All Alejandro Jodorowsky wanted to do was change the world. A lofty goal, perhaps, but over the course of Swiss-based Frank Pavich’s new documentary Jodorowsky’s Dune, you begin to realize how close the titular Chilean-American director actually came. It wouldn’t have been the first time, as his previous works, the intense surrealist films El Topo and Holy Mountain, were the progenitors of the midnight movie.

In 1974, Jodorowsky set out on a massively ambitious journey to adapt Frank Herbert’s sci-fi classic Dune, and in the process created the pieces of what was to be the greatest movie ever made. Tragically, the effort fell just short of producing an actual movie, due to lack of funding. However, the body of work that Jodorowsky and his assembled team of ‘spiritual warriors’ created for the prospective film is nothing short of staggering. Enlisting the ostensibly disparate talents of actors such as Orson Welles, Salvador Dali, and his own son, Brontis, and the artwork of such famed auteurs as H.R. Giger and Jean ‘Mœbius’ Girard, as well as a slew of others (including Pink Floyd!), Jodorowsky was determined to make a movie that would not merely entertain, but change the way that people, young people especially, perceived and experienced cinema.

Through animation, interviews, and photographs, Pavich beautifully tells the sometimes funny, sometimes sad, often inspiring, story of how Jodorowsky strove to create something impossible. Hearing the now-84-year-old Jodorowsky speak is the highlight of the film. His passion is truly infectious, and you become convinced Dune’s failure to exist is the great tragedy of 20th century film.
In a broader sense, it very much is. The film illuminates one of the great battles that modern artists face: commercial viability. The reason that Dune could never happen is that, to movie producers, it would just never be a saleable product. Art has no intrinsic monetary value, and even though it may be beautiful, extraordinary, or moving, it may never see the light of day. Jodorowsky’s Dune compellingly, albeit lightheartedly, showcases the heartbreak of an artist living this struggle. It isn’t all heartbreak though – some of the best work of the associated artisans’ lives would come out of the process, living on in other films, comics, and art, and all the interviewed players speak of their time working on the almost-film in reverential tones. The fate of Jodorowsky’s Dune was tragic, but from its tragedy sprung forth a plethora of fantastic art, Jodorowsky’s Dune not least of all.

Jodorowsky’s Dune opens on April 4. In Calgary, it will screen April 11, 9:30 p.m. at the Globe Cinema as part of CUFF.

By David Nowacki

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s