Friday, 30 May 2014

Jodorowsky's Dune (2013)


                       










I only discovered this documentary after it was mentioned in a movie thread by a fellow flick lover. I'll be honest with the fact that I'm not overly aware of director Jodorowsky and his work so I went into this totally blind only knowing about the classic sci-fi epic that is Dune.

It all starts off with a relatively in depth look at Jodorowsky's previous work leading up to his Dune attempt. We learn about films such as 'El Topo' and 'The Holy Mountain' which appear to be his most famous works, films I have never seen or heard of admittedly but 'El Topo' does look the more interesting to me being a violent western. Its here that we learn how Jodo thinks, how he sees things, his imagination, creations and ideas, and basically one word sums it all up...surreal.

This doc explains how Jodo travelled all across Europe to lure various big names to his project trying to get his unique vision off the ground. The doc shows us lots of small sketches drawings and a small animated example of the way ideas were going, in all honesty there isn't a lot to be shown really. I was hoping for lots of big Ralph McQuarrie type paintings giving a clearer picture but alas no. Many of the images are unfinished or purely examples, not even the final idea, and half of which looked pretty terrible to me but that's a personal opinion. Everything has now been put into a ginormous book which I believe has the complete plot in hand drawn black and white pencil storyboard form (panels) with colour extras. Thing is we don't really get to see that much in this doc, maybe there isn't that much to see and what we do see is all there is.

Most of the doc is mainly dialog from various people involved with Jodo on the project at different stages. They discuss every aspect of the production including bits which I found more interesting such as approaching H.R. Giger and Chris Foss the sci-fi artist about design work, both of which resulting in some typically unusual yet familiar concept work. Intriguing to see Dan O' Bannon was also involved with this project for special effects...which most probably led the way for another certain alien film and probably influenced his imagination. What I found the most arousing was the possible casting choices by Jodo, whether or not these stars would have been used in the final film is anyone's guess but its a strange bunch.

Orson Welles as 'Baron Harkonnen' really felt like a bad choice to me and simply made because he was very fat at the time, Salvador Dali probably because Jodo was part of the surrealist movement which is hardly any kind of surprise and Mick Jagger as 'Feyd-Rautha' who did look the part but again was mainly thought of because of his fame at the time. Many of the outfits designed for these characters also varied drastically, from more grounded Star Wars type styles to very bright bold and colourful costumes that were garish and oddly revealing, especially Jagger's which was pretty much a male dominatrix getup. The only guy that seemed to fit the film to me was David Carradine, but again he was only chosen due to his current popularity and not because he may or may not have fit the role.

Overall I think this film was too much of a personal pet project for Jodorowsky, he clearly wanted to make the film desperately and gets frustrated during the doc. But from what I can gather he was casting people mainly because he simply liked them or they were popular, he cast his son as 'Paul Atreides' which kinda comes across as nepotism to me, he alters much of the book to suit himself and despite some groundbreaking concepts for effects and visuals, again his own taste seems to be heavily influencing the story of Dune. Any director must be happy with his vision sure, they will want to add their own style to it but Jodo seems to lose the concept of Dune in places to me and its only his creative team that kept him in check.

Bottom line I can't help but feel this film may have ended up like the cheesy 1980 'Flash Gordon' flick. A mixture of electro synth rock with a traditional score in places (Peter Gabriel, Pink Floyd and progressive rock?), possibly tawdry or gaudy visuals and loud hammy over the top performances. Seeing as Jodo was taking drugs during this time (he got O'Bannon high to sell his idea to him!) I worry that this film would have felt more like a hallucinogenic hippie ride than a sci-fi space opera. I'm sure the effects would have been good in places but they were really breaking new ground at the time (1975-76) so who knows how that could of gone. Jodo went against '2001' effects wizard Trumbull so the possibility of a realistic Dune universe may have been lost with him.

An absorbing documentary which definitely digs deep into the buried layers of a film that some call a lost epic. Jodorowsky is a true visionary no doubt but I'm not sure if his vision, at least some of it, was right for Dune. The only disappointment for me here was I was kinda expecting much more visual concept work to be show, seemed a bit thin on the ground to me. Never the less highly engrossing stuff that any sci-fi buff should enjoy. I would be very interested to see Jodorowsky's vision filmed now.

7/10