Just what do you think you’re Dune?

When David Lynch isn’t weird enough

I fucking hate Dune (1984). There I said it.

You don’t hear a lot from us Dune -haters these days. Oh there are plenty of us around and our feelings of antipathy are genuine it’s just that the only people who still talk about Dune are the ones who care about it and most of those people are fans. So why do I care enough to announce my hatred so publicly? Simply because Dune was the very first movie I hated.

It’s a nostalgic kind of loathing — looking back at the experiences that shaped my tastes and personality. I rarely hate anything at all — least of all movies since I typically treasure bad movies as just another part in my education about the world of film. And brother Dune was one hell of an educational experience. It crushed my overly optimistic expectations engulfed me with tedium and nausea and included just enough great elements (the music the shield battle the giant sandworms) to confuse me with swiftly strangled hope. I emerged from the theatre transformed but I was not grateful.

Since I’m now an out-and-proud Dune hater you’d probably assume that I have no interest in the new documentary Jodorowsky’s Dune (2013) which will receive its Alberta première at the Calgary Underground Film Festival on April 11. Are you kidding?! I can’t wait!

Jodorowsky’s Dune is not about the detestable 1984 film but rather about an earlier aborted attempt to film the material in the 1970s. It was to have been directed by Alejandro Jodorowsky the madman behind the cult films El Topo (1970) and The Holy Mountain (1973).

If you’ve seen this guy’s work (particularly the first half of Holy Mountain — good lord!) you know just how insane this project would have been. Or do you? Jodorowsky’s avowed aim was to make the film into a sort of simulated LSD experience with a 10-hour running time. Pink Floyd was going to do the soundtrack. Giant land vehicles were going to crawl through the vast planetary desert expelling huge clouds of shit and debris as they went. The Emperor of the universe was going to be an insane man who sat atop a solid gold throne that is also a toilet. The toilet was to be in the shape of two interlocking dolphins with one open mouth to accept the “pee-pee” and another to accept the “ca-ca.” I’m not kidding. There are pages and pages of stuff like this.

For two years Jodorowsky (who had not even read the novel at the time) just babbled nonsense to people in suits who were preparing to pay millions of dollars to make this insane project happen. The fact that the producers went along with it for as long as they did is astonishing. It’s almost like a really elaborate version of a prank phone call where the prankster just keeps saying outrageous things until he gets hung up on. Eventually (inevitably) the project got cancelled and now we have this new documentary that promises to give us the best description possible of the film that could have been.

I am way way way more excited about watching this documentary than I am about watching any actual version of Dune including Jodorowsky’s unrealized attempt. As someone who dislikes all versions of Dune I can appreciate the craziness of the behind-the-scenes story without getting angry at the desecration of a “classic” or getting wistful for the unmade “masterpiece” that history denied us.

Remember that scene in Breaking Bad where the two stoners are discussing how there should have been an original Star Trek episode in which Chekov uses the transporter to cheat during a pie-eating contest? As a druggy geeky conversation scene it’s brilliant. As an actual Star Trek episode it would have been awful. We are way luckier to have Jodorowsky’s vision remain as a wacky stoner thought experiment than as an actual 10-hour film.