David Lynch  



"I always sort of wanted to do films. Not so much a movie-movie as a film-painting... It was really the mood I was after. I wanted a sound with it that would be so strange, so beautiful, like if the Mona Lisa opened her mouth and turned, and there would be a wind, and then she'd turn back and smile. It would be strange."

This quote from Lynch basically says it all about his style. He isn't a surreal director per se, and he definitely doesn't use shock for art like many others - he simply is in love with the weird for weird's sake. For this reason it would be a mistake to assume everything in his movies has meaning and he himself refuses to talk about his movies, preferring to let people 'dream'. The way he talks, it seems even he doesn't know where his stories and mysteries are taking him and is exploring the dream and mystery as he goes.

Music and sound are carefully used to set moods, and his films are often fascinated by the dark and the twisted in humanity, usually hiding underneath ordinary people or small town life like a subconscious nightmare. His more recent films dive deeper and deeper into the illogical, obscure and impenetrable, using dream logic (or no logic), and striking imagery and events to explore dark narratives through their back-doors while leaving room to dream. To enjoy his work, I strongly suggest switching off the left brain, to stop trying to analyze the pieces, and simply experience what you see as a nightmarish whole.

Lynch hates compromising his visions and methods and has therefore moved away from the Hollywood studio system in order to gain complete control, with uneven, indulgent results. He now uses digital cameras and has also created a web site for his minor creations where he dumps every half-baked project that comes into his head.


Recommended

Blue Velvet  
Much less bizarre than disturbing, this dark 80s hit is a mysteriously fascinating and dark blend of film noir and satire. The theme is about picture-perfect, innocent small-town life and the dark twisted secrets hiding underneath. Jeffrey finds a severed ear and this leads him to some personal detective work that uncovers more and more twisted goings on in his town. Secrets reveal a mysteriously neurotic singer and her relationship with an abusive, evil man, and events threaten to either pull him in or take his life. The twisted characters here are disturbingly realistic and Lynch pulls no punches.

Eraserhead  
The benchmark of bizarreness. At the surface this is a dark and twisted tale of a timid dreamer on vacation living in a squalid house and neighborhood who discovers he is now a father of a monstrous creature/baby due to an old sexual encounter. He is forced into marriage by the mother-in-law and is frequently left to care for the baby while his emotional wife runs off to take breaks from this unpleasant life. He uses one of these breaks to have an affair with the neighbour. This is all filmed with incredibly bizarre imagery and behaviour through nightmarish dream sequences and visuals. Details such as the other world with a pilot, sperm-like worms and a strange lady inside a radiator can be taken as symbols of subconscious, guilt and death, but the movie works as a superb dream-like experience regardless of what it means, so it is highly recommended. Lynch has never repeated the brilliantly pure and abstract dream-experience of this debut.

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me  
This prequel to the TV series doesn't reveal much that is new to the general plot and even has some minor discrepancies and missing characters, but it does detail the last few days of Laura Palmers life and the events leading to her death. As with the series, it asks new questions while answering a few old ones and it is by far the darkest and strangest episode in the saga. The problem though is that most of the clues and images are either too obscure and for fans of the series only, and if they aren't, they simply make no sense. But while this movie fails as a stand alone story, it succeeds admirably as a nightmare. The combination of these dark, twisted characters, very bizarre events and visuals, heavy supernatural motives, Lynch's otherworldly directorial style and an extremely effective and carefully designed soundtrack all make this into a very disquieting, nightmarish experience. So many of the scenes are grippingly bizarre and it all comes together as a dark, disturbing masterpiece that haunts you for a long time afterwards.

Of Some Interest

Hotel Room  
A trilogy of tales set in the same hotel room at different periods in history of which only the first and last were directed by Lynch. The first is the best and involves a mysterious relationship between two men which slowly unravels and turns nasty, one of which who brought a hooker who is 'stolen' from him. The second is an ironic Sex & the City-like piece with three bitchy and slutty women. The endless third piece involves a man and his mentally unstable wife (or relative of some sort) that sit in the dark and tediously discuss random, twisted subjects that don't add up to anything coherent.

Inland Empire  
I really wanted to like this after waiting so long for a new stand-alone movie from Lynch. Over the years I've tuned into Lynch and his methods and eagerly await for him to finally put it all together and produce his ultimate nightmarish masterpiece instead of teasing us since Eraserhead. Inland Empire presents Lynch in complete control of his creation, on digital camera, in a 3-hour odyssey. This is exciting news. Here is another dream/mystery concocted by Lynch, who is exploring the clues and unknowns along with the cast while he's filming it. Also very promising. The story involves an actress who is hired to star in a remake of an unfinished Polish film which is presumably cursed and prone to murders. She has an affair on screen, and it slowly bleeds into reality, her strange husband not too pleased as a mysterious evil follows him. For the first hour this is mostly conventional horror setup and ploddingly slow, but then Alice falls into the rabbit hole as she switches between realities and times. Identities are passed between Poland and Hollywood, scenes from real-life become part of the movie, a chorus of prostitutes dance, Lynch inserts episodes from his creepy Rabbits into the weave as another celluloid reality which bleeds onto the set, and it all leads to a fateful, inevitable and confusing murder. The biggest flaw is the ugly and distracting digital cinematography, bad lighting and closeups. Lynch really needs high-quality visuals to interpret his vision. The second flaw is the uncontrolled indulgence while Lynch inserts too many scenes and songs that simply don't work. For example, while a woman is dying, some homeless people discuss for ten minutes taking a bus to Panuma and how her friend has a monkey, and a hole in her vagina. The third flaw is that this feels recycled, sometimes like an inferior Lynch-clone, other times like Lynch is treading water, repeating what he did much better in Fire Walk With Me with a recycled soundtrack from The Shining. In short, this is full of bad decisions and despite some truly striking and creepy scenes and the fact that this is uncompromised Lynch from start to end, this is one of Lynch's worst.

Lost Highway  
An extremely challenging movie that treats very basic things like identity, causality, locality and time as very fluid or even irrelevant concepts, bending them all under the subjective and unconscious fears or desires of its protagonist. The movie is not so much a modern film-noir or a mystery, as about a guy trying to re-interpret his reality as a noir or crime thriller, and failing at it often, only to re-interpret it again. Most people learn after two viewings of this movie that there is no solution to the puzzle of this movie. Theories of time-travel, identity-switching, alternate realities, fugue mental states, etc are all pointless. Even trying to think about it as a four-dimensional movie, or a movie with sideways time-travel won't help. The key to this movie is a statement made by its protagonist early on: "I prefer to remember things in my own way, not the way they actually happened". The only seemingly reliable element in his reality is a desirable woman that he cannot understand or own, that seems to be cheating or lying to him in some way or another, and whom he may have killed or wanted to kill. Everything else is fluid. Even his identity can switch to a completely different life, and the woman may be his wife, or the wife of a mobster. Throughout his misadventures, the woman always seems to elude and trick him, and there often appears a very bizarre man who may be his subconscious, or perhaps his sane consciousness. This man can be in several places at once and may either derail his reality, or help it, being always in tune with his inner thoughts in very creepy ways. But while this is all fascinating, the film is unrewarding. I keep coming back to this movie repeatedly every few years with very vivid memories of its striking scenes and ideas, and every time I'm done watching it, I feel like it has left nothing behind but those striking scenes and ideas. As explained above, it doesn't work as a mystery and piecing together the plot elements logically is a pointless task, and watching a story told by such an extremely unreliable and schizophrenic point of view where nothing is real or consistent, simply leaves one with mist that rapidly evaporates into nothing. It's like experiencing a fantasy by a person who can't organize or make up his mind. As a character study, it also fails, since we learn nothing reliable or interesting about anyone. It also doesn't work as a surreal dream since most of it is actually a straight-forward sleazy thriller-noir with a faux-plot, except it keeps falling apart. Which means that neither the inner mind nor the outer story work. This is unlike Lynch's other movies that have an actual real mystery or story at the center. In addition, the characters are unsympathetic, and the movie is bogged down by way too much sex and sleaze, which is in line with the mind of our warped protagonist I suppose. In short, it's one of those frustrating movies that fascinates you while it is on, and leaves your mind with memorable scenes and ideas, but it's all style and no substance.

Mulholland Dr.  
A combination of Lost Highway and Twin Peaks, based in LA. This movie actually started as a pilot for a new TV series in the vein of Twin Peaks but 40 minutes of closure and resolution were added instead and it was released as a movie. Unfortunately, this swerve in direction shows itself very obviously after the first hour and a half and the two parts don't complement each other too well. The first part tells the story of a woman with amnesia involved in something sinister that makes no sense, with a slew of strange characters popping in and out of the story and a lesbian lover who tries to help her. This is a straightforward narration that is at times strikingly interesting, humorous or mysterious. The second part suddenly dives into lesbian erotica while turning the whole story inside out and showing that the first part was a 'dream' while characters slowly shuffle their real identities back in place and events turn out to be unconscious wishful thinking. Most of the main issues resolve neatly at the end as you find out their place in the real story (if you think about it real hard), but plenty is left over and the movie doesn't work anymore during the second viewing. This is because the first part is too straightforward and long to be a dream and you lose interest because you know that the plot won't go anywhere anyways. Note that I am not complaining about the bizarreness or revolution of the last part, but that the first part isn't surreal enough! With better planning, this would have been great.

On The Air  
A short-lived TV show with 7 episodes featuring David Lynch doing slapstick and silly comedy. It's not as entertaining as you would imagine however since it rapidly goes from outrageously silly and quirky to just silly. On The Air features over a dozen quirky and ridiculous characters that are filming the live Lester Show which never seems to work out but becomes a hit nevertheless. Props break, actors make terrible mistakes, accidents happen, the stupid actress becomes more popular than the main star, the director is so foreign his assistant translates his English, siamese twins hop around yelling "Hurry Up!", and the sound man sees 26 times more surreal objects floating in the air than other people.

Rabbits  
A series of 8 7-minute pieces released on Lynch's web-site. Three characters wearing rabbit suits sit in a dark living room and exchange dialog that is completely out of sequence (responses to questions delivered 3 episodes in the future) while rain pours down outside. Every time a character enters the room, an audience applauds, and some random laugh-tracks are used as more non-sequiturs. Once in a while they get to perform a soliloquy and something demonic appears. That's it. This is Lynch's amusing version of a bizarre & mysterious sitcom that is creepy and fascinating at first, but gets old fast. Don't expect to figure anything out.

Short Films of David Lynch, The  
A collection of shorts wrapped in a narration by Lynch who explains the background of each. Two early, freaky, animated 5-minute shorts start the collection that show Lynch at his strange games right from the start, then the masterpiece of the collection: 'The Grandmother'. This one is a semi-animated precursor to Eraserhead and tells the tale of an unhappy boy born from dog-like parents who plants a seed in a bed in the attic to grow his own grandmother for some loving care and attention. Very bizarre animations and haunting sound effects fill this surreal short that is at times reminiscent of Svankmajer. The 5 minute twisted Amputee shows a woman writing about silly nothings while her leaking amputated leg is treated and the silly but amusing 'Cowboy and the Frenchman' portrays the French as seen by Lynch, juxtaposed with a cliched cowboy and some snails.

Twin Peaks  
Revolutionary TV series followed by a prequel movie "Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me". The series shocked, surprised and changed TV watchers forever with a carefully and brilliantly designed, dense and complicated mystery plot that kept asking new questions as soon as some old ones were answered. The plot mainly revolves around a murdered girl with many dark secrets and the FBI agent and local sheriff who are investigating the case, but the murderer turns out to be a Macguffin to keep audiences titillated and intrigued. The only reason the murderer was finally revealed (in episode 14) was due to studio pressure so as not to lose ratings. The series are basically a more progressive Blue Velvet featuring a slew of quirky or dark characters and many twisted goings on under typically cheery small town life. Add to this bizarre dreams and visions seen by various characters, a lady that gets messages from her wooden log, and a seemingly supernatural being that is causing people to do all these twisted things. If you like ongoing, open-ended TV series and wish for an intelligent soap with complex, multifaceted, intertwining plot lines, then this should be your dream come true. Hardcore fans are still discussing all the details a decade later. Others will get tired of the convoluted and even manipulative, endless plot twists and layers and eventually stop watching after 7 to 20 episodes. If you are a big fan of resolutions and focused, closed-ended movie plots, then stay away. Also, you shouldn't watch the prequel movie first if you intend on watching the series.

Wild at Heart  
Gratuitous but stylish, humorous sex and violence is still gratuitous. Predating most road movies with violent, crazy sprees (a la Natural Born Killers), this movie offers a kaleidoscope of twisted characters in a violent soap opera trying to either bed or kill each other. For no reason whatsoever, the events are tied together with references to the Wizard of Oz with appearances by witches, little dogs, heels being clicked together, and so on. A disappointing release by Lynch that offers none of the realism or fascinating characters of Blue Velvet but revels in style and weird humor instead.




2000- by The Worldwide Celluloid Massacre Table of Contents