Jodorowsky’s Dune is billed as “The Greatest Film Never Made” and this film of the same title, which documents the first, makes a pretty good case for this statement to be true. The general conceit is that in the mid-70s, hot off another success of a cult film, producer Michel Seydoux offered to produce anything director Alejandro Jodorowsky wanted to do. Jodorowsky blurted out Dune, Frank Herbert’s seminal, award-winning novel.
Now, Dune had never been an easy sell. After it had been serialized in Analog no publisher wanted to touch it as a full novel. Finally, in 1965 Chilton (best known for publishing auto repair manuals) finally brought the book to the mainstream where it won all the awards and has gone on to be one of the most popular science fiction novels of all time.
With this proposed film, though, Jodorowsky wanted to do something different. He saw the story (he claims to have never actually read the entire book) as something of the divine and he wanted to gather around him a group of like-minded creative visionaries. This film, then, gives us interviews and pre-production stills, concepts and reminiscences of what Dune could have been.
What’s fascinating is Jodorowsky’s own conceit. The way he tells the stories, his team was assembled by divine interference. If he wanted someone for his film, low and behold, they would end up in the same place and the person would say “yes.” The only exception was Salvador Dali, and let’s face it, if he said yes immediately, we’d all know Jodorowsky was lying. We alsoi understand that Jodo (as he’s known to friends) stumbles upon his filmic art. He doesn’t know what he’s doing and not only is he okay with that, he’s proud of it. He see’s his Dune as he wants to see it, it could be 10 hours, it could be 20, but he wouldn’t kowtow to the studios, who wanted it to come in at a paltry 1:50. Which also means his meticulous storyboarding and preproduction book, which we see in the film and are told that every studio was given one, would have been a fluid map, reshaping to the whim and will of its director (and possibly its more destructive cast).
That the film would have been spectacular goes without saying. The creative team Jodo assembled, including, among others, Dan O’Bannon, H.R. Giger, Chris Foss, Jean Giraud, Pink Floyd and Mick Jagger, many of whom appear in the film would go on to do amazing and influential things in terms of cinema and science fiction. A number of the ideas for Dune would go on to inspire these creators in their future works from Alien to Flash Gordon to Prometheus and even to Star Wars.
Even Jodorowsky couldn’t let go of the work he had put into this project. Working with Giraud, an artist, who under the name Moebius created a number of science fiction influenced comics, Jodo created a graphic novel called The Incal which incorporated a number of the concepts and ideas from Dune.
In the end, this film and the film it’s about, are both touchstones to a not so distant past about a far flung future.