29th Oct2014

‘Jodorowsky‘s Dune’ Review

by Dan Clark


Often it is the one that gets away that leaves the biggest impact. For director Alejandro Jodorowsky his white whale was his dream of adapting the literary classic Dune. It was a dream he came inches close of achieving only to see it disintegrate in a cloud of dry dust.    Although the movie was never made it left cinematic ripples that still affect the movies we see today.  Now generations later we all have an opportunity to see what could have been in Frank Pavich’s documentary Jodorowsky‘s Dune.

Not only does Jodorowsky’s Dune  operate as a piece of hidden Hollywood history it also shows how passion does not falter even after generations of failure. This absorbing story encapsulates the encompassing power of enthusiastic inspiration, and the frustrating nuisance of bureaucratic movie making. In the case of, “Who Killed Originality in Mainstream Movies” this should be used as Exhibit A.

Most are probably unaware of the name Alejandro Jodorowsky. His work is not largely touted by cinephiles—a fact that will probably shortly change due to this documentary, and his films were never designed for the general populous. With that in mind Frank Pavich smartly starts by introducing us to the imaginative mind of Alejandro Jodorowsky as we find out where the catalyst for his grand scheme began.

Jodorowsky is an ideal subject for a documentary. His larger than life enthusiasm makes him magnetic on-screen. He could be discussing the intricacies of grass growing and he would make it sound like a perfect subject for a bombastic space opera. So when he actually has an intriguing idea behind him it is that much more enthralling to listen to.

Pavich chooses to add in other voices beyond that of Jodorowsky. Friends, film cricitics, and cinema historians add context to the world Jodorowsky describes. All are clear fans of Jodorowsky due to their experience with him or his work. The only true issue the movie suffers from is not having an opposing voice to add some criticism.  Hearing a naysayer or two could have made for a richer discussion, and further insight into the career of Jodorowsky.

We see that he began making a name for himself due his outlandish surreal style that routinely pushed the boundaries of film. Movies The Holy Mountain and El Topo gave him two key ingredients: notoriety and success. With that behind him he was gifted the green light to make anything he wished. When you see glimpses of his films it is hard not to picture a pretentious filmmaker who revels in his own self-importance. However, he comes off as a person who is indifferent towards praise or accolades. Simply a man who finds fulfilment seeing his dreams manifest on-screen.  When you add that to his overloaded ambition you get a project that is fascinating to hear about.

Oddly enough he chose Dune for reasons even unbeknownst to him. At the time he had not read a page the book – a fact he freely admits to this day.  There is something infectious about Jodorowsky’s unabashed honesty. At one point he even admits he was delighted to see David Lynch’s attempt at Dune  fail so poorly, because he knew the same people who failed Lynch also failed him.

What separates Jodorowsky’s Dune  from other documentaries about failed movies is the eccentricity of the project itself. Jodorowsky attempted to corral a grouping of talent that had never been seen before or since. Part of the fun is just discovering what possible name will come next. You have everyone from notable artist H.R. Giger to the legendary band Pink Floyd to the infamous Orson Welles all agreeing to be apart this process. What he had to go through to get them to agree to sign on is just part of the joy of this story.

Seeing the storyboards and the concept art gives a visual sense to Jodorowsky’s words. It was like seeing his dream come to life in a small way. Luckily this is more than a frustrating tale of genius lost. Frank Pavich establishes the enormous influence that resonated from Jodorowsky’s aspiring work. How Jodorowsky help shape modern-day Science Fiction as much as anyone.  It serves as a reminder that success expresses itself in many forms, and how just because you did not succeed does not mean you failed. Jodorowsky never was able to make his Dune, but maybe solace can be found in the fact that his failure lead to so much including this enthralling documentary.

**** 4/5


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