Considered one of the most difficult novels to adapt for the screen, Frank Herbert's sci-fi masterpiece, Dune, has puzzled filmmakers since it was first released in 1965.
Both major productions - David Lynch's 1984 feature and the Sci-Fi channel's 2000 mini-series - are hopelessly flawed.
More recently, Paramount abandoned its mega-budget adaptation in 2011 after four years and a string of rumored directors, including Peter Berg, Neil Marshall, and Neill Blomkamp.
Director Frank Pavich's fascinating documentary Jodorowsky's Dune suggests one man – Chilean French visionary Alejandro Jodorowsky - could have pulled off the impossible had he not been shut down and shut out by every major studio he approached in the mid-1970s.
Required viewing for sci-fi fans and students of the film industry, Pavich's film features extensive, free-ranging interviews with Jodorowsky and his collaborators on how the director's independent nature scared off producers.
An actor, poet, graphic novelist, and director, Jodorowsky is best known for his brilliant cult films: surreal, psychedelic head-trip films such as El Topo, The Holy Mountain, and Santa Sangre. Now 84, he walks the viewer through the magnificent pre-production preparations he had made for the film, including set and costume designs and special-effects concepts.
Most illuminating is Jodorowsky's impassioned presentation of his sophisticated interpretation of Dune, a rich, prescient novel about the human condition in the post-industrialist age that touches on everything from our destructive reliance on fossil fuels and its effect on the environment to geopolitics to drug use to the nature of faith and religious devotion.
"You have to be like a poet," Jodorowsky says at one point. "Your movie must be just as you think of it. . . . The movie has to be just like I dream it."
What an extraordinary dream it could have been.
Jodorowsky's Dune ***1/2 (out of four stars)
Directed by Frank Pavich. Distributed by Sony Pictures Classics.
In English, Spanish, and French with English subtitles.
Running time: 1 hour, 30 mins.
Parent's guide: PG-13 (some violent and sexual imagery, language, adult themes)
Playing at: Ritz at the Bourse