Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Jodorowsky's DUNE

So, from friend Jeff we heard about the documentary about a never-made film, Alejandro Jodorowsky's DUNE (circa 1974).* Given how much we enjoyed LOST IN LA MANCHA [2002], the highly informative and entertaining documentary about Terry Gilliam's disastrous attempt to film a Johnny Depp movie in Spain (the project collapsed after a day and a half of shooting), it seemed like this would be something worth watching as well.  And it was, though not in the sense that it made me think that the unmade movie it's about would have been worth watching. On the contrary, it's v. evident that DUNE fans dodged a bullet when Jodorowsky's pie-in-the-sky we'll-do-this, we'll-do-that deflated like a house of cards upon first contact with reality. Gilliam at least produced enough footage to make a thirty-second trailer; Alejandro never got further than a storyboard. And the acid-trip** movie he intended reminded me not of anything to do with Frank Herbert's work but instead of John Boorman's abandoned LORD OF THE RINGS script (also from the early/mid-seventies), which similarly would have been a trippy dippy abomination, had it ever gotten filmed.

I must say, though, that while Boorman's film would have grossly misrepresented Tolkien's novel, it's at least recognizable as the same story. I'm not sure the same can be said for what Jodorowsky would have done to Herbert's DUNE. One thing people connected with the project say over and over in the interviews in this documentary is that they'd never read the novel, knew nothing about the original book, and apparently never did bother to look up the story they were supposed to be adapting.  That's probably because 'adaptation' really doesn't begin to describe Jodorowsky's approach, as when he proudly proclaims:

"I change the end of the book . . .
It's different. It was my DUNE.
When you make a picture,
You must not respect the novel.
. . . I was raping Frank Herbert"

So, my conclusion, weird as it may seem, is that the David Lynch version so many fans hated (and which was my own introduction to Herbert's work, since I saw the film before ever reading the novel) was much, much more faithful than what this earlier adaptor wd have produced, had his project not fortunately fallen through.

--John R.

*He's since blogged about it:


**literally: he says in this documentary he wanted viewers of his film to experience all the effects of being high on LSD without actually taking the drug.