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Screen » Film

Spiritual Warriors

The making of a film that was never made

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Dune is a boring book, and Alejandro Jodorowsky's movies are torturously indulgent. That's my take, anyway, offered after multiple failed attempts to appreciate both Frank Herbert's 1965 sci-fi novel and Jodorowsky's surrealist classics The Holy Mountain and El Topo. Your mileage out of these things certainly varies, just as your mileage with Jodorowsky's Dune will almost certainly vary, but I'll tell you this: Even for someone like me, who likes neither Jodorowsky's movies nor Dune, Jodorowsky's Dune is flipping great.

At first, Frank Pavich's documentary seems like little more than a glorified DVD bonus feature—a "making of" doc, with the catch that the film it chronicles the making of doesn't exist. In 1984, when the big-budget faceplant of David Lynch's Dune was released, few people knew that audiences could have seen something else entirely. For years, Jodorowsky had desperately been trying to make his version of Dune—a film he humbly thought would be "the most important picture in the history of humanity," starring Orson Welles, David Carradine, Salvador Dalí, and Mick Jagger, with music from Pink Floyd and cutting-edge visuals from the greatest artists in comics and science-fiction, from Mœbius to Chris Foss to the reliably creepy H.R. Giger (like others working on Jodorowsky's Dune, Giger would go on to work on Alien, a landmark sci-fi film that actually got made).

Alongside extensive interviews with Jodorowsky and the rest of the "spiritual warriors" he chose to work on his epic, Jodorowsky's Dune brings the film to life with animated storyboards, concept art, story excerpts, a spaced-out score, and archival footage. Jodorowsky proves to be a charismatic, charming, and unpredictable anchor: Jodorowsky's Dune is about his still-burning passion, and it's by turns exciting and heartbreaking to hear him explain—and see him show—what might have been. Jodorowsky's Dune is about his still-burning passion, and it's by turns exciting and heartbreaking to hear him explain—see him show—what might have been. The documentary isn't just the story of a movie that never got made—it's also an unexpectedly funny, unexpectedly tragic story about the risks and necessities of creation. And it has a twist ending, of sorts: By the time it was over, I wanted nothing more than to see Jodorowsky's Dune.

Jodorowsky's Dune

dir. Frank Pavich

opens Fri April 27, Tin Pan Theatre

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