Jodorowsky’s Dune documentary has mystic power

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      It seems the shamanic touch can transform even the most rational of minds.

      “To be completely honest, I’m not a spiritual person at all,” says Frank Pavich, calling the Georgia Straight from Hong Kong. “I’m not religious; I’m not spiritual—I’m not anything. To me, when you die, you’re in the ground and that’s it. But in hanging out with Alejandro Jodorowsky, I’m finding myself opening up to these things more.”

      The New York–based Pavich is the man behind Jodorowsky’s Dune, a spectacular documentary (opening Friday [April 4]) about the Chilean filmmaker’s attempt in the 1970s to film Frank Herbert’s epochal science-fiction novel. Like Stanley Kubrick’s Napoleon, it’s one of the great unmade films of all time.

      But if the cameras never rolled on a project designed, in Jodorowsky’s words, to “change the consciousness of the world”, it hardly matters. In gathering together what the messianic director of El Topo calls a team of “spiritual warriors” for two years of preproduction and deeply creative ferment—with the artists Moebius, Chris Foss, and a pre-Alien H. R. Giger among his Paris-based students—Jodorowsky accomplished an act of powerful magic.

      Pavich says he encountered the same force.

      “All I can think is that he saw something in me, that I was the right spiritual warrior for the job,” he offers. “He gave me this story, which has really changed my life.” With a laugh, Pavich adds: “I read an interview with him the other day where he said the first time I met him, he thought I was a crazy person—the greatest compliment one could ever get from Alejandro Jodorowsky.”

      Indeed, Jodo (as he’s known to friends) was uncompromising in his choice of partners. Hollywood effects maestro Douglas Trumbull was contemptuously dismissed as “a technician”. Pink Floyd fared almost as badly when the filmmaker met the band at Abbey Road. The story that follows is outlandish, to say the least. But time and again, Pavich says, “just when you think it’s so insane that it could not be true, somebody else says: ‘Oh, yeah, I was there; that happened, absolutely.’ ”

      He cheerfully adds that he’s “all in, for sure” when it comes to the more mind-bending aspects of the tale, as when Dan O’Bannon—as related on tape by the late screenwriter himself—was granted a vision of glowing mandalas spinning around Jodorowsky’s head.

      “I don’t think he has a mystical side. I think he is mystical. That’s just everything about him,” states Pavich, who also describes entering a New York church recently to “just say ‘Thank you’ to the universe, or to Jodorowsky, or to both, or to something—I don’t even know, exactly. A couple of years ago, I wouldn’t be caught dead doing such a thing. But there I was.”

      One could be equally incredulous about the unlikely synchronicities that seemed to bring so many of Jodorowsky’s warriors into his orbit, yet Pavich felt himself touched again. When he met with Foss in Nantes, France, conversation turned to a much-loved assistant the artist hadn’t seen for more than 30 years. As they left the restaurant, there she was, waving at them.

      Asks the amazed director: “What the fuck? How the hell? How, how, how?

      Follow Adrian Mack on Twitter at @adrianmacked.