Archive for June, 2013


Blue Velvet is a film I have seen several times and which I really like so therefore I had a lot of pre-conceptions coming in to watching it this week. I therefore tried to pretend to watch the film with new eyes but this was inevitably impossible, so apologies if this review is a little biased.

THE PLOT

Geoffrey (Kyle Maclachlan) discovers a severed ear in his backyard he sets out on an investigation leading him into two love affairs and the discovery of a crime gang in his neighbourhood headed by the increasingly odd Frank Booth (Dennis Hopper)

THE GOOD

One of the things that Lynch does best as shown previously to this film in Eraserhead and later in his career with Twin Peaks is that he takes a normal town adds unexplainably odd characters and then does something incredibly weird and horrific.

Blue Velvet has this Lynchian factor down to a tee. The film begins with a beautiful montage full of imagery showing a standard American lumber town; then introduces a few odd characters before Geoffrey finds the ear and his adventure begins. From this point the film straddles the line between normality (with a little weirdness) and the just plain messed up. For example after finding the ear Geoffrey takes it to the police station shows it an officer whose response is a casual ‘That’s an ear alright’. Moments like this are odd yet also slightly comedic as their deadpan delivery is obviously meant as some sort of sick joke.

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After these moments the film often gets more intense with graphic sex and violence being a common factor in this film. The violence inflicted is made much more intense following the slight comic elements. It is also quite shocking the amount of violence as many of the townspeople are made out to be fairly normal with odd quirks in their personalities.

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All the casts perform admirably in this film considering its odd nature however Dennis Hopper playing the villain Frank Booth is the stand out. His character constantly swears and breathes creepily from a gas mask. His opening scene consists of rape and he performs magnificently; taking the comic oddness that his character contains and making it truly horrifying.

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The film also contains one of my favourite moments of product placement:

THE BAD

When watching the film this time and trying to pick holes in it I really struggled as I truly believe this film to be an exemplary piece of cinema. The only real problems I could find are that story is a little slow and implausible at times; however I think that is the point as Lynch is not trying to spoon-feed his audience.

Due to the oddness of the characters in the film I also found that I didn’t really care for any of them come to the end of the film; other than Geoffrey (who although with his own strangeness always remains the focus of normality). This lack of empathy for the ending meant that certain moments in the climax and ending that didn’t affect me even though they where clearly meant to.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Blue Velvet is a true classic and the best example of David Lynch’s work. It’s not a film for everyone however those ‘who get it’ will join me in saying it is a masterpiece. 5 Lynch’s.

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Dune is the first film in this challenge that I had not previously seen and this somewhat excited me as it also a film I have heard a lot about. There are several versions of Dune in circulation (some of them under the name Alan Smithee rather than Lynch) and it took some time to decide which version I should watch. Eventually I decided upon the original theatrical release as this is according to a majority of my sources (not all of them) the only edit in which Lynch himself was involved.

I should also point out before reading that I am not a ‘fan’ of science-fiction and had no previous knowledge of Dune and its universe (other than it was set years in the future) prior to watching the film.

THE PLOT

A young man (Kyle Maclachlan) trains an army of desert warriors and pitches them in battle against the controlling government in an attempt to free their world.

THE GOOD

The special effects in this film where pulled off perfectly particularly for a film made in 1984. The giant worms look incredibly stylistic whilst even the photographic effects look amazing particularly in an early fight scene when two characters are fighting inside giant magical cubes (it sounds stupid and kind of is but looks good).

Cube

The performances of the cast and crew are all very good with Kyle Maclachlan taking the starring role and doing an excellent job in his first collobaration with Lynch. It was also interesting to see a young Patrick Stewart as well as a short-haired ginger Jack Nance.

Nance

The most Lynchian segments of the film come in several dream sequences in which Maclachlan’s character sees across the universe. These sequences make use of symbology to explain what is happening and are rather interesting particularly in showing the magic that exists in the universe.

Sand

THE BAD

Having no knowledge of the characters, locations or story going into the film was something I found a huge problem as right from the outset the audience is thrown into several deep conversations in which places and names are constantly name-dropped. Some of the elements are explained in a voiceover at the start which felt (and was) hastily added, however the majority of the film was spent attempting to figure out who was who and exactly what was going on. This became rather annoying and made the film seem long and tedious, perhaps more so than it was as in reflection there are many action sequences in the midst of the story.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

Dune is an interesting film to rate as I feel that if I knew the background of Dune (had read the book) and its characters I would have thoroughly enjoyed the film, as I would not have been so concerned by its mess of a plot.

There is however very little that I could describe as Lynchian in this film and therefore I can only award it two Lycnh’s.

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This week’s film is the Elephant Man which contains John Hurt in one of my favourite performances on film.

THE PLOT

Partially based on true events the film follows a Victorian surgeon (Anthony Hopkins) who rescues a deformed man (John Hurt) from a freak show and teaches him to live with disfigurement. The Elephant Man turns out to be a kind and sensitive man who struggles to find acceptance from society.

THE GOOD

The film is very different to last weeks film in that it is fairly mainstream with very little in the way of Lynch’s typical weirdness (especially in the plot) This is by no means a bad thing however as the film is extremely interesting throughout and a creepiness is created even if the narrative is linear.

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The film begins with a surrealist sequence in which an elephant attacks a woman; this sequence can be read in many ways and helps grasp the fact that the film is about ‘the Elephant Man’ (who will not appear on screen for a while).

The film is constantly interesting and raises emotions within the audience regarding how disabilities are treated within society; it is cleverly crafted in that the same events happen but in slightly better circumstances. At the start of the film the Elephant Man is mistreated and laughed at for being a freak; and although later in the film he is not mistreated he is still mocked (by the upper-classes of society), showing that even those who would class themselves as more civilised are not. The phrase once a freak, always a freak is one that is often used when talking about this film and rightly so.

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Being a mainstream film with a fairly big budget, David Lynch was most likely not allowed full creative freedom which is why certain parts of the film seem a little toned down; mostly however the film is magnificently crafted, with the use of black and white adding a true sense of eerie to the film. The make-up and locations are also perfectly co-ordinated to give a real sense of the deformity; this is highlighted in a short kidnap scene when drunk commoners attack the poor Elephant Man.

 

The film also contains John Hurt’s career best performance (until he plays the Doctor in November!). He is truly astounding as the deformed man delivering lines perfectly in a way to bring pure pity upon the man. Every word he slurs out pulls on ones heart-strings making the film an emotional pleasure to watch.

 

THE BAD

My main problem with the film (namely because of the challenge) is that it is not Lynchian enough; the film is too predictable with even the disgusting parts not being overly strange. David Lynch works best when he is allowed to create a Universe full of strange characters and in the film the characters are all too dull particularly Anthony Hopkin’s as the surgeon; who seemingly has no personality.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

I love the Elephant Man as a film and it would make my top 50 list; however on a Lynch-scale it is not experimental enough to deserve more than 4 Lynch’s.

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So after successfully completing the Year of Hitchcock challenge I’ve decided to set out on a new one in which I watch every feature film directed by David Lynch. I chose David Lynch for a variety of reasons; firstly because of a planned trip to Europe I needed to find a director who had made 11 films (allowing me to holiday for a few weeks without watching a film) and secondly because he is a director who is notorious for making strange, weird films and one of whom has greatly influenced in my own life in many ways. The first film of the challenge is Eraserhead and is a difficult one to review but I will try.

THE PLOT

Vacationing factory worker Henry Spencer (Jack Nance) suddenly finds that a girl with whom he had slept with has given birth to a mutant baby. He is thusly forced to marry her and led into a strange world of symbology and sexual metaphors in which reality is difficult to fathom.

 

THE GOOD

Personally I think that this is a fantastic film; it took five years to create due to financial problems, however Lynch’s attention to detail hide the change in time almost perfectly. Everything about the film is perfectly crafted with Lynch’s love for composition coming across in every extremely long take.

Framing

The films industrial setting really takes the audience into a world that although obviously not real feel as if it could be in a weird sort of way. There are giant machines constantly working, pipes and smoke everywhere, light bulbs flickering on and off, all adding to the idea of the world becoming a horrible and industrious place. The characters too seem to react to this with the father of Henry’s girlfriend talking extensively about a machine accident in which he lost feeling in his arm. The old man and the child both rushing to sell a disembodied head summarise the state of the world in Lynch’s mind in that everyone is desperate to escape from their circumstances.

Social awkwardness is a theme explored in this film, particularly through the performance of Jack Nance. Every time he interacts with a person there is a degree of awkwardness created through his body language and facial expressions; particularly when interacting with his wives’ parents. These moments offer a moment of slight comic relief and help the later, darker scenes come across as even more disgusting.

Henry

The mutant baby is the most memorable part of the film and rightly so; if opinion is to be believed Lynch himself, using a calf foetus, created the baby. Even if this is untrue the result still looks disgusting. The baby is used cleverly in the film as it gets progressively grosser looking as the film goes on. At the start of the film it looks deformed; however when it gets ill it looks disgusting and then when the bandages are opened up even more so. This works well in bringing a reaction from the audience as when watching you don’t believe it can get any stranger.

Baby

There are many other good moments in the film regarding the symbology and messed up nature of it that it would take far too long to cover every point; just know there are many key moments that are vivid and memorable throughout.

 

THE BAD

As I previously stated I really enjoyed this film as I find it extremely interesting to analyse imagery and not have a film force-fed to me. However if you are not a fan of cinema that makes you think and is full of sometimes pretentious metaphors then you probably won’t like this film.

When I previously showed the film to my classmates at my University’s Film Society it was poorly received with many people becoming bored and several leaving; it is not a film for everyone, but one that I find worth the effort of watching.

Pretentious is a word that is often thrown around in this film and one that I have already used and I can understand why. The film explores many themes such as sex, religion, society, birth and death using complicated metaphors which are difficult to decipher; with the use of long takes making it extremely hard to figure out not only what is happening but what it means. However endeavour and re-watches (this was my third viewing) do help bring some of the metaphors to light and make the film more enjoyable.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

Eraserhead is not a film for everyone but it is easy to see why it has such high esteem and why Lynch was able to use this as a platform to a great career. I therefore give it a maximum five Lynch’s.


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