Jodorowsky's Dune ★½

Watching this I was initially intrigued and a little amused, but then became quickly and thoroughly pissed off. What little worth this documentary has as a showcase for Moebius and Christopher Foss's concept art just makes me wish I'd read a coffee table book instead; the rest of the doc, meanwhile, is devoted to telling us how brilliant, how ambitious, and how eccentric an artist Alejandro Jodorowsky really is. I swear, the filmmakers giving him a blow job would've been faster and certainly much cheaper. After 90 minutes of his pontificating, supplemented by hagiographic interviews with fans and collaborators, this supposed Great Visionary of Our Time just sounds like a self-aggrandizing blowhard asshole.

To paraphrase Francis Ford Coppola, the story here is "We were in Paris, there were too many of us, we had access to too much money, too much pot, and little by little we didn't make a movie." According to Jodorowsky's Dune, though, "Jodo" himself is blameless (and everything he did is framed as unambiguously good)—no, all fault lies with the bean counters who, as interview subject Nicolas Winding Refn says, "were afraid of his imagination." Sorry, I have to call bullshit on this genius-against-the-world narrative. Because while yes, it is difficult for a radical artist to get funding, that's not the only factor at work here.

For one thing, this is fucking Dune. And while (like most of Jodorowsky's "spiritual warriors") I haven't read the novel, I have seen David Lynch's adaptation, and I'm skeptical that this kind of plotty, mystical sci-fi epic could ever make it to the screen in non-tedious form. For another thing, Jodorowsky's own words make him out to be an outrageous hypocrite. He rants against compromise, unable to imagine why anyone wouldn't want to see a 12- or 20-hour Dune, yet is instantly willing to cast Dalí's "muse" Amanda Lear when it's demanded. He rejects effects maven Douglas Trumbull in part because "he gives himself so big importance," which is a hilarious example of the pot calling the kettle black.

And for all the bullshit he talks about art and spirituality, this project seems to have been mostly about hobnobbing with big-name artists. So much of Jodorowsky's Dune is spent on his strategies for recruiting not only Dalí but Pink Floyd, Mick Jagger, and Orson Welles. It all suggests a production process that's yielded a set of anecdotes much better (though honestly, they're not that great) than the actual movie would've been. Sure, the filmmakers bring in a handful of directors and (bad) critics to belabor the project's huge influence but virtually all of their claims are specious to the point of meaninglessness.

Like, okay, so Jodorowsky brought together Dan O'Bannon and H.R. Giger. That's cool! That's an interesting footnote. It does not mean Jodorowsky's indirectly godfather of The Matrix and all of cyberpunk. The interview subjects also allege that this Dune gave birth to Star Wars—both have swordfights!—as well as movies like Flash Gordon and Masters of the Universe. Well, holy shit. (Would you be shocked if I said that the only two women interviewed here were brought in because of their relationships to Jodorowsky's male collaborators, and no other women appear to have been involved at all?)

It's easy to claim that an unmade movie would've been a masterpiece when you don't have to reckon with a finished product. Hell, it's even easier when your entire argument is "Sweet Jesus this would've been GREAT! Look at all the common sci-fi imagery it employed! Listen to the grandiose terms its creator uses to describe it!" It's easy to say that, certainly, but oh lord does saying that ad nauseum ever make for a dull, hacky documentary. And if I may be candid for a moment, that Dune looks like it would've been an inert, "psychedelic" mess that would've garnered exactly as negative a reputation as Lynch's. As far as its devotees are concerned, it's probably better off not being a real movie.

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