"}
Film

Jodorowsky’s Dune

The epic story of a never-was

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Is Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Dune the most influential movie never made?

Late in the lively, anecdote-strewn documentary Jodorowsky’s Dune, director Frank Pavich enumerates the ways. The swordfights in Star Wars, the cyborg POV in The Terminator, the galaxy-spanning opening shot of Contact—all were prefigured in the massive Dune storyboard book that circulated through studio suites in the mid-1970s. Writer Dan O’Bannon and visual consultants Chris Foss, Jean “Moebius” Giraud, and H.R. Giger all went on to work on 1979’s Alien, with Giger’s designs for the creatures and sets dictating the dark look of movie science fiction for decades to come.

Without Jodorowsky’s Dune, no Blade Runner, no Matrix? (Definitely no David Lynch’s Dune, the 1984 turkey that was made only after the earlier production fell apart.) Pavich presents a fascinating case, but his movie’s much better at making you wish Jodorowsky’s version—“a massive asteroid that just missed Earth,” in the words of one onlooker—had come to fruition.

In retrospect, it’s obvious why the film was never produced: The director was a lunatic. The Chilean-born Jodorowsky was best known for El Topo (1970) and The Holy Mountain (1973), startling midnight-movie mash-ups of spaghetti-western violence and Carlos Casteneda jive. Maybe there’s a metaphor in the scene in Holy Mountain where a mystical Alchemist (played by the director) turns another character’s turd into gold, but Pavich doesn’t go there.

Jodorowsky went there and beyond. Interviewed at length in the new film, the now-frail 84-year-old filmmaker practically levitates with enthusiasm as he recalls his attempts to turn Frank Herbert’s sci-fi bestseller into “something sacred”—“a film that would give you hallucinations without drugs.”

In two years of pre-production, Jodorowsky brought together O’Bannon, Giger, Moebius, and Foss, urging them with daily pep talks to create an immense, visionary version of Dune on paper. He cast his teenage son, Brontis, as the novel’s young hero Paul Atreides, and had the boy undergo rigorous martial arts training. (The adult Brontis recalls this period with great fondness.) Salvador Dali agreed to play the Emperor of the Galaxy for $100,000 per minute and a burning giraffe. Orson Welles signed up to play Baron Harkonnen, but only if his favorite Paris chef was installed on set. Mick Jagger said yes to Feyd Rautha, the role that was played by a cod-pieced Sting in the Lynch version. Jodorowsky intended to use a different prog-rock group to compose the music for each planet—he berated Pink Floyd into coming aboard—and planned to illustrate the hero’s conception with a camera shot that traveled up his mother’s vagina.

Remarkably, no one involved seems to have bothered to read the book except Dali’s then-lover/muse Amanda Lear, who had to describe the plot to the aging Surrealist. Jodorowsky eventually got around to it, but he makes his feelings clear to Pavich: “When you make a picture, you must not respect the novel…I was raping Frank Herbert, but with love, with love.”

Wouldn’t you want to have been a fly on the wall when the Dune team pitched the film to Disney, among other studios? No one bit, of course. It’s possible that no movie could ever have matched the one in Jodorowsky’s head—in the pre-CGI era, anyway—but it’s just as clear that Hollywood executives in the years before Star Wars were terrified of an artist with so much vision and so little interest in dollars and cents.

But the final say belongs to Jodorowsky, as it should. “Have ambition! Be immortal!” he cries, an idealist to the last. In the end, Star Wars was the movie that remade science fiction and pop culture in its own image—we’re still living in the aftermath of its blockbuster Big Bang—but how much more wonderfully strange things might have been if Jodorowsky’s Dune had got there first.

0674-Commodores_770x150-CW
More Film...
Doctober
Handling the truth

By now, everyone knows that when I’m not executing my Cascadia Weekly duties, I’m moonlighting as a projectionist at the Pickford Film Center.

While the Pickford is currently offering its customary selection of top-notch indie movies, behind the scenes, all conversation revolves…

more »
London Road
A musical murder mystery

The techniques of verbatim theater go back decades, to at least the 1950s, when young German theater troupes would reenact complicated court cases word for word onstage. Even earlier, in the United States, the WPA paid for a form of this performance with its “Living Newspapers,” in…

more »
The Magnificent Seven
Another day, another remake

The big difference between the new version of The Magnificent Seven and the revered 1960 feature is the ethnic background of the main characters. The titular seven in director Antoine Fuqua’s take are a diverse bunch, while the ruthless villain of the piece is no longer a Mexican bandito…

more »
Events
Today
Eat Local Month

4:00pm|Bellingham and Whatcom County

A gold medal standard

4:00pm

Whatcom Water Week

10:00am|Whatcom County

Ensembulele

4:00pm|Bellingham Public Library

Final After-Hours Market

4:00pm|Depot Market Square

Autumn Soups

6:30pm|Community Food Co-op

Tame Your Inner Critic

7:00pm|Village Books

Little Women

7:30pm|Whidbey Playhouse

Looking for Betty MacDonald

7:30pm|Village Books

The Music Man

7:30pm|Anacortes Community Theatre

The Miracle Worker

7:30pm|Claire vg Thomas Theatre

Northwood Steak and Crab Everybody’s Store
Tomorrow
Eat Local Month

4:00pm|Bellingham and Whatcom County

A gold medal standard

4:00pm

Whatcom Water Week

10:00am|Whatcom County

The Music Man

7:30pm|Anacortes Community Theatre

The Miracle Worker

7:30pm|Claire vg Thomas Theatre

Little Women

7:30pm|Whidbey Playhouse

Wild Things

9:30am|Whatcom Falls Park

Quilt & Fiber Arts Festival

10:00am|La Conner

Parkinson's Dance Class

10:00am|Ballet Bellingham

Spanish Storytime

10:30am|Lynden Library

Ferndale Farmers Market

1:00pm|Cherry Street

Get an edible education

4:00pm

Autumn Celebration Dinner

5:30pm|Bellingham Senior Activity Center

Love, Loss and What I Wore

7:30pm|Heiner Auditorium

Hellingham

8:00pm|Upfront Theatre

Handling the truth

9:35pm

Village Books Mount Baker Theatre
Saturday
Whatcom Water Week

10:00am|Whatcom County

The Music Man

7:30pm|Anacortes Community Theatre

Little Women

7:30pm|Whidbey Playhouse

The Miracle Worker

7:30pm|Claire vg Thomas Theatre

Quilt & Fiber Arts Festival

10:00am|La Conner

Get an edible education

4:00pm

Love, Loss and What I Wore

7:30pm|Heiner Auditorium

Hellingham

8:00pm|Upfront Theatre

Handling the truth

9:35pm

Run Like a Girl

8:00am|Fairhaven Park

Model Train Show

9:00am|Northwest Washington Fairgrounds

Benefit Garage Sale

9:00am|T.G. Richards Building

Twin Sisters Farmers Market

9:00am|Nugent's Corner

Cabbage Class

9:00am|Garden Spot Nursery

Mount Vernon Farmers Market

9:00am|Riverfront Plaza

Anacortes Farmers Market

9:00am|Depot Arts Center

Healthcare Film

9:30am|Bellingham Public Library

Whatcom Artist Studio Tour

10:00am|Whatcom County

Fermentation Fun

10:00am|Blaine Library

Skagit Valley Festival of Family Farms

10:00am|Skagit County

Fall Fruit Festival

10:00am|Cloud Mountain Farm Center

Film is Truth Anniversary Party

10:00am|Bellingham Public Market

Fall Family Fun

10:00am|Glen Echo Garden

Birding Walk

10:00am|South Whatcom Library

Porpathon

10:00am|Salish Sea

Blaine Gardeners Market

10:00am|Peace Portal Drive

Bellingham Farmers Market

10:00am|Depot Market Square

Buddy Walk

11:00am|Fairhaven Village Green

Boating Center Open

12:00pm|Community Boating Center

National Geographic's 50 Greatest Photos Opening

12:00pm|Whatcom Museum's Lightcatcher Building

Banned Books Week Read-In

12:30pm|Village Books

Intro to NaNoWriMo

1:00pm|Bellingham Public Library

Artist Lecture

1:00pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

Matched Makers Opening

2:00pm|Museum of Northwest Art

Timber Rose

2:00pm|North Fork Library

Traditional Jazz

2:00pm|VFW Hall

Blessing of the Animals

3:30pm|Cornwall Park

Poetry Palavers

4:00pm|Village Books

Edison Opening

5:00pm|Smith & Vallee Gallery

Matzke Art Auction

5:00pm|Matzke Fine Art Gallery and Sculpture Park

Celebrating Jack Prelutsky

5:30pm|Western Library

Fred Morrison

7:00pm|Littlefield Celtic Center

The Aimees

7:00pm|BAAY Theatre

USA Dance

7:00pm|Presence Studio

George Winston

7:30pm|McIntyre Hall

Folk Dance Party

7:30pm|Fairhaven Library

Tannahill Weavers

7:30pm|Lincoln Theatre

Bellingham Chamber Music Society

7:30pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

see our complete calendar »

{/exp:stash:get_list} CW BOB 2016 Village Books Zoots Side Bar Artifacts Wine Bar Everybody’s Store Mount Baker Theatre Swinomish 2016 Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1 Northwood Steak and Crab Bellingham Farmer’s Market Andrew Subin