A documentary about an unmade version of Dune from a shamanistic Chilean director.
Directed by Frank Pavich
Review by Jon Kissel
However, the fantastical novelty that got Jodo the chance to make Dune is the same thing that keeps him from selling it. His producers say that the studios loved the work, but didn’t like the guy behind it. To the studios’ credit, Jodo’s unshakable dream of a 14 hour epic probably wouldn’t have worked. Nothing comes of all his effort, though the compendia finds its way into studio hands, who then disseminate it throughout their future films. Ridley Scott, George Lucas, and James Cameron have all incorporated imagery from Dune into their work, ensuring that an unmade film lives on.
Pavich interviews all manner of subjects surrounding Dune, from the crew to critics and other directors who have great admiration for Jodo. The most grandiose of them imagines a history in which Dune opens before Star Wars and steals its thunder, pushing the course of filmmaking down a stranger, more introspective path. While the imagery presented is admittedly eye-catching, the only evidence the viewer has is the testimony of partisans. Even Jodo admits to his arrogance, unapologetic all these years later towards all the people who doubted him and reveling in schadenfreude when David Lynch's 1984 version of Dune fails. His gleeful and sincere demeanor papers over the obsessive ugliness in Jodo's personality, and no small amount of pain is still in his son’s eyes when he talks about the brutal exercises he was put through at 12. Pavich's film would have been improved by including someone to gainsay his other subjects' nonstop adulation.
The ideas in Jodorowsky's Dune are worth the indulgence of an ambitious old man. The production anecdotes seem just strange enough to be real, and Pavich films the compendium as something like a flip book, so that the viewer can actually witness scenes from Jodo's unfilmed masterpiece. There's a lot to be said for the alternate history it offers up. Maybe Jodo’s complete disregard for the source material strangles oppressive fan culture in its crib. Maybe the New Hollywood period wouldn't have been supplanted by blockbusters based on the childhood interests of their directors, and today, we'd be witnessing a trippy space opera about sentient alien machines instead of incoherent action scenes built around toy merchandising. B+