Jodorowsky’s Dune (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, 90 minutes), which is now out on Blu-ray, centers on director Alejandro Jodorowsky’s failed attempt to bring Dune to the screen. His unique vision for the project would lead to collaborations with H.R. Giger and artist Chris Foss, and their work on Dune would later influence science fiction and fantasy films for a new generation (most notably, Ridley Scott’s feature Alien). If the project ever was committed to celluloid, David Carradine, Orson Welles, and surrealist Salvador Dali were also on board.
Although Jodorowsky believes movies can literally change peoples’ lives, he wasn’t mortally wounded by Dune’s “failure.” Instead, Jodorowsky’s Dune takes a look at how an artist took Hollywood’s rejection to reinvigorate his own methods of storytelling, whether it be in comic book or book form. Creativity is a free flowing experience that only stops once a storyteller retires his pen, camera, or paintbrush.
I interviewed director Frank Pavich about his excellent documentary, which features interviews with Jodorowsky confidante Nicolas Winding Refn (director of Drive and Only God Forgives), director Richard Stanley (Hardcore), and movie critics Devin Faraci and Drew McWeeny. The Q&A is below:
Jodorowsky’s Dune is much more than a documentary about a film that never hit the silver screen. There’s a bigger story at play with your project.
The goal was never to make it just be about Dune and this version of Dune that didn’t happen. What it was really going to be about, we weren’t sure. We didn’t know until we really got into it exactly what Alejandro’s viewpoint is. To spend two years on a dream project and to not have it be realized, for it not to happen – he looks at this like it’s a wonderful gift.
When he speaks of the film, he doesn’t say “Oh we were drawing the film.” He says “We were shooting every day.” He did all the work. He created the images, the only thing he didn’t get to do was shoot it. So he’s very much at peace and he is very pleased at the way it turned out. The way the story or his work wasn’t forgotten. So many other filmmakers have taken inspiration from it and have maybe used bits and pieces of it wittingly or unwittingly. It’s fascinating.
Your film is also about clinging onto your dreams or even changing the course – even if you’re initially deterred. Alejandro Jodorowsky’s vision may initially have been rejected by the studios, but it didn’t end his journey. Many filmmakers would have completely given up.
Sure. I think a lot of people would have become accountants or plumbers. As he says in the film, “failure to me is only to change the way.” He views himself sort of like a river or stream. If there’s a bunch of rocks and there’s something in the way, the stream doesn’t stop, it just kind of goes around it and makes a new path. And that’s what he did – he took his ideas and he put them into his comics and his subsequent films. He put them into his books. He put them into his daily life. That’s what it’s really all about.
What was your entry way into the material? Was it reading Frank Herbert’s book or were you a Jodorowsky fan?
I came to it from the Jodorowsky side of things. I viewed him as a filmmaker and didn’t know about his career in comics. I grew up in the States. In France, (some comic books) come out in these oversized, hardcover editions and they’re very expensive and treated like art. There are some people in the U.S. who treat comic books as art but in France it’s high art.
I came to this story totally being a big fan of his films and much like Alejandro I had not read Dune until after I pitched him the project. I had only seen David Lynch’s (version) once before and that was a good twenty years ago or so that was not even fresh in my mind. I really came to it from the director side of things.
Do you think an animated version of Dune is a good idea? Jodorowsky is open to the idea of turning Dune into an epic animated film.
We definitely kept that line in there for a reason. Let’s keep the inspiration going. What if some young filmmaker gets so inspired by it and reaches out to Alejandro and somehow they agree to make it. A couple of people have approached him – I don’t know if anything has happened with them. As far as I know, nothing has happened as of yet. But it’s an an inspiring story.
There’s over 45 minutes of deleted scenes on the Blu-ray. Can you talk about adding that extra footage?
When you’re shooting a documentary like this, you’re shooting hours upon hours of interview. You don’t know what you’re going to use or where your story’s going to take you. When it comes time to edit the film, we decided that we really needed to keep it straight lined and not have too many forays to the side. But there’s so much great stuff that we wanted to share. Some of them were deleted segments and then some were things we put together from the raw footage (including) Alejandro giving his views on Hollywood or religion. You would need to have a heart of stone to watch the film and not fall in love with him. I think people will dig the (deleted scenes) for sure.
What inspires you about Alejandro Jodorowsky?
He’s 85 years old and he’s never sold out to anything. He’s never done anything that he didn’t want to do. He never did anything for money. He’s never directed a commercial. He’s never directed an episode of Two and a Half Men. He could – he’s a director! He could be really rich doing romantic comedies or whatever. But he views films as something sacred and he doesn’t make movies to make money to live.
He writes comic books, he does books. He’s never used his talent, or his skills, or whatever you want to call it in the field of film, for anything other than to help people. His films are therapy in a way. He says the worst thing in the world is to go see a movie and you come out, when the two hours are up, the same person.
This is an incredible art form and you can change people for the better. Or, as he says, (to undergo) an “alchemical transformation.” When you go to the theater and you see El Topo or The Holy Mountain, you come out a different person for sure. There’s no way around it.