Thursday, September 28, 2023

Book Review: A MASTERPIECE IN DISARRAY--David Lynch's Dune: An Oral History


A few years ago I wrote a blog review on THE MAKING OF DUNE, a book written by Ed Naha and officially sanctioned by Universal Pictures, detailing the filming of the controversial 1984 science-fiction film directed by David Lynch. In that review I said that someone should write a book called THE AFTERMATH OF DUNE, looking back from the perspective of today and determining why the movie failed to become successful at the box office and among critics. 

A MASTERPIECE IN DISARRAY--David Lynch's Dune: An Oral History is exactly what I asked for. Written by Max Evry, the book is a deep, deep dive into just about everything connected with the 1984 production of DUNE. 

Evry covers the many attempts over the years to film Frank Herbert's famed novel before David Lynch came on board the project. The author also examines the actual filming in Mexico, the post-production, and how the movie was received by audiences and the press. Evry also goes into the true aftermath of the film, and how it is perceived today, when fans are far more knowledgeable about how the movie was edited and how it fell short of David Lynch's vision. 

The highlight of this book is the massive amount of interviews Evry was able to score with nearly every important surviving member of the DUNE cast & crew. Among the people sharing their memories and opinions are actors Kyle MacLachlan, Sean Young, and Virginia Madsen, along with producer Raffaella De Laurentiis, costume designer Bob Ringwood, and FX artist Barry Nolan. Evry was even able to have a (very) brief talk about DUNE with David Lynch himself. Now that 40 years have passed since the production of the movie, the participants are able to be much more candid about their thoughts and experiences on it. There's also a 32-page picture section. 

Other subjects dealt with are the marketing of the film and the merchandise created for it, the other two filmed versions of DUNE made since, and how the '84 version differed from the novel. 

A MASTERPIECE IN DISARRAY is over 500 pages, and the information included in it is exhaustive. For me, that's not a problem--if you are going to write a book like this, you might as well go all in. Max Evry is undoubtedly a fan of David Lynch's DUNE, but he's not an apologist for it. He has no issue dealing with the problems that both the theatrical and extended versions of the film have. 

Does one have to be a fan of David Lynch's DUNE to appreciate this book?? I would say you don't have to love the movie to enjoy it, but I think you need to have more than a passing interest in it. The sections dealing with the preparation, filming, and post-release of the film will be fascinating to any major film geek. Evry has a straightforward, concise writing style, and he doesn't get bogged down in any florid prose, so the book isn't a slog to get through. 

The one thing the author and nearly all the interview participants agree on in A MASTERPIECE IN DISARRAY is that the biggest problem the '84 DUNE had was that David Lynch did not have final cut on it. The '84 DUNE is frustrating, rewarding, head-scratching, visually spectacular, and blessed with one of the best cast ensembles of all time. Oftentimes the background and history of a movie that doesn't meet expectations is far more interesting than that of an established classic. Max Evry's A MASTERPIECE IN DISARRAY does David Lynch's DUNE more justice than Universal Pictures ever did. It's also one of the best "making of" books I have read in the past few years. 

1 comment:

  1. .these "making of" books can be fascinating. I went to see Dune when it was first release and I remember very little about it. And I never saw it again, so I guess it didn't make much of an impression on me. Maybe if I watched it now, I might appreciate it more.