Andy Burns On…Jodorowsky’s Dune

Each week, one of Biff Bam Pop’s illustrious writers will delve into one of their favourite things. Perhaps it’s a movie or album they’ve carried with them for years. Maybe it’s something new that moved them and they think might move you too. Each week, a new subject, a new voice writing on…something they love.

Have I got the ultimate trip for you. Totally legal. Won’t leave you feeling jittery.

Jodorowsky’s Dune, man. Dig it.

Ok, that’s about all the hipster talk I can handle. But listen when I tell you that the documentary about the failed attempt at adapting Frank Herbert’s epic science fiction tale is one of the most compelling films I’ve ever seen. A movie that’s fingerprints are all over the science fiction of the last 40 years, even though it was never created.

That, my friends, is epic.

Jodorowsky's_Dune_posterBefore watching Jodorowsky’s Dune on Netflix last weekend, I was hardly aware of who the Mexican-French director/writer was. I’d heard raves about the film, and on a trip to California in the spring I had purchased a hardcover copy of his comic series The Inca, which he’d created alongside legendary French artist Moebius from the ashes of their collaboration on Dune. However, that was it. Happily, I’m glad I went into watching Jodorowsky’s Dune without any knowledge of the man. It made the film that much more revealing.

Now, I’m not going to run down who Alejandro Jodorowsky is – that’s why the good lord invented Wikipedia. But the coles notes version for the film is that the surrealist filmmaker and cohorts, in the early 70s had the rights to adapt Dune. Jodorowsky’s vision for the film was immense – he wanted it to be revolutionary and awe-inspiring, something akin to a religious experience. With that in mind, Jodorowsky began working with Moebius, American filmmaker Dan O’bannon and H.R. Giger on creating the massive world of Dune. Giger in particular was a huge coup – this was pre-Alien Giger, and the artist’s work was amazing.

Alonside these visionaries, Jodorowsky wanted Pink Floyd to work on the soundtrack. He planned on having surrealist painter Salvador Dali act in the film, along with Orson Welles and Mick Jagger. Ideas that were big and bold and really, so far ahead of their time. But when it came time to make Dune happen….

Well, you’ll just have to watch the movie.

As directed by Frank Pavitch, Jodorowsky’s Dune goes in depth to reveal the creation and ultimate disintegration of the film, speaking to many of the principals involved alongside filmmakers Nicholas Winding Refn and Richard Stanley. We also get a look inside the magnificent tome that Jodorowsky and company created to try and help find funding from the American film studios. The book is huge, consisting of costume concepts, set pieces and Moebius’ shot for shot storyboards. To the best of my knowledge, nothing had ever been done like this before, a film fully realized on the page before being committed to the screen. So impressive was the book that I immediately went to Amazon to see if there’s any replicas for sale (sadly, there aren’t).

While this is the tale of a failed film, Pavitch’s picture is also a revealing look at an amazing, visionary artist. Jodorowsky’s ambition is infectious, even today as he speaks about what he hoped to accomplish with his Dune. The man, now in his 80s, has an amazing enthusiasm about him as he describes the religious connotations his film would have had. He’s a born storyteller, and his Dune would likely have blown our collective minds (unlike the David Lynch version, which was sadly bastardized countless times by the producers involved).

Ultimately, Jodorowsky’s Dune is a masterful look at the success that comes from failure. And while the story could have come across as depressing, Jodorowsky doesn’t allow that. He found other places for his ambitions and visions, and they’re well worth discovering for yourself.


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