Cult film director Alejandro Jodorowsky has been splitting critics with his projects ever since he emerged on the scene way back in the 60s. Personally, after seeing “El Topo,” “The Holy Mountain,” and “Santa Sangre,” I have yet to see a film of his that hasn’t turned out to be a complete disaster, but there’s no denying that he has his fans. There’s also no denying that he has an incredible imagination, so when he made it his ambition in the mid-70s to mount an epic adaptation of Frank Herbert’s “Dune,” one of the greatest novels of the science-fiction genre, it seemed as though there could be no one better suited to bring such a heavily-thematic and grand story to the screen. Sadly, the film was never to be, but in Frank Pavich’s new documentary, “Jodorowsky’s Dune,” we get to discover how the project originally came together. Through interviews with Jodorowsky and his team, we learn all about who was to play certain parts, how various aspects of the film (costumes, buildings, ships, etc.) would look, and intimate details about how he gathered his “spiritual warriors” to help create his vision of the film, all of which takes you through a journey of what is perhaps the greatest film never made.
As I mentioned before with “Tim’s Vermeer,” I always find that the best documentaries are about the creation of art, particularly with film. “Jodorowsky’s Dune” is a mesmerizing journey through what would no doubt have been an intriguing adaptation of the classic novel. As the film progresses, one can’t help but be amazed at the incredible list of talent that Jodorowsky assembled for the project, including roles for Salvador Dali, Mick Jagger, David Carradine, Orson Welles, designs from H. R. Giger, Dan O’Bannon, and Moebius (a team that would regroup for “Alien”), and music from Pink Floyd. The in-depth interviews with Jodorowsky show just how much passion he had for the project, and still has to this very day, as he gleefully shows us the book he had made up with all of the designs and the screenplay when they were shopping it around to studios.
The funny thing is, the studios loved the designs and thought it was a very creative project. However, it was the director that they didn’t have much faith in, and also, as these things often do, it all came down to money ($15 million, a large amount in the mid-70s). Of course, a theatrical adaptation was eventually made under the direction of David Lynch, one that Jodorowsky happily reports was “awful,” but you can’t help wonder how his ambitious vision of the film would have turned out had he been allowed to make it. Even though I’ve found the Jodorowsky films I’ve seen to be “awful” (perhaps because he wrote/co-wrote them himself), I still would have loved to have seen what he could have done with Herbert’s epic novel. Perhaps one day his big book of “Dune” material will be published so that the world can see the entirety of his vision. Until then, this brief 90-minute look at his stunning ideas will have to do as a glimpse at what could have been.
“Jodorowsky’s Dune” arrives on Blu-ray in a stunning 1.78:1, 1080p, High Definition transfer that gives you a perfectly sharp picture with which to view every little detail of every storyboard and design. Likewise, the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is flawless, allowing you to hear every word of the interviews in perfect clarity. The film contains several different languages (English, Spanish, French, and German), so subtitles have been provided, even for when Jodorowsky is speaking in English due to some of it being hard to understand. Overall, the film looks and sounds flawless, giving you the best possible experience.
Deleted Scenes: A whopping 46 minutes of deleted scenes that were more than likely cut due to pacing issues. However, they are still fascinating to go through as they give you more detail and further chances to see additional scenes from Jodorowsky’s adaptation.
“Jodorowsky’s Dune” is already a frontrunner for Best Documentary of the year, in addition to being one of the best films of the year in general. It’s a fascinating glimpse into the creative process, told from the points of view of the people who worked so hard on the project 40 years ago. Jodorowsky’s other films might not have been up to par at that point, but with his passionate and infectious enthusiasm for bringing “Dune” to life, it becomes a great shame that he wasn’t at least allowed to try to bring his vision to the screen. If he had, who knows how the path of science-fiction films as we know it might have been altered. For all we know, it could have been the greatest science-fiction film even made. Though, if we’re being completely honest, there’s also a high chance that it could have been just as disastrous as his earlier films. One thing’s for sure though, it would have been a fascinating experience either way.
Available on Blu-ray and DVD starting tomorrow.
Recent Blu-ray/DVD releases: Afflicted, House of Cards: Season Two, The Lego Movie, Ernest & Celestine, 13 Sins, Joe, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, Tim’s Vermeer, Alan Partridge, RoboCop (2014), Alexander: The Ultimate Cut, Ravenous, Son of God, The Rodgers & Hammerstein Collection, Stalingrad, The Monuments Men, Pompeii, 3 Days to Kill, Grand Piano, Her, Orange is the New Black: Season One, I, Frankenstein, Final Exam, Evilspeak
Now playing in theaters: How to Train Your Dragon 2, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Captain America: The Winter Soldier
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