Sunday, November 20, 2005

Don't Blog While Wasted

..is sound advice, but then I dont listen well.

I'm drunk as snot, but I offer this bit of kulturkrit.

David Lynch's Dune is a masterpiece in its own way.

Yeah, I know, the story itself is sexist and, like most 50s and 60s potboilers, homophobic in the extreme. But in spite of that, Herbert's story is golden.

If I remember right, Herbert studied anth for many years, and spent time among the Navajo. At any rate, his universe is more involved than anything Lucas made -- by which I mean, Herbert's story is the product of one consciousness, where Lucas and Roddenberry's story are the collective product of many.

But then Herbert's vision becomes a collective one -- and therefore muddled; the intrinsic difference between written fiction and film -- in Lynch's movie. And still it passes muster.

Yes yes, it was universally panned whne it was new; I can remember it being termed a bomb almost immediately. And small wonder: I still have the paper passed out at the theatre by the studio, listing definitions and references. How did they expect you to reference such a thing in the dark?

As the Sci-Fi channel demonstrated, Dune is too much, too complicated for a two hour movie, but absolutely perfect for a mini-series.

Still, I prefer Lynch's version. Because of the casting, for one. Observe Kenneth McMillan's spittle fly as Baron Harkonnen: he is evil. Max von Sydow, as you'd expect, is a subtle Dr Kines. Jurgen Prochnow is intense, as he was in Das Boot, but also suitably regal. Sting is an excellent evil prancer (he said that, after readin the script in Mexico City, he resolved to act as gay as possible). Jose Ferrer actually makes for a strong emperor. There's a young Virginia Madsen as the Princess... Brad Douriff is an evil genius-weasel.. the casting's as good as it gets.

The dialogue, of course, is all set-up and therefore wooden. Poor Everett McGill, who is so expressive as a jibberish-talking (thanks to Desmond Morris Anthony Burgess) caveman in Quest For Fire is rendered a cornball waxwork here.

But then, the art direction and music is awesome in the Lynch movie. Seriously. Deco-Nouveau-Gilded Age motifs. The Royal Family -- especially Prochnow -- is consciously modeled, I believe, on the Last Romanovs: furs, beards, gold, epaulets, oppulence. The details are sublime: one of the emperor's marshals has a golden nose, a prosthesis; not so much an homage to Tycho Brahe, I don't think, as indicative of David Lynch's weird gifts for detail.

To this day I can't believe that Toto -- awful awful Toto of "Africa" and "Hold The Line" infamy -- is responsible for the most of the soundtrack. But then they aren't responsible is the main theme, "Prophecy", which instead was done by ambient genius Brian Eno. Still, the Toto songs aren't obnoxious buttrock, as you'd expect for a movie made in 1983. They hold up.

The pity, of course, is that Lynch's movie constricts the story at the expense of character development. An example is Duncan Idaho: you barely know him, yet in the book he's much more important. And this is too bad not just because it costs the dramatic arc, but because the late Richard Jordan was a great actor cheated of screentime.

As an exercise to determine the superiority (including the model sandworms which are so much better than their digital versions) of the Lynch movie, imagine the Sci-Fi Channel mini-series version's story development combined with Lynch's Dune's art direction. It's a great vision, which is what Lynch probably had (The Elephant Man is my favorite movie of all time and therefore I'm inclined to give Lynch all benefit of the doubt; plus, I once knew the hottest of hot Danish blonde who adored Lynch) in mind if only he had the format available to do justice to the whole story.

Anyway, I'm elegantly wasted and dealing with some personal problems so I'll probably erase this soon, and sorry if I've wasted your time. At any rate, it was fun to write.

And no, I'm not a fucking nerd like Steven den Beste. Still, especially when I'm wasted, I like Great Theme movies. Don't ask me to talk about Tarkovsky's Solaris, which Zizek even admits holds great possibilities for Theory. It's just that this shit makes my gears turn, and that's what I need at certain times.

***Added: another example of Lynch's movie's superior art direction. Look at the Saudukaur. In Lynch's movie they are scary and impersonal: he adopts Lucas's trick of dehumanising them; they are storm troopers. Then look at the Sci-Fi Channel's version, which resemble an especially goofy sort of Venetian Pilsbury Doughboys. There's no way they could be scary. Lynch's nasties, however, are. Or, at least, they are ominous, as the story demands. On the other hand, observe how the Sci-Fi channel's movie develops the backstory of the Bene Jeserit priesthood, like in the novel. A needful thing that Lynch's movie is lacking. And it shows who is kin to who, a very necessary plot development. Would that I could combine the two.

** Reposted at vermonster's request. I'm still pretty ashamed of it, but have decided that it wasn't all bad, considering how drunk I was. But I did get something wrong, which I've corrected now: it was Anthony Burgess (!) who did the dialogue for Quest For Fire, though the admirable (if occasionally silly) Desmond Morris was involved too: he "choreographed" it.

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