PG-13. This is a marvel that it got a PG-13 rating. If you know anything about Alejandro Jodorowsky, you will probably know that the guy is very comfortable, borderline enthusiastic about straight-up nudity. But this is a documentary about his drawings and stuff, right? Well, yeah. Most of the movie is fine. But most people don't really know about Alejandro Jodorowsky. So there's a little bit of a retrospective of his works. That stuff...has nudity. A lot of it is butt nudity...but the very nature of that sentence implies that some of it...is not. Also, he seems mighty comfortable with mind-altering substances. PG-13.
DIRECTOR: Frank Pavich
Okay, I try writing this once a day for every weekday. But I wrote a bit and then my daughter wanted to write a letter to Marvel Comics. Not wanting to look a gift horse in the mouth, I helped her out. I took it to the mailbox and when I came back, she was in my seat playing some kind of web-browser game. She pretty much just erased whatever I wrote. So if I don't write the best analysis for Jodorowsky's Dune, I apologize. I know a little bit about Alejandro Jodorowsky. When I worked at Thomas Video, my boss told me about his favorite film. For the three years I worked there, I know that he told a lot of people about that movie. But I got the job, so I immediately watched his favorite film, Santa Sangre. It was my first exposure to Jodorowsky. I didn't love it, but I didn't hate it either. I think while I worked there, I may have seen El Topo too. I would never check it off a list or anything because I remember nothing really about it. Jodorowsky...isn't my kind of filmmaker. Perhaps a bit too avante-garde and culty for me, I never really vibed with any of his movies. Now, this is also to take into consideration that I also just watched The Death of "Superman Lives": What Happened? I don't know why I'm obsessed with Morpheus's library of imagined films, but it is an interesting topic. The weird thing is, I remember being obsessed with Superman Lives. I've never had a thing for Dune. (That's not completely true. As a five-year-old, I was obsessed with the David Lynch version because it felt so adult. My dad watched it and I now own it on HD-DVD.) But I'm not a big Dune fan now. I'm not a Jodorowsky fan either. So what is it about Jodorowsky's Dune that really gets me interested in this documentary?
I ended up writing a poem named "Jodorosky's Dune". Admittedly, I'm taking a class in poetry and I needed to write a poem for the day. It made sense that I wrote about something that was on my mind. Probably the biggest takeaway I can have from Jodorowsky's Dune is that it is about a very odd means of filmmaking. When I was watching Tim Burton's take on Superman Lives, I instantly knew that this was a corporate movie. Burton seethed with distaste for superhero films. This was all under the watchful eye of Warner Brothers. Instead, Jodorowsky makes movies in the same way that I would probably end up making a movie...if I ever had the guts or the time to do that. The film is smart in introducing Jodorowsky and his background to start off the film. Jodorowsky is a surrealist. He was born out of the theatre scene and everything makes sense. Everything he learned about how to make movies came from just making movies. He isn't necessarily classically trained in making movies. Instead, Jodo (as one guy calls him and I adore that) is an expert at tone and emotion. He wants his attitude to be wildly uncomfortable throughout the film. He has these grandiose ideas on what cinema could be. One of the things that keeps on getting repeated throughout the film is the concept that this movie was supposed to be transcendent. It was supposed to break the basic conventions of cinema and become a prophet. It's his words, not mine. I have to step out of myself and place myself in some very different shoes because there's something to admire here. I am a man of faith. I think cinema has the potential to bring people closer to God, but I think it is also very difficult. I am not talking about what Jodorowsky is talking about here. It probably is the closest thing I can get to without abandoning some key ideas about my faith. But I do agree that artistically, film should strive for something besides profits and entertainment. Film can be art and art can bring us closer to something outside of ourselves. From that perspective, I completely respect Jodorowsky. Do I think that he's kind of nutbars and very full of himself? Sure. But sometimes that personality needs to be on hand to make a movie as compelling as what Jodorowsky is talking about.
The thing that is mind-blowing is that all of these great filmmakers talk about how this movie would have changed everything. Like with The Death of "Superman Lives", everyone is really convinced that a lot of terrible ideas would have made an extremely innovative movie. I tend to at least lean with Dune over Superman Lives. But I've seen Jodo's other movies. At least one of them. Probably two. I get him. I get what kind of movies he makes. The message that these filmmakers are saying is that no one was ready to absorb a movie like Dune. Are there movies ahead of their time? Sure. But it's been decades since Dune was tossed around to be a real film. It sounds absolutely insane. Would I have liked to see it based on what I saw in the documentary? Probably. But I also watch absolutely insane things almost just to say that I've seen them. Dune should be one of my favorite properties. With my tastes knee-deep in the science fiction genre, Dune is one of the granddaddies of genre storytelling. But there's nothing really there that grabs my attention. Am I super stoked about the new one? Yeah, kinda. Game recognize game in this case because I respect everyone who is involved in the film. But Jodorowsky's Dune would have been something completely different from any other version of this film or any version of the text. His Dune was meant to mess you up. The thing that grabs my attention is that book. The film shows us what Dune would have looked like because he storyboarded the living daylights out of that movie. Also, that movie would have been, like, fifteen hours long. I've watched a fifteen hour movie and it was pretty good. But this kind of leads me into what the real attitude of Jodorowsky's Dune would have been. I can't be the only one reading the subtext of the film, right? I feel like it is right there, just beneath the surface. I'm going to call it out.
The reason that the film is unmade is that the film was meant to be unmade. I know. I'm really a cynic here. Jodorowsky and his team put a lot of work into that film. That's awesome, but it is also a big old hint that the movie wasn't supposed to be made. Look at how big that book is on Jodorowsky's shelf. He took that book from studio to studio, starting with the Walt Disney Company and we're supposed to believe that he expected to get it made? The documentary is an exercise to the extremest that Jodorowsky went to to get the most insane elements of a film and throw them into a pot of insanity. (I get it. That's bad writing.) He was offering things to people that no one in the world expected him to get. He offered Dali insane stuff left and right. Orson Welles, he offered to get him the head chef of his favorite restaurant to cater to his needs during the shoot. He had a book that would take forever to shoot with a budget that seemed impossible. I don't care what the movie said. That budget would have been insane. No theater would be able to run that film. This kind of leads me to the idea that the movie really wasn't meant to be made. Instead, it was kind of born to be this hidden and oppressed thing. It is the symbol of the establishment shutting down the artist from doing something truly marvelous. I'm going to be devil's advocate to prove my point. Imagine if Jodorowsky went to Disney and they actually paid to make this. The documentary stresses that every studio thought it was brilliant, which I kind of refuse to believe as well. Imagine, Disney pays for the whole thing and more. It takes up theaters. They can only show it once a day because the movie is so long. Middle America is not going to see the fifteen hour version of Dune. Also, I get that Star Wars has elements of Dune in it. That doesn't make it Star Wars. I'm really excited for the new version of Dune, but I don't think it is going to dominate the cinemas like an Avengers movie would. No, of course not. Instead, if the movie was made, it might, at best, make a couple of cinema books for being overlooked and ahead of its time. Instead, Jodorowsky has his cake and eats it too. It can always be the great unmade oppression. It can be a reminder that art always takes a backseat to dollar signs and Jodorowsky leads the martyr's life, a champion for the downtrodden filmmaker. Look at how bizarre the creation of this film was. Everything was done before it got greenlit. There's a way to get Jodorowsky's Dune made. It involves one tenth of the work that they did. It involves coming in with some promo art and a script. Maybe have a scene or two storyboarded. But that book is overwhelming as heck. How do you expect a room full of suits to be able to absorb all of that. Trust me, I'm the guy who does all of his work in the shock and awe method. I want people to be overwhelmed with how much effort I put into things. I mean, look at this blog. There is no reason that every single movie that I write about is massively long and complicated. But I'm not trying to sell it, am I? Instead, this is an exercise for me. That's what Dune was for Jodorowsky. It was an exercise in making the most insanely complicated thing ever and ride off on his high horse. That's fine. I actually really like that idea. But I think Jodorowsky is smarter than he's letting himself be filmed as.
I'm trying to think if Frank Herbert fans would ever accept Jodorowsky's Dune. With both The Death of "Superman Lives" and Jodorowsky's Dune, there's an almost pride in trying to disrespect the source material. With Jodorowsky, he at least respected the concept of the book as a whole. But then he says something really icky. I don't love his attitude on rape, let's say that. No matter what way you take it, that entire section is super gross. But as open minded as Jodorowsky is about the source material, it also kind of points to something that kind of bugs me. Film is film and books are books. When they work together, sometimes it can function. But I agree that the two are separate objects. But there's something that is completely rough about treating one of the objects as something lesser. Jodorowsky has such pride in his ending to Dune. He also laughs that he bought Dune without ever reading it. It's like the whole plan was to show off that it was something different. The nerd in me fights upstream for this. I don't know if people really respect the work they are adapting. Again, do your own thing, but the pride of "ha ha ha, that was never going to be an option" is kind of depressing. Why even make it a Dune thing. If the film was going to be prophet (again, his words), why not just make your own thing. Why name him Paul and have the Harkonnens? It's just so odd. Also, I don't really get how Jodorowsky was allowed to have a kid. I get it. It's not the same for me. But forcing a kid to become a ninja for a movie that was never going to get made. Heck, I spend a lot of time thinking and talking about film, but it is just a movie, right?
Jodorowsky's Dune is absolutely fascinating. It's actually a pretty rad documentary. But I don't know if I actually want to see Jodorowsky's version of Dune. Instead, it is way more impressive as a pipe dream. Honestly, the entire hour and a half is just a pipe dream and a condemnation of the studio system. Which is great. That should be the focus of the movie, but I also know that the best thing that could have happened for Alejandro Jodorowsky is someone making a movie about unfair it was that he didn't get to make his movie.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.