Little Known Films: Jodorowsky’s Dune A 2013 Documentary, 90 minutes.

This little known film is about a film that was never made at all. In fact, it remains one of the great ‘what ifs’ in movie history. What if Alejandro Jodorowsky, the eccentric Chilean- French auteur behind such psychedelic midnight movies as El Topo and The Holy Mountain, had adapted Frank Herbert’s sci-fi novel Dune?

We’ll never know but back in the mid 70’s he crisscrossed the globe to assemble a team of creative visionaries for one of the most ambitious movies never made. No studio would let him direct it even though he had secured the likes of Orson Wells, Mick Jagger, Gloria Swanson and Salvator Dali to star in it, as well as having Pink Floyd to score it.

Jodorowsky, who’d envisioned a film so sacred it would alter the world’s consciousness, was crushed. The fact that it would have been fourteen hours long didn’t help either. Adding insult, a few years later Dino De Laurentiis and David Lynch made their own Dune - a notorious flop. Which brings us back to what if? That question hangs like a glorious riddle over Frank Pavich’s spellbinding documentary in which an 85-year-old (and still wide eyed) director talks about the one that got away.

We get testimonials about how influential Jodorowsky’s Dune was - paving the way for Star Wars and gathering many of the players who would later push the boundaries of the genre with 1979’s Alien. Even though the work of Jodorowsky is certainly mad and he freely admits to never even having read Dune, this documentary is welcomely sane. The acclaimed director demonstrates through his 3,000 storyboards (which still circulate through Hollywood today), his concept art, his exacting detail and most of all his passion, on how you can’t make a masterpiece without madness.

Pavich’s documentary is a fitting exploration of finding a new approach to an untold story providing inspiration and feeding the imagination in the process. In this case, the untold story is probably better than the film Jodorowsky wanted to make to begin with and certainly much shorter. If you enjoy sci-fi, cult cinema, or messianic quests for quixotic lunatics (and who doesn’t) you will love this movie. It premiered at the Cannes 2013 Director’s Fortnight and has finally found its way to the Palisades Library.