Tuesday, January 31, 2006


1984 seemed to be an experimental year for big blockbusters. Genre-mashing droll comedy with spooks and scares made Ghost Busters a runaway success. Likewise, Steven Spielberg merged much more broad humour in his first go at a sequel, namely Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. But nothing was more exotic that David Lynch's blend of science fiction and, uh, well, David Lynch. Based on Frank Herbert's novel, an insanely popular blend of science fiction, theological mythology and court politics. Too loosely based, it would seem, as it alienated fans of the novel and just plain confused everyone else. It is in some circles, still considered one of the grandest big-budget turkeys ever released to wide audiences (circles who probably haven't seen the more recent Battlefield Earth).

But there are a few of us out there that just plain love this movie. The absolutely monstrous set design and vivid costumes are nearly unrivaled even today. There are no 'aliens' in this universe, only extremely modified humans. Witness the fetoeus-like space navigators in which the only thing left 'human' is their eyes and fold space while floating in a cloud of the narcotic known as the Spice Melange. Then there are the 1000 meter or so worms on Arrakis (aka Dune) which the local tribes use for transportation. This is not your run-of-the-mill sci-fi, but something else entirely. There just seems to more weight or dignity than your average laser shoot-em-up. The plot is too dense to go into, but involves ownership rights over the key planet in the universe, source of the life-extending drug, "The Spice." But quickly shifts gears to a large political coup, then to the religious awakening of a prophisized Messiah and mobilization and uprising of the indiginous population under their new leader from the desert.

To further amp up the dream-like feeling, Lynch played with voice-over in an interesting way. Characters voice their key thoughts to drive the bulk of the exposition and information required to navigate the universe some 8000 years from now. And what an international cast he has assembled here. Many folks who would go on to his TV showTwin Peaks, (Kyle MacLachlan, Eraserhead's Jack Nance, Everett McGill), but also Max von Sydow, Patrick Stewart, Brad Dourif, young and gorgeous Virginia Madsen, Sean Young (who starred in one of the very few films in the same league as this, Blade Runner), Dean Stockwell (who would Cameo is Lynch's 1986 masterpiece, Blue Velvet), Das Boot captain Jürgen Prochnow, screen legend José Ferrer, "I, Claudius" matron Siân Phillips, pop star Sting, and academy award winner Linda Hunt. Whew.

Like the drug which everyone breathes on Arrakis, this movie achieves a surreal cinematic high where plot eschews 'making sense' for images of ritual, religion, sex, love, betrayal, hate, violence and occasionally transcendence.

Screening Note: The version being shown here is actually not endorsed in any way by David Lynch. It is a longer edit from the studio which includes a sketch/voice-over/history-lesson of the Universe leading up to the year 10000. This version aired on Television (cropped from the original Todd AO vision scope to 4:3 TV ratio, and commercial ridden) quite a lot in the eighties and nineties. But it has now been restored with a new 5.1 soundtrack and the original aspect ratio in a pristine print.

Screening Note 2 (slight time change): Come out at 8pm for drinks. Due to the long (2.5 hour) runtime, there will be no trailers, just the film, hopefully starting at 8:15pm (I'll hold off if needed though).


Post a Comment

<< Home