Jodorwsky interviewed with several members of crew who are still among us in an intimate setting, so that we can observe some of their chemistry all these years later as they discuss various anecdotes. This felt missing for a movie striving to emphasize, in addition to other notions, what feels like the value of comradeship.
Deeper insight which can be derived is the sheer depth of dedication stemming from unfaltering belief, the dedication of Jodorowsky to make a movie to change the world. The sentiment is echoed by his faction as they discuss the making of the movie. All sacrificed but none complained what they were being put through including Brontis Jodorowsky, the directors son who for two years was training Martial Arts, Sword fighting and Gymnastics to prepare for the role of a young Paul Artriedes.
The story told is spellbinding packed with colourful characters, surreal encounters and events which if not true definitely should be. Jodorwsky’s Dune as a documentary is one of better released the last decade, with refreshingly unique subject matter. I am most impressed by the drive of Jodorwsky himself as with the talent and contributions of primary collaborators Moebious, H.R. Giger, Chriss Foss & Dan O’Bannon. It is this tandem of four gathered by Jodorowsky which brought a lot to one of the greatest Sci-Fi franchises ever Alien, and we appreciate the director’s hand in it.
I feel this movie appeals most to true fans of quality Sci-Fi and deeper cinema offerings (especially movie makers), skewing more to the 30 and up crowd who might have grown up hearing urban legends of the legendary Dune which was never made. Not to say a younger audience would not enjoy it but might find it harder to relate to as they are too young to remember some of the long gone pop culture icons involved in the project.
From a score of 1-5 this film gets:
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