23 April, 2014
Review: Jodorowsky’s Dune

(Originally featured as a film review in the UWM Post.)

"COULD BE FANTASTIC, NO?"

Having known next to nothing about Jodorowsky or Dune, I went into the film with a curious mind. Upon leaving, I’m left to wonder where Jodorowsky’s works have been all my life. Though it is a documentary, Frank Pavich’s Jodorowsky’s Dune is an enjoyment for sci-fi geeks and general cinephiles alike.

For some exposition, Alejandro Jodorowsky is a Chilean-French filmmaker who rose to prominence in the 1960s and ’70s through his absurd-surrealist art. Dividing his time between Mexico and France he helped develop the Panic Movement, an art movement that specialized in a heightened (and at times violent) form of surrealism. He incorporated the movement’s virtues during his transition into filmmaking with his early works Fando y Lis, El Topo, and The Holy Mountain. They achieved a cult-like status among midnight moviegoers and, in the case of the former, even sparked a riot at its premiere in Mexico.

With his newly-gained notoriety for absurdism and psychedelic visuals, Jodorowsky was approached by French film producer Michel Seydoux to direct a science-fiction tale of his choice. Jodorowsky went with Dune, Frank Herbert’s epic science fiction novel that tells the story of the Atreides family as they attempt to wrestle control of their desert planet Arrakis (and its source of the psychedelic “melange” spice) from a powerful intergalactic empire. Jodorowsky’s intention for the film’s visuals and themes was to make them so mind-blowing that they’d give the audience a spiritual experience—similar to those experienced when using LSD, only without the aid of the drug. He believed that his film would bring about a new school of thought and give the audience a heightened understanding of life, referring to the project as a Christ-like object of holy reverence.

Appropriately, he labeled his collaborators as his “disciples”; from special effects artist Dan O’Bannon, production designers and art directors H. R. Giger and Jean Giraud (a.k.a. Moebius), to actors David Carradine, Orson Welles, and fellow surrealist Salvador DalĂ­. He was also very selective of his cast and crew, turning down such big names as Douglas Trumbull (the special effects artists behind 2001 and Close Encounters) because he felt they did not believe in the film’s vision.

Over the course of two years the team compiled a giant collection of preproduction materials, with everything from intricate storyboards to concept art, only to have it shut down by budgetary concerns and other production problems—mainly that no Hollywood studio would back the esoteric Jodorowsky as director. The novel’s rights were snatched up elsewhere and Dune was eventually released as the David Lynch-directed 1984 flop (which Jodorowsky cites as a relief as proof that his original vision wasn’t stolen from him).

As Jodorowsky himself, now 80-odd years old and stammering excitedly, recalls all this, it’s tempting to not take him seriously and to write off his mannerisms as encroaching senility: he leaves his thoughts unfinished, fills in explanations with onomatopoeic sound effects, and even stops the interview at one point to tease his whining housecat.

But as the documentary progresses we see that this eccentricity is instead a result of an overly passionate artist. Jodorowsky revels in awe at the very medium of filmmaking, referring to its angelic power to inspire and influence how we see the world. His innocent sense of enthusiasm makes it that much more emotional as he talks about the film’s failed production, as if he’s consoling a hurt child behind his crazy-eyed demeanor.

Though Dune may not exist as Jodorowsky originally intended, director Frank Pavich gives us a pretty good look at what could’ve been. Jodorowsky’s original storyboards and artwork are animated to imitate his vision, from a “circle of life” conception sequence to an opening shot that literally spans multiple galaxies, accompanied by a droning score of smooth synthesizers. It may not give you a psychedelic experience, per se, but for a surrealism junkie like myself it will more than keep you enthralled.

Jodorowsky’s Dune is a tale of one of the greatest films never made, though its influence is evident in many of Hollywood’s most recognizable blockbusters (i.e. Dan O’Bannon and H. R. Giger’s work on the Alien franchise, Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, Steven Spielberg’s Raiders of the Lost Ark, and countless comic books and other works of art). While he never got to direct his film Jodorowsky is pleased with its lasting influence, which he connects to Dune's message of the shared human conscience. Not quite the spiritual awakening he intended for, but pretty darn close nonetheless.

Rating: 8/10

21 April, 2014
32. Jodorowsky’s Dune
Directed by: Frank Pavich
Produced by: Frank Pavich, Stephen Scarlata, Travis Stevens, among others
Cinematography by: David Cavallo
Edited by: Paul Docherty, Alex Ricciardi
Original Score by: Kurt Stenzel
Other Notable Crew: Syd Garon, Paul Griswold (animation)
Interviewees: Alejandro Jodorowsky, Michel Seydoux, H. R. Giger, Chris Foss, Brontis Jodorowsky, Diane O’Bannon, Richard Stanley, Devin Faraci, Drew McWeeny, Nicolas Winding Refn
Synopsis and Thoughts:
Full review coming soon.

32. Jodorowsky’s Dune

Directed by: Frank Pavich

Produced by: Frank Pavich, Stephen Scarlata, Travis Stevens, among others

Cinematography by: David Cavallo

Edited by: Paul Docherty, Alex Ricciardi

Original Score by: Kurt Stenzel

Other Notable Crew: Syd Garon, Paul Griswold (animation)

Interviewees: Alejandro Jodorowsky, Michel Seydoux, H. R. Giger, Chris Foss, Brontis Jodorowsky, Diane O’Bannon, Richard Stanley, Devin Faraci, Drew McWeeny, Nicolas Winding Refn

Synopsis and Thoughts:

Full review coming soon.

17 April, 2014

I was going through my computer’s “Art” folder and found some drawings I’ve done over the past 12 months or so which I’m not completely embarrassed by, so I thought I’d share ‘em. (As you can see, I have an affinity for drawing both lizards and smoking characters.)

I’m trying to make an effort to improve my art skills this year, so I might post drawings and artsy stuff like this more often. Though this blog is predominantly focused on film and will remain as such, would anybody object to seeing more of my personal non-film-related work here? Or should I create a sideblog for this type of work and keep my main blog all about the movies?

14:00  |   URL: http://tmblr.co/Zh8lQx1DKAGmt
  
Filed under: my stuff tw: blood art drawing 
17 April, 2014
sbassoon:

mindonmusic:

this is a real movie and i love it. It makes me laugh for 82 minutes straight because it is so ridiculous.

I like to think of this movie as a critique of the Hollywood genre machine.

This movie is amazing! One of my favorite films that I watched last year. It’s surreal and self-aware in a most peculiar away.

sbassoon:

mindonmusic:

this is a real movie and i love it. It makes me laugh for 82 minutes straight because it is so ridiculous.

I like to think of this movie as a critique of the Hollywood genre machine.

This movie is amazing! One of my favorite films that I watched last year. It’s surreal and self-aware in a most peculiar away.

(Source: donnacabonna)

15 April, 2014
31. Gattaca
Written and Directed by: Andrew Niccol
Produced by: Danny DeVito, Michael Shamberg, Stacey Sher, among others
Cinematography by: Slawomir Idziak
Edited by: Lisa Zeno Churgin
Original Score by: Michael Nyman
Other Notable Crew: Jan Roelfs (production design), Sarah Knowles (art direction)
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman, Jude Law, Gore Vidal, Ernest Borgnine, Tony Shalhoub, Alan Arkin, Loren Dean, Jayne Brook, Elias Koteas, Xander Berkeley, Blair Underwood, Dean Norris
Synopsis: Set in the future where everyone’s genetics are predetermined, Vincent (Ethan Hawke)—a man who was born naturally, also known as an “invalid”—infiltrates the ranks of the space program and research facility named Gattaca by using the identity of a crippled elite (Jude Law). Though his legitimacy is soon thrown into tumult when one of the facility’s directors is found murdered, and the resulting investigation leads a young detective (Loren Dean) to believe that an invalid intruder is to blame.
Thoughts:
I was expecting a little more nail-biting suspense here (as is usually expected with sci-fi thrillers), but this film opts for a more heartfelt and humanitarian lens instead. The theme of eugenics starts to wear a bit thin as it’s the only thread of social commentary at play, but the film is more focused on the goal of pursuing one’s dreams than it is making a statement on society. But the viewers in the mood for some hard science fiction will be delighted by the film’s extensive design and layout, which combines a sleek yet down-to-earth view of the future as if through a 1950s-era aesthetic lens. A visually enthralling—if somewhat predictable—sci-fi tale.

31. Gattaca

Written and Directed by: Andrew Niccol

Produced by: Danny DeVito, Michael Shamberg, Stacey Sher, among others

Cinematography by: Slawomir Idziak

Edited by: Lisa Zeno Churgin

Original Score by: Michael Nyman

Other Notable Crew: Jan Roelfs (production design), Sarah Knowles (art direction)

Starring: Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman, Jude Law, Gore Vidal, Ernest Borgnine, Tony Shalhoub, Alan Arkin, Loren Dean, Jayne Brook, Elias Koteas, Xander Berkeley, Blair Underwood, Dean Norris

Synopsis: Set in the future where everyone’s genetics are predetermined, Vincent (Ethan Hawke)—a man who was born naturally, also known as an “invalid”—infiltrates the ranks of the space program and research facility named Gattaca by using the identity of a crippled elite (Jude Law). Though his legitimacy is soon thrown into tumult when one of the facility’s directors is found murdered, and the resulting investigation leads a young detective (Loren Dean) to believe that an invalid intruder is to blame.

Thoughts:

I was expecting a little more nail-biting suspense here (as is usually expected with sci-fi thrillers), but this film opts for a more heartfelt and humanitarian lens instead. The theme of eugenics starts to wear a bit thin as it’s the only thread of social commentary at play, but the film is more focused on the goal of pursuing one’s dreams than it is making a statement on society. But the viewers in the mood for some hard science fiction will be delighted by the film’s extensive design and layout, which combines a sleek yet down-to-earth view of the future as if through a 1950s-era aesthetic lens. A visually enthralling—if somewhat predictable—sci-fi tale.