Today is US Independence Day and my pal Jeannette thinks that my idea to walk around in public eating a vodka-infused watermelon with a spork and silly straw is insane. I say, what’s wrong with watermelon? It’s a fruit and it’s recommended to get 5 to 10 portions a day. And watermelons are delicious.
I of course live north of the 49th parallel in the land of the dope-smoking socialists so I was working today, but thanks to the magic of multiple systems with multiple monitor setups and high-speed interconnects to my media library, I can have background noise while I type email and read giant training binders.
I slowly stopped watching movies like the rest of the movie-going public nearly a decade ago after I started traveling extensively and started becoming well, “frugal” for that sort of thing and the last time I can recall stepping into a theater was in Poland way back in late 2008 to see Quantum of Solace (with Polish subtitles) because the person I was with hated going to the movies alone and asked me to tag. Movie or staying in stark hotel room in Poland – I took the movie.
I still watch movies, just not in theaters and I have this annoying habit of looping them because it’s rare that I have the opportunity to sit through an entire movie at one go. Anyway, today’s repeating selection for background noise was Jodorowsky’s Dune.
The illustration above from Cinapse pretty much sums it up: it is a documentary on Alejandro Jodorowsky’s failed efforts to bring forward a film adaptation of Frank Herbert’s Dune. It was billed as “the greatest movie never made”, as this version of Dune would have run about fourteen hours (take that, collected extended editions of the LOTR), involved the likes of Salvador Dali, Orson Wells and Pink Floyd, and first introduced the moviegoing world to the visual genius of the late HR Giger (hint: that’s the man who created the monster from Alien).
Actually it’s pretty strange because until this documentary I never knew that Jodorowsky was a filmmaker – I know him from his work on L’Incal with Moebius and The Metabarons with Juan Giménez, both of which (in hindsight) are extensions of his pre-production work on Dune.
And as for Dune, it’s the best-selling sci-fi novel ever (I thought it was meh – too much religion) and film-wise, we all know the David Lynch version produced by Dino de Laurentiis. There’s a very interesting part of the documentary which describes how Jodorowsky felt after being rejected by Hollywood and then having the film rights to Dune taken away, because his sons insisted as a matter of pride that after their endeavors they at least go see what was eventually green-lit:
… and then they take me, like an ill person I came to the theater. Even I think I will cry. And I start to see the picture… and step by step, step by step, step by step, I became happy because the picture was awful! Is a failure! Well, it’s a human reaction, no? Is not beautiful, but I have that reaction.
Is a human reaction, yes! Lynch’s Dune is actually one of the worst films I’ve ever seen so I would concur with Jodorowsky’s reaction. I guess my only advantage was that I saw it on free television rather than spending my own money in the theater because no amount of refund would make up for never being able to un-see that cinematic mess.
Do I also subscribe to the documentary’s conspiracy theory that Hollywood stole all of Jodorowsky’s ideas to seed science fiction film development over the next 40 years? Yes. Some – like Ridley Scott – used the pre-production to great effect in Alien and Prometheus. Others – I’m looking at you again, Dino de Laurentiis – took the visual concepts and made Flash Gordon. Ugh – another one I can’t un-see. Given that the bulk of Dino’s filmography reminds me of what that dead whale in Trout River smells like, I’m guessing that might be why I don’t think too much of his granddaughter Giada (her ginormous head with its forced smile for the camera and her mispronunciation of ingredients don’t help).
So what about Jodorowsky’s Dune? Frankly, I urge you to run out and pre-order copies of it.
Pandering to your instant gratification urges earns me some coin to fund watermelon purchases, but this documentary is actually a fascinating presentation of the creative process and one of the few times when we can actually hear from a visionary while (s)he is still alive to discuss the concepts that were so well ahead of his/her time. Jodorowsky’s also hilarious as he describes the entire period, but he’s also quite poignant when he speaks to how he repurposes himself and seeks alternate directions after the experience. Highly recommended, and I certainly do hope that someone takes up his suggestion to carry out his vision in animation.
As for that watermelon, highly recommended too, either to accompany the film or just to have when it’s hot outside.