Jodorowsky’s Dune (2013), a documentary directed by Frank Pavich, tells the epic pre-production process of Jodorowsky’s failed attempt at adapting Dune, Frank’s Herbert famous novel. The documentary is very enjoyable and a fantastic journey.
Alejandro Jodorowksy work has always been very interesting to me, either because of his surrealistic background in the theater and as the director of cult films such as El Topo (1970) or The Holy Mountain (1973), or due to his introspection and analysis of society and the condition of men. He creates art as a way to communicate a spiritual and surrealistic messages beyond the frontiers of comic, science fiction and poetry.
On Jodorowsky’s Dune we witness the journey that started as a monumental project, only to be stopped two full years into pre-production. According to special effect expert Dan O’Bannon, who moved to France for the project, all the pre-production work was completed on those two years, but failure to secure financing, prevented the project from ever being shot. Dan would later be the responsible creator and screenplay of Alien and Total Recall.
Sadly for all the amazing team of people involved on the project early stages (Jean Giraud (Moebius), H.R. Giger, Chriss Foss, etc) the lack of vision and fear at Jodorowsky’s treatment made Hollywood studios uneasy.
What a lost opportunity. If you look at it from our twenty first century perspective, science fiction has proven to be a very successful money producing genre for studios around the world. During the 1970s, not only the special effects technology was ‘just’ coming to age, but nobody before George Lucas’s Star Wars was able to produce a very successful and profitable science-fiction movie in such a large scale.
Jodorowsky’s approach called for a lengthy film which, except for the epic tales such as Ben-Hur (1959) or The Ten Commandments (1956), were and are still not common during the 60s and 70s. We can even claim that less and less people sit through out a two hour film in the Youtube era.
Note from author: Please take a minute to swallow that. Done? Good. Streaming a movie to your tablet and stopping a movie to take a phone call is soooo twenty first century. Spending a whole 2:30 HS on a dark theater with other strangers for entertainment alone, without bathroom brakes was a skill developed though many movie functions, but hard to replicate with a 3 HS feature of epic proportions. Let’s also remember that film distribution called for extra leg-work for such a lengthy release – not to mention changing reels after each projector (no, I’m not excusing Hollywood executives of the 1970s, there’s a cultural shift that might be difficult to see in near sight and if you have never experienced what it took to use and experience that technology)
The nay sayers of the 70s allowed a different type of cinema to exist – we can call it the birth of the second wave of great new American directors and that era requires a lengthy post on itself – but the studios were not able to capitalize, as the do today, on great, complicated and lengthy novels, by marketing them up in almost mini (bites) series installments (think Harry Potter saga, Hunger Games, Twilight Saga, etc).
As with Jodorowksy’s Dune, perhaps his vision, opportunity and timing were still too ahead for its time.