Sunday, May 04, 2014

"Jodorowsky's Dune": the earliest attempt to film Frank Herbert's novel died, but now is the time to try it again (David Lynch's isn't bad)

Jodorowsky’s Dune” (directed by Frank Pavich) lets Chilian director Alejandro Jodorowsky, along with Michel Seydoux, H. R. Giger and Dan O’Bannon, among others, show their proposal for filming Frank Herbert’s 1965 science fiction epic “Dune”, complete with artwork, script and storyboards, back in the mid and late 1970s.  The studios did not buy the idea then, but in 1983 David Lynch made the film “Dune” with distribution by Universal. 

I recall that film in Dallas, as I recall reading the novel when I was in the Army. I was interested in the setting of at least four planets, including one that was green, another mined for oil resources, and the main one, Dune, containing the “spice”, a kind of drug that confers paranormal abilities, but sparsely populated. The novel included the idea of a young messianic figure Paul (Kyle MachLachlan) helping lead the natives (the Fremen) against evil houses trying to exploit resources.  The book is supposed to provide a rough analogy for many of the world’s political and social struggles, and is amazingly prescient. 

The original film as seen by some as homophobic, as the evil baron was depicted as looking like someone with Kaposi’s sarcoma, but the film was probably written before AIDS had fully materialized. I remember the scene where the Baron bubbles to the ceiling, and another scene where the “Guild navigators” were shown as disembodied brains floating inside a vessel.  The film led to the formation of a media production company named after the film for other sci-fi projects.

The depictions of the buildings and costumes of the characters are fantastic (and rather operatic).  The documentary maintains that Jodorwsky’s treatment inspired many effects common in the Star Wars and Alien franchises (including Ridley Scott’s latest prequel, “Prometheus” (June 8, 2012)).   

Jodorowsky, quite lively at 84, explains the concept of Paul Altreides’s “resurrection”.  When he is “killed”, he lives in everyone’s consciousness, which is a concept I have been experimenting with in my own novels (and will give more details soon in my Wordpress media reviews blog). 

Since Sony Pictures Classics distributes this documentary  (official site), it’s logical to ask, why doesn’t Columbia Pictures make a new version of “Dune” according to Jodorowsky’s vision, with him direction?  I wonder about other ideas, such as Clive Barker’s mammoth 1991 sci-fi fantasy “Imajica”, where the universe of planets (dominions) includes both Earth and “Heaven”.  I keep hearing rumors that Lionsgate has looked at it, and that it could be filmed in New Zealand.

I saw the film at Landmark's E Street in Washington DC on a Sunday afternoon before a nearly full small auditorium. 

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