Alejandro Jodorowsky made his initial impact in the nineteen-sixties, a committed artist with a surreal bent he caused a stir with his first film Fando y Lis and never looked back, though he did not always find movies the best environment to work in, passionate as he was about them and the creative process that went in to making them. By the early seventies he had made one of the first midnight movies, the cult sensation El Topo in which he starred as well as directed and wrote the script for, and followed it up with an increased budget on The Holy Mountain that saw his mighty imagination stretched to its limit. By now he had made a name for himself in creative circles, and was encouraged to make a science fiction epic...
The big idea in this documentary was that Jodorowsky, if he had been allowed his way on an adaptation of Frank Herbert's classic sci-fi novel Dune, would have changed cinema forever since it would have been such a groundbreaking hit that the George Lucas work on Star Wars would have been deigned irrelevant by comparison. And not only that, but the mere presence of his ideas out there in the world for what was to be an unfinished film that never went before the cameras managed to influence the course of movie science fiction and fantasy anyway, as could be seen in a host of major hits of the form and a few cult efforts that went on to be benchmarks in the style.
In the case of Ridley Scott's Alien, they may have a point since many of the creative team Jodorowsky assembled had a hand in the eventual look of that film, but one wonders while all this effusive praise is heaped on the idiosyncratic artist by the likes of the similarly culty Nicolas Winding Refn and Richard Stanley that if they were not overstating their case a tad. For a start, Star Wars was something Jodorowsky's Dune was not, and that was family friendly: it fired the imaginations of all ages because it was easy to understand, could have all sorts of interpretations pinned on it that only evolved as the audience grew with it, and the design work was second to none. Dune, on the other hand, would have been strictly adults only.
In fact judging by what we hear it would have been more Frank Herbert's Holy Mountain than Alejandro Jodorowsky's Dune as the director and the talents he assembled around him to prepare for the blockbuster that never was very much went their own way with the material. Many of those talents were no strangers to seventies self-indulgence, as the practice of understanding oneself by use of various media, be that entertainment or more artificially stimulated, was something this documentary was positively steeped in. Make Pink Floyd and Magma duel on the soundtrack! Have H.R. Giger and Moebius join forces to design the sets and accoutrements! Cast David Carradine, Orson Welles, Amanda Lear and Mick Jagger! Ask Salvador Dali for advice! And so on until - et voila! - a dog's breakfast of cosmic proportions would be served up for our delectation.
The documentary places the blame on Hollywood studios for stopping production on what may have been a masterpiece, or may have been an utter shambles, but after hearing Jodorowsky refused to compromise on his fifteen hour head movie, you begin to sympathise with the suits. Then you recall how David Lynch's Dune turned out and you can mull over the facts of that box office disaster and that they may have been right, the project was simply too esoteric for mass market consumption and the idea it could have been just so philosophically and visually mindblowing that it would have changed the course of human history in Jodorowsky's approach was a hard one to get behind. That said, for all the bombast and what if? questions the director remained as ever an entertaining interview subject, and it was fun to listen to him allow his ideas to ramble and deliver the anecdotes with his eccentric charm. The other subjects were a mixed bag, but had their plus points too, and the impression is that had they not talked up the classic that never was, it would be a lesser documentary. Music by Kurt Stenzel.