When I was first contacted by the creative team behind “Jodorowsky’s Dune,” they were just inquiring if it was a topic I was interested in. I think it’s safe to say that famous films that didn’t quite get made is a topic that I find deeply interesting, and this is one of the Great White Whales of unmade movies for a variety of reasons.
Everything about the career of Alejandro Jodorowsky feels to me like it should have been bigger, should have been better, should have made more of an impact on the larger popular culture. “El Topo” and “The Holy Mountain” would have been received in a totally different way if those same exact films had been made 20 years later, and there’s a good chance Hollywood would have tried to absorb his remarkable voice in some way. I think he still would have ended up an outsider, simply because that’s his nature, but I sometimes feel frustrated at just how niche his greatest works still are.
One of the reasons we can project so much potential onto what Jodorowsky’s treatment of the Frank Herbert science-fiction epic could have been is because of just how much work he ended up doing on it. On the day I went to do my interview for the film, I arrived a few hours early, and they let me sit and read “the book,” the legendary presentation that Jodorowsky put together when he was working on the film, a meticulous combination of storyboards and script and design elements that made this look like an amazing, overwhelming journey to a brand-new world. While I had heard for years about how much films like “Star Wars” and “Alien” owed to Jodorowsky’s unfilmed work, it wasn’t until I was actually looking at the storyboards and seeing ideas that had been lifted completely that it hit me. This really is the most influential unmade movie of all time. Dan O’Bannon, H.R. Geiger, Ron Mead, and so many other artists began refining ideas here that came to fruition elsewhere. I’m not really pointing an accusing finger, either. I’m just saying that Jodorowsky’s eye for talent was superb, and he started these guys dreaming in ways that other directors were able to enjoy the full benefit of later.
When you’re one of the interview subjects in a film, it would seem on some level like you’re not a very partial judge of the final film, but I can honestly say that I’d be a big fan of “Jodorowsky’s Dune” if I were just an observer. It is excellently researched, and the interviews with Jodorowsky alone make this an important record of who this artist is. I always knew I liked his work, but until I saw this, I didn’t realize how much I like him as a person. The way he talks about his collaborators as “warriors” is very touching, and there is a very sweet, very pure joy of creation that he seems to exude that I find amazing considering how hard it has been for him to not only make his films, but to get them seen and to get them the release they deserve. If anyone could easily have turned out to be a bitter jerk, it would have been him, but there’s not a hint of that in the film. Even when he talks about finally seeing the David Lynch film, it’s playful and it’s funny, and he just comes across as this charming eccentric with a very firm sense of what he will or won’t do.
I am excited for people outside of festivals to finally get a look at this one, but I am even more excited for the event at SXSW where I am going to spend a full hour onstage with Jodorowsky himself to talk about his career, his new film “The Dance Of Reality, and where I will most likely ask him “Why are you so awesome?” about 30 times.
“Jodorowsky’s Dune” is in theaters March 21, 2014.