Jodorowsky and his Dune

I was supposed to see the 12:00 showing. I didn’t. I fell into a phonecall lurking in some region of space-time that also happened to hold my already unfashionably late trajectory to the Tiff Bell Lightbox.

The call was from a biological antecedent. An hour or so later when I was back at home and the tide of dysfunction had withdrawn from the shores of my mildly wounded but mostly irritated psyche, I thought I would sleuth for another movie to watch: the day was still young.

And wouldn’t you know it, turned out there was also a 5:00 pm showing that I hadn’t noticed. Score!

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I have read Dune, albeit as a kid, and have ran into snatches of the film often enough to feel as though I’ve watched it… sort of. All I know is that there were giant sandworms, and maybe even a talking head in a glass bell-jar. Whatever else there was, it skittered across my memory-making circuits and vamoosed. And I say this as someone who liked Dune.

It seemed fitting then that here I was, witnessing a documentary about Jodorowsky’s Dune and finding that practically no-one on the project had actually bloody read the book, first hand. That Jodorowsky had the audacity to say he was making Frank Herbert’s Dune (while his team had not earnestly delved into the book) was a sign of pomposity that only slowly, slowly, slowly became apparent to the viewer as the documentary wore on.

The man himself

I like Alejandro, but I wanted to like Alejandro more than I ended up doing. The halting Spanglish, the animated storytelling, the boyish enthusiasm for life, the insuperable passion for his art… those are magnetic traits. But I couldn’t shake the streak of – what was it? Narcissim? That’s not the right word. It really isn’t. But it’s close. It is only now that Wikipedia tells me that this is a man who has developed his own spiritual system. Whatever the trait is that I can’t find a name for, it probably doesn’t correlate too shabbily with developing your own spiritual system.

I found it interesting that he called Giger’s dark, gothic art “ill art”. How fitting the label could be to some of Alejandro’s own works, but for radically different reasons. But even there, it was not an insult, it was likely a grappling for an apt description in English. I also found it interesting that when he met his creative ‘equals’ (Salvador Dali, and the other guy who did the 2001 Space Odyssey effects), and finds them just as self-important as he himself is (only he doesn’t realize/state this), he struggles to work with the one (it becomes an exercise in mind games) and flat-out refuses to work with the other. Again, this isn’t just a character flaw so much as a reminder of a simple fact of life: there can really only be one creative, self-important, pseudo-megalomanic visionary at the helm.

The Other Dune

Now to the content of what would have been his movie: it would have been interesting, for sure. It might even have been better than David Lynch’s (which he basically says was crap – my words). The artwork prepared for the gig was – at least for it’s time – intriguing, cutting edge, whimsical, beautiful. He certainly put together a very a talented set of people, evidence of which is the work they went on to do together after the whole Dune thing tanked. I also wouldn’t sniff at his leadership skills – they must have been up there, to attract, motivate and (crucially) provide an environment in which his team not only wanted to operate in, but seemingly operated very well in.

What would’ve nailed the documentary would’ve been interviews with Frank Herbert himself (deceased), or the mother of Alejandro’s son, being as daddy seems hellbent on sticking their boy (now a man) in his films. I would give anything to hear from her on what it was like to be around this guy. Not necessarily as some barometer of truth but just for more pieces of the puzzle.

The takeaway

The most constructive takeaway from the film though, is how the act of first creation – that which takes place in the mind, really is as compelling as those new agey hokeyisms keep telling us. The film was never manifested, true, but that’s a red herring. What WAS manifested, was the coming together of these artists because of the vision of one-man and his electrifying ability to communicate that vision, and of the sheer, unfettered synchronicity of events that placed key talents not just within reach, but in the same darned vicinity as the person with that vision.

So, it’s a reminder to go forth, and dream big. Only, don’t ask me what all these artists/producers live on, while pursuing their dreams… it wasn’t made clear, and I don’t know how the industry works… but all this gallivanting around the globe and recruiting people for a movie… who’s writing all the cheques?!!

Anyhow. To quote Alejandro, ‘Just TRY IT‘… whatever your “it” is. Only, do not make your “dream” a waking nightmare for others.

Uhm.. that rejoinder is my own.

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