Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Jodorosky's Dune

I saw Jodorosky's Dune at the Landmark Embarcadero Center Cinemas earlier this week.

Jodorosky's Dune; documentary; directed by Frank Pavich; Spanish, French, German & English with subtitles; (2013) - Official Website

Jodorosky's Dune is an entertaining documentary about "The Greatest Movie Never Made."  Actually, that sobriquet was used to describe Henri-Georges Clouzot's Inferno which was the subject of an entertaining documentary by Serge Bromberg called Henri-Georges Clouzot's Inferno.

Of course, Dune was eventually made. David Lynch directed the 1984 film which Jodorosky admits on camera, in a moment of schadenfreude, was terrible.  An admirer of Lynch, Jodorosky blames the poor quality of the film on the producers.  For his part, Lynch has distanced himself from Dune.  He refuses to discuss the film in interviews and his name has been removed from the credits in some versions.

Back to Jodorosky:  after the cult success of El Topo (1970) and financial success of The Holy Mountain (1973), Jodorosky was contacted by French film producer Michael Seydoux, granduncle of Léa Seydoux (Inglourious Basterds, Blues is the Warmest Color and The Grand Hotel Budapest).

Seydoux gave Jodorosky carte blanche for his next film project and Jodorosky chose Dune, a 1965 novel by Frank Herbert.  After writing the script, Jodorosky assembled his team or warriors as he calls them.  He recruited artists Jean Giraud (aka Moebius), Chris Foss and H.R. Giger.  For special effects, he got Dan O'Bannon based on his work on John Carpenter's Dark Star.  Then he set out to cast the film.  Jodorosky claims to have got agreements (presumably verbal) from the likes of Sallvador Dalí, Orson Welles, Mick Jagger and David Carradine. Jodorosky's son Brontis was to have the lead role of Paul.

Jodorosky is quite the raconteur and some of the coincidences in his stories seem a little contrived but I won't quibble.  What is undeniable is some of the eye-popping artwork.  Seydoux packaged the storyboards and sketches into a tome for marketing purposes.  Although the Hollywood studios passed on the project, much of the designs seemed to have made their way into later films.  Jodorosky suspects the pitch books were used by studios for inspiration.

Jodorosky's "warriors" also had later success in Hollywood particularly with James Cameron's Alien.  O'Bannon went on to write the screenplay for Alien on which Chris Foss and Jean Giraud did artwork.  Giraud later went on to do artwork on TRON and The Abyss.  H.R. Giger won an Oscar for Best Visual Effects for his work on Alien.

Jodorosky was trying to get Dune greenlit in the mid-1970s; before Star Wars.  Studios were leery of funding the $15 million budget Seydoux was estimating.  Given the outlandish enticements Jodorosky gave to Dalí and Welles, I think Jodorosky's Dune may have become Jodorosky's Heaven's Gate.  It's enticing imagine what could have been.  Jodorosky still has his copy of the storyboard book so his Dune lives on in that format.  As he mentions near the end of the film, his Dune would make a great animated film and the technology exists today to do his vision justice.

The Emperor’s Castle by H.R. Giger

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