Directed by Frank Pavich
Shot in France, England, Switzerland and the United States, this documentary covers director Alejandro Jodorowsky (El Topo, Holy Mountain, Santa Sangre) and his 1974 Quixotic attempt to adapt the seminal sci-fi novel Dune into a feature film. After spending 2 years and millions of dollars, the massive undertaking eventually fell apart, but the artists Jodorowsky assembled for the legendary project continued to work together. This group of artists, or his “warriors” as Jodorowsky named them, went on to define modern sci-fi cinema with such films as Alien, Blade Runner, Star Wars and Total Recall.
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★★★★ review by Eli Hayes on Letterboxd
"I am not a normal person.
I am living in a normal body,
but my mind is not normal."
"To have hands,
to have fingers,
Real life is weird,
to have fingers?"
"Five cats and a woman.
That is all I need in life."
"Most directors make films with their eyes;
I make films with my testicles."
Alejandro Jodorowsky may honestly
be my favorite person in the world.
★★★★½ review by Matt Singer on Letterboxd
I might be this movie's biggest fan. Looking over my colleagues' ratings and reviews on Letterboxd, I see a lot of unimpressed folks, and a fair number who downright hated this thing, and hated Jodorowsky. I find Jodorowsky an absolutely delightful storyteller (the Keith Carradine anecdote! Vitamin E!), but to each his own. Some critics I've read are particularly offended by the documentary's claims that his unfinished DUNE in some way inspired many great movies that followed, like ALIEN and the original STAR WARS. The film makes bogus claims and therefore cannot be trusted.
Jodorowsky's elaborate storyboard and concept art book may or may not have found its way into the hands of the creators of later movies. Either way, I think the shared concepts and imagery prove a more important point: That Jodorowsky and his DUNE were way ahead of their time. If it didn't directly influence later works, it beat them to the punch.
But even that idea is really secondary to what the movie is ultimately about, which is about the importance of art and of attempting to make something great, even if it fails (and, indeed, even if it seems doomed to fail from the start). Another common complaint I've read is that Jodorowsky's DUNE sounds kind of terrible; that it would never have worked on the screen. What's odd here is that I tend to agree with these people; at best, I think this DUNE would have been a visually spectacular mess.
But so what? At the beginning of the movie, Jodorowsky lays out his ambitions with DUNE, which were to inspire the young generation of the time to expand their consciousness. The movie was never made, and in that sense, Jodorowsky failed. But what's remarkable about JODOROWSKY'S DUNE is not only that it finally brings the filmmaker's vision to life (in wonderful animated storyboard sequences), but that in doing so it fulfills his original goals. This documentary--and Jodorowsky's comments about life and its preciousness--makes me want to write a book or start a web series or generally get off my ass and do all the creative things I want to do with my life and tell myself I'm not smart enough or good enough to do. And if I or anyone else is inspired by this movie to actually make something, then that really is something revolutionary, whether they create a masterpiece or they fall on their faces.
★★★★ review by davidehrlich on Letterboxd
"i was raping frank herbert. raping! like this!"
oh, what a wonderful thing this is. perhaps i'll say a bit more in the morning.
★★★½ review by laird on Letterboxd
If this documentary has a major flaw it's that it frames Jodorowsky's DUNE as something that could have been made by anyone, ever. It's the Spruce Goose of movies, so bloated and madly ambitious in its design that it never could have taken flight no matter how passionate or talented those involved in its creation were. If it has minor flaws, they have proper names, and their inclusion as interviewees and the value of their contributions to the narrative are both questionable. Quibbles aside, the story is still a great one, and it's well told by those actually involved in the production process. I'm a sucker for team-building stories from SEVEN SAMURAI to THE ELIMINATORS to OCEAN'S 11, and this is one helluva madcap sci-fi pop art surrealist team building yarn. That it's gussied up with screen-sized renderings of Moebius and Giger illustrations under a spacey analog synth score is icing on the cake. At the center of it all is Jodorowsky himself, a brightly burning octogenarian sun around which all of these fantastic ideas, myths, and stories orbit. Forty years on, he trembles with passion while discussing what may be the greatest failure in his life. That is, unless he had gotten the movie into production, in which case we can only assume things could have been worse for him. Look at the DUNE that did get made for reference.
addendum: I'm reading a lot of negative reviews that cast shade on Jodorowksy, calling him full of shit and an ego maniac and things like this. I don't think it's appropriate or necessary to question his sincerity or his commitment to his ideas about enlightenment and mysticism. He's been devoted to his ideas four times longer than most users of this site have been alive, and the movies he has completed speak to a consistency of personal vision. It may read as kooky bullshit to most (me included, some of the time), but there's no way he's faking it. Prophet planets spreading enlightenment through the galaxy and movies expanding the consciousness of viewers: That's him, man.
★★★★★ review by Hentai Cop on Letterboxd
This is the saddest film I've ever seen.
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