TIFF 2013 - TIFF DOCS
Jodorowsky's Dune (2013) ***
Dir. Frank Pavich
Starring: Alejandro Jodorowsky, Michel Seydoux, H.R. Giger, Chris Foss, Brontis Jodorowsky, Nicolas Winding Refn, Richard Stanley, Gary Kurtz
Review By Greg Klymkiw
If we imagine a world without Star Wars, we can probably imagine a world where cinema was no longer being driven to the slow, painful death it is suffering now. More importantly, if we imagine a world where Alejandro (El Topo, Holy Mountain) Jodorowsky, the mad, obsessed/obsessive visionary director had been able to make his film adaptation of Frank Herbert's Dune - beating Star Wars to the punch and laying the groundwork for a new and different kind of spectacle in the cinema rather than the empty state of the art blockbusters of the 80s - we can imagine a far greater world than we live in now (especially those who love and care about movies).
Frank Pavich's fascinating feature documentary is as close as we're ever going to get to seeing what might have been one of the greatest movies of the late 20th Century - a film that was a mere five million dollars short of becoming a reality, a film that would have starred Mick Jagger, Salvador Dali and Orson Welles, storyboarded by Moebeius, with effects by Dan O'Bannon, costume and creature designs by H.R. Giger and, of course, the legendary Jodorowsky at the helm.
To see this documentary is to be caught up in the creative excitement that went into every second of preparing this epic motion picture. Jodorowsky himself transports us to a time, place and state of being that captures every thrilling story beat in the development of this insane, passionate and mind-blowing film.
As the story proceeds, we're caught up in the fervour - nay, the fever pitch that never abated over several years of trying to make Dune a reality. And of course, as things start taking turns for the worst and we experience the whole enterprise crumble under the weight of cheap, vision-bereft studio chiefs who all eventually turned the movie down for the last financing piece of the puzzle. we feel like we're being dragged through the coals of sheer decimation of a staggering work of art - one that would have clearly changed the way we see movies.
Even more depressing, but almost strangely uplifting, is seeing storyboard and art designs from Dune that were outright stolen copiously by a who's who of Hollywood's artistic power brokers. There isn't one single mega-hit from a period of over 30 years that doesn't owe a debt of gratitude to the movie that now only exists on paper. It's also kind of cool to discover that not even Jodorowsky knew just how long his movie was going to be. All he knew was that it would be as long as it needed to be.
One of the more maddening revelations is how studio heads loved everything about the film, but hated it's director and yet, it was that same director who rallied the talent, guided the vision and drove the creation of the very materials the bean counters were in love with.
An all star cast of artisans, filmmakers and pundits join Jodorowsky in this tale of the movie that was never made. Best of all we are able to experience the sheer joy and twinkle in Jodorowsky's eye as he launches into one passionate tale after another about the making of the film, but also the film itself. Most extraordinary of all we experience his pride in being able to influence several generations of filmmakers from the fruits of his labours that led at once to a heartbreaking end and to another, seeds for the future greatness of others.
His pride and happiness about this is ultimately what makes him one of the great artists of cinema history.
"Jodorowsky's Dune", programmed by Colin Geddes, is part of the TIFF Docs series during the 2013 edition of the Toronto International Film Festival. For more information and tickets, visit the festival website HERE. The film is to be released by Mongrel Media.