Sunday, April 27, 2014


Art loses out in irresistible doc on unmade sci-fi epic 'Jodorowsky's Dune'

They call it "the greatest science fiction movie never made." The source material is one of the most iconic, influential, and beloved of modern sci-fi novels.

The production would have teamed up an extraordinary brain trust of creative young geniuses—designers, graphic artists, and special effects wizards destined to become cinema A-listers in subsequent projects like Star Wars, Alien, and Blade Runner—along with a couple of maverick old-school geniuses. And it would have cemented the reputation of one of the most engaging nutball visionaries ever to emerge in the annals of cinema.

If only Alejandro Jodorowsky's dazzling adaptation of Frank Herbert's Dune had been made.
H. R. Giger with concept sketches.

But now we get the next best thing in Jodorowksky's Dune, an irresistible documentary by Frank Pavich that celebrates the movie that might have been. Pavich structures his film around a series of interviews with Jodorowsky himself, the Chilean-born iconoclast with roots in avant garde theater in Mexico City and Paris, whose trippy 1970 experimental film, El Topo, became the godfather of the midnight movie.

Now a dapper 84, the cosmopolitan Jodorowsky ("Jodo" to his friends) recounts his vision for Dune with exuberant relish, and a passion undimmed by time.

As charming as Jodo is, however, Pavich's film is more than talking heads. During two years of pre-production on Dune, the director amassed a vast archive of images—paintings, sketches, costume designs, storyboards—eventually bound into an enormous volume the size of several metropolitan phone books.

This treasure trove of visual material (featuring amazing work by comic book artist Jean "Moebius" Giraud, H. R. Giger, and Chris Foss, among others), its images occasionally animated onscreen, is the centerpiece of Pavich's doc.
Character and costume sketches by Moebius.
Ultimately, the projected budget of $15 million was enough to scare off potential backers in 1975. Maybe Jodo could never have translated his passion for Dune to the screen intact, given the primitive tools of the day. In which case, Pavich's film may be the greatest version of Jodorowsky's Dune that could ever possibly be. (Read more)

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