‘Dune’ shows director’s high hopes

Still of David Carradine and Alejandro Jodorowsky in "Jodorowsky's Dune." SOURCE SONY PICTURES CLASSICS
May 4, 2014

There are those who merely enjoy the pretty pictures that flicker onto the screen in front of us, accept them for what they are, and are content that the product we see is a singular vision, realized by the filmmakers.

But there are those of us who like to pick at the surface, peel off the labels, peek behind the curtain to see the process of the product. For within those tales sometimes lie stories more dramatic, amusing or horrific than anything witnessed on the screen.

In 2002, “Lost in La Mancha” told the tale of director Terry Gilliam’s trouble-plagued, unfinished production of “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote,” starring Johnny Depp. It was a fascinating look at the process of filmmaking, especially under the vision of a willful, visionary director.

Such is the case with “Jodorowsky’s Dune,” (currently wrapping the festival circuit, but soon available on demand), a candid look at the “business” side of show business, and a glimpse of what perhaps what could have been, and maybe what should never be.

For those unfamiliar with the name, cult filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky had established his unique cinematic voice as the director of such deranged, allegorical films such “El Topo” and “The Holy Mountain” in the 1970s. When the director sits down for this documentary of a film that never was - his vision of a film adaptation of Frank Herbert’s beloved “Dune” - it’s clear that the man had vision, drive and unbridled passion. And he could also be a tad unhinged.

In “Jodorowsky’s Dune,” the director guides us through his high-reaching hopes, each one more fantastical than the last, but what is even more revealing is the path from idea to action in the world of film. We learn what led him to his interest in helming the picture (despite never having read the book), his quest to find “spiritual warriors” to breathe life into his project, and his laundry list of names that he wanted for particular aspects in the film, including creative geniuses such as Dan O’Bannon (“Star Wars,” “Alien”), H.R. Giger (the designer behind the “Alien” alien), a cast that would have included David Carradine, Orson Welles, Salvador Dali, Mick Jagger, and a soundtrack by none other than Pink Floyd, it was quite an auspicious task.

In short, he not only wanted to make a movie; he wanted to create art. It helps that our guide, at 86, is still a spry, animated host. As we hear him tell the "whats" and the "whys," we still have to wonder just what a film we may have been left with, but we are certain about the passion behind it.

"Dune" requires no detailed knowledge of any of its characters, nor must they have viewed either the David Lynch 1984 adaptation, nor the mini-series of "Dune" years later. It's certainly a ringer for film nerds such as myself, but with assured editing and Jodorowsky himself as the carnival barker, it's a fascinating spectacle for anyone with more than a passing interest in tales that focus on one man's obsessive desires to produce a movie with meaning.

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