|PHOTO: Paradise Films Inc.
I saw Dune again last night. Have you seen it? It's a
film adaptation by David Lynch of Frank Herbert's book. It was
made in 1984 and stars everyone under the sun who wasn't also in Blade
Runner: Kyle McLachlan, Jürgen Prochnow, Max Von Sydow,
José Ferrer, Jack Nance, Dean Stockwell, Patrick Stewart,
Freddie Jones, and a very dishy Linda Hunt. Fifteen years have
not really been kind to this film that was not particularly well
received even when it came out. It's a shameless patchwork of a
perfectly good novel, bound together by aging cheese that alerts
you to its presence almost before you enter the theatre. The
story is in tatters, and the dialog comes across sounding very
arch and mysterious -- which is great for being arch and
mysterious, but not so great if you're keen on threading your way
through the 140 minutes of film.
"The sleeper must
Of course, I love almost every frame of it. I wouldn't go to a
midnight showing and drag a couple of friends if there wasn't
something about this mess that I really admire. I love the
production design for a start. In a universe where computers have
been outlawed, everything has taken on a mechanistic appearance
as if run by tiny gears and levers. There is polished brass and
wood and dark stone everywhere. Ornamented lights shaped vaguely
like swans in flight float unteathered high above the characters.
Space ships have a distinctly baroque feel to them; the Guild
liner features an enormous rectangular doorway in its hull
through which small ships fly and dock. Ok -- you've seen that
before in a lot of films, but did you ever see one with lots of
clearly ornamental carving done around the door frame? In space?
I love a culture that finds value in that kind of detailing.
"Tell me of your home world,
I mentioned that Patrick Stewart is in the film.
He plays Gurney Halleck, man of arms for House Atreides. When he
first shows up, a chuckle of recognition fills the theatre. Here
is the captain of the Starship Enterprise before he was known to
millions, barking out not a lot of lines. Outstanding value,
that. For me though, seeing Jürgen Prochnow was the biggest
surprise of all. For him, the audience gives no sign of
recognition at all, which is a pity because he's been in a lot of
films for which I have a soft spot (Das Boot, The
Replacement Killers, The English Patient.) Though I've seen Dune
many times, this might be the first time when I actually knew who
he was myself. Every time there's something new.
"I like this Duke."
I loved the black
iron boiler in which the 3rd Class Guild Navigator travels
when it visits the Emperor. It's huge and hulking, plainly heavy,
and wouldn't look out of place somewhere in Russia in the 1920's.
I loved the way the Navigator's acolytes didn't speak English,
and how they used push brooms to clean up the lubricative slime
that the boiler leaves behind. And the way they're no so
interested in making sure they get it all.
It's playing again tonight, and the offices of
Front Pages are not at all air conditioned. Tempting.
(Stills from the film)
Dune (About the film, by
someone with even more time on their hands than me)