Saturday, January 17, 2015

Jodorowsky’s Dune: The Most Amazing Science-Fiction Movie You’ve Never Seen?

There have been a great deal of “making of” documentaries produced about classic (and not so classic) movies. But have you ever seen a story about a film that was never actually made? Jodorowsky’s Dune (2013) is the story of an ambitious attempt to make a cinematic version of author Frank Herbert’s classic science-fiction epic in the mid 1970s. Alejandro Jodorowsky, who had directed the cult films El Topo (1970) and The Holy Mountain (1973), wanted to make a fantastic, mind-expanding version of the novel that would push the boundaries of film, and take the viewer’s cinematic experience to the next level. This absorbing documentary tells the story of Jodorowsky’s quest to put together the perfect team to make his dream project. That journey led him to enlist such talented artists as H.R. Giger, Moebius and Chris Foss, who worked on the design and look of the film. Dan O’Bannon (who later wrote the screenplay for Alien) was slated do the special effects.

Jodorowsky envisioned an eclectic all star cast that would include David Carradine, Orson Welles Mick Jagger and Salvador Dali. He also wanted to feature music by Pink Floyd and other rock bands in the film, with different artists writing music for the different characters and planets featured in the story. The documentary features interviews with Jodorowsky, as well as some of the other crew members who worked on the project. We also get to see concept drawings, production art and costume designs for the movie. It’s clear that Jodorowsky was (and still is) very passionate about the project, and what he hoped to achieve with it. He also inspired that same dedication in the people who worked on the pre-production with him. This movie would very likely have been an out of this world, visionary piece of work, like no other science-fiction film produced up to that time.

The writer-director also came up with a massive book that featured the storyboards and designs for the film, along with its screenplay. Jodorowsky and his partners went to all the major studios to pitch the film. Sadly, no one wanted to co-produce or co-finance the film at the time. Most people who listened to his proposal lauded his unique vision, but thought the film would be impossible to make the way Jodorowsky envisioned it. But maybe the world just wasn’t ready for such a unique movie back then. As you may know, a film version of Dune was eventually produced in 1984, which was directed by David Lynch. That movie waslmbasted by critics and ended up a box office failure. Jodorowsky briefly touches upon his reaction to seeing that version during his interview for this engrossing documentary.

While Jodorowsky’s version of Herbert's novel was never produced, you can tell that the experience of working on it left a lasting impression on his colleagues. The final portion of the movie details some of the amazing work that artists like Giger, Foss, O’Bannon and others worked so hard to create. There are also clips from some of the classic films that were later made by some of these talented people, or influenced by them and their unique visions of the future. Those memorable movies include Alien, Blade Runner and the original Star Wars. This is an engrossing story about the creative process, and the enthusiasm that true artists have for their work.  Jodorowsky’s Dune is now available on Blu-ray, DVD and various download/streaming sites. Here’s a link to the film’s trailer:

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