Director Showcase – David Lynch
As a number of his films have recently been given the Blu-ray treatment, Tom decided to take a look at the master of surreal cinema, David Lynch, in this week’s Director Showcase.
It has been six years since David Lynch’s last opus, Inland Empire, divided audiences with its nightmarish tale of an actress who becomes consumed with her work, and like many other fans I am longing for him to return to the world of cinema. He has not been idle with his time though and has recently released an album described by critics as in the style of ’electronic blues’ which is a continuation of the music he has previously worked on for some of his films. Whilst waiting for his next directorial outing there has never been a better time to revisit his classics; the majority have been remastered for their recent blu-ray releases, adding clarity and enhancing the sound of films that were already near perfect voyages into the mind of a crazed genius.
Not many directors have had such a profound effect on cinema that their own surname becomes an adjective used to describe a certain style of film, but the term ‘Lynchian’ has gradually wormed its way into common use among film fans. Any films that bear the hallmarks of Lynch’s style; a surreal dreamlike quality, a fascination with the macabre, or a complete disregard for the usual constraints of time are likely to be deemed Lynchian but there are few film-makers out there whose style can even be considered as remotely close to that of David Lynch’s. In a filmography full of high points it is a very difficult task to select certain films over others but below are what I deem to be his four most essential works.
One of the most jarring directorial debuts of the 1970′s, Eraserhead is a bizarre masterpiece that is perceived by many to represent Lynch’s fears of fatherhood. Set in the sparsely populated surroundings of an industrial town, Henry Spencer fathers a mutant child with his girlfriend who is prone to fits and struggles to contend with his baby’s need for attention. Sharing their flat with a woman who lives in the radiator, and yes you did read that correctly, Spencer lives in a nightmarish world that gradually drives him insane. It may be too surreal and absurd for some but this is a cult classic that spawned one of the most indelible haircuts and introduced the world to a director who would continue to break the mould throughout his career.
The Elephant Man
Alongside Tod Browning’s Freaks, The Elephant Man is one of the best representations of those unfortunate enough to be confined to circus sideshows due to their unusual appearances. John Hurt’s Oscar nominated performance as John Merrick highlights the difficulties of life with a disfiguring disease in this true story of a 19th Century Englishman who finds friendship with a sympathetic doctor and attempts to lead a normal life. Nominated for a total of eight Oscars but criminally overlooked for every single one, The Elephant man is a heartbreaking eulogy fittingly shot in stark monochrome that is easily Lynch’s most compassionate and unforgettable film.
Lynch’s most controversial film, Blue Velvet’s depiction of sexual violence towards woman cauSed outrage on initial release, with Dennis Hopper’s villain shining a light on the seedy underbelly of American suburbia. Klye Maclachlan stars as Jeffrey Beaumont, the innocent young man who investigates the discovery of a severed human ear in a field and is spurred on by the inaction of the police. Only Lynch could subvert people’s perceptions of suburbia so effectively, and this soon became a common theme that can be found in most of his movies.
There are so many different theories on the symbolism and meaning of Mullholland Drive, and the fact that Lynch can create such a fascinating film which still inspires countless discussions on its hidden meaning is a sign of his true genius. When an actress suffers a car crash, her dreams blend with reality as her story intertwines with that of another actress and both women discover that nothing is as it seems. For all of our male readers who have yet to see this film, a certain scene between Naomi Watts and Laura Harring is bound to get you hot under the collar.
The Straight Story – Perfectly titled for what is one of Lynch’s more traditional approaches to film-making, The Straight Story is a heartbreaking tale of an old man’s journey by lawnmower to repair a broken relationship with his brother. That’s right, by lawnmower – even with a fairly straight forward film by Lynch’s standards he just can’t help to throw in an absurd plot device.
Wild at Heart – A surreal road trip movie with several allusions to The Wizard of Oz, Wild at Heart follows the lives of two young lovers who flee from a disapproving mother, a strange hitman and a weary detective.
Inland Empire – Lynch’s last offering was deemed overlong by some but it still has the capacity to take hold of my attention for three hours as well as supplying some very creepy imagery.
Lost Highway – One of Lynch’s most cryptic films which contains possibly my favourite scene in any of his movies, the infamous phonecall sequence, Lost Highway is a mind-blowing head trip that defies categorisation and emphasises his fascination with the Mobius Strip..
Films to Avoid:
Many people agree that Dune is one of Lynch’s weakest films and whilst it is a far from being a bad film, it is arguably Lynch’s most inaccessible work to date.
About The Author – Tom Bielby
Long time film fan and aspiring film writer, Tom is a horror fanatic who wasted far too much time at University sitting through every film in the IMDB Top 250. He is partial to foreign films and cult cinema and would love to rid the world of people who rustle their popcorn during important scenes. He can be found on Twitter under the alias @filmbantha
Are you a fan of David Lynch? What are your favourite films? Comment below…