It’s always cool to see a good film that’s been chugging along in the background finally get some recognition (Blu-ray is sort of the standard for validating a movie now I guess). I’m glad we could help keep it alive—PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE played in our Brian De Palma series, Winter 2014.
Coming at you August 9 at 7 and 9:15. Don’t miss it.
“Being honest makes you feel better”, says a talking can of vegetables/Wet Hot American Summer’s voice of reason about two thirds of the way through the film. It serves more or less as the film’s coda, not just about how people should relate to each other, but in how the basic comic rules of WHAS’s universe function.
Why see a movie in a theater?
Since Alejandro Jodorowsky set out to make Dune in the mid ‘70s and now, this has become a much bigger question, both in the advent and expansion of home video and today’s dissolution from physical film to digital. Previous arguments that lean on the technical status of a movie theater (it’s superior sound, it’s a larger screen) fade away as home equipment rushes to meet (and in some cases exceed) the standards provided by the basic multiplex.
So…why see a movie in a theater? Let’s get more specific. Why see Jodorowsky’s Dune in a theater? Let’s go one more step, why see Jodorowsky’s Dune at Doc Films?
Jodorowsky’s Dune’s thesis seems to broadly state that Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Dune was the catalyst for several great minds to come together, and that that union would go on to lead to other, bigger collaborations down the line. That, in other words, much of modern Hollywood owes a great credit to Jodorowsky’s failed wacked out vision. And wacked out that vision was. From Orson Welles, to Salvador Dali, to Dan O’ Bannon, to terrifying little HR Giger this movie was going to have everybody doing interesting, creative, work in 1975. Seeing these pieces come together is a delight in its own sense, and in an immediate way the film becomes fun as you slip The Kid Stays In The Picture style into the deeply crazy lives of these somebodies, specifically through the unfiltered lens of Alejandro Jodorowsky, the world’s best interview subject, given the beautifully hyperbolic gift of seeing only the very best and the very worst in people and situations.
And that is fun. But why see this, admittedly un-cinematic, little talking head documentary at Doc Films? Because the subtext to “Jodorowsky made Hollywood” thesis is that film is an inherently communal medium. More than any other form of art, film is defined by the many cooks in its kitchen; the continuous merging and clashing of 100 different forces, both internal and external, to make a final product. In even the hollowest Hollywood production, years of re-writes, actions of producers, commitment of stars and politics of a director can impact the outcome of a film in a million different ways. In Jodorowsky’s failed Dune, we are given, if not a complete film, a perfect and ageless example of this notion. As Jodorowsky’s Dune tells it, the ideas from every side of this film were so palpable it literally changed the second biggest film related entity in the known universe (the great documentary about Bollywood is yet to be made). Even better, not only is Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Dune a perfect representation of this concept, Jodorowsky’s Dune does it justice. The filmmakers perfectly capture the moments that define the personalities of the geniuses involved, allowing the bombast of the failed project, in all its communal glory, to come through intact.
Film is about that community, that sense of togetherness that making this one 120 minute product can cause, and that was what movie theaters were made to exemplify. What better way to view something made from 100 competing points of view, than in a theater with 100 eager viewers? That was the beauty of physical film, that something so figuratively passed through so many hands would then literally be passed through the hands of the projectionists and then through the hundreds of little gears and sprockets that it would collectively go through in its time on earth. Unfortunately, as we lose that perfectly kinetic aspect of the medium we must hold on to the remnants of cinema past: Movie theaters.
And it’s hard to deny the pure communal power of Doc Films, a theater built on the blood sweat and tears of people who volunteer their time and energy because they simply love film too much not to. Between the volunteers who keep Doc from falling apart, meticulously programming and collecting physical film, as well as keeping tickets sold and the lights on, and the patrons who committed patronage who populate the theater talking far after it is over about the movie they just saw, Doc is about as movie theater as a movie theater can get. It’s truly a grand, unique, place, built on Max Fischer-ian can do spirit.
So please. Let this be seen not so much as a proper review of the film but as an open plea to see it here. Jodorowsky is in every way a celebration of film, without ever coming out and saying “Boy, wadda bizness! Sure brings us together!”. For like Corman’s World, a similarly kinetic and subtle filmmaking doc before it, Jodorowsky recognizes that the best argument for why filmmaking is about as universal, collective, a medium as they come is showing that community unfolding in a way that makes it seem like, genuinely, just about the most fun, crazy, thing in the world. This isn’t a film meant to be seen at home, separated totally from the environment that raised it. It’s not a film that should be lazily flipped on during a Netflix binge on a lazy afternoon. It asks to be placed in the proper context, to be projected on the same screen that held many of its brethren over time. Can you really not do it this simple service?