Register  |   Log In  |  
Sign up to our weekly newsletter    
Empire Magazine and iPad
Follow Me on Pinterest YouTube Tumblr
Trending On Empire
Empire's New Tom Cruise Cover
The Jameson Empire Awards 2014
Vote: The Greatest 301 Movies Of All Time!
Rebecca Hall:
My Movie Life

The actress picks the movies that shaped her
Mountain Dew Green Screen
Register Now to see X-MEN First Class!
Empire Blogs
Under The Radar

Back to all blogs Comment Now

Night Visions 2013: Jodorowsky's Dune, Nightsatan & The Loops Of Doom

Posted on Friday November 8, 2013, 16:14 by Owen Williams in Under The Radar
Night Visions 2013: Jodorowsky's Dune, Nightsatan & The Loops Of Doom

Winner of the audience award at this year's Night Visions was Frank Pavich's documentary Jodorowsky's Dune (Filth came second and The World's End placed third - take that, Gravity). This was the film I was most looking forward to seeing at the festival, having heard so much great stuff coming out of Cannes, Telluride, TIFF, Sitges, Fantastic Fest and wherever else. In many ways it doesn't disappoint, but it's also not the kind-of transcendent experience I'd hoped it would be. Despite the story's starting to sound overfamiliar, it's a fascinating and comprehensive glimpse of the film that might have been, with the engaging presence of Alejandro Jodorowsky himself front and centre. So on its own terms as a celebration of the greatest film that never was, it's a complete success. But it lacks any sense of balance, any dissenting voices, and any sense that its principal narrator might be at all unreliable. As such it comes across as overly credulous, and some of its claims for the unmade film seem tenuously lofty.

You'll know the story by now, and if you don't, Simon Braund wrote it in the October 2009 Empire. Avatar cover - seek it out. In a nutshell, in 1977, Jodorowsky claims the universe told him to make a film of Frank Herbert's epic space-opera novel Dune, in cahoots with French producer Michel Seydoux. This was before Jod had actually read it. Immediately thereafter, he started putting together a band of "warriors" to bring his extraordinary vision to fruition: HR Giger, Moebius, Dan O'Bannon and Chris Foss among them, plus his son Brontis Jodorowsky, who underwent two years of physical training to prepare him for the role of the messianic Paul Atreides. Salvador Dali would have played Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV, with Orson Welles as Baron Harkonnen. Pink Floyd were doing the music. Jod trots out the story of meeting them and being insensed that they were eating burgers in his presence. Other writers have established that The Floyd say this is nonsense. The documentary prefers to print the legend.

Whatever: so far, so amazing. The artwork, from Jodorowsky's huge book of storyboards and production designs, is wonderful; Jod's vision and enthusiasm is unassailable; his stories are often hilarious; and you feel his pain when, in an angry moment, he starts railing at the powers that took the film away from him. It ended up with Rafaella di Laurentiis and David Lynch... and you know the rest.

Poor David Lynch. Not that he'd care if nobody in the world ever watched his Dune again for the rest of time, but just as, over the last few years, his film has started to undergo a cautious reassessment with people arguing that perhaps it isn't the road accident it's reputed to be, here comes this documentary to throw it back under the traffic. And yet here's the thing: the many worldwide fans of Herbert's novel would have liked Jod's version no better. People that have a problem with the rain at the end of Lynch's film would undoubtedly have hated Jod's conclusion even worse, ending as it does with Paul Atreides dying and transferring his consciousness into the entire population of Arrakis, which then becomes a green and verdent sentient planet. "You can't respect a novel [when you adapt it for film]", says Jod. "You have to rape it like a bride on her wedding night." (That sentence is a product of his broken English, so it's not intended quite as harshly as it sounds.)

Herbert fans aside, the claims of Nicholas Winding Refn, Richard Stanley and the film's other talking heads that Jodorowsky's Dune would have been a world-conquering instant sci-fi classic, also ring... optimistic. Its immediate predecessors El Topo and The Holy Mountain are fantastic, mesmerisingly strange films, but they didn't change the world - or the film industry - and they're not for everyone. There's every chance that Dune would have entirely baffled the majority of audiences or, at worst, been laughed off screens, especially given the outlandish costumes and sexualised, "ejaculating" spaceships. It might have been awe-inspiring or it might have been an unintentional Flesh Gordon. Plus, Dan O'Bannon was doing the special effects. Dark Star might have looked okay for a low-budget movie made in 1974, but we have no evidence of whether he would have made significant leaps on Dune three years later, especially since its effects basically sound unachievable. You can point to his decamping subsequently - with Giger and Foss - to Alien, but he didn't do Alien's effects, and it's questionable how much of the finished film is remotely even his. 

So I love Dune, I'd love to see Jodorowsky's version of it, and I'd love to own that book of design work - surely someone publishing it is a no-brainer. I thoroughly enjoyed Pavich's film too, but I don't buy its thesis for a moment.

And while we're at Night Visions and on the subject of Jodorowsky, a word on Christer Lindström's half-hour short Nightsatan and the Loops of Doom. Nightsatan are a Finnish electro band, and the film is a kind of post-apocalypse western in which the band appear as wandering freaks: a Mad Max-ish archer, a robot thing and a skeleton thing. Lindström told me he watched El Topo a lot during production. In a really good way, you can tell. It's about a grotesque, egg-laying transvestite and his malfunctioning android son who are wandering a desert wasteland catching warrior women, burying them up to their necks and trapping them in short, sonically punishing temporal loops. The band - who bitch at each other a lot and are horny - aren't standing for that, so decide to put a stop to it, finding that they can combat the loops because their music is triangular. Or something. The eggs turn out to be significant. Oh, and it was shot in English but then dubbed into Italian and subtitled. Ridiculously, it works perfectly.

The band played at Bar Loose afterwards and I'd assumed their film personae were their thing (something like Slipknot) and that they'd play like that on stage. Nope. Just three slightly tubby guys in wifebeaters. Ah well. They're good though. To my ears they sound like John Carpenter's soundtracks, to the extent that they do a cover of Assault on Precinct 13 (although they kind of play it the Bomb the Bass / Xenon II way). Wikipedia types who are all about the genres can tell me it's blackened gothic electro-space doomcore if they want to.

Login or register to comment.

Currently No Comments

Log in below, or register to post comments
Remember Me:


Empire States (432)

Under The Radar (317)

Infinite Lives (92)

Small Screen (56)

Words From The Wise (33)

Cannes 2011 (28)

Off The Wire (24)

Comic-Con 2010 (21)

Casting Couch (2)

Oscars 2011 (1)


Night Visions 2013: The Strange Colour of Your Body's Tears, We Are What We Are, Big Bad Wolves
By Owen Williams

Night Visions 2013: Jodorowsky's Dune, Nightsatan & The Loops Of Doom
By Owen Williams

Night Visions 2013: Adjust Your Tracking (or Does Anyone Actually Miss VHS?)
By Owen Williams

Night Visions 2013: Fresh Meat, The Colony, Sawney
By Owen Williams

Film4 FrightFest 2013: Sunday and Monday
By Owen Williams

Film4 FrightFest 2013: Thursday and Friday
By Owen Williams

Bloody Cuts In Conversation
By Owen Williams

European Film Awards 2012
By Owen Williams

Night Visions 2012: Silje Reinamo and Thale
By Owen Williams

Night Visions 2012: Juan Martinez Moreno and Attack of the Werewolves
By Owen Williams


Aruba 2013: Juan Francisco Pardo Q&A
"Sadece on altı dakika içinde iyi bir görsel hikaye anlatmak önemli beceri ve bel"  skndrdmr
Read comment

Aruba 2013: Opening Gala
"That really amazing."  ommrudraksha
Read comment

2013 IIFF - The Winners
"Hi Simon, Trying to get in touch with you. Hope this works. I enjoyed your piece on Enter t"  matthewpolly
Read comment

Christoph Waltz will win an Oscar
"although its old now :(, of course he was gonna win it :), one of the many idols of why i wanna be a"  SONYA ALALIBO
Read comment

Brisbane International Film Festival: First Report
"I think it is pretty clear the story revolves around The Blacksmith, in The Man With The Iron Fists,"  owenyunfat
Read comment

TIFF 2012: Silver Linings Playbook, The Perks Of Being A Wallflower, Cloud Atlas, The Place Beyond The Pines
"Thanks for the feedback! I hope I didn't give the impression that Cloud Atlas is a write-off; I just"  Damon_Wise
Read comment

TIFF 2012: Silver Linings Playbook, The Perks Of Being A Wallflower, Cloud Atlas, The Place Beyond The Pines
"Hi Damon With regards to Cloud Atlas, I fear that it will face the same problem a"  ChesterCopperpot
Read comment

TIFF 2012: Silver Linings Playbook, The Perks Of Being A Wallflower, Cloud Atlas, The Place Beyond The Pines
"No worries! I just try to describe things as I see them, and I often forget that, as Empire has grow"  Damon_Wise
Read comment

TIFF 2012: Silver Linings Playbook, The Perks Of Being A Wallflower, Cloud Atlas, The Place Beyond The Pines
"Don't get me wrong, I appreciate your early reviews from the festivals, and of course, I'm not alway"  pythonlove
Read comment

TIFF 2012: Silver Linings Playbook, The Perks Of Being A Wallflower, Cloud Atlas, The Place Beyond The Pines
"Ryan Gosling as a stunt rider who has mechanic skills and gets involved in bank heists. It sounds li"  keef_mac
Read comment


Sundance Part Six: In The Loop

The Times BFI London Film Festival Preview

Basterds Blog

Damo's Top Ten Of 2009

Sundance 2010: Four Lions blows everyone away!

Sundance 2010: The Killer Inside Me causes outrage!

Chris Hewitt Of The Year Award!!!!

TIFF 2012: Silver Linings Playbook, The Perks Of Being A Wallflower, Cloud Atlas, The Place Beyond The Pines

The Wrestler

Uncle Boonmee: An Explanation

Damon Wise (295)
Helen O'Hara (166)
James Dyer (85)
Amar Vijay (71)
Ali Plumb (54)
James White (28)
Phil de Semlyen (19)
Owen Williams (15)
Ally Wybrew (2)
Ben Kirby (1)
David Parkinson (1)

Hollywood's Biggest Names On Their Favourite Films
Stars and directors like Nolan, Whedon, Wright and Ford on the films that inspire them

The Remake Report: Hollywood's Do-Overs Coming Our Way
The redoes, remakes, reboots, reworkings and reimaginings headed our way…

The Nebraska Playlist
Alexander Payne programmes a movie marathon for us

John Michael McDonagh Talks Calvary
The director on his follow-up to The Guard

More Found Footage: Another 25 Trailers That Tease Missing Scenes
Further sequences that disappeared between promo and final cut

Ten Career Lessons From An Oscar-Winning Producer
Jeremy Thomas on everything from The Last Emperor to Sexy Beast

Directors Joe And Anthony Russo Share 15 Captain America: The Winter Soldier Secrets
As heard on Empire’s special spoiler podcast interview…

Subscribe to Empire iPad edition
Get The Empire iPad Edition Today

Subscribe and save money on annual digital subscription

Subscribe today
Buy single issues

Subscribe to Empire magazine
Get Limited Edition Collectable X-Men Art Cards

Subscribe today and get 6 issues of Empire plus a set of collectable X-Men Art Cards for only £20!

Subscribe today

Get 12 Issues Of Empire For Just £25
Receive limited edition subscribers-only covers every month Subscribe today!
Empire's Film Studies 101 Series
Everything you ever wanted to know about filmmaking but were afraid to ask...
The Empire iPad Edition
With exclusive extras, interactive features, trailers and much more! Download now
Home  |  News  |  Blogs  |  Reviews  |  Future Films  |  Features  |  Interviews  |  Images  |  Competitions  |  Forum  |  iPad  |  Podcast  |  Magazine Contact Us  |  Empire FAQ  |  Subscribe To Empire  |  Register
© Bauer Consumer Media Ltd  |  Legal Info  |  Privacy Policy  |  Bauer Entertainment Network
Bauer Consumer Media Ltd (company number 01176085 and registered address 1 Lincoln Court, Lincoln Road, Peterborough, England PE1 2RF)