Watch 30+ Exceptional Short Films for Free in The New Yorker’s Online Screening Room

For short films, finding an audience is an often uphill battle. Even major award winners struggle to reach viewers outside of the festival circuit.

Thank goodness for The Screening Room, The New Yorker’s online platform for sharing short films.

It’s a magnificent free buffet for those of us who’d like nothing better than to gorge ourselves on these little gems.

If you’re not yet a fan of the form, allow us to suggest that any one of the 30 fictional shorts posted in The Screening Room could function as a superb palate cleanser between binge watches of more regular fare.

Take co-directors Amina Sutton and Maya Tanaka’s hilarious The Price of Cheap Rent, clocking in at 6 1/2 minutes, above.

A community-supported project, starring Sutton and shot in Tanaka’s Brooklyn apartment, it’s a comedy of manners that brings fresh meaning to the semi-controversial phrase “Bed Stuy, Do or Die.”

Sutton plays a young Black artist with a masters from Yale, a gig behind the bar at Applebee’s, and a keen interest in positioning herself as an influencer, an ambition the filmmakers lampoon with glee.

When she discovers that her new apartment is haunted, she is “so freaked the f&ck out,” she spends a week sleeping in the park, before venturing back:

And it’s a studio, so it’s like living in a clown car of hell.

But once she discovers (or possibly just decides) that the majority of the ghosts are Black, she begins planning a podcast and makes her peace with staying put.

Pros: the rent’s a lot less than the 1-bathroom dump she shared with five roommates, there’s laundry in the basement, and the ghosts, whom she now conceives of as ancestors, share many of her interests — history, the arts, and the 1995 live action/CGI adaptation of Casper the Friendly Ghost. (They give Ghostbusters a thumbs down.)

Cons: the ghost of an 18th-century Dutch Protestant settler whose white fragility manifests in irritating, but manageable ways.

Those with 18 minutes to spare should check out Joy Joy Nails, another very funny film hinging on identity.

Every day a group of salty, young Korean women await the van that will transport them from their cramped quarters in Flushing, Queens, to a nail salon in a ritzier — and, judging by the customers, far whiter — neighborhood.

Writer-director Joey Ally contrasts the salon’s aggressively pink decor and the employees’ chummy deference to their regular customers with the grubbiness of the break room and the transactional nature of the exchange.

“Anyone not fired with enthusiasm… will be!” threatens a yellowed notice taped in the employees only area.

Behind the register, the veil is lifted a bit, narrowing the upstairs/downstairs divide with realistically homemade signs:


Like Sutton and Tanaka, Ally is versed in horror tropes, inspiring dread with close ups of pumice stones, emory boards, and cuticle trimmers at work.

When a more objective view is needed, she cuts to the black-and-white security feed under the reception counter.

When one of the customers calls to ask if her missing earring was left in the waxing room, the story takes a tragic turn, though for reasons more complex than one might assume.

Ally’s script punctures the all-too-common perception of nail salon employees as a monolithic immigrant mass to explore themes of dominance and bias between representatives of varied cultures, a point driven home by the subtitles, or absence thereof.

The 2017 film also tapped into its release year zeitgeist with a plot point involving the boss’ son.

On a tight schedule? You can still squeeze in Undiscovered, director Sara Litzenberger’s 3-minute animation from 2014.

Identity factors in here, too, as a Sasquatch-like creature terrifies a string of camera wielding humans in its attempt to get a photograph that will show it as it wishes to be perceived.

It’s an easily digested delight, suitable for all ages.

Explore all 30+ fictional shorts in the Screening Room for free here or on The New Yorker’s YouTube playlist. You can find them all embedded and streamable below.

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Ayun Halliday is the Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine and author, most recently, of Creative, Not Famous: The Small Potato Manifesto.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Rare Book Featuring the Concept Art for Jodorowsky’s Dune Goes Up for Auction (1975)

Denis Villeneuve’s new adaptation of Frank Herbert’s Dune has made a decently promising start to what looks set to shape up into an epic series of films. But however many installments it finally comprises, it’s unlikely to run anywhere near as long as Alejandro Jodorowsky’s version — had Jodorowsky actually made his version, that is. Previously featured here on Open Culture, that project promised to unite the talents of not just the creator of the Dune universe and the director of The Holy Mountain, but those of Mœbius, H.R. Giger, Salvador Dalí, Pink Floyd, Orson Welles, and Mick Jagger. Even David Lynch’s Dune, for all its large-scale weirdness, would surely play like My Dinner with Andre by comparison.

Alas, none of us will ever get to see Jodorowsky’s Dune, now one of the most storied of all unmade films. But one of us — one of the deep-pocketed among us, at least — now has a chance to own the book. Not Herbert’s novel: the book assembled circa 1985 as a pitching aid, meant to show studios the extensive pre-production work Jodorowsky, producer Michel Seydoux, and their collaborators had done.

“Filled with the script, storyboards, concept art, and more, the book is basically as close as anyone can get to seeing Jodorowsky’s version of Dune,” writes io9’s Germain Lussier.But, of course, the director and his team only created a handful of copies and this was decades ago. This isn’t a book you can just get on Amazon.”

But you can get it at Christie’s, on whose auction block it’s expected to go for between €25,000 and €35,000 (around USD $30,000-40,000). Reckoning that only ten to twenty copies were ever printed, the house’s listing describes the book as “an extraordinary artifact” from “a doomed project which inspired legions of film-makers and moviegoers alike.” Despite all of Hollywood ultimately passing on this enormously ambitious adaptation, “all of this was not in vain.” Jodorowsky himself claims that, though unrealized, his Dune set a precedent for “a larger-than-life science fiction movie, outside of the scientific rigor of 2001: A Space Odyssey.” Its influence, according to Christie’s, is present in 1970s films like Star Wars and Alien. Would it be too much to sense a trace of the Jodorowskyan in Villeneuve’s Dune as well?

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

An Introduction to the Chrysler Building, New York’s Art Deco Masterpiece, by John Malkovich (1994)

No old stuff for me, no bestial copyings of arches and columns and cornices. Me, I’m new.  
             — architect William Van Alen, designer of the Chrysler Building

Many people claim the Chrysler Building as their favorite New York City edifice and actor John Malkovich is one such:

It’s so crazy and vigorous in its execution, so breathtaking in its vision, so brilliantly eccentric.

Malkovich, who’s not shy about taking potshots at the city’s “violence and filth” in the BBC documentary short above, rhapsodizes over Detroit industrialist Walter P. Chrysler’s “latter day pyramid in Manhattan.”

Malkovich’s unmistakable voice, pegged by The Guardian as “wafting, whispery, and reedy” and which he himself poo poos as sounding like it belongs to someone who’s “labored under heavy narcotics for years,” pairs well with descriptions so plummy, one has to imagine he penned them himself. (No writer is credited.)

After showing us the open-to-the-public lobby’s “delicious Art Deco fittings,” ceiling mural, and intricate, veneered elevator doors, Malkovich gives us a tour of some off-limits upper floors.

Unlike the Empire State Building, which bested the Chrysler Building’s brief record as the world’s tallest building (1046 feet, 77 stories), you can’t purchase tickets to admire the view from the top.

But Malkovich has the star power to gain access to Celestial, the seventy-first floor observatory that has been closed to the public since 1945 and is currently occupied by a private firm.

He also has a wander around the barren Cloud Club, a supper club and speakeasy for gentleman one percenters. Its mishmash of styles represented a concession on architect Van Alen’s part. The building’s exterior was an elegant modernist homage to Chrysler’s hubcaps and hood ornaments, but between the 66th and 68th floor, the Cloud Club catered to the promiscuous tastes of the rich and powerful — Tudor, Olde English, Neo-Classical…

The New York Times reports that it boasted what “was reputed to be the grandest men’s room in all of New York.”

Duke Ellington soundtrack and vintage footage featuring Van Alen costumed to resemble his famous creation supply a taste of the excitement that heralded the building’s 1930 opening, even if those with a fear of heights may swoon at the sight of pretty young things reclining on high beams and performing other feats of derring-do.

Malkovich, ever the cool customer, displays his lack of vertigo by casually propping a foot on the rooftop’s edge to commune with the iconic eagle-headed gargoyles.

The building’s unique flourishes caused a sensation, but not everyone was a fan.

Malkovich clearly savors his swipe at critics who decried the new building as too shiny:

Fortunately these critics are long dead so we can’t even call their offices and taunt them as they should be taunted.

He’s more temperate when it comes to author and social philosopher Lewis Mumford, whose beef with the skyscraper is understandable, given the historic context — the stock market crashed the day after the secretly constructed spire was riveted into place:

Such buildings show one of the real dangers of a plutocracy: it gives the masters of our civilization an unusual opportunity to exhibit their barbarous egos, with no sense of restraint or shame.

Nearly one hundred years later, barbarous egos continue to erect skyscraping temples to their own vanity, but as Malkovich points out, they’re far blander, if taller.

The Chrysler Building is now widely recognized as one of New York City’s most magnificent jewels, and the Landmarks Preservation Commission recently approved plans to construct a public observation deck on the Chrysler Building’s 61st floor, just above its iconic Art Deco eagles, though it’s too early to tell if it will be ready in time for a centennial celebration.

Until then, the general public must content itself with exploring the Chrysler Building’s lobby during weekday business hours.

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Ayun Halliday is the Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine and author, most recently, of Creative, Not Famous: The Small Potato Manifesto.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

The Nine Greatest Films You’ve Never Seen

Whether we know it or not, we have all absorbed a cinematic vocabulary and set of film historical references through the film and television we’ve watched throughout our lives. We can leave it to the filmmakers, critics, and cinephiles to memorize glossaries of techniques. It’s enough that we understand what’s happening on screen because hundreds of visual narratives have been constructed in more or less the same way. This language did not come out of a primordial soup but took shape over the last 120 years or so: from the Lumière Brothers and Georges Méliès to Wes Anderson and Denis Villeneuve and so on — each stage along the way absorbing influences and ideas from the most innovative films.

Take, for example, My Dinner with Andre, an intensely philosophical film that consists of only two main characters, one setting, and no real plot to speak of. Instead, the film exploits the techniques of shot/reverse shot to their fullest, creating extraordinary intimacy between two characters, and the viewer, with the camera. Louis Malle’s 1981 film became a standard for filmed existential conversations. Yet behind it stands an even more iconic conversation, one literally concerned with life and Death. Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal is a cinematic reference for countless movies, and a film that undoubtedly expanded the ways filmmakers could tell stories.

But there is another film we should see, says the Cinematic Cartography above, if we want to know where else the philosophical conversation in film might go: Hungarian director Zoltán Fábri’s 1976 The Fifth Seal, a grim morality play set in Nazi-occupied Hungary in which four friends in a bar propose a thought experiment that becomes terrifyingly real. The film cuts between the conversation on screen and scenes of Hieronymus Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights. “All through the film,” one critic writes, “an intelligent viewer will note the characters in the film constantly reassess their philosophical stance or points of view, according to circumstances.”

The entire movement of the film turns on a single question, a stark restatement of the Hegelian master/slave dialectic. Rather than a philosophical conversation between two stable points of view, The Fifth Seal shows us perspectives that shift according to the characters’ self-perceptions, our perceptions of them,  and the influence of Bosch on what we see, adding layers of dramatic irony and extra-diegetic tension. Influential in its own way, if The Fifth Seal had been as widely seen as The Seventh Seal, we might have seen cinema take a different turn in the last few decades. Such is the case with all nine films discussed. See them listed below, learn about them in brief in “The Greatest Films You Don’t Know,” above, and imagine the directions cinema might go if it took more cues from these undervalued classics.

0:00 Introduction (Ashes and Snow, A Time to Live A Time to Die, Strangers In Good Company, Borom Sarat, Dead Man’s Letter’s, Killer of Sheep, Napoleon, Still Life)
1:50 The Fifth Seal – Az ötödik pecsét (Dir: Zoltán Fábri)
7:29 The House Is Black – خانه سیاه است (Dir: Forough Farrokhzad)
9:57 Tie Xi Qu: West of The Tracks – 铁西区 (Dir: Wang Bing)
14:12 As I Was Moving Ahead Occasionally I Saw Brief Glimpses of Beauty (Dir: Jonas Mekas)
18:37 The Enclosed Valley – La vallée close (Dir: Jean-Claude Rousseau)
19:37 Pastoral: To Die in the Country – 田園に死す (Dir: Shūji Terayama)
23:44 Punishment Park (Dir: Peter Watkins)
28:03 The Cremator – Spalovač mrtvol (Dir: Juraj Herz) 30:28 O Pagador de Promessas (Dir: Anselmo Duarte)
31:39 Conclusion (Lucifer Rising, An Elephant Sitting Still, Marketa Lazarova, White Noise, Platform, The Burmese Harp)

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Watch Wes Anderson’s Animated Music Video for The French Dispatch, Featuring a Track by Jarvis Cocker

The French Dispatch came out nearly two weeks ago, after having been pushed back more than a year by COVID-19. But delaying the release of a Wes Anderson movie surely counts among the least regrettable harms of the pandemic, which has caused millions of deaths worldwide. Among the lives lost was that of Daniel Bevilacqua, known in France as the chanson singer Christophe. Set in that country — and more specifically, the fictional city of Ennui-sur-Blasé — in the 1960s, The French Dispatch features a reinterpretation of Christophe’s 1965 hit “Aline” that now plays as something of a tribute to the late pop-cultural icon. Sung by Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker, it comes accompanied by the Anderson-directed animated music video above.

Cocker has worked with Anderson before. In the director’s 2009 stop-motion adaptation of Roald Dahl’s The Fantastic Mr. Fox he provided the voice of a singing farmer named Petey; in The French Dispatch he does the same for a pop star called Tip-Top, and has even recorded a full-length album in character.

Released on the very same day as The French Dispatch, Chansons d’Ennui Tip-Top contains a dozen covers of songs originally popularized by the likes of Serge Gainsbourg, Brigitte Bardot, Jacques Dutronc, and Françoise Hardy. (Attentive cinephiles, the core audience for all things Anderson, will also note the presence on the track list of Claude Channes’ “Mao Mao,” first heard in Jean-Luc Godard’s La Chinoise.)

Chansons d’Ennui Tip-Top exudes the retro-minded Cocker’s love of 1960s French pop music, just as The French Dispatch exudes Anderson’s love of… well, everything Anderson loves, much of which appears in the “Aline” music video. Its meticulously hand-drawn look comes from Javi Aznarez, who’d originally been hired to apply his art to the sets of the film itself. Following Tip-Top as he dances through an elaborate two-dimensional rendition of Ennui-sur-Blasé, it introduces not only the setting (in a stark cutaway manner reminiscent of The Life Aquatic) but all the major characters and the actors who play them. Owen Wilson, Anjelica Huston, Edward Norton, Bill Murray: the gang, it seems, is all here — “here” being a certain idea of postwar France best realized, perhaps, by imaginations like Anderson and Cocker’s.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

9-Year-Old Henry Thomas Delivers a Remarkable Screen Test for E.T.

I can guarantee almost every day I get someone going, ‘Hey, you’re the guy from E.T.’, usually followed by, ‘What are you doing now?’ And not a day has gone by when someone hasn’t shouted ‘E.T. phone home’ at me.” —  Actor Henry Thomas

Should I ever bump into Henry Thomas, I may exclaim, “Okay, kid, you got the job,” just like director Steven Spielberg does at the end of the remarkable screen test, above.

Thomas, now — brace yourself — 50, was just 9 when Spielberg flew him in from Texas to audition for the role of Elliot in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial on the strength of his single screen credit, playing Sissy Spacek’s son in Raggedy Man.

Before we go further, a cautionary tale.

Another youngster had the part of Elliot all sewn up until screenwriter Melissa Mathison hosted a Dungeons and Dragon game to get a feel for the chemistry between the film’s child actors.

“In about three minutes it became very clear that nobody liked this little boy,” casting director Marci Liroff recalls. Ouch.

That would be a heavy burden to carry through life, knowing that youthful bossiness cost you the role of a lifetime.

Enter Henry Thomas.

Spielberg’s longtime collaborator, producer Kathleen Kennedy, recalled that he was no great shakes reading from prepared sides of the script, but then came an improv with legendary casting director Mike Fenton.

If only every aspirant method actor shared Thomas’ knack for emotional recall. During the improv, as the pressure to give up the beloved alien creature hidden in his closet mounted, he drew on memories of his pet ­chihuahua, Urso, who had been killed by a neighbour’s dog in front of him.

“Poor Urso, it may have won me the role but it was a sad price to pay,” Thomas told The Mirror some 30 years later.

His performance reduced every adult in the room to tears.

It was also remarkable for its subtlety. As Spielberg remarked in a 1982 interview with Premiere magazine:

He’s a very controlled, methodical performer who measures what he does and feels what he does and yet broadcasts it in a totally subtle way. His performance is so controlled, unlike most kid performers, who seem to be giving you 150 percent on every shot. Henry’s performance is just a bread crumb at a time, but he takes you in a wonderful direction to a very, very rousing catharsis. He’s just a “once in a lifetime” kid.

The director likened Thomas’ tears in the final moments of E.T. to the arrival of the mother ship in Close Encounters of the Third Kind — “a super-colossal special effect” rooted in human emotion.

By then, Thomas no longer needed an assist from Urso:

I couldn’t stop crying because I worked with E.T. every day and he was real to me.

The connection was not immediate. Thomas’ laughing response to his first gander at the alien reassured Spielberg that the child actor could handle comedy but Thomas, a huge Raiders of the Lost Ark fan, had been hoping for something a bit more swashbuckling. As he told Esquire’s Paul Schrodt:

When I saw this alien with the weird feet and the telescopic neck, I was like, ‘What the hell is this? Where is my lightsaber?’ But I guess I got a flying ­bicycle, so I can’t complain.

It’s wasn’t exactly a Hollywood ending, perhaps because Thomas didn’t stay in Hollywood, but rather returned to school in San Antonio, where he fell prey to kids who resented the overnight sensation in their midst.

On the other hand, he has worked steadily as an actor since leaving home at 17, and abided by his resolution to avoid drugs and other pitfalls that plague some other child stars. (“I never wanted to give anyone the satisfaction of getting that picture of me robbing a liquor store.”)

In his interview with The Mirror, tongue firmly in cheek, he speculated about possible E.T. sequels and admitted that he’d hate to see someone other than himself playing Elliott:

It could be like an intergalactic ­reunion with Elliott and E.T. at a beach resort… I don’t think Spielberg will touch it, although I’d love to see Elliott and E.T. ­sitting at the end of the bar: “How’s it been for you man?” “Good, man, another beer?”

A few years later, the stars did indeed reunite for a holiday advert that owes a large debt to Peter Pan, and puts its thumb on the scale with a clip of Bing Crosby crooning “White Christmas.”

As if Henry Thomas needs help making us cry.

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Ayun Halliday is the Chief Primaologist of the East Village Inky zine and author, most recently, of Creative, Not Famous: The Small Potato Manifesto.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Hear Brian Eno’s Contribution to the Soundtrack of David Lynch’s Dune (1984)

Though released just a few weeks ago, Denis Villeneuve’s Dune seems already to have garnered more critical acclaim than David Lynch’s 1984 adaptation of the same material. This comparison is, of course, unfair: Lynch was working under different conditions in a different time, not to mention with a markedly different cinematic sensibility. And in fact, Lynch’s version of the ambitious, saga-launching novel by Frank Herbert does have its fans, or at least viewers willing to praise certain of its aspects. Lovers of 1980s music, for example, value its score composed by the virtuosic rock band Toto — with the exception, that is, of a track from Brian Eno, Roger Eno, and Daniel Lanois.

Brian Eno in particular is credited with popularizing ambient music, and “Prophecy Theme,” heard on the Dune soundtrack album as well as in the film itself, conjures up an atmosphere as effectively as any other piece of his work in the genre. “David flew me to Los Angeles to see Dune,” Eno recalls in New York Times interview about his recently released compilation Brian Eno (Film Music, 1976-2020), which includes the track.

It wasn’t finished then. And I don’t know whether his intention or his hope was that I would do the whole soundtrack, but I didn’t want to, anyway. It was a huge project, and I just didn’t feel like doing it. But I did feel like making one piece for it, so that’s what I did.”

Dune was indeed a formidable undertaking, and one that ultimately proved too big for Lynch. Some fans would argue, even after the successful first installment from Villeneuve, that it’s too big for any filmmaker. But the world Herbert created, one both sweeping and uncommonly detailed, has inspired many a creator to produce impressive work for projects both realized and unrealized. Perhaps it counts as a missed opportunity that the latest Dune film, with its apparent clean-slate approach to previous attempts at adaptation, didn’t commission a score from Eno, whose signature sonic textures could nicely have complimented Villeneuve’s instinct for the sublime. But then, a studio can’t go far wrong with Hans Zimmer either.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Hear Hans Zimmer’s Experimental Score for the New Dune Film

If you have not yet seen the first installment of Denis Villeneuve’s reimagining of Dune, you will find no spoilers here, though if you’ve read Frank Herbert’s cult classic novel and/or seen David Lynch’s film adaptation (or even the forgettable TV miniseries from 20 years ago), you are familiar with the story. You can, however, hear Hans Zimmer’s complete soundtrack above. If you love it, and if film critic Mick LaSalle is right, you’re in for a treat: “If you like the music here, you’ll probably like the movie,” LaSalle writes in a San Francisco Chronicle review. “If you hate it, you can’t possibly enjoy Dune.”

The film’s music is relentless and creates a “sense of something strange and unfamiliar,” making sure “we never forget we’re watching an entirely alien universe.” Veteran blockbuster composer Hans Zimmer created this sonic atmosphere with studio effects and nontraditional instrumentation, though one familiar element remains, as he tells Indiewire:

I kept thinking, wherever you are in the future, the instruments will change due to technology, and we could be far more experimental, but the one thing that remains is the human voice, which there is a lot of.

Those voices include that of singer Lisa Gerrard, formerly of Dead Can Dance, who “came up with this language that is all her own. It could be from the future, it could be from a different world.”

Zimmer’s approach almost mirrors that of his first big break, the score for 1988’s Rain Man, of which he said in 2008, “The Raymond character doesn’t actually know where he is. The world is so different to him. He might as well be on Mars. So, why don’t we just invent our own world music for a world that doesn’t really exist?” Villeneuve’s Dune gives us an entire interplanetary civilization for which to invent music that didn’t exist before. “I felt like there was a freedom to get away from a Western Orchestra,” Zimmer told The New York Times, in a major understatement.

One piece of music, played as the Atreides family arrives on Arrakis, involved 30 bagpipers, recorded together in Edinburgh while socially distanced. “Along with synthesizers,” writes The New York Times‘ Darryn King, “you can hear scraping metal, Indian bamboo flutes, Irish whistles, a juddering drum phrase that Zimmer calls an ‘anti-groove,’ seismic rumbles of distorted guitar” and “a war for that is actually a cello.” The result “might be one of Zimmer’s most unorthodox and most provocative” pieces of work, and a far cry from the music that accompanied David Lynch’s beautiful failure of a film in 1984.

Zimmer claims never to have seen Lynch’s film nor heard the soundtrack by soft-rock superstars Toto, unwilling to compromise the Dune he’d been imagining since he first read the book. “I’ve been thinking about Dune for nearly 50 years,” he says. Lynch has been trying to forget his film for almost as long. The dense, complicated mess of an adaptation so confused film execs and test audiences that the studio added introductory exposition, above, and handed out glossaries to audiences at the first screenings (though not, presumably, flashlights).

The choice of superstars Toto, of “Africa” fame, brought audiences of Lynch’s film a “luxuriant and peculiar soundtrack,” supplemented by the Vienna Symphony Orchestra and a composition by Brian Eno. But it also integrated familiar 80’s rock touches (as in “Desert Theme,” above), giving the alien world Lynch imagined both a familiar sonic texture and a dated sound. Thirty-seven years later, science fiction films need no such comforting apparatus to make them palatable. As both Villeneuve and Zimmer realized in their work on Dune, a film about a totally unfamiliar future civilization — even one filled with humans who look like us — can look and sound as strange as technology and imagination will allow.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

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