do you get from Alejandro Jodorowsky’s trippy cult classic The Holy Mountain to Ridley Scott’s moody blockbuster Alien? The road passes through Frank
Herbert’s Dune and the legendary
adaptation Jodorowsky failed to realize. It was a valiant effort that assembled
much of the then unknown talent that would reconvene for the later science
fiction-horror vehicle. The
behind-the-scenes story of the greatest film-that-never-was is told in Frank
Pavich’s Jodorowsky’s Dune (trailer here), which opens this
Friday at New York’s Film Forum.
Dune boasts some of the greatest and
most influential pre-production work maybe ever, but sadly you cannot see the
final film. In 1975, Jodorowsky was at
the peak of his international success, even though his films were still
unevenly distributed in America. Along with the Rocky Horror Picture Show, films like El Topo helped define the Midnight movie as a profitable
phenomenon. Looking for a challenge, Jodorowsky and his producer Michel Seydoux
corralled the rights to Dune.
exactly slavishly beholden to Herbert’s novel (which the Chilean auteur readily
admits he had not read until after he committed to the project), Jodorowsky
conceived an adaptation that truly boggles the mind. Still, Dune’s mind-expanding spice was perfectly
compatible with Jodorowsky’s sensibilities. The prospective cast of Mick
Jagger, Orson Welles, David Carradine, and Salvador Dalí alone would have
guaranteed the film eternal cult status. However, Jodorowsky also assembled a
technical crew of future genre superstars, including H.R. Giger, Jean “Moebius”
Giraud, Chris Foss, and Dan O’Bannon, all of whom would contribute their
talents to the O’Bannon scripted Alien.
their allure, Pavich includes liberal selections of the aborted film’s concept
art, even animating small snippets to really torment genre fans. Despite the
short term risks, there is no way this film would not have been profitable in
the long term. Which would pay more dividends in the post-1970’s VCR era,
Jodorowsky’s Dune or a safe studio
comedy like I Will, I Will . . . for Now?
For that matter, what sort of licensing and residuals does the unwatchable
Streisand remake of A Star is Born still
generate, even though it was a minor hit in its day?
a consolation, Pavich clearly suggests Jodorowsky’s efforts indirectly
influenced scores of genre filmmakers, even if the experience was detrimental
to his own career. Clearly, Jodorowsky is ready to talk about it, because does
so in great length throughout the documentary. Fortunately, he is quite a lively
interview subject. Although we also hear from Giger, Foss, Seydoux, and
Jodorowsky’s son Brontis (who would have played Paul Atreides), the senior
Jodorowsky’s voice dominates the film—not that his considerable fanbase is
likely to object.
During the course of the film, Pavich gives
viewers a vivid sense of what Jodorowsky unmade film would have looked like and
provides helpful context to appreciate the time and professional milieu in
which it did not happen. A fascinating and tantalizing “what if,” Jodorowsky’s Dune is highly recommended
for science fiction fans and frustrated filmmakers of all stripes when it opens
this Friday (3/21) in New York at Film Forum.
Labels: Alejandro Jodorowsky, Documentary, Dune