NZIFF – Jodorowsky’s Dune
A bittersweet ode to the passion-project that never quite was Jodorowsky’s Dune is as much about the enigmatic Spanish director as it is about his ill-fated project to adapt Frank Herbert’s science fiction epic. Frank Pavich’s documentary shows obvious affection for its subject and it is difficult to blame the filmmakers for any lack of balance in approaching the ‘hows’ and ‘whys’ of the failure of Jodorowsky’s project. The man himself is insanely magnetic and personable. There’s a scene where Jodorowsky, with absolutely no irony, bemoans a particular effects person as an egotist who he can’t work with…in a film whose entire running illustrates the insane ego of the man himself. He explicitly refers to his reimagining of Dune as “a prophet”!? Also Pavich’s documentary showcases the director’s kind of duel-of-wits with compatriot Spanish surrealist Salvador Dalí in an attempt to get the elder artist on-board the project as ‘Shaddam Corrino IV, Padishah Emperor of the Known Universe’. After a lengthy, enjoyable dance Jodorowsky enticed Dalí by offering to make him the highest paid actor of all time at a rate of $100,000 per minute (in 1975 US dollars) but featuring him on screen for only three minutes. And yet “Jodo” (as those who know him refer to him on the documentary) never comes off as an arrogant tyrant or anything other than warm, inspired, and inspiring. Every time he gets in front of the camera is like a shot of cinematic energy. The subject’s bewitching personality is reason enough to give the documentary broader appeal than just the film’s more obvious genre targets. But beyond Jodorowsky the film contains a fascinating story of this (almost) Dune—it currently exists only as several surviving sets of completed storyboard panel books—as the birthing stew of so many great subsequent science fiction ideas (in both film and print) and for being instrumental in popularising the work of several industry professionals/artists. Foremost of these is the creature design of the late H. R. Giger in the Alien franchise which had its genesis as designs for Dune’s antagonist House Harkonnen.
As fantastic as it would have been to see Jodorowsky’s version of Dune—I suspect I’d be right in the receptive target audience for a 14hr Frank Herbert adaptation—it is understandable that the plug got pulled by the money people. The filmmaker’s vision was (and still is) audacious and original and likely too far off the beaten track for Joe/Jane-average filmgoer. That the film continues to reverberate in different ways speaks to the strength of Jodorowsky’s ideas, and the ideas of those he inspired and let loose on the project. But those ideas have made their ways into popular culture in more sanitised, less concentrated forms; in a way that the public can better deal with them. Jodorowsky explicitly endorses the idea of someone picking up the project after he goes and taking it in new and strange directions, which is pretty cool and in keeping with his ethos of trying to spark the best creativity in the world around him. Jodorowsky’s Dune is a joy to watch and, for any genre film fan or science fiction head, is a shot of pure, uncut, class A cine-narcotic.
Rating: M Nudity.