Movie review: 'Jodorowsky's Dune' tells of the epic that never was

Published April 25, 2014 12:22 pm
Review • Riveting story of a movie that almost got made.
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The delightful documentary "Jodorowsky's Dune" is the most enjoyable behind-the-scenes look at moviemaking to come along in ages.

It's even better because it's about a movie that never was.

The Jodorowsky of the title is the Chilean-born surrealist filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky, most famous for two cult classics: the oddball Western "El Topo" (1970), considered the first "midnight movie," and the even stranger spiritual journey "The Holy Mountain" (1973).

After those films, French producer Michel Seydoux approached Jodorowsky with an offer to make his next project, whatever it may be. Jodorowsky told Seydoux he wanted to adapt "Dune," Frank Herbert's trippy 1965 epic science-fiction novel about a desert planet that produced mind-altering spice that navigators took to traverse the universe.

"I wanted to make something sacred," Jodorowsky tells documentarian Frank Pavich. "A film that gives LSD hallucinations, without taking LSD." He also admits he hadn't read "Dune" before proposing it to Seydoux.

Jodorowsky started gathering his "spiritual warriors" to create the film. He assembled a visual team that included writer and special-effects expert Dan O'Bannon, French comic artist Jean "Moebius" Girard, sci-fi illustrator Chris Foss, and the Swiss artist H.R. Giger. In assembling his cast, Jodorowsky tells Pavich, the director secured commitments from Orson Welles (as the corpulent Baron Harkonnen), Mick Jagger (as the Baron's son, Feyd Rautha) and Salvador Dalí (as the Emperor).

And he created detailed storyboards, mapping out the outlandish costumes and groundbreaking visuals he planned for the film. All this, along with his artistic team's conceptual art, was bound into a massive book that was sent to the Hollywood studios.

Pavich interviews many of those involved in Jodorowsky's vision who are still alive to tell the tale — and finds archival interviews for those, such as Girard and O'Bannon, who aren't.

He also talks to people in the film business now, including director Nicolas Winding Refn ("Drive") and film critic Devin Faraci, who talk about how the unmade "Dune" has influenced Hollywood filmmaking since the 1970s. (For example, Giger recycled some of his "Dune" designs for his Oscar-winning work on "Alien," which O'Bannon co-wrote, and Foss and Giraud also worked on.)

But the most fun comes when Pavich sets his camera up and lets Jodorowsky cut loose. The old director, who's now 85, has more enthusiasm than men half his age — and listening to his energetic descriptions of the movie in his head, you can almost see it yourself.

That's what makes "Jodorowsky's Dune" so fun and inspiring. It's really the story about the artistic process, which tells us that even in failure there is incredible creativity and joy.


Twitter: @moviecricket —


'Jodorowsky's Dune'

A spirited and warm-hearted documentary that looks at possibly the greatest movie never made.

Where • Broadway Centre Cinemas.

When • Opens Friday, April 25.

Rating • PG-13 for some violent and sexual images and drug references.

Running time • 90 minutes.



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