Artistic ambition meets financial disappointment in a beautifully told story
The phrase “The Greatest Movie Never Made” is often used by film fans. It can refer to Kubrick’s Napoleon, Orson Welles’ Heart of Darkness, or even the Nick Cave scripted Gladiator 2 (Maximus returns from the dead!). Now with the release of a new documentary, the newest title holder is Alejandro Jodorowsky’s adaptation of Dune, which was to be his follow-up to The Holy Mountain. Losing the chance to see the classic George Herbert Sci Fi novel Dune being put through the cutting edge kaleidoscopic lens of Jodorowsky is a cinematic kick in the balls for film fanatics.
This is not a documentary about a film, though. There is no film. This is a movie about a book.
It’s a genius book (that someone should get the rights to immediately and print so I can buy it), with a storyboard and illustrations done by many of the great artists of our time, such as Jean “Moebius” Giraud and H.R. Giger. This film focuses on the enormity of the project’s planning, from the gathering of a team of “warriors” to create the world inside Jodorowsky’s head to his wooing of some of the 20th century’s biggest names to join him. Orson Welles, Salvador Dali and Mick Jagger are all convinced to take this trip with “Jodo.”
Jodorowsky explains that he wanted to make a movie that felt like you were dropping acid, even if you were completely sober. Now that’s not the Dune I remember, but when he started the project, he had never read Frank Herbert’s book; he had just heard it was good. This “I haven’t read the book” becomes a bit of a running gag throughout the documentary. Everyone knows it’s great, but who has time to read it? (I’ve never read it, either.)
The documentary spends most of its time with Jodorowsky, who is an amazing character. He tells stories that could be true, and could be fantastical. His way of looking at life, and whether or not this movie never being made constitutes a failure will resonate with you long after you’ve left the theater. We get to understand so much about him by the time the movie is done, but it’s definitely all his version of the events.
The movie does hypothesize that this unmade film has had far reaching effects on modern cinema, and that feels like a bit of a stretch, but there’s no denying that he did introduce Dan O’Bannon to H.R. Giger, and well … that’s Alien right there. And he did bring Moebius into the film industry for the first time, so there’s The Fifth Element for you.
I’m willing to call this movie a must-see for anyone interested in the following topics: Alejandro Jodorowsky, surrealistic cinema, Moebius, H.R. Giger, ’70s sci-fi, movies, books, art, and philosophy. That should cover just about everyone.
Jodorowsky’s Dune opens today at the Embarcadero Cinemas in San Francisco