Jodorowsky’s Dune (USA/France, 2014)

Jodorowsky_s_Dune-153803568-largeDirected by: Frank Pavich. I knew absolutely nothing about any of this before I saw the movie, but I had word that it was a super interesting look at a bizarre film being made, that was never made. Based on that, I was sold, because I’ve seen the Dune that was made (the enjoyably bizarre David Lynch one), and I’ve loved other film-as-legend docs like Lost in La Mancha (about Terry Gilliam’s doomed Don Quixote project) and Hearts of Darkness, which I think is a more enjoyable watch than Apocalypse Now. Overall, as a film, this is a really well done documentary, luring you in as an impartial bystander, dropping the facts of the case one by one like breadcrumbs until you are sold on the idea that this movie, even though it was never filmed, was one of the most influential sci-fi films of all time, so ahead of its time that it was never made. Now, as a contrarian, I have to say that, based on what I know about Jodorowsky’s other stuff (just synopsis, not actual viewings yet), there’s no way that Hollywood would ever have bankrolled something that crazy. And if the claims of a 14 hour running time are true, there’s no way Hollywood would ever bankroll that shit either (the institutional memory of Hollywood still remembers von Stroheim, who you should definitely look up if you’re into legendary, bizarre visions blowing up the constraints of the studio system). That being said, this movie definitely would have been fucking great to see, and it’s a fun thought-experiment rabbit hole to fall into, wondering what modern Hollywood would look like without the tentpole of Star Wars to prop it up, with the mind-altering, bizarro Jodorowsky Dune occupying the space that a generation of campy, ultra-escapist, infantilizing and wish-fulfilling sci-fi has occupied instead. But you see the problem: it quickly becomes a utopian fantasy—Jodorowsky’s Dune would have opened everyone’s mind to the one-ness of the universe, and dismantled Hollywood’s, and by extension, America’s, the world’s, sense of egotistical, consumer-appetite-lust-driven impulses and ushered in an Age of Aquarius where Bush never gets in the White House, 9/11 never happens, we roll back fossil fuels and dismantle capitalism and live harmoniously in the woods like the Ewok village from Return of the Jedi (which we wouldn’t have seen), all because of this one crazy artist being free to spend Hollywood’s money in any way he wants and being distributed to mainstream audiences. Put like that, it’s a bit of a stretch, but it’s fun to dream, and it’s fun to watch Jodorowsky talk about his movie, his team, his vision (with the notable exception of his disturbingly enthusiastic claim that he was “raping Frank Herbert…with love!”). More likely, it would have been too long, the studios would have stepped in to cut it to hell in order to have a reasonable release, the 2-hour version would be shunned by Jodorowsky and his fans, it would go down as one of cinema’s great, Wellesian hatchet jobs of a genius’ vision, and the liberal stealing of the film’s imagery and aesthetics would have to be muted a bit by the things that followed, including Star Wars, Alien, etc. But still, it’s fun to dream, and this doc makes it even easier. We may not have Dune, but we have Holy Mountain and El Topo, so I better get on that.

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