‘Jodorowsky’s Dune’ salutes creative spirit 

click to enlarge Alejandro Jodorowsky
  • Filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky tells crazy stories in “Jodorowsky’s Dune,” a documentary about his failed attempt to make a movie based on Frank Herbert’s science-fiction classic.
“Jodorowsky’s Dune” brings to life cult filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky’s doomed but impassioned quest to turn Frank Herbert’s titular novel into a grand, psychedelic space epic.

Not just for fanboys, the documentary is both an entertaining portrait of a unique pop-culture endeavor and an ebullient salute to the creative spirit.

Newcomer director Frank Pavich combines talking-head segments with visuals — including designs and storyboards from the failed “Dune” — in a straightforward chronicle. His interview subjects, who include Jodorowsky himself, provide seasoning and touches of madness.

Pavich transports viewers to the 1970s, when Chile-born Jodorowsky, with his bizarre western “El Topo,” launched the midnight-movie experience. With the support of producer Michel Seydoux, Jodorowsky set out to adapt “Dune” as an ambitious studio film.

Never mind that Jodorowsky hadn’t read Herbert’s book. The director, who displays a flair for overstatement, viewed his planned movie as the “coming of a god” and as cinematic LSD.

To achieve his vision, Jodorowsky assembled a troupe of “spiritual warriors.” These included writer and special-effects man Dan O’Bannon; artists Chris Foss and H.R. Giger; the band Pink Floyd; and a cast with Mick Jagger, Orson Welles, Salvador Dali (playing master of the universe!) and Jodorowsky’s 12-year-old son, Brontis.

The project collapsed when studio executives, reportedly concerned about rising costs and whether Jodorowsky could deliver something bankable, pulled the plug.

Eventually, “Dune” reached theaters, produced by Dino de Laurentiis and directed by David Lynch. In one of many moments in which Jodorowsky’s enormous ego turns the movie into dark comedy, he recalls how he was happy to discover how awful “Dune” was.

We’ll never know whether a completed Jodorowsky “Dune” would have been a masterwork or a mess. Pavich seems enamored with his subject to a degree that allows for little exploration of the negatives.

A segment on how the unmade “Dune” influenced future sci-fi cinema – O’Bannon took some of his ideas to “Alien,” and “The Fifth Element” and “Prometheus” are cited as containing Jodorowsky essence — merits deeper presentation. Still, the movie is engrossing and funny.

Jodorowsky — whether describing how he altered Herbert’s story, expressing joy over recent projects, or impishly recalling how he tricked Dali into coming aboard — is, at age 84, an exhilarating raconteur and creative force.

Others, including Seydoux and Giger, enhance viewers’ understanding of Jodorowsky and his effort to change the world through art.

The film’s visuals, some of which have been animated to illustrate how scenes might have played onscreen, add further dimension.


Jodorowsky’s Dune

Starring Alejandro Jodorowsky, Michel Seydoux, H.R. Giger, Chris Foss

Directed by Frank Pavich

Rated PG-13

Running time 1 hour, 30 minutes

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Anita Katz

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