Movies: Jodorowsky's Dune

Back at the height of his career, Alejandro Jodorowsky had big plans to adapt Frank Herbert's Dune to film. He went through a very long and involved process of collecting amazing talent to realize this dream, only to have it fall apart when the studios refused to take on the project. This documentary, then, is the story of what would have and could have been.

Now, I love Dune. Both the book and, yes, the Lynch movie. I realize it isn't, objectively, a very good film. And it certainly doesn't stand the test of time what with the dated FX. But I read the book when I was nine or ten, and I fell in love with it, so I guess I was predisposed to love the movie, too, when I finally caught the 4-hour version on cable. (Yes, I'm a firm member of the camp that declares the longer version is better. Makes more sense at least, though really, Dune is a film for the lovers of the book. I don't think it's meant to make sense to people who haven't read it, which is probably one of its chief flaws.)

Also, I love Toto.

BUT. This documentary opened doors to new ideas. Music in Dune by Pink Floyd? That would have been worth seeing! Or . . . hearing, I guess. David Carradine? Mick Jagger (in the role Sting eventually played)? Yeah, it's tantalizing to consider.

And the stories of how Jodorowsky went about reaching out to people and assembling this cast and crew is quite interesting as well.

Jodorowsky, too, is a lively storyteller as he recounts his efforts in interviews for the camera. He's refreshingly straightforward for an industry that likes to hedge and tiptoe. His disappointment, even after all these years, is palpable. The system let him down. Hollywood failed to see what he could see, no matter how he tried to show them. This is, unfortunately, so often the way it goes for visionaries.

As for Jodorowsky's ideas for Dune itself, well . . . As a fan of the book, I had difficulty buying in. While I could certainly see how different and innovative and ambitious the plans were, and I could also understand the message Jodorwsky was trying to get across by telling the story this way . . . I can't say I 100% loved it. It was just so over the top, even for epic sci-fi/fantasy. But then again, look at 70's sci-fi movies, or 70's anything, really. Over the top was the preferred method for pretty much everything. Lots of colors, lots of overacting, lots of beating people over their heads with "messages" and "meanings."

One of the most interesting features of the documentary comes at the end, though, when they juxtapose much of Jodorowsky's storyboards and conceptual art over films that seem to have lifted these things right from the massive book Jodorowsky sent to every major studio. Some of the similarities are uncanny.

Jodorowsky is 86 now and spry for his age. This documentary prompted him to direct his first movie in over a decade; The Dance of Reality showed at Cannes, and now Jodorowsky is filming Endless Poetry. He may have struggled to put the disappointment of a lost Dune behind him, but it's nice to see him coming back to his work.

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