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Jodorowsky's Dune - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
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Jodorowsky's Dune
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Directing: B-
Writing: C+
Cinematography: B
Editing: C



Maybe I'm finally becoming a contrarian? The few times I give a movie a lower grade, it seems increasingly to be the case that it's otherwise enjoying universal acclaim. Such is the case with Jodorowsky's Dune, which lionizes Chilean director Alejandro Jodorowsky and his mid-seventies vision of a film adaptation of Dune that never got made -- and surrounds him with those who idolize him.

But this film is filled with self-importance and pretension that leaves me unconvinced. Many believe that had this version of Dune actually been produced, it could have changed Hollywood just as drastically as Star Wars did in 1977, if not more so. The film had a proposed budget of $15 million, and all they needed -- and never got -- was that last $5 million to get it made. No one mentions how $5 million was a full third of the movie's budget.

And this was supposed to revolutionize film as we know it? George Lucas made Star Wars with $11 million, and although the evidence presented that much of that film -- and a slew of others -- was influenced by Jodorowsky's treatment of Dune is solid, its final product is far simpler and concise than what Jodorowsky had in mind.

The notion that Jodorowsky's Dune would have been some kind of epic science fiction masterpiece is lost on me. But this is how his admirers, and Jodorowsky himself, seem to regard it. This is a guy who could have worked with Douglas Trumbull (2001: A Space Odyssey), regarded as the best in the business at the time, but found him to be too inflexible after one meeting.

He did manage to get Orson Welles to agree to work on the film -- only after promising to hire a chef from his favorite Parisian restaurant to cook his meals every day. Sounds like a sensible expense, right? He also cast David Carradine and Mick Jagger. It's sounding like a masterpiece already.

It's fashionable, even natural, to be smugly dismissive of Hollywood, but this is one case where I can't help but take Hollywood's side. Jodorowsky and his acolytes lament Hollywood's supposed lack of foresight in financing his vision -- how could they not see what a great movie this would have been! By the looks of it, it would have been better than the version David Lynch made instead, but that's not saying much. Just because Jodorowsky's version would have had much higher production values doesn't mean it would not also have been a sprawling mess, the famously clear vision contained in the thick book he had sent to all the studios notwithstanding.

At this point, it's all conjecture. And the overflowing love for Jodorowsky and what could have been his defining work grows tiresome. They're all completely convinced: Hollywood made a great opportunity. They deride Hollywood for its obsession with the bottom line. But what moral obligation is there for them to make a gamble this great? There is none. This is a pretentious director who had previously made a film featuring a character who literally shits a gold turd, after all. There is nothing in Jodorowsky's resume to suggest his Dune would have been a widely embraced blockbuster movie.

Jodorowsky's Dune does get interesting when it touches on the great things the team he assembled went on to do after: most notably, several key people, including artist H.R. Giger, went on to work on Alien. Other direct visual references to the Dune storyboards are featured in movies ranging from Flash Gordon to Raiders of the Lost Ark. As you can see, its wide ranging influence spanned the spectrum of quality.

Full disclosure: I never read the novel Dune. To be fair, neither did several of the people who worked on Jodorowsky's treatment, which apparently takes several fairly drastic artistic liberties. Hardcore science fiction fans, particularly those with a love for Dune, will likely eat this documentary up, and agree that the film could have been monumental. Unlike any single person here, I just rather doubt it. And that largely negates this movie's impact.

The famous book that never makes the great movie everyone was hoping for in JODOROWSKY'S DUNE.


Overall: C+
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