Comparing two documentaries: Jodorowsky’s Dune and Finding Vivian Maier

I wrote this last fall and forgot to post it. Considering Finding Vivian Mayer is showing at Hot Docs, it seems appropriate to post this now.

This is unedited from last fall.

I saw two documentaries at Tiff 2013.  They were Jodorowsky’s Dune and Finding Vivian Maier. Both docs dealt with the creative process except Alejandro Jodorowsky relishes his creativity, putting out films such as El Topo while Vivian Maier kept most of her work to herself and seemed to relish her anonymity.

What was interesting and a lot of this was discovered talking with Diane after the film. Jodorowsky’s Dune answered the question why his film wasn’t made – Hollywood didn’t trust him and his grandiose ideas. After all. He wanted Mick Jagger and Salvatore Dali who wanted $100,000 a day.

For Vivian, the documentarian choose not to answer or explore certain questions. The holes were very obvious and they formed most of the conversation around Finding Vivian Maier. Why didn’t they interview the two men who maintained the payments on her locker? As Nathalie Atkinson of the National Post pointed out, this question was the primary question out of many. It’s very obvious. No reason was given, leaving the audience to fill in the answer. Did the men choose not to participate? Was their story relevant to the documentary? Budget? (They raised the money on Kickstarter.) I don’t know because I didn’t interview them but when articles come out from those who did interview them, I suggest you read them.

Other questions raised by many people, not just me: why did those two men decide to cover the fees on her locker? Why didn’t Vivian send a particular letter? What rights do her relatives, who live abroad, have? I’m not sure if it was a deliberate decision to not explore these questions or the documentarians just didn’t have the expertise to pursue those answers.

What I found with some extremely basic research (aka, googling) is that Vivian Maier’s estate may belong to the state of Illonois as she died interstate. WBEZ talks about Maier and her property:

Jodorowsky’s Dune is a more straightforward look at what may be the best movie never made but influenced many genre-defining movies such as Alien thanks to his finding of Giger, who went on to design the key elements of Alien and the Alien.

Jodorowsky wanted to make a film of Dune and assembled possibly the best and maybe oddest cast around him – Dali, Mick Jagger,  David Carradine and Orson Welles, who had to be bribed with meals and drink from his favourite restaurant. He also had some of the best artists around him including Moebius. Unfortunately the weak spot, according to Hollywood, was Jodorowsky himself.

The difference, on a basic level, is that Jodorowsky’s Dune was about the crew behind the movie with Jodorowsky front and centre in the film. Vivian wasn’t the star of the documentary on her and her work.

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