Wednesday, 23 July 2014

NZIFF Film Review: "Jodorowsky's Dune" (2013).




For my third entry for the NZIFF, I have watched the fascinating documentary on one of the most infamous and legendary unmade film projects Jodorowsky's Dune. The poster’s tagline “The greatest science fiction movie never made” is what this American documentary film, directed by Frank Pavich, is all about. The film explores Chilean-French cult film director Alejandro Jodorowsky's ambitious but ultimately unsuccessful and doomed attempt to adapt and film Frank Herbert's 1965 seminal science fiction novel Dune in the mid-1970s.

Dune is a 1965 epic science fiction novel by Frank Herbert. It won the Hugo Award in 1966, and the inaugural Nebula Award for Best Novel. Set in the distant future amidst a feudal interstellar society in which noble houses, in control of individual planets, owe allegiance to the Padishah Emperor, Dune tells the story of young Paul Atreides, whose noble family accepts the stewardship of the desert planet Arrakis. As this planet is the only source of the "spice" melange, the most important and valuable substance in the universe, control of Arrakis is a coveted — and dangerous — undertaking. The story explores the multi-layered interactions of politics, religion, ecology, technology, and human emotion, as the forces of the empire confront each other in a struggle for the control of Arrakis and its "spice"

In 1973, film producer Arthur P. Jacobs optioned the film rights to Dune but died before a film could be developed. The option was then taken over two years later by director Alejandro Jodorowsky, who proceeded to approach, among others, Virgin Records, with the prog rock groups Tangerine Dream, Gong and Mike Oldfield before settling on Pink Floydand Magma for some of the music, artists H. R. Giger. Chris Foss and Jean Giraud for set and character design, Dan O'Bannon for special effects, and Salvador DalĂ­, Orson Welles, Gloria Swanson, David Carradine, Mick Jagger and others for the cast. Herbert traveled to Europe in 1976 to find that $2 million of the $9.5 million budget had already been spent in pre-production, and that Jodorowsky's script would result in a 14-hour film ("It was the size of a phonebook", Herbert later recalled). Jodorowsky took creative liberties with the source material, but Herbert said that he and Jodorowsky had an amicable relationship. The script was sent to all major film studios. "It was a great undertaking to do the script," Jodorosky says in the film. "It's very, it's like Proust, I compare it to great literature." However, the project ultimately stalled for financial reasons. The film rights lapsed until 1982, when they were purchased by Italian filmmaker Dino De Laurentiis, who eventually released the 1984 film Dune, directed by David Lynch. A segment explores how Jodorowsky's script was inspirational in later film productions, such as in scenes for the epic space opera Star Wars (1977), Contact (1997) or Prometheus (2012). 

A remarkable behind-the-scenes look at a movie that wasn't, Jodorowsky’s Dune is an incisive, entertaining document of the difficulties inherent in the moviemaking process. Sadly, the film offers a bittersweet reminder of what might have been and, most of all, what could have been. It offers a fascinating look at a lost sci-fi legend. It's the best documentary of the year!

Simon says Jodorowsky’s Dune receives:


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