Category: David Lynch


This week marked the end of my David Lynch challenge and the viewing of the most recent feature film he has directed. Inland Empire is an intriguing film and one that truly summarises Lynch’s entire career.

THE PLOT

The narrative of this film is difficult to summarise; in essence it involves a female actress (Laura Dern) who is cast in the lead role of a film. As the film begins production it is discovered it is actually a remake of an older film in which the cast committed suicide. Things then begin to take off as the actress becomes engulfed in her character and begins to lose sense of herself, time and even where she is at. This means that large portions of the film are unsynchronised from the narrative and it a rather confusing film to follow.

THE GOOD

Despite its complicated narrative the film is a good film and each scene is obviously meant to mean something, although it is not always clear exactly what. From the start the film is intense and as expected from a Lynch film throws the audience in at the deep end. Throughout the entire film it is difficult to know which parts are fictional (in the story) and which parts of real as there is very little difference.

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The film is also beautiful to watch with each shot crafted with care and lit perfectly; several moments are beautiful and look astounding. There are several set-pieces in the film which are ridiculously creepy and cannot be explained; namely the inclusion of clips from Lynch’s own short film ‘Rabbits’, about several people in rabbit suits living domesticated life.

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The entire film is truly bizarre and baffles the mind but the look of the film is pleasing upon the eye and the tension that is created throughout is also consistent. Even when I had no idea what was happening it was difficult to look away.

 

THE BAD

Now I have to be honest and say that for once the narrative was too complex to make the film truly enjoyable. Now I have no problem with non-linear narratives that use imagery to explain what’s going on; as I’ve previously written on this blog I believe Mullholland Drive and Eraserhead to be masterpieces of doing such. The problem with Inland Empire is that it takes this too far; there are too many unrelated characters and stories going on that I struggled to follow anything past the first hour (of which there are three).

 

Around halfway through the film I was forced to turn to Wikipedia in attempt to explain what was happening and even after reading their summary the film was still a mess. It is said that the film was never written as a feature film but was simply several short films made by Lynch stitched together; this theory makes perfect sense when watching the film as characters seemed to constantly change.

 

The film also felt too long, at 3 hours in length, it is the longest film made by Lynch and feels it; particularly as there is no straight narrative to follow. It may look pretty but good looks do not make a good film.

 

The main problem with the film I had however is that there is no common theme within the different sequences, they are truly disconnected. In Eraserhead for (which is probably the closest film in style to this Lynch has made) there is always feeling that each sequence has meaning of some kind and you are left afterwards with thoughts about industrialisation and family. Inland Empire however has no such kind of themes; it is film which doesn’t seem to be about anything and therein lies the problem.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

Sadly Inland Empire is a step too far for David Lynch and an overdone film which I don’t see the point of. It is very Lynchian but not in a good sense. The film simply left me with a headache. 2 Lynchs.

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This weeks film is one that I had no previous knowledge of (which is surprising for someone such as me) and therefore it was one of the rare occasions that I could enjoy the film without any expectations. Straight Story is the only feature film which David Lynch directed and did not receive a writers credit; it is also based upon a true story which is a nice thought.

 

THE PLOT

Alvin Strait (Richard Farnsworth) is an old man, barely able to walk and battling several illnesses. However when he discovers his brother with whom he hasn’t spoken for some time has suffered a stroke, he takes his lawnmower and sets on a road trip in which he encounters a range of people.

 

THE GOOD

The story of the film is a very touching one as most road trips movies tend to be. As the old man travels we discover more about him and learn to truly empathise with what he is going through.

The film is exquisitely written with each line of dialogue having clear meaning however it is from the visual side that the story is truly told. The film was apparently shot in sequence which will explain the use of so many long, exquisitely framed takes. There are long periods in which there is no dialogue; however that is not important as the performances and framing tell us so much more about what is happening. There are several shots of the countryside that are truly beautiful.

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The performance of Richard Farnsworth is astounding and I was surprised to see that he didn’t win an Oscar for the performance until I saw that he was against Kevin Spacey’s career best in American Beauty. The stubbornness of Farnsworth’s character to not back down and preservere through all the troubles he encounters is the backbone of the film and makes it an enthralling watch.

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THE BAD

Ok, I really enjoyed this film as a piece of cinema; however I did find myself disappointed because it did not feel anything like a David Lynch film. There was nothing strange about the narrative; the characters generally seemed fairly normal (albeit some of the acting a little over the top) and there wasn’t even a dream sequence!

The film is also by no means fun to watch, it is a hard film to pay attention too as there are many lengthy driving sequences that seem to stretch out endlessly; however it is also captivating by nature and drew me in so that although at times it felt slow, it was never difficult as each scene linked together well and everything seemed purposeful.

FINAL THOUGHTS

So this is a difficult film to rate because it is a great film which I would strongly recommend as an storytelling in a visual sense, but I think that the lack of oddness in story and character means that I cannot give this a high rating on the Lynch scale. Therefore I award Straight Story a begrudgingly meagre 3 Lynch’s.

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This week I must apologise as I watched the wrong film… The eighth feature film directed by David Lynch is Straight Story, however due to a mishap with me accidentally looking at his writers credit when going to watch the film I accidentally watched Mulholland Drive!

Mulholland Drive however is an astounding film. Originally created as a TV pilot when it was rejected by the studios Lynch filmed some extra footage to round up loose ends and finished it as a feature film that is thoroughly entertaining and full of meaning.

THE PLOT

When aspiring actress Betty (Naomi Watts) arrives in Hollywood, she finds that a amnesiac woman, Rita, is staying in her aunt’s house. Betty and Rita thus set out to figure out what happened; gathering clues that lead them to Mulholland Drive, a Winkies diner and a TV Studio amongst other places. The film explores dreams and reality in a unique way and at no point ‘spoon feeds’ the audience.

THE GOOD

When watching the film it is difficult not become creeped out. The film throws you right into the deep end and for a long time you have literally no idea what is going on… not that it really matters, every scene has something unique and mesmerizing about it that I found myself really not caring that the characters where caricatures on the verge of extreme, particularly Naomi Watts fresh faced actress.

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As expected the film follows the Lynch pattern and contains several bizarre characters that help to move the story; in this film they include a cowboy, a coffee-spitter and a crazy old lady. However one of the most bizarre roles is given to Justin Theroux who plays film director Adam Kesher. In a blatant parody of how the studio system in the US exploits their directors, Kesher is forced to hire a lead actress whom he doesn’t believe correct for the part in a series of strange encounters and vague threats. Amongst all this he also discovers his wife is having an affair in what is a brilliant comic moment of the film.

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It is difficult to explain the film without giving away spoilers and therefore I won’t say much other than that the last half hour of the film is a true wonder and does a really good job of fixing the plot-holes from the TV pilot and rounding everything off to a point where it mostly makes sense. This portion of the film contains a new set of characters played by the same cast members and is extremely confusing to figure out, but once it clicks is ridiculously clever.

 

THE BAD

It is difficult to think of anything bad with this film as it is so enjoyable; however I do have a small problem in that a few scenes (not containing the main cast) seemed to be a little pointless. For example there is a scene when two policemen discuss the car crash but are never seen again – these scenes most likely appeared as bigger characters in the TV pilot but in the film should, in my opinion have been cut or altered in some way.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

Mulholland Drive is a wonderful David Lynch, which could be seen as a darker, cleverer version of Blue Velvet. 5 Lynchs.

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This weeks film was Lost Highway, a film I had previously seen whilst drinking and had little memory of apart from the bizarreness of the storyline. Re-watching the film was an intriguing experience and the film is enjoyable in a way that only David Lynch can provide.

 

THE PLOT

The film has begins following a saxophonist through his day to day life, before he randomly morphs into a younger mechanic. This new character has already lived his full life and has no memory of the other character, leading to some strange encounters and lots of complicated twists towards the end.

 

THE GOOD

The film is as strange a film as you are likely to see and with all Lynch’s best work is so because the world in which it is set is based on our reality, with added touches of oddness.

There are several scenes which stand out as being particularly good and clever use of filmmaking such as the contrast between loud jazz scenes full of strobe lighting and quiet conversations. However it is the input of the ‘Mystery Man’ that makes the film.

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This man has a pale face, reminiscent of the Emperor in Star Wars, and a creepy smile. He appears at key points in the film and speak in strange metaphors. One of the creepiest moments in this film (and it is a creepy film) comes as he videotapes the saxophonist sleeping and leaves the tapes on the doorstep. As the the man watches the videotape the output becomes increasingly frightening.

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The film keeps the Lynch cinematic style of using wide angle shots that are perfectly framed rather than cutting constantly, this as always add a tone to the film that intrigues the audience without boring them.

The film also contains the kind of dark wit for which Lynch is famous for writing; there is a moment when an evil characters chases down a car and beats the man for ‘tailgating’ quoting the average stopping distance in a moment of genius comedy and surrealitty.

 

THE BAD

The film is very intriguing and my main problems come from the narrative and the little explanation there is (although this is probably the point). Neither the saxophonist or the mechanic are given a proper exposition so there is little to like about them and therefore as the narrative moves forward there is little reason to care; particularly when the first character is simply forgotten for 45 minutes.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

Lost Highway is a good film; creepy, confusing and original. It is a must see for any Lynch fan although a difficult watch if you don’t know what to expect.

4 Lynchs.

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Firstly I must apologise to my readership for posting this a day late; there have been some problems beyond my control that prevented me from posting on time but oh well, on with the review.

This weeks film is one I have been looking forward to since the start of the challenge. I am a huge fan of the Lynch’s TV show Twin Peaks; loving the quirky universe, which is created, however have never got around to watching the film which is a prequel of sorts.

THE PLOT

The film is split into two parts; the first involves two FBI agents (Keifer Sutherland and Chris Isaak) investigating the recent murder of Teresa Banks. Then after a brief cameo from David Lynch himself and Kyle Machlachlan reprising his role as Agent Dale Cooper; the film shifts to the town of Twin Peaks and we are shown the weeks build up to the death of Laura Palmer.

THE GOOD

The film is very much in the tone of the TV series; with absurdity contrasted seriousness in such a unique way that it is impossible to not be entertained. There are the usual Twin Peak moments of stereotype characters such as the local sherriff who makes bad jokes about coffee.

There is also a few moments of pure terror within the film particularly towards the end of Laura Palmer’s storyline when she is haunted by the threatening prescence of ‘Bob’. There is a also a strange sequence involving David Bowie which makes absolutely no sense but is very intriguing to watch.

Several scenes in the film are set within the Black Lodge and as in the series these scenes look astounding with the red curtains, creepy statues, ziz-zag floor all coming together to create a world that is terrifying.

THE BAD

The problem with the film is that for all the good parts (and there are a few) it is simply too difficult to understand. The shift in the narrative at the mid-way point is not explained at all and really shocking as there is no closure as to what has been happening. It then restarts with the story of Laura Palmer and this whole section feels forced and silly, particularly with the way some of the cameos from the TV series are just thrown in.

With a knowledge of the TV show I could just about fathom what was happening however I couldn’t help but think that if I who hadn’t watched the show I would have no idea what was going on; there is no real exposition; things happen that make sense in one way but no sense in the other making the film a headache and a drag.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Twin Peaks Fire Walk With Me is as strange a film as you will get; however it is let down by a ridiculous narrative and lack of justification in anything. The entire film feels simply pointless and was a huge disappointment. 2 Lynchs.

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This weeks film was Wild At Heart and was once I was looking forward too as I knew it contained Nic Cage going crazy and doing Elvis impressions (something which sounds fantastic).

 

THE PLOT

After being released from jail young lovers Sailor (Nicolas Cage) and Lula (Laura Dern) run across the country whilst being pursued by Lula’s mother and variety of strange goons.

THE GOOD

The film is very Lynchian in that it takes reality and puts a strange twist upon it; however in this film the line is not as blurred as it was in last weeks Blue Velvet. The characters are all typically Lynch odd with strange obsessions and traits. Nic Cage playing an Elvis loving, snakeskin jacket wearing vagrant is the obvious stand out to the cast as he brings with him the flair and entertainment value which only he is truly capable.

The film is stuffed full of sex and violence; it begins with Cage beating some guy with his bare hands on a staircase in what in probably the best scene in the film. The violence is in no manner played down throughout the film with each punch taken or given felt and plenty of fake-blood being used.

The sexual scenes in the film are also filmed very stylistic with each ending with a flash to a colour (normally red). In one extended sequence of lovemaking there is a flash to each colour of the rainbow intercut with the couples in a variety of positions.

Amongst all this violence the film is also full of references to the Wizard of Oz; even to the extent that when in extreme danger Laura Dern clicks her heels together three times in an attempt to escape from the world and return home. However she is not in Oz she is in the universe of David Lynch and therefore such an easy escape is impossible. She is forced to endure further torment.

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The film contains several cameos from actors such as Crispin Glover and Isabella Rossellini in roles as insane goons. These ‘goons’ are sent to hunt and murder Cage and Dern but find themselves stopped by their own obsessions and quirks. The standout of all these characters however comes in the performace of Willem Dafoe in the role of the least insane goon. Dafoe spends much of the film playing games with the other characters and showcasing his horrible teeth; it is at times hilarious and at other creepy to watch him.

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THE BAD
For all the great characters in the film it is let down greatly by the narrative. The story is thin and tiring with very little to it. The film feels as if it was made simply by Lynch putting crazy characters, sex and violence into a movie to see what happened. Characters lack motivation and depth making them almost boring even if they are insane.

In last weeks review of Blue Velvet I discussed how that film bordered the line between reality and oddness perfectly to create a charming universe. Wild at Heart however shows what happens when the balance is off; the characters make this film consistently weird meaning that all sense is reality is lost. Meaning that scenes such as bank robberies lose their impact.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

Wild At Heart is an average film with some good characters but very little plot. 3 Lynchs.

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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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