There’s a new documentary out called Jodorowsky’s Dune, documenting an amazingly ambitious film-that-nearly-was. In the 1970s, avant-garde film director Alejandro Jodorowsky assembled a team of the best actors, artists and musicians to create a film version of Frank Herbert’s novel “Dune.” Ultimately, it fell apart. But the ramifications of this undertaking are still felt today. The documentary by Frank Pavich about the project is a must-see for fans of sci-fi, film, and storytelling in general.
Jodorowsky is a French-Chilean filmmaker who had made three very strange, but progressively more ambitious films. He then met French producer Michel Seydoux who told him he would produce whatever Jodorowsky would like to do next. Having heard a friend rave about how great Dune was, he said he wanted to adapt it to film. Jodorowsky himself narrates the events from his past and while he is in his 80s, he is incredibly animated, quick-witted and a truly engaging storyteller. Jodorowsky decides that to adapt the epic messiah story, he will need to assemble a crew of spiritual warriors to accomplish his task.
Along the way, you learn about artists that he hired such as Moebius, the famous French comic book illustrator, who created hundreds and hundreds of pages of storyboards as well as character designs; H.R. Giger, pre-Alien designs, who designed environments; and Craig Foss, a famous sci-fi novel cover artist, who painted spacecraft. He brought together musicians including Peter Gabriel, Pink Floyd and Magma to score the film. He convinced actors such as Orson Welles, Salvador Dali, and David Carradine to join his project. And he hired special effects man Dan O’Bannon, fresh from John Carpenter’s Dark Star, to make his vision a reality. The real fun of the movie, though, is hearing the different techniques he came up with to convince these people to join him. Sometimes it was film, sometimes it was food, and sometimes it was the idea of creating something groundbreaking.
Perhaps it was always too ambitious a project for the mid-70s but hearing the people involved discuss it, the passion is evident and you truly wish it could have become a reality. However, it lead to many future collaborations such as Dan O’Bannon and H.R. Giger working on Alien, as well as Jodorowsky and Moebius creating an epic sci-fi/fantasy comic book called The Incal. Jodorowsky would go on to build a massive interconnected comic book universe with titles like the Metabarons, heavily inspired by Dune. And to convince Hollywood investors, a gigantic book showing all their work was produced and given out. The documentary shows, towards the end, many famous sci-fi film scenes intercut with the work Jodorowsky’s spiritual warriors crafted.
Ultimately, the film is an inspiration. It fuels your creativity and desire to collaborate. And it helps you look on some of your old favorite films with a new set of eyes. I give it three out of three thumbs.