Jodorowsky’s Dune

Dreaming of what could've been
Dreaming of what could've been

“I don’t know why I say Dune. I can say Don Quixote.” So says Alejandro Jodorowsky, recalling the wha? of his commitment to his third feature in 1974. Don Quixote, of course, tilted at windmills that weren’t there, and the Chilean-born director’s mammoth task—involving Salvador Dalí, Orson Welles, H R Giger designing Baron Harkonnen’s fortress, Pink Floyd scoring just one part of the soundtrack, and many more grand plans—would seem more foolish than the quest of Cervantes’ knight. But Frank Pavich’s documentary, Jodorowsky’s Dune, in the tradition of Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe’s Lost in La Mancha—about the Don Quixote adaptation that Terry Gilliam couldn’t finish—is about a vision never filmed.

This hypothetical hype-fest is alternately gonzo and tedious, though Jodorowsky can be an engaging self-promoter. There are raves here about El Topo, which actually hasn’t aged well at all. There are declarations that Jodorowsky’s Dune (never made, remember) “would have been bigger than 2001.” Jodorowsky recalls himself as “enlightened” and a “prophet;” he still talks as if the film, a vision of “something sacred, free,” will be made. But the ego and ambition here are two sides, it seems, of the great pyramid that many King Tuts in movieland need to build up in order to make a huge film. The third side’s passion, still very much on display in Jodorowsky’s eyes as he recalls his ideas and plans.

It was a grand “folie” project, all right—especially since most people involved, including Jodorowsky, never read Frank Herbert’s bestseller!—and perhaps best left to the whetted imagination. Jodorowsky cast eclectically (his own son as Paul Atreides, martial-arts-training six hours a day for two years), had sudden whims (dismissing 2001‘s Douglas Trumbull as not the “spiritual warrior” he needs), and seemed to be blurring the line between visionary and obsessive. Of course, only the screened result would’ve justified his means … though now time romanticizes what he couldn’t pull off (especially since David Lynch’s 1984 adaptation was none-too-memorable). There are some nice touches—including psycho-visuals to illustrate F/X head Dan O’Bannon’s freaky recollection of meeting Jodorowsky—but Jodorowsky’s Dune is all a bit much: too much of a muchness; too much hypo-hype; too much obsessing over what will never be.

Fri, Jun 6 – Thu, Jun 12
Metro Cinema at the Garneau




  • This film is an absolute treasure. To see a visionary creative mind so far ahead of his time assembling all these creative “warriors” to realize his dream gives hope to every aspiring artist.

    Mr. Gibson, it is quite obvious that you do not see the flame of passion or worse have discarded it as a bitter critic. My sincerest hope that you are able to regain your fire, your passion before it is too late.

    As an emerging filmmaker and writer this film just helps to fuel my desire to really create something worthy that will endure.

  • Interesting that I agree with all the things you wrote about Jodorowsky and his efforts/attitude yet I really enjoyed the film. Certainly I’ve hated films because I really disliked one or more of the characters or, in the case of say Mike Moore’s films, the documentary was too much like shooting fish in a barrel. In trying to understand why I liked the film so much where you did not even though I agreed with much of what you wrote… I came up with two things… first and foremost I viewed the book as the protagonist, not AJ. My love for the book drove my enjoyment of the movie and, in the end, I don’t mind if the protagonist “doesn’t get the girl”. Second, learning about the players involved was really interesting to me.

    I’m curious, how would you have felt about the documentary if he had actually pulled it off?

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