Director: Frank Pavich
Producers: Frank Pavich, Stephen Scarlata
Sony Pictures Classics
Reviewed by Clare Deming
Most fans of science fiction are familiar with Frank Herbert's Dune, in at least one of its forms. First serialized in Analog magazine from 1963 to 1965, the novel won both the Hugo and Nebula awards in 1966 and has garnered a reputation as one of the greatest sci-fi novels of all time. Several sequels in the Dune universe followed, both by Frank Herbert and his son, Brian Herbert, and Kevin J. Anderson.
|Photo by David Cavallo, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics|
The original film adaptation by David Lynch was released in 1984, to mixed reviews. More recently, the Sci Fi Channel aired two miniseries encompassing both Dune and some of the sequel material. There are currently attempts to produce an updated cinematic feature under way.
What I was not aware of as a fan of Dune, was that in the mid-1970's, Chilean-born director Alejandro Jodorowsky had attempted to create his own ambitious adaptation of the book. The project ultimately failed for financial reasons, but Frank Pavich's documentary, Jodorowsky's Dune, follows the story behind the failed undertaking and the legacy that it left behind that arguably influenced later films such as Star Wars, Alien, and Bladerunner.
Jodorowsky spent his early years studying surrealism in France, and his films became known for their visual style and spiritual themes. He has compared his films to the psychedelic experience of using LSD.
|Alejandro Jodorowsky, Sardaukar and Jean |
Moebius Giraud, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics
Jodorowsky himself is the subject of many of the interviews, and was spirited in describing his work on Dune. His enthusiasm, even decades later, is remarkable, and at times, his fervent outbursts were tinged with madness:
"In that time, I say, if I need to cut my arms in order to make that picture, I will cut my arms. I was even ready to die doing that." -- Alejandro Jodorowsky
He relates several tales about how he recruited the talent for the music and cast, which would have included his own son, Brontis, David Carradine, Orson Welles, Salvador Dali, Mick Jagger, and Pink Floyd.
I was astounded by the spectacular artwork displayed in the film, particularly the full color depiction of a starship blasted open by pirates. While Jodorowsky admits that he planned to take liberties with the source material, if his vision of Dune had been completed, it certainly would have been a spectacle unlike anything at that time.
This documentary likely has little appeal to the average viewer, but for those who have a special interest in the history of science fiction film, or in the source material itself, it was an interesting movie. I was particularly intrigued by the project's influence on later films, particularly the Alien franchise, in which a structure nearly identical to the Harkonnen palace concept art appears in Prometheus.
Jodorowsky's Dune was an Official Selection at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival and is scheduled to open in New York and Los Angeles on March 7, 2014.