The fact that Alejandro Jodorowsky -- coming off the double whammy of 1970s cult favorite mind benders "El Topo" and "The Holy Mountain" -- even got near bringing Frank Hebert's "Dune" to the big screen perhaps speaks to the wackiness of the 1970s movie world. That it actually got as far as it did, hiring an insane set of collaborators, an equally ambitious cast and actually reaching the stage where sets were going to be built, is even more miraculous. But alas, the production fell apart and has gone on to become one of the great unmade movie stories in cinema history. The mind still reels at what it could have resulted in, but the new documentary "Jodorowsky's Dune" gives a pretty good insight into what could have been a game changing sci-fi epic.
Playing in Cannes Directors' Fortnight, the movie let's the man himself tell the saga of what happened, and rounds up key collaborators, family and friends including producers, artists and even Nicolas Winding Refn (and it should be noted, "Only God Forgives" is dedicated to Jodorowsky) for their reflections. Director Frank Pavich's film is not only an account of the making of an unmade movie, but also a bit of tribute to the filmmaker himself, and his pretty infectious spirit of rebellion and shaking up the status quo. For anyone who loves a good movie about the movies, this is one that will be well worth seeking out once it lands stateside.
While we caught the movie at Cannes, the bummer is that at our screening, there were no English subtitles. While this largely wasn't a problem (Jodorowsky mostly speaks in English in the film, and our man Kevin Jagernauth's basic understanding of French helped in getting the gist of any segments spoken or subtitled in the language), we didn't think it was fair to give a full review to the picture. So instead, we've rounded up some of the more intriguing highlights and factoids presented in movie, and you can check them out below.
In talking about great unmade movies, many times they are projects that merely existed on paper, but couldn't really come together. But that's hardly the case with Jodorowsky's "Dune." The filmmaker assembled a team of artists in Paris -- guys like H.R. Giger, Dan O'Bannon, Chris Foss and Jean Girard/Moebius -- who dove into extensive work on the movie, while Jodorowksy himself got busy on the screenplay. The result is the famed "Dune" book -- of which they are apparently only two in existence -- laying out Jodrowsky's vision of the movie from beginning to end, in complete storyboard form. One of the few people to get a personalized tour through it? Nicolas Winding Refn. "Jodorowsky's Dune" begins with a great anecdote by Refn about joining Jodorowsky for dinner one night, and late in the evening, having the filmmaker flip through the book with him, explaining everything he would he would have done. "It's awesome," Refn says about what the movie could have been.
Alejandro Jodorowsky wanted to top Orson Welles
In what was just one element of what would've been a visual feast (the spaceship designs are seriously out of this world), Jodorowsky planned a huge tracking shot to open the film, one he was hoping would rival Orson Welles' "Touch Of Evil." Jodorowsky playfully shared his admiration for that picture, but also his desire to take things even further. Of course, it would been a bravura piece of moviemaking, with a single shot traveling through the space and stars, eventually into the galaxy "Dune" is set in, and continuing, closer and closer, until eventually landing of the bodies of dead space smugglers who had been carrying the valuable "spice melange." Damn.