Like the documentary Lost in La Mancha, which tell the tale of Terry Gilliam’s never finished film adaptation of Don Quixote, Jodorowsky’s Dune appears to be a much more enjoyable ride as a lost film rather had it actually been made. After the midnight circuit cult success of his bizarro lo-fi films El Topo and Holy Mountain, Chilean filmmaker and all around artsy guru Alejandro Jodorowsky set out to adapt Frank Herbert’s classic sci-fi novel Dune to the big screen. He assembled a a group of holy warrior artists intent on helping him realize his vision, leading them like a prophet. The entire enterprise eventually collapsed when the need for Hollywood big money entered the story. But while his ideas could have been visually fascinating (much of it is too ahead of its time), the overall metaphysical philosophies he was cramming into the story might have only made it another cult curio. Certainly for my taste, the story of the making-of is much more watchable than what might have ended up on the screen. On the other hand, with Jodorowsky’s charismatic storytelling skills it’s hard not to root for his mad-man belief in his dream and for that passion to go beyond mere storytelling to world changing.
Jodorowsky's background in experimental and avant-garde theater in both Paris and Mexico led to an even more unlikely film career. His surrealist and druggy early films found admirers in the midnight filmgoers as well as in French producer Michel Seydoux, who asked the director what he would like to do next. Jodorowsky said Dune and then begun putting together a creative dream team. For his FX Supervisor he failed to convince Douglas Trumbull (2001 and Silent Running) to join the carnival (not a spiritual warrior), but instead landed Dan O'Bannon (fresh off of Dark Star with John Carpenter). He would also convince comic book artist Jean Giraud (Mœbius), the surrealist Swiss painter H.R. Giger and British science fiction book cover illustrator Chris Foss to join the fun. As Jodorowsky apparently worked out the script, he also worked out his visions for the characters and sets with his artists. The ideas came to him in dreams and the talented group came up with some truly astounding art work for what the film would look like. He also supposedly got major rock act Pink Floyd to work on some of the score (as well as goofy French prog rock band Magma). For the cast he managed to gather Salvador Dali, Mick Jagger and Orson Welles (who besides his fee was also sold on the project by being guaranteed a free meal at his favorite French cafe every day of the shoot). The young hero of the film would be played by Jodorowsky‘s adolescent son Brontis (who at the age of seven was prominently featured in El Topo); he would take on around-the-clock sword and combat training for over a year in preparation. The documentary features many of the storyboards that were put in a large coffee table type of book to help sell the project to would-be investors. Needless to say, that book of art now looks like the ultimate Christmas present for any sci-fi geek.Continue Reading
This is the kind of movie that was made with various limitations that must be taken into account. I’ll lay all the flaws out on the line, and in the end you can be the judge. The lighting is horrendous, but due to the grizzly subject matter it works. I can’t imagine what kind of equipment they used, but many of the scenes are shot at night, which normally boosts a film’s budget by several degrees. The camera work, however, is awesome. I’m not sure how that’s possible, but I’d love to see how they crafted the various overhead shots and rotational pans, similar to some popular French films and 360 shots that Spike Lee used in the '90s. You could say that the darkness provides a good storytelling device for this film, seeing as how it has some very violent scenes, but there were honestly some shots where I could hardly see the characters or follow what was going on. The music is interestingly different, spanning from Mexican hard rock/punk to boleros, but it does lack proper placement and flow. The film is also fairly short and resolved with a bit of haste.
Now, if the above would not deter you from taking a look, I think you’d be as pleased with the film as I was. Instead of writing this review in a regular sense, I'd like to add a bit of analysis, which will better explain why I like it so much. Without spoiling the entire plot for you - or the ending - I'd say that if you are annoyed by religious overtones and metaphors in films, this might not be a movie you'd like. My next statement might not be as easily swallowed by some people, but certain elements in the film's plot and emotive efforts reminds me of two of my favorite movies, Pixote and Mulholland Drive. This is not a comparison, but simply an automatic mental note. It reminds me of the slum-element and young protagonist of Pixote (along with the poor production); but with Mulholland Drive, the resemblance for me is in the importance of a key object. In David Lynch's movie, it is the blue box and key that holds the fate for the lead characters and alters their past and future. In a similar sense, a golden watch and a pair of red sneakers are two simple props from which all the events in this movie can be pivoted.Continue Reading
Like all great cities no one film best sums up Los Angeles. The city is too fractured, the personal narratives of its citizenry too outlandishly varied, for any one film to seize on everything. But if you want a sense of what the city can do to a person – a starry-eyed, beautiful, blonde, female person with dreams of Hollywood – this is probably the most artful and poignant one you could find. On one level it’s a mysterious love story involving a sparkling ingenue from “Deep River, Ontario” (I have no idea if such a place exists) and a gorgeous brunette with a head injury who doesn’t know who she is or how she got to the ingenue’s apartment (technically her aunt’s apartment). They meet awkwardly but soon become each other’s trusted confidante. The possibilities of a new romance and the thrill of being in the most magical slash sinister city on Earth, new to them both (since one is an amnesiac), set us up for a strange, hypnotic love story. But this is David Lynch’s movie and things get really dark really quickly.
A film director (played by Justin Theroux) with a wife who cheats on him (with Billy Ray Cyrus, in fact) has his Hollywood career ruined in a day by nefarious forces he doesn’t understand. Betty (Naomi Watts) and Rita’s (Laura Harring) relationship, at first so full of the giddy, dangerous thrill of a new romance, turns into something obsessive and horrifying as the characters mutate into different people, or different versions of the same people. The ingenue becomes a frightening, jaded shell of who she was. The mysterious brunette becomes a cold, calculating, and manipulative trophy wife (at least I think that’s what happens).Continue Reading
Out of the Blue
Dennis Hopper has always played the person who unsettled me the most in a movie. There was something about the naturalness behind his screwy, brutish characters that made me feel as though the role was more personal therapy than acting. But I must say that I've always been captivated by his roles, and I try to see as many as possible because they do have such a strange effect on me. That being said, I've yet to see Easy Rider, which he directed, nor was I even aware that he directed it and several others, including this film. Many of the details in Out of the Blue seemed familiar; the womanizing husband, as seen in several Cassavetes films; the youngsters from broken homes, like in The Outsiders; the robotic, forced, and sometimes unnatural dialogue in David Lynch films. This familiarity turned me off at first, and I must admit that the overall feel of the movie didn't grab me the way I thought it would. What ultimately kept me focused and quite pleased was Dennis Hopper and his young co-star Linda Manz.
In the movie we find Cebe (Linda Manz), a 15-year old girl who's searching for someone to look up to. Her father (Dennis Hopper) is at the tail end of a 5-year stretch in prison after accidentally driving his semi into a school bus full of children. Her mother (Sharon Farrell) is a heroin addict who tries to find security and a good time with different men. Cebe aspires to be a punk rocker and often recites phrases and philosophies made popular by Sid Vicious and Johnny Rotten. She also enjoys listening to and dressing up like Elvis. Her attachment to their music is a catalyst for the film, and because they're dead and gone, she tries to find direction and excitement in local punk bands. Her aggression, and that of her small group of friends, is what often saves her from the perverts and lowlifes in her town.Continue Reading
The Girl Can’t Help It
The Girl Can’t Help It is a pop art explosion of retina melting Deluxe Color insanity built around several incredible performances from some of rock 'n' roll’s earliest and best groups. It could have been just another teensploitation picture meant to capitalize on American teenage culture of the mid-1950s and the “fad” of rock 'n' roll music, but in the hands of director Frank Tashlin it becomes a delirious candy colored satire of the music industry and the commoditization of sex to sell records.
Frank Tashlin started his career as an animator for Looney Tunes, and it is said that his cartoons were more like films and his films were more like cartoons. There is a gleeful anarchic streak that runs through his movies, and the clever satire of American life that was his directorial hallmark can be as essential to understanding the America of the 1950s as the work of Douglas Sirk (Written on the Wind, All That Heaven Allows). Tashlin worked with a lot of musical comedy performers that we consider pretty hokey now (Bob Hope, Martin & Lewis, Doris Day) but it’s surprising how smart and genuinely funny the films in which he directed them are. He was a proto pop artist using the shiny gaudy images he created as a send up of celebrity, advertising, and pop culture and their detrimental effect on the American public. Although he had no great love for rock 'n’ roll, with The Girl Can’t Help It Tashlin inadvertently made one of the best rock 'n’ roll movies of all time.Continue Reading
The People Under the Stairs
The People Under the Stairs is absolutely bonkers. It's as if David Lynch and Wes Craven took a field trip to the ghetto and came away with an outrageous idea for a thriller/horror movie. Everett McGill and Wendy Robie of Twin Peaks take on another strange domestic role as a brother and sister who never seemed to grow out of playing house and who like to steal children. The movie shares the same violent color schemes and unsettling (yet somehow humorous) dialogue that you find in practically every Lynch film.
Following the newly 13-year-old Poindexter “Fool” Williams (Brandon Quintin Adams), the story opens up with a tarot reading from his older sister Ruby that warns of a year filled with death and ignorance. The two siblings are struggling to make ends meet as their mother is slowly dying of cancer. They're the only tenants remaining in a building that their landlord wishes to tear down in order to make room for condos and tenants who aren't predominately black. Ruby's boyfriend Leroy (Ving Rhames) is a petty criminal who's tired of seeing families thrown to the streets and offers Fool an alternative in making the payments they need to stay there. He's come across a map of the landlord's home and plans to rob it. Rumor has spread across generations that the steep rent and poor conditions of the ghetto has led to a ton of profits for the landlord. This money, thought to be a mass hoard of gold coins, is said to be inside and Leroy wants to get his hands on it.Continue Reading