Photo by David Cavallo, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics
2014, 90 minutes
Rated PG-13 for some violent and sexual images and drug references
Review by Joshua Handler
By the mid-1970s, legendary cult filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky had already made two hits: El Topo and The Holy Mountain. Because The Holy Mountain, in particular, was such a big success, producer Michel Seydoux decided to give Jodorowsky carte blanche to make whatever film he wanted to make next. Jodorowsky decided on Dune, Frank Herbert's notoriously dense sci-fi epic, even though he'd never read it. The film was to star, among others, Jodorowsky's son, Brontis, Mick Jagger, Salvador Dalí, and Orson Welles. It had the most incredible team of designers and technicians around. But, it never got made. However, through its wide-spread influence, it changed the face of science fiction cinema.Pavich's film is as successful as it is for many reasons, one of which is Jodorowsky himself. Alejandro Jodorowsky is the star of the movie. He is shown in all of his madness and passion and is the driving force behind the narrative. Jodorowsky's presence is strong. His enormous ego and natural magnetism make it impossible to turn away from him.
The decision to animate Jean "Moebius" Giraud's storyboards from Dune was a brilliant one. These animated storyboards are likely the closest we will ever come to seeing Jodorowsky's vision of Dune and seeing some sequences come to life is tragically beautiful. They show us just how mind-blowing Jodorowsky's Dune would have been. The fact that these sequences will never fully come to life is a shame.
Jodorowsky's Dune is not just a film for Jodorowsky fans. Fans will certainly love it most, but this would be a great introduction to those unfamiliar with Jodorowsky and his work. His unique personality, the fast pace of the film, and the sheer wackiness of the story told will be more than enough to engage. Though Jodorowsky's Dune is an excellent piece of entertainment, it is also a profound statement on artistic ambition at the beginning of the blockbuster era. Jodorowsky's version of Dune wasn't made for the reason that no studio wanted to work with Jodorowsky. They were likely scared of his ambition and vision. George Lucas' ambitious, but very mainstream Star Wars was the space opera that was made, and it was a smashing success. David Lynch made Dune a few years later and it bombed.
Overall, Jodorowsky's Dune is an exhilarating, informative, and crazy documentary that will please just about everyone. Pavich's film is laser-focused and beautifully-edited, combining animated storyboards and interviews with ease. I would see this movie for a third time in a heartbeat.