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Jodorowsky's Dune

Cinema history is filled with projects that went unmade. Even more tantalizing are the ones that were at least begun but never completed. (I for one no longer hope that we’ll eventually see Jerry Lewis’s The Day the Clown Cried, simply because it couldn’t possibly be as jaw-dropping as we’ve been imagining it to be.)

Documentaries about unfinished movies have grown into a genre of their own: We’ll never see Orson Welles’s It’s All True, Terry Gilliam’s The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, Sam Fuller’s Tigrero, Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Inferno, or Werner Herzog’s original version of Fitzcarraldo, starring Jason Robards and Mick Jagger, but the documentaries about them are quite entertaining.

Add to that list Jodorowsky’s Dune.

The unrealized film was an adaptation of rank Herbert’s science fiction novel, which later fell into the hands of David Lynch and became a bloated epic that even Lynch disparages. But in the mid-1970s it was the dream project of Alejandro Jodorowsky, who all but invented the midnight movie with El Topo and The Holy Mountain.

It’s tempting to guess, as the filmmakers do, that had Jodorowsky made his film as planned and released it before Star Wars, it would have altered the movie landscape as we now know it. It’s unarguable that it would have been a mindbender, whether you chose to interpret that as good or bad.

The talking heads herein assembled (is there really a film critic named Drew McWeeny?) point to scenes from notable science fiction films that were made after Jodorowsky and his producer failed to raise funding and speculate that they were inspired by Jodorowsky’s extensive storyboards, compiled in a book big enough to house a family of four. They may be right; on the other hand, taking credit for inspiring a scene in Masters of the Universe is unlikely to do anything to build Jodorowsky’s resume.

Fortunately, the movie has Jodorowsky himself, an almost ridiculously good-looking guy in his mid-80s who cheerfully tells tales of how he assembled the best and the brightest (including then-unknowns H. R. Giger and Dan O’Bannon) to become “spiritual warriors” in pursuit of his vision. That his team also included David Carradine, Salvatore Dali, Mick Jagger, Pink Floyd, Udo Kier, and Orson Welles make you suspect the project would have imploded even if they did get it in front of the camera. You don’t have to care a whit about science fiction to enjoy such a boisterously rendered memoir.

Watch the trailer for Jodorowsky's Dune

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