Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Jodorowsky’s Dune

Title: Jodorowsky’s Dune
Director: Frank Pavich
Released: 2013
Starring: Alejandro Jodorowsky, Michel Seydoux, H.R. Giger, Chris Foss, Nicolas Winding Refn, Amanda Lear, Richard Stanley
Plot: Documentary charting the development and eventual collapse of surrealistic director Alejandro Jodorowsky’s attempt to adapt Frank Herbert’s legendry sci-fi novel “Dune”.

Review: In 1975 riding high after the success of midnight movie favourite “El Topo” and the equally surreal “The Holy Mountain” director Alejandro Jodorowsky was given the opportunity to direct any film he wanted and oppotunity Jodorowsky choose to use to adapt “Dune” despite never having read the novel and instead going off a friends recommendation that it was a good book.  While the film would never see a day of filming, its influence would be felt in the films which followed in its wake as this documentary sets out to highlight with director Frank Pavich interviewing nearly all of the major players who worked on the film. A crew who Jodorowsky calls his “Warriors” as he not only tells the story of the films development and collapse but also gives us an insight into the vision that Jodorowsky had for the film.

For those familiar with Jodorowsky already,  they will be unsurprised that despite being older he is still as crazy as ever as he practically fizzles with enthusiasm for the project even though at the time of its collapse it left him questioning if he would direct again. Here though he is front and centre as he guides the viewer through his vision which now forms a telephone book of design sketches and storyboards. At the same time it’s within the contents of this book that both the genius and madness of his vision is revealed. More so for the latter as Jodorowsky envisioned a 15 hour film despite the studio only allowing him to making a two hour film.
Such creative extravagance is very much the running theme here as for his vision Jodorowsky seemingly was working with an unlimited budget when you consider such things as his decision that the two houses at the centre of the story would each have their own distinct visual style which saw him bringing in both Dan O’Bannon and H.R. Giger to help craft the visual style for the two houses, while also believing that each house should have their own band providing their musical cue’s and as recruited both Pink Floyd and Magma to provide this, though sadly no example exist in one of the occasional gaps in the production not covered here.

One of the most intriguing aspects of the film is seeing who Jodorowsky has in mind for the cast which saw him casting Salvador Dali as the Emperor of the galaxy, David Carradine as Duke Leto and most excitingly Orson Welles as Baron Harkonnen.  In a bizarre twist he also felt that a musician would be best suited for the role of Feyd-Rautha, as he saw Mick Jagger in the role which would ultimately be taken on by Sting in the David Lynch directed version which would ultimately be the version we were given.

Pavich unquestionably assembles a great set of interviews here as he doesn’t contend himself with just interviewing Jodorowsky’s “Warriors” but also brings in outside opinions from several critics who highlight the influence the film would have on numerous classic sci-fi movies which followed in its wake as Star Wars, Alien and err Masters of the Universe given amongst the examples, as O’Bannon and Giger carried across unused ideas to other projects.  We also have equally visionary directors Richard Stanley aswell as Jodorowsky’s prodigy of sorts Nicolas Winding Refn who has openly admitted to drawing inspiration from Jodorowsky’s work for his last two films. Stanley meanwhile is no stranger to troubled productions as seen with his attempts to adapt “The Island of Doctor Moreau” as recently documented in “Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau” and like Refn provides some great opinions on the project as one of the few outsiders who have been given access to the production book, something which I’d love to see released perhaps as an ebook.

For the fans of Herbert’s novel they might find Jodorowsky’s loose adaption slightly offensive especially when it seems frequently that his vision is “Dune” in name only, a situation he puts it so memorably as “I was raping Frank Herbert…with love” combined with the fact that like so many of the production team he never read the source novel. This however doesn’t stop the production from coming across any less interesting it just leaves the established fans perhaps a little bewildered as to what has happened to the story they love so much, less what exactly gives Jodorowsky the right to make such changes.

A fascinating documentary and interestingly one which treats its development as if the film had been made and as such showcases the material with only a dash of bitterness and resentment for the film not being made and more so for producer Dino De Laurentiis buying up the rights for David Lynch to direct. As such the documentary embraces the journey the production took aswell as teasing as to what could, while at the same time certainly being boosted by the frequently random and tireless enthusiasm of Jodorowsky, so that even if you’re not a fan of his films there is still much to enjoy here.

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