Friday, 12 January 2018

Dir: David Lynch
Dune is an infamous epic science fiction film written and directed by the great David Lynch, based on the 1965 Frank Herbert novel of the same name. I say infamous because film fans around the world remain divided. David Lynch refuses to discuss it and has disowned it. Many agree with the director but others, like myself, find it to be an important part of our childhood, being a child growing up in the 1980s. It helped make me the cinephile I am today, it was totally different to all the other films in the genre and although I sort of knew it wasn't very good, it was somehow one of the reasons why I liked it. It stars Kyle MacLachlan as young nobleman Paul Atreides, and includes an ensemble of well-known American and European actors in supporting roles including Brad Dourif, Linda Hunt, Freddie Jones, Virginia Madsen, Paul Smith, Patrick Stewart, Dean Stockwell, Max von Sydow, Sean Young and Sting among many. It was filmed at the Churubusco Studios in Mexico City and included a soundtrack by the rock band Toto, as well as Brian Eno. Set in the far distant future, the film chronicles the conflict between rival noble families as they battle for control of the extremely harsh desert planet Arrakis, also known as "Dune". The planet is the only source of the drug melange, also called "the spice", which allows prescience, and is vital to space travel, making it the most essential and valuable commodity in the universe. The novel was a huge sci-fi success and has become something of a classic. Attempts to adapt Dune as a film began as early as 1971. A lengthy process of development followed throughout the 1970s, during which Arthur P. Jacobs, Alejandro Jodorowsky, and Ridley Scott unsuccessfully tried to bring their visions to the screen. Film producer Arthur P. Jacobs optioned the film rights to Dune, but died before a film could be developed. Jodorowsky's attempted film is now something of cinema legend. He proceeded to approach, among others, the progressive rock groups Pink Floyd and Magma for some of the music, Dan O'Bannon for the visual effects, and artists H. R. Giger, Jean Giraud, and Chris Foss for set and character design. For the cast, Jodorowsky envisioned Salvador Dalí as the Emperor, Orson Welles as Baron Harkonnen, Mick Jagger as Feyd-Rautha, Udo Kier as Piter De Vries, David Carradine as Leto Atreides, his son, Brontis Jodorowsky, 12 years old at the time, who had co-starred in his father's film El Topo (1970), as the protagonist Paul Atreides, and Gloria Swanson, among others. The project was ultimately abandoned when Jodorowsky was unable to get funding for the film. Perhaps one of cinema's biggest tragedies and possibly the greatest film never made. Although their version of the film never reached production, the work that Jodorowsky and his team put into Dune did have a significant impact on subsequent science-fiction films. In particular, the classic Alien (1979), written by O'Bannon, shared much of the same creative team for the visual design as had been assembled for Jodorowsky's film. In 1981, executive producer Dino De Laurentiis hired Lynch as director just before the film rights were about to expire. De Laurentiis hired Lynch based on his work on The Elephant Man and persuaded him to join the project rather than direct Return of the Jedi, a film he had been offered and was considering. Lynch knew nothing of the book and wasn't really interested in sci-fi, so one wonders why he took on the challenge. Upon completion, the rough cut of Dune without post-production effects ran over four hours long, but Lynch's intended cut of the film (as reflected in the seventh and final draft of the script) was almost three hours long. However, Universal and the film's financiers expected a standard, two-hour cut of the film. To reduce the run time, producers Dino de Laurentiis and his daughter Raffaella, and director Lynch excised numerous scenes, filmed new scenes that simplified or concentrated plot elements, and added voice-over narrations, plus a new introduction by Virginia Madsen. Contrary to popular rumors, Lynch made no other version besides the theatrical cut. However, a TV version was aired in 1988 in two parts totaling 186 minutes including a "What happened last night" recap and second credit roll. Lynch disavowed this version and had his name removed from the credits, being credited as Alan Smithee, a pseudonym used by directors who wished not to be associated with a film for which they would normally be credited. The film was negatively reviewed by critics and was a box-office failure, grossing $30.9 million from a $40 million budget. Upon release, Lynch distanced himself from the project, stating that pressure from both producers and financiers restrained his artistic control and denied him final cut privilege. At least three versions have been released worldwide. In some cuts, Lynch's name is replaced in the credits with the name Alan Smithee, a pseudonym used by directors who wished not to be associated with a film for which they would normally be credited. The extended and television versions additionally credit writer Lynch as Judas Booth. Roger Ebert gave Dune one star out of four, and wrote, "This movie is a real mess, an incomprehensible, ugly, unstructured, pointless excursion into the murkier realms of one of the most confusing screenplays of all time." Dune has since become a cult hit. Dune created the sandworm. Who didn't want to ride a Shai-Hulud when they were kid? Who doesn't want to ride a Shai-Hulud (with Kyle MacLachlan) as an adult? It has a cast to die for, all whom are at their most camp and most sci-fi-tastic. The scene with the mutated Guild Navigator and how he enters the palace is better than most sci-fi films put together. Sure the editing is terrible, not surprising considering several hours are cut from the original but it's an over-blown fantasy that you can't help but get lost in. I love it. I love it for its faults but there is so much of the film that also gets it right, and sometimes gets it best. It's one of those films, you either love it or you hate it and it is about as 'cult' as you can get.

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