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'Jodorowsky's Dune' review: The art of almost

Matt Pais, @mattpais

RedEye movie critic

12:00 AM CDT, March 27, 2014

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*** (out of four)

Unrequited love. The album a dead musician never got to make. A Robert Kennedy presidency. What could be a more exciting tease than something potentially great that never happens?

In the documentary “Jodorowsky’s Dune,” director Frank Pavich chronicles how, in the early-to-mid-‘70s, controversial Chilean director Alejandro Jodorowsky attempted/failed to make an elaborate, expensive, fearless sci-fi epic based on Frank Herbert’s acclaimed novel “Dune.” In retrospect, Jodorowsky’s plan sounds like a trippy slam-dunk: He wanted the movie to simulate the effect of LSD, with a visual design from Dan O’Bannon, who went on to write “Alien.” The cast would have included Mick Jagger, Salvador Dali and Orson Welles. Jodorowsky’s son Brontis trained six hours a day, seven days a week for two years for a prominent role.

Now in his mid-80s, Jodorowsky initially intended to work with Pink Floyd and Douglas Trumbull, the special-effects whiz behind “2001: A Space Odyssey,” but dismissed both after clashing with their big egos. “I cannot use him,” the director (“El Topo”) says of Trumbull. “He is not my spiritual warrior.”

Pavich spends practically all of “Jodorowsky’s Dune” depicting what the potentially groundbreaking movie would have been like. (After seeing Jodorowsky’s massive book of ambitious storyboards, “Drive” director Nicolas Winding Refn claims the film would have been “awesome.”) The doc needed a bigger examination of why the movie didn’t happen, not just late notes about the studio’s skittishness over the subject matter and budget. There must have been a former exec or two who brushed off the project and could comment on that now.

Yet, with less insight but similar passion to “Room 237,” the fascinating doc analyzing “The Shining,” “Jodorowsky’s Dune” tickles the imaginations of movie fans who see the art form as an unlimited opportunity to expand the mind. And anyone who’s seen David Lynch’s unwatchable, incomprehensible 1984 attempt at “Dune” will feel especially sorry Jodorowsky never got his chance.

Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Friday at 6:55 a.m. on WCIU, the U

mpais@tribune.com

 

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