From the too-cool-to-ever-see-fruition files comes a Dune film helmed by one of the most visionary directors of his generation, Alejandro Jodorowsky. Imagine, if you will, Frank Herbert’s already trippy sci-fi classic as interpreted by the mind that brought us the mystical, metaphysical madness of El Topo and The Holy Mountain. Fate, of course, intervened, and the film would, ultimately, be lensed by the equally eccentric choice of David Lynch (either a brilliant choice or a travesty, depending upon whom you ask).
This isn’t an uncommon occurrence in cinema. There have been literally dozens of “almosts” that had they come to pass, would have reshaped the landscape of film forever, from Kubrick’s long-in-gestation Napoleon film to Steven Spielberg’s Night Skies (a terrifying alien invasion film that went on to become…err…E.T. The Extra Terrestrial). However, few (if any) of these near misses have attracted the sort of attention that Jodorowsky’s proposed take on the adventures of Paul Atreides has garnered in the years since, as the notoriously prepared director had amassed so much pre-production material during his development phase that, were the film to be given the green light tomorrow, he’d be ready to shoot. And, if you listen to the man, himself, he’s still hoping for that chance.
This is where director Frank Pavich’s exhaustively researched and incredibly entertaining documentary, Jodorowsky’s Dune, comes in.
Opening with a brief look at the legendary Chilean director’s previous works, Jodorowsky’s Dune revisits the period where Jodorowsky was told about Frank Herbert’s Hugo Award winning novel. This tale of various “houses” vying for control of the galaxy’s most precious resource – the spice mélange – packed to the gills with sociopolitical messages and religious subtext, seemed a perfect vehicle for Jodorowsky, who suddenly found himself a hot commodity in Europe thanks to the critical and commercial successes of El Topo and The Holy Mountain. Armed with both his innate optimism and the promise of bucketloads of money from eager producers (a proposed budget of $5 million which, in 1974, was no small sum), Jodorowsky began work on his Dune – an FX-filled extravaganza that would not only star Jodorowsky’s own son, Brontis (as the hero, Paul Atreides), along with Orson Welles, Mick Jagger, David Carradine, and – gulp – Salvador Dali, but also boast a musical score by Pink Floyd, and set and costume designs by Dan O’Bannon and H.R. Giger. While it all seemed too good to be true, the film was literally on the cusp of production until Jodorowsky’s ever-expanding vision and ambition proved too much for his backers to handle, thus the proverbial plug was pulled on what is now commonly referred to as “the greatest movie never made”.
Filmed with unflinching honesty by Pavich, Jodorowsky’s Dune is a wholly absorbing, heart-warming, life-affirming, and, at times, hilarious look into the mind of a mad genius who has never been afraid to dream big. The film consists of interviews with many of his co-conspirators interspersed with voluminous amounts of colorful imagery, posters, storyboards, and animatics, but the real star of the film is Jodorowsky, himself, who guides us through every facet of the development process with the charm and zeal of a man who still hasn’t given up on his dream project.
Sony Classics brings Jodorowsky’s Dune to Blu-ray in a 1080p, 1.78:1 that, as one would expect from a digitally shot documentary, doesn’t exactly bring the fireworks visually, but looks perfectly acceptable for what it is. Some footage looks better than others, but, overall, the image is crisp and fairly detailed. The accompanying DTS HD 5.1 audio track is, once again, a serviceable track that is more than adequate for the material, and even manages to outclass the video presentation with a few well-placed directional cues in the guise of various low-fi blips and bloops to lend the proceedings a campy sci-fi feel befitting the subject matter.
Bonus features include a collection of deleted interview snippets (HD) and the film’s theatrical trailer (HD).
I’ve wanted to see Jodorowsky’s interpretation of Dune ever since I’d first heard about the project years ago, and while I’ve accepted that I’ll most likely never bear witness to the director’s vision, this documentary is the next best thing, with Jodorowsky serving as something of an orator guiding us on his journey with Dune, from his first exposure to the source material (which he may or may not have actually read) all the way through to the sad conclusion where, despite nearly three years of intense pre-production, his passion project came to an end. It’s all very fascinating and inspiring stuff, and for both fans of Jodorowsky and students of cinema, Jodorowsky’s Dune makes for essential viewing.