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Will We Ever See David Lynch's Director's Cut of Dune (1984)?

Zack Snyder's Justice League is testament to the power of fandoms in today's world. Having been substituted with another director taking over the reins of Justice League, the full scope of his vision was derailed in favour of a strange final cut that involved a great deal of green screen effects. It's not worth getting into it right now but the point is that his director's cut eventually was released. While David Ayer's cut of Suicide Squad wasn't to be, the new Suicide Squad managed to sate comic book fans with a more worthy adaptation. Being a Marvel or DC superhero movie director comes with plenty of red tape, keeping fans, producers and studios content with the sacrifice of staying true to your vision.

Obviously, there are examples where oversight has led to a better product but all too often this too-many-chefs situation leads to diluted results geared more towards profit margins over artistic credibility. Signing on to do one of these movies ultimately comes with a number of setbacks when it comes to having full creative control. Doing a superb job can result in sequels, spin-offs or new projects, tempting enough to lure seasoned directors into the fray.

Dune Poster Art

This push-and-pull is explicit between a director and a studio, constantly calibrating their craft to prove they have what it takes and getting enough sway to literally call the shots. However, it's actually true for all directors who find themselves on a spectrum between being able to do whatever they damn-well please and being there to accomplish a selection of preset goals.

While directors like David Lynch and Werner Herzog are almost completely in control of their creativity when it comes to filmmaking, they're almost an exception. It really comes down to what you're willing to live with and just how much of your artistic license you're willing to sacrifice. David Lynch is one auteur whose creativity and trademark elements have been given space to roam. Coming from an artistic background, he framed his career through this lens, using Eraserhead as a calling card to lead to the likes of The Elephant Man and eventually Dune.

As well-respected as Lynch is, credited with his own "universe" in Lynchland, he too found the balance of power testing when he was commissioned to adapt Frank Herbert's 1965 novel 'Dune' to screen. A famous "flop" that garnered immediate cult appeal and launched his long-serving collaboration with Kyle MacLachlan in a feature film debut, the epic science-fiction film's legacy remains. The extent of which is still prevalent with classic Dune memorabilia such as 1984 Panini collectible stickers doing the rounds in a place like South Africa today.

Produced by bigwig producer, Agostino "Dino" De Laurentiis, Dune was regarded as a box office bomb... raking in $30 million when the budget was over $40 million. Filmed in Mexico City, Dune was already a "tough nut to crack" by virtue of Alejandro Jodorowsky's failed attempt to adapt the novel. Lynch's version almost sealed its fate, until acclaimed film director Denis Villeneuve took a sip from the chalice that is adapting the novel to screen. A rampant success led by Timothée Chalamet and featuring a stellar ensemble, the magnitude of the production naturally drew comparisons with Lynch's earlier "failure". Opting to forgo a Jack Nicholson type warning about taking on a difficult role, David Lynch was quoted as saying he had "zero interest" in seeing Villeneuve's version.

Lynch's version of Dune was panned by critics with Roger Ebert giving the film a 1-star rating basically calling it an incomprehensible mess. Other film pundits spoke to Dune's solemn no-fun tone and outlandish attempt to pack all the world-building of the novel into one movie. There weren't any major press junkets and it seems as though the marketing efforts crumbled out of the gates. There was a sense that the film was in trouble and was already doomed, doing it no favours in perceptions, speculation and opening weekend takings. The truth is that the production was hampered by an arm wrestle between David Lynch and Dino De Laurentiis as the two discovered creative differences in putting together an epic of this scale.

Being David Lynch's third feature film after black-and-white art films Eraserhead (1977) and The Elephant Man (1980), perhaps it was also a case of too much too soon for a writer-director used to working on more intimate and manageable productions. This blockbuster may have actually saved the David Lynch we know today who lives the artist's life. If he'd had every success with Dune in 1984, it could have led him in a direction that may not have cemented his place as one of the greatest film directors of all-time. Having Mulholland Drive land in many film critic's top 10 of all-time, perhaps the "once bitten, twice shy" undoing of Lynch's blockbuster film career was a necessary baptism by fire.

Having gone on to better if not bigger things, David Lynch is now in a strange position where his third film has gained renewed interest amid all the Dune mania. It's only natural for Top Gun to be revisited in the wake of Top Gun: Maverick's overwhelming success, which makes the blast from the past just as interesting in an age where film is often instantly accessible and ready to stream with the click of a button. While Snyder and Ayer's director cuts have made the headlines, it's curious to think that David Lynch may actually be in a position to see his cut of Dune come to light decades later.

Subjected to final cut approval by Universal Studios, Dune is the one film that got away from the director, who has basically disavowed it. Now with Dune's resurrection into pop culture, now seems like a good time to be having this conversation and Lynch says he became "depressed and sickened" by anyone asking if he didn't "want to go back and fiddle with Dune?". Lynch says that even though "horrible sadness and failure" that he "loved everything" about Dune, "even Dino who wouldn't give [him] what he wanted" with the exception "that [he] didn't have final cut".

According to Esquire, Lynch planned to sell a four and a half hour director’s cut in 1986 but talks fell apart. There's an abundance of footage that never made the final 2 hour cut. Perhaps now in the days where Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings films can run almost 4 hours and shows are often released in one big batch, there may be more of a market for such a broad film release. Now, it seems Lynch is open to taking another look at a director's cut.

In a candid interview with AV Club, he acknowledges that working on the film did feel like he sold out. He knew what Dino wanted, what he could get away with and realised the limitations of this undertaking. These comments on what he calls a "sad, sad, pathetic, ridiculous story" imply that he's not all that confident with the footage that didn't make final cut. Lynch would love to review it with a view to finding a version of Dune that he would've wanted to make but that he'd be working from a "sow's ear" rather than a "silk purse".

While Lynch himself says that a director's cut is not a possibility, it is reassuring to know that if enough fans want something to happen, they will find a way. We may never see a director's cut of Dune but the sliver of a chance that it could even happen, means there's so much more chance of the idea crystalising. Lynch is a celebrated director who manages to land the funds to create his surreal art films with a long-awaited third season to Twin Peaks. Described as one of the greatest films in its year if you take off the music room bits and edit it all together, his long format storytelling has already garnered more interest and appeal. Perhaps the dark horse chance we're not tabling is that Lynch could possibly even get the platform to recreate his Dune vision from scratch.

'Avatar' and the World of Pandora's Video Game Reality

James Cameron's Avatar has made $2.922 billion at the box office to date. Edged out by The Hurt Locker to win Best Picture at the Oscars, it's a miracle of a film from the Titanic director who made a name for himself doing the seemingly impossible when it comes to film visual wizardry. Introducing audiences to the world of Pandora often compared with Dances with Wolves, Thundercats and even Smurfs, it's familiar yet equally alien. While the star-studded cast had the likes of Sigourney Weaver, Giovanni Ribisi and Michelle Rodriguez, it's interesting to note that the breakthrough visual effects movie helped forge its other stars in Zoe Saldaña, Sam Worthington and Stephen Lang.

While not exactly anonymous, Avatar is much more in their DNA than the rest of the ensemble with the possible exception of Saldaña, whose role as Neytiri was always masked in digital. While an epic visual breakthrough, there doesn't seem to be a major fan base for the series and with the advances of video game environments, one has to wonder if this has got something to do with Avatar's world-building, effectively presenting two dimensions with one verging on what you could describe as a video game reality.

Avatar Video Game Reality

Released in 2009, there's been much talk about the long gestation period in arriving at a sequel that's been in the pipeline for ages. Avatar: The Way of Water is preparing to land with a rerelease of Avatar to remind viewers about the world of Pandora, catch them up on the story to this point and win over some young first-timers in the process. When Avatar hit cinemas in 2009, it basically reinvigorated 3D movie watching and ushered in a few years where almost every movie was trying to release a 3D version with an array of epic successes and dismal failures. Now that things have cooled off with this fad, filmmakers have got back to basics with aiming to deliver spectacle over pure gimmickry. While it'd be great for them to redouble their efforts in the actual screenwriting phase, spectacle is the cornerstone of most movies hitting cinemas these days ranging from action blockbusters to family-friendly animation.

In a bid to make Avatar the epitome of all things cinema right now, it seems you couldn't get a film that checks more boxes than Avatar, which attempts to blend the best of both worlds. Offering eye-popping otherworldly visuals and doing so with the buffer of an artistic rendering that makes the unreal seem real, Avatar is trying to be everything to everyone.

When the blockbuster sci-fi adventure released over a decade ago, it was at the cutting edge, presenting something entirely new. This novelty aspect led moviegoers to the cinemas in droves. However, as much as it was lauded with a Best Picture nomination for a job well done, it wasn't quite good enough to pip The Hurt Locker. It seems that the Academy realised that much like Titanic, as impressive and epic as it is within its time, it may not be as evergreen as one would hope. This must come down to the visual effects, which while fantastic in 2009, will undoubtedly age with the development of CGI and digital performance.

Bridging Avatar and Avatar: The Way of Water will require Cameron's every effort to create a sense of continuity so that the age gap between the films and technologies isn't overt to distracting. While this may be passable for the first sequel this year, it's going to prove trickier with each subsequent sequel's release. The blue elephant in the room that no one seems to be addressing is... is it too late already?

As impressive as the effects are, the original film's design of the Na'vi makes it seem as though Jake stumbled into a video game. Perhaps this would've actually been a safer premise for Cameron. As immersive as video games have become, this concept seems much more plausible for a film that uses visual effects to breaking point. While the inhabitants of Pandora have real textures and facial expressions, the visual effects are just a few degrees too alien. The close ups are probably easier to manage, but it's when these characters move from a slight distance that the video game feel creeps in. Having synthetic characters against a "painted" backdrop just re-emphasises their artistry rather than creating a weighted feel. As realistic as their movements are, our brains are wired to detect incongruencies and nuances and while there may be enough eye candy to roll with it, there's also an overall sense of skepticism to overcome.

One wants to believe in the world of Pandora enough for the suspense of disbelief to hold and this is probably why Cameron's visual extravaganza captured enough wonder to exist. Employing about 20% reality and 80% science fiction, there are enough real characters to help anchor the world of Pandora, but these "cutaways" also recalibrate our sense of what's real. Dot and the Kangaroo featured animation against live-action scenes, which was so explicit that it became accepted, crafting its own strange appeal. Perhaps this is what has happened with Avatar. The animated world does clash with the live-action world but this contrast creates its own third paradigm where both can seemingly co-exist.

While this third paradigm's birth has enabled James Cameron to dream of creating a slate of sequels, he must realise that the franchise's success hinges on the financial success of selling the Avatar universe. Since Smurfs has been recycled a few times, one can imagine that the box office returns will be good enough to greenlight the sequels just based on the pop culture power that Avatar seems to command. However, this awkward balance is also probably why the world of Pandora and Avatar haven't resulted in legions of fans. It's a cinematic experiment that was indicative of its zeitgeist and while it immersed viewers in another time and place, the video game feel and see-sawing balance between real and unreal has made this third paradigm entertaining and eye-popping enough to endure... yet too far removed and detached to win over hearts and minds.

The Scariest Thing About 'Mr Harrigan's Phone'

What an exciting and scary time to be alive. It is Donald Sutherland's character Mr. Harrigan in the mystery horror thriller that has some fascinating and haunting "premonitions" about the mess we find ourselves in. An enigmatic billionaire, Harrigan employs a boy to read to him, in turn giving the young man some valuable life lessons by way of Socratic questioning in response to reading each novel. At one point, during the reading of 'Dombey and Son' by Charles Dickens, he quips "Dombey was trying to help his son understand that the true value of money is not measured in worth. The true value of money is measured in power.".

Scariest Thing About Mr Harrigan's Phone

Having no television and moving to a place where the view is nice but not spectacular enough to attract people, the recluse's lifestyle tends towards being off-the-grid in a place where no one asks things of him. Saying very little about how he made his billions, "The Pirate King" seems intent on establishing some form of legacy. A reluctant technophobe, his influence on the youngster is a two-way street when a winning scratch card results in the return gift of an iPhone to the elderly gentleman.

Set at the dawn of the mobile phone revolution, when the Internet's true power was only beginning to be felt by society, his device sparks a number of ideas for the decidedly old school retired billionaire. Mr Harrigan's Phone is based on one of Stephen King's short stories from the novel 'If It Bleeds'. Written by King after the fact and released in 2020, it's still spine-tingling to hear how the Internet and free access to news has had a major influence on journalism and by extension everyone who is engaged by the media.

Full movie quote from the dialogue between Craig and Harrigan from Mr Harrigan's Phone below.

"Harrigan: There's something troubling me. Maybe you can explain it. I've been reading articles on this phone for a month now and they've all been free.

Craig: Yeah...

Harrigan: No, I'm reading something for free that people pay good money for.

Craig: That's great, right?

Harrigan: No, it's not. Giving information away runs counter to everything I understand about successful business practices. The World Wide Web is like a broken water main, except instead of water it's spewing information every which way. I don't understand. Is it a come on, or what? I'm asking Craig.

Craig: Kind of like the Fryeburg fair, where the first game is usually free?"

Harrigan: Gee... and we're still on the first game. Fryeburg Fair. And there are no advertisements on these sites. Ads are the life blood of newspapers. How will they survive? I don't think this is a come on. I think it's a gateway drug. I've already noticed that my Google search responses are on the side of financial information. It knows what I want and what's going to happen when they close the water main? No more freebies. Oh, and false information becomes common and accepted as true... and what happens when they start using this to spread more nonsense than is already out there. Newspapers, journals, politicians, all of us need to be very frightened by this gizmo!

Now struggling to curtail the untold damage by deceptive social media campaigns, it's the era of fake news that's become a focal point. In what seems like a bygone age, people had more faith in news agencies, who seemed more accountable. Whether the current propensity to shine a spotlight into the darkest places has revealed much of the rot or things have progressively worsened, the current integrity of news reporting has generally become ragged. Malleable, synthesized or thumb-sucked, the only thing that seems to matter now is reputation. Gone are the days where you could safely assume what you're reading is at least partially true and based on an on-the-ground point-of-view.

While Mr. Harrigan's Phone unfurls a slow-burning mystery horror thriller about a man who is able to communicate from beyond the grave, it's this one moment in the film that is most haunting. Able to affect the lives of those in this small town way after he's gone, perhaps it's Harrigan role as a harbinger that makes this horror so chilling. Speaking to the principle of planting trees for our children to enjoy the shade when we're gone, the converse idea has some equally disturbing consequences as well.

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Eyes Wide Shut - Imagined Infidelity and Temptations of the Darkest Night

Stanley Kubrick is a master filmmaker whose work speaks volumes, responsible for a string of iconic films including: The Shining, 2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange, Full Metal Jacket, Paths of Glory, The Killing, Barry Lyndon, Lolita, Spartacus, Dr Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb and Eyes Wide Shut.

Having only made a dozen or so films over his critically-acclaimed career, it's clear that he took his time and made the films he wanted to make. This is probably what made his career so memorable with each of his films good enough to serve as part of a film appreciation or film school course. There's an epic quality to each of them whether Jack Nicholson is smashing down a door in The Shining or a sniper is being dispatched in Full Metal Jacket. Kubrick's films are anything but boring, taking unusual situations and exploiting them for all they're worth.

Eyes Wide Shut

Having worked with some big stars and made some in the process, Eyes Wide Shut is Kubrick's last film but also one of his most unusual when you consider its context within the wider spectrum of his career. Starring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, a power couple who were married at the time, casting two of Hollywood's hottest properties is an inspired move and drew considerable attention to the film beyond Kubrick's involvement. Yet, it's not in keeping with Kubrick's more low-key casting decisions, going for a big swing in a move typical of more mainstream Hollywood marketing.

Going into the cloak and dagger world of a secret society, a doctor finds himself embroiled in a dangerous game as suspicion is aroused by his thinly veiled anonymity at a masked gathering. Hearing about his wife's dream of infidelity, the good doctor finds himself in a precarious situation, tempted at various intervals as visions of his wife's surreal affair haunt his every move.

This dark underworld and New York City by night atmosphere gives Eyes Wide Shut an eerie atmosphere. Attending masked balls, stumbling onto a ritualistic gathering, walking among the super elite in their strange garb as a mysterious party's labyrinthine mansion becomes an orgy... there's a dark, sordid and twisted venture through an inferno of depravity in Eyes Wide Shut.

While Kubrick's film features nudity and naked bodies writhing from a distance, it's an erotic film experience that grapples with lust and temptation. The most shocking scenes aren't necessarily gratuitous, primarily filmed from a distance with the added kinkiness of masked participants. There's a definite creepiness inherent in all of these surreal interactions as Tom Cruise finds himself in a spiraling situation, flitting from one trial to the next.

Proving the mettle of a marriage and the bounds of fidelity, Eyes Wide Shut makes a fascinating journey into the underworld. This place is as enigmatic as a secret society, yet grounded as a spiritual proving ground for a doctor wrestling with the idea of being unfaithful. Exploring each partner's real or imagined dalliances, Kubrick questions the notion of trust, the remnants of dreams and seriousness of flirtation.

While a strange profession, being a doctor responsible for seeing a variety of patients in various stages of undress, Eyes Wide Shut makes a full spectrum exploration of monogamy, sexuality and lingering suspicions. A titillating cinematic experience, it's entertaining to see Tom Cruise muddling his way through one wild night. This "risky business" may involve prostitutes but makes for some poignant reflections when all's said and done. Casting Cruise and Kidman as co-leads does give the mystery drama another layer of pop culture credibility and self-reflective relevance but their involvement does give Eyes Wide Shut an experimental feel. In spite of solid performances, their inclusion is a bit distracting, especially within the context of the film's strong sexual undertones.

Eyes Wide Shut may be corrupted by its star power and carnal subject matter but the film's audacious spirit, thoughtful foray into the darkest realms of a marriage and seething dark mystery compel it. There's a sleazy New York night life undercurrent with some graphic palatial visuals but Cruise's perspective as a doctor does buffer the rawness of the debauchery. While long, there's rarely a dull moment, offering a voyeuristic intensity for the viewer, for Cruise as an onlooker and based on the story-within-a-story nature of a married couple playing a married couple.

Eyes Wide Shut is not for the faint-hearted but manages to hold onto a modicum of decency with a rich and rewarding resolution. Now that it's showing on Netflix, it's probably being discovered by a number of people who may be more at liberty to watch the film, whether it's for Kubrick, its stars or the kinky sexual stuff. Still, as much of an honour as it is to work with one of the true great and influential film directors, it would be interesting to hear what Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman think of their choices in retrospect - so many years later.

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