Thursday, March 15, 2007

David Lynch

Director Profile: David Lynch

Waiting for Inland Empire. But it will be a long wait. I have given up on seeing this in a theatre but hopefully the DVD comes out by summer. In the meantime, I have decided to go back and watch all of Lynch's features & shorts so that I can be fully prepared to tackle Inland Empire. Another reason for going through all his cinematic effort is because even though I have heard of every single Lynch film, I have only seen a handful of his movies. So that record needed to be set straight.

Eraserhead (1977): Rating 9/10

A cinematic treasure!! A true measure of a film is that it transcends time and remains fresh no matter which decade it is watched in. It is hard to believe that Eraserhead was released almost 30 years ago. Even today, very few films can match the cinematic richness that David Lynch offered with this flick. This black and white film is one of those works that are tailor made for film studies courses -- hours can be spent discussing the lighting, the dreamy imagery, the haunting background score and the abundant symbolism. For example, the alien baby that Henry and his pseudo girlfriend have provides enough material for dissection -- the baby represents an alien creature who imposes on the life of this couple and alienates them further. That the baby looks like an alien only reinforces the idea. This is a film that needs to be watched with all the lights off and is a work that one can easily be lost in.

The Elephant Man (1980) : Rating 8/10

I still can't believe this is a David Lynch film. With the exception of the opening and closing scenes, the rest of the film is a linear humane story. On top of that, the locale is Victorian England, not America. However, this Black and White feature seems an appropriate follow-up to Eraserhead. Both The Elephant Man and Eraserhead start with images of birth -- in Eraserhead, we see an alien life form taking shape whereas in The Elephant Man, we see how a woman's child will be disfigured and take on the title of Elephant Man. The performances of Anthony Hopkins and John Hurt are top-notch and the screenplay is highly touching. Even though the story is inspired by a real tale, the movie had shades of the The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Now, both this movie and Eraserhead contain elements that appear in other Lynch films, especially Mulholland Dr. -- the stage theatre and chilling dreams. On the stages of Eraserhead, I almost waited to hear the words "Silencio" echoed so hauntingly in Mulholland Dr.

Lost Highway (1997) : Rating 7.5/10

Out of the darkness and into the light! After 2 black and white films, the color of Lost Highway threw me off. Despite being initially blinded by the color, I could still see all the foundations for Mulholland Dr. in Lost Highway. I am glad that I saw this movie almost 10 years after it was made and after having seen the fascinating puzzle of Mulholland Dr. and the chilling terror of Caché. Because Lost Highway starts off like Caché did. In both films, a couple gets video-tapes where someone has recorded their home from the outside. However, in the Lost Highway the spy physically enters the couple's home and tapes them sleeping. However, in Caché, the spy does not physically enter the couple's home but penetrates the main character's psyche.

I was quite surprized to see that Lost Highway was slammed by critics. Ofcourse, those same critics then went on to praise Mulholland Dr.. And now, those same very critics have called Inland Empire a masterpiece. In that sense, maybe Lynch has completely developed his dreamy version of life in L.A that he started in Lost Highway? I won't be able to judge until I see Inland Empire. But I truly enjoyed Lost Highway. Ofcourse, I was trying to compare it with Mulholland Dr. and finding common ground. Both movies have ample puzzles and have mysteries which need to be unlocked. Lost Highway plays with the concept of time and space more than Mulholland Dr.; it is also more loose in terms of plot and has plenty of extra scenes that are thrown in for no real purpose. Whereas, everything in Mulholland Dr. was connected and wrapped up in one mysterious blue box! One negative of Lost Highway is that none of the performances stand out. There is no Naomi Watts to light up the screen!

In conclusion, it was a real pleasure to lock myself in David Lynch's world for 2 nights! I will revisit Blue Velvet and tackle Twin Peaks along with a few of his short films in upcoming weeks.

Part II of the profile -- The Straight Story, collected short films, Blue Velvet, Twin Peaks, Wild at Heart and Hotel Room.

Inland Empire.


Unknown said...

After reading David Lynch's recent book, I have decided to go on a Fellini & David Lynch movie marathon. I finally saw The Elephant Man yesterday, and I would have to give it highest marks. I must agree though that it isn't your traditional David Lynch film, but does have his signature dream like scenes in it every now and again. I get Eraser head tomorrow and Lost Highway this week - I look forward to finally seeing them both.

Unknown said...

I loved blue velvet and Inland Empire . If you like David and his work you shouldn't miss this event.

The second annual Lynch Weekend will be hosted on the Maharishi University of Management campus in Fairfield, Iowa on May 25-27.,