Gregory G. H. Rihn (milwaukeesfs) wrote,
Gregory G. H. Rihn

Jodorowsky's "Dune"

We just came back from seeing the documentary film, "Jodorowsky's 'Dune'", about the 1975 attempt by Chilean director Alejandro Jodorowsky to make a film of Frank Herbert's science-fiction novel.

Jodorowsky, who was well known as a Surrealist for his films "El Topo," and "The Holy Mountain," wanted to make a genuinely mind-expanding picture. He was turned on to "Dune" by French producer Michel Seydoux, and the two agreed to work together on the project. At first, the film seemed charmed. Jodorowsky wanted to meet Jean "Mobius" Giraud to enlist him for storyboarding, but didn't know how to contact him. Jodorowsky went to his own agent's office in Paris and found Giraud there. When he and Seydoux went to New York to locate Salvador Dali, they found he was staying in the same hotel they were. Through a combination of serendipity and subtlety, they brought on board a most remarkable creative team, including special effects artist Dan O'Bannon, science fiction artist Chris Foss, and sculptor/graphic artist H.R.Giger, whose work had never appeared in films before. Jodorowsky got Salvador Dali, Orson Welles, Mick Jagger, and David Carradine all to agree to appear in the movie though a combination of craft and charm.

The production designs we see are amazing, and, had the film been made, there's no doubt in my mind it would have profoundly changed science fiction cinema as we know it. For one thing alone, Chris Foss' brilliantly painted spaceships are a major departure from the utilitarian white, gray, or metallic spacecraft that are the current standard. (OK, in the "Star Trek" Universe, you can have a Rustoleum brown spaceship if you are a Ferenghi, or one in zinc chromate green if you are a Romulan, but that's hardly individualistic. Even the Bird-of-Prey designs all look the same--.)

Ironically, the project foundered on Jodorowsky's reputation as a wild man, even though the universally admired script was his, the 3000 picture detailed storyboard had been created by Mobius as Jodorowsky dictated, and all the fantastic production designs had been created by his inspiration. No major studio was willing to put up the money to shoot the film. Rights were withdrawn, and assigned to DeLaurentis, which resulted in the 1984 David Lynch disappointment.

In addition to the history of the film effort, we get a large dose of Jodorowsky's artistic manifesto, which combines irrational exuberance with brutal honesty, expressed with a great deal of charm and humor, although sometimes in distasteful terms. He is not reticent in describing his pleasure at seeing the Lynch "Dune" and realizing that it was "a failure." Nevertheless, Jodorowsky's energy and enthusiasm are infectious, even at age eighty-four.

Even unmade, it is inarguable that Jorodowsky's "Dune" has had a significant effect on science fiction cinema and popular culture, if for no other reason that bringing O'Bannon and Giger together resulted in the whole "Alien" franchise, and, as the documentary points out, influences can be seen in many other films. Jodorowsky also began a long and fertile collaboration with Jean Giraud, that created a number of well-regarded graphic novels.

This was a fascinating exposition of "secret history" of our genre that we were very glad to have seen.

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Tags: history, movies, science fiction
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