Archive for the ‘David Lynch’ Category

These days, short film ads are fairly ubiquitous. You know the sort: an ad disguised as a short film—which usually follows or precedes an ad about the same product— and presented as a story with characters and plot all wrapped around a-not-so cleverly hidden product placement.

Well, it seems David Lynch has jumped into this particular fray with obvious relish.  The results are really intriguing, and certainly the best of this genre of advertisement. Lynch is not new to the world of ads. He has done spots for coffee and perfume in past years, always with his particular cinematic eye, and this series of short film ads for Dior’s new line of handbags called LadyDior, are no exception. True, the product placement is utterly blatant (it always is), but it’s done in a way that is funny and silly, with that sort of offbeat, Lynchian perspective. The ads themselves are Lynch through and through; from the writing to the lighting and music, David Lynch has been given free rein to do what he does best. And the very hands on nature of these ads harkens back to his earliest short films and first feature; he not only writes and directs the pieces, but he works the camera, edits, writes music and does sound mixing. It’s all very beautiful and mysterious, and you almost forget that it’s an ad for a handbag, which I guess defeats the purpose in way.

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Mulholland Drive (2001)

Director: David Lynch

(WARNING: Contains spoilers) In a recent poll, more than 100 film critics and bloggers voted David Lynch’s enigmatic Mulholland Drive  as the best film of the decade, which I found, admittedly, a bit suprising.  I say suprising because Lynch films are often met with sharp divisions of love and hate, usually with no middle ground to speak of, so for a film of his to gather this much universal acclaim is certainly noteworthy.  I am, in the end, happy Mulholland Drive was named the best film of the decade since I come down on the side of loving his films (OK, he’s my favorite director next to Luis Buñuel so maybe I’m a little biased). To me this unified declaration proves, decades into an amazing career, Lynch is still making deeply personal, and highly charged films that continue to burrow under the collective skin of film goers the world over.

Mulholland Drive along with Lost Highway (which shares many similar ideas on doppelgangers, alternate narratives/universes (see my previous review of Lost Highway) are two of my favorite Lynch films, although they were not always so. I enjoyed Lost Highway enough, but wasn’t struck by it like I was when I first saw Blue Velvet. A few years later when Mulholland Drive came out my response was pretty much the same. I had also been following the history of the film so I knew that it was originally a pilot developed for ABC which the network declined to accept for various reasons. Once Lynch got the rights back he shot more footage and expanded it into a movie. I think my knowledge of this clouded my initial response which was this: that the first hour was amazing and the second half not as engaging. In other words it felt like a pilot that was reworked into a feature film. There were plotlines and characters that felt like dead ends (even more so than the usual Lynch film), and I was left wishing this had actually been made into a series (I still do, just a bit).

It was only after talking to a friend at length about the film, his impressions of it, what he thought the ending meant, how it related to the rest of the story etc., that I rented and watched it with fresh eyes. I’ve watched it many times since then, and I have grown to not only admire this film, but really count it among my favorite in the Lynch cannon.  This renewed interest prompted me to see Lost Highway again, and again and again, each time admiring both films that much more.

Unlike Blue Velvet and Wild at Heart, both of which struck me immediately, I needed more time warming up to Mulholland Drive and Lost Highway; the narratives that turn into themselves again and again, the endings that are really not endings but beginnings, they are two films that are more challenging, in the same way that Eraserhead and Inland Empire are challenging. They are not immediately accessible; they don’t reveal themselves upon first viewing; they are dense mysteries that may never be penetrated, and that’s OK because they may not need to be, they are often simply what they are upon first discovery: unabashedly bizarre, disconcerting, hypnotizing, utterly visceral experiences. Its languid pacing lures the viewer into a false sense of understanding which is routinely undermined by diversions and distractions of the main plot-line. The visuals are luscious and lurid as usual, a phantasmagoric welling of Technicolor seediness that often boarders on madness. Mulholland Drive is the perfect culmination of ideas that Lynch started with in Lost Highway, sans the overwhelming menace of the latter. True, there is menace here, just under the surface, but there is also joy and sadness, and a strange sense of calm that envelopes Betty in the final scene of the film. There is redemption in Betty’s face, she is full of promise, echoing that of the beginning of the film. 

The story of starry-eyed, aspiring actress, Betty (Naomi Watts) and the mysterious, amnesiac, Rita (Laura Elena Harring) trying desperately to discover her real identity, has all of the hallmarks of classic Lynch: absurdly naive characters; brutal explosions of violence that emerge from seemingly mundane surroundings; dialogue that is at once kitschy and mysterious, a cadence that lends itself to the entire filmic artifice which evolves in rapidly organic and frightening ways over the course of the movie; detours down the dark alley ways of film noir; an approach to filmmaking that is timeless, but also immediate, of the times in which it was created. Mulholland Drive  is a sort of love letter to Hollywood and filmmaking, a more twisted version of Sunset Boulevard. It is a waking dream about dream-making, it plunges you into the city that drives all of this, exposing the monsters that skulk around in the shadows, that move about in the golden, smog-infused sunlight. From the bungalows to the back lots, the diners and houses on hills, Lynch is gives the audience a journey around L.A., his L.A., the reality, but also that one that exists in dreams and nightmares. Like Chinatown and L.A. ConfidentialMulholland Drive evokes a by-gone Los Angeles of gloss and crime, while giving us a strange preview of the present and future, one that is only fully glimpsed by Lynch himself.

And there are many memorable scenes; Betty’s reading at a casting call that recalls, in some strange way, the scene in Wild at Heart between Lula Fortune (Laura Dern) and Bobby Peru (Willem Dafoe) in the motel room; Angelo Badalamenti‘s hilarious turn as a mobster who is just trying to get a good cappuccino; Betty and Rita in a climactic scene at the mysterious Club Silencio with vocalist Rebekah del Rio singing an a capella version of Roy Orbison’s “Crying” in Spanish to the weeping lovers. The whole scene is strangely moving and the last time we see them together before their relationship collapses and is reborn into another storyline and pair of characters.

Of course, like Lost Highway, Mulholland Drive has been written about at length, so anything I add will be just short of redundant, and possibly border on the mindless drivel of a Lynch fan (of course this didn’t stop me from putting together a previous “review” of Lost Highway). There have been much better, far more articulate overviews of Lynch and his films, the best of which very well might lie in the late David Foster Wallace’s article for Premiere magazine*.

In the end Mulholland Drive, is probably the most heart breaking of Lynch’s films. It is a tragic love story at its core. Lynch even called it a “love story in the city of dreams”. The moments between Betty and Rita are some of the most intimate, sincere of the film (especially so in the lovemaking scene; yes it is meant to be titillating, but it is also tender, one of the most honestly moving scenes Lynch has ever filmed). There is a sort of naked honesty present in many scenes between the two women, the same kind of moments Lynch conjured in the underappreciated Straight Story. Eliciting this sort of raw emotion proves that Lynch is not just about being “weird” for weird’s sake as many of his detractors would argue; he is also a director deeply interested in the human condition, about how it feels to be alive.

Perhaps Mulholland Drive makes perfect sense as the film of the decade, the first decade of the 21st century, if only in the eyes of a bunch of critics and bloggers. In many ways it reflects the times we live in, the dangerous uncertainties of a new century, and for lack of a better word, the surrealism of many events that left their indelible mark upon the decade.

* David Foster Wallace’s essay is not only a fascinating portrait of an artist at work, but an appreciation of that artist’s career, and how that career affected his own writing (you can also find this in his amazing collection of essays A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again) .

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16082253Lost Highway (1997)

Director: David Lynch

(WARNING: Contains spoilers) Although not exactly a horror movie, David Lynch’s Lost Highway is without a doubt creepy and disturbing, and does have the underpinnings of that genre, but like some of Dario Argento’s films, specifically Susperia, it defies any sort of genre categorization. Perhaps his darkest movie, unrelentingly so, the film leaves so many questions on the minds of viewers as to its intentions.  Its ending is its beginning, the movie twisting in on itself like a Mobieus strip. And unlike most of his films, there is no redemption at its closing, its characters don’t emerge from the darkness for the better (think Blue Velvet, Wild at Heart, even Inland Empire and Eraserhead to lesser extents). In this respect, it is the most terrifying of “horror movies” because there is no way out for the characters, nor is there one for the audience.

 When I first saw Lost Highway in the theaters I wasn’t immediately struck by it like other Lynch films. The images were astounding as usual, the music amazing, the pacing precise, but nothing stuck with me save a few amazing shots. But over the years it’s impression has grown on me; the themes of doppelgangers alternate worlds and questions of identity (very similar to its almost twin Mulholland Drive) are at once immersive and challenging because Lynch gives the audience no easy answers only more questions, the pieces of the puzzle never coming together exactly as you think they should.  Without going into a Freudian/psychological dissection of the movie (it’s been done enough certainly),  I will simply say that it’s amazing film, one that is indeed watchable over and over simply because there is so much about it that reveals itself over time.

The plot pulls heavily from film noir, but at the same time subverting expectations of that genre. An avant garde jazz musician, Fred Madison (Bill Pullman) is living a strange, distant marriage with his femme fatale wife Renee (Patricia Arquette). They begin to receive videotapes in the mail, video footage shot from inside their home, while they are in bed, asleep. Soon Renee is murdered and Bill is sentenced to death. But while in prison, a bizarre transformation occurs and he becomes Pete Dayton (Balthazar Getty) an auto mechanic who works for a mob boss named Mr. Eddy (Robert Loggia). The plot then shifts to an entirely different set of characters and circumstances that we later learn are strangely related to the first.

From the opening scene—a car speeding down a lonely highway at night, headlights cutting a path through the darkness with David Bowie’s amazing track “I’m Deranged” pulsing in the background—it is clear that this is a David Lynch movie, this is his universe and nothing is what it seems. The title itself is evocative; all at once calling up images of b-movies and film noir which again Lynch uses as a basis for luring the audience into a more desne, surrealistic movie than any standard film noir would offer. Co-written with author Barry Gifford (whose book Wild at Heart Lynch had previously made into a film) the story is laced with dead-ends and strange, awful coincidences, giving the audience a feeling of uneasiness, that they t00, like Fred Madison, are trapped in a nightmarish world that loops endlessly. The tag line at the top of the script sums of Lynch’s intentions in typical Lynch fashion:

A 21st Century Noir Horror Film.

A graphic investigation into parallel
identity crises.

A world where time is dangerously out
of control.

A terrifying ride down the lost highway.

Nothing is ever what it seems in a Lynch movie, but even more so in Lost Highway. Just when it seems there might be a resolution, a way out so to speak, Lynch turns the film in on itself again. By the end we know who spoke into the intercom at the beginning of the film, but, as we soon realize, this doesn’t give us any sort of standard conclusion. There are allusions to further transformations, to more parallel lives, identities yet to be defined, another part of the film that will never be made, but exists, nevertheless, and continues to evolve in utterly phantasmagoric ways in the audience’s mind. As the tag line states, time is fragile in this film, not to be trusted, it is continually unraveling.

AliceAnd as usual, it is the photography and lighting that play a big part in solidifying Lynch’s dream world upon the screen. Lurid, technicolor colors swirl around everywhere; Renee’s jet black Betty Page hair, the strikingly blonde of Alice’s gangster moll; dark reds throbbing and flashing in clubs; the humming, static blues of rolling videotapes. And more than any other Lynch movie this is a film about darkness, degrees of visual darkness that slowly swallow up characters. The darkness that envelopes Fred down the long narrow hallways of his house at the beginning of the film become almost a representation of his mind unraveling, of his very identify coming into question. Lynch has an eye for detail, for unearthing the strangeness in everyday objects. People, bedrooms, chairs, phones, curtains all become something beautiful to photograph.

From Bill Pullman to Patricia Arquette to Robert Blake giving an amazing turn as the Mystery Man, the casting is perfect; the characters are at once cartoonishly pulpy and thoroughly engaging and believable. There is tension between the characters that is unrelenting, even in the quieter scenes. It is especially devastating in the relationship between Fred and Renee, their distance personified by how they sit across from one another in the living room, to the strained and desperate love-making scenes. And of course there are those great Lynchian moments; the psychotic Mr. Eddy reacting to a tailgater and the Mystery Man telling Fred that he has phone call in a way that is anything but mundane.

In the end, Lost Highway is a film without any easy answers, one that stays with you until you see it again. And as a police investigator quips towards the climax of the film: “There’s no such thing as a bad coincidence.”







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I almost fell off my chair (in fact I did, I’m in traction right now!) when I heard that David Lynch will be exec producing Alejandro Jodorowsky’s next film King Shot. Alejandro Jodorowsky is the filmmaker and comic book writer behind such cult classics as Holy Moutain, El Topo and Santa Sangria. If you’re like me and love relentlessly strange films, less than tangible story lines that go on for hours and wild shenanigans with lots of midgets, than this is going to be like the Oscars for that sort of thing! Read more about the collaboration at Variety

And if that wasn’t enough David Lynch-coated information, included below is the official poster of Cannes 2008 based on a photo by Lynch.

poster cannes 2008

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