Sunday, March 11, 2007

David Lynch: hideously weird...

"A woman in trouble" (tagline to Inland Empire)

When I watch a David Lynch film it always sends me into a semi-hypnotic state combined with that whacked out hallucinatory head trippy feeling. I like David Lynch and have done so since I watched that disturbing oddity Blue Velvet back in 1988.

It is of consequence that the two favourite painters of this cult indie film director are Francis Bacon and Edward Hopper . Hopper with his cityscapes and landscapes that smack of utter loneliness’ and alienation. People in his paintings never seem to connect or show any physical closeness. Lynch creates Hopperesque townsvilles that reflect a kind of edgy normality but dig deeper and you will see the influence of Bacon with the seedy underbelly of life which represents distress, violence, raw anger, and emotion. Towards the end of Inland Empire there is a scene strongly reminiscent of Bacon’s Head.

Inland Empire, rather like Lynch’s previous film Mulholland Drive, has the Hollywood theme throughout. Hollywood, the place where “stars make dreams and dreams make stars. Or conversely where dreams are tarnished and destroyed. Where the character played by Laura Dern is seen staggering along Hollywood Walk of Fame puking up blood after being stabbed.

The story revolves around an actress played by Laura Dern (a Lynch favourite) who is visited in her gloomy and creepy Louis XIV house by a “neighbour” (Grace Zabriskie… another Lynch favourite who played Laura Palmer’s mum in Twin Peaks). The scene is unnerving as the camera close-ups lingers on the expressive faces. The neighbour tells Nikki that she will land a part based on a Polish story, an old tale “about marriage” that will end in a “brutal fucking murder” and that if “tomorrow is today you will be sitting over there”…...

If you are looking for linear narrative then you will be disappointed as Lynch creates his films out of ideas. A kind of stream of consciousness with visual flair. Nikki the actress gets a part in a film where she finds out it was made before by a Polish film company but something dreadful happened to the leads. The viewer is pushed head first rather like Alice in Wonderland down into the trippy labryrinth of the story. Nikki the actress becomes Susan Blue (the character she plays in the film).

Another device of Lynch is changing identities or to be technical, photogenic fugue. It is a familiar device as Lynch used it in Mulholland Drive and Lost Highway. Is Nikki really Susan or is Susan really Nikki? Is this a film within a film? Who are the women who appear with Susan/Nikki and lip synch and dance along to the song “Locomotion”?

There is also parallel story about the two Polish leads in the original doomed production. What is real and not real? The Lynchian devices are apparent such as eerie low level noise/music, demons, time travel, low level orange/red lighting, warnings of eminent danger, blood red curtains, theatres, endless doors with Axx nn written on them (incidentally Axxon N. was a murder mystery story which never got off the ground for Lynch), time portals, fuzzy and disjointed camera shots. The only difference I found is that Lynch uses close-ups much more.

The film is a little under 3 hours but hey, I forgive Lynch as I was rooted to the chair. It absolutely makes no plot sense and I have given up trying to understand the meaning of Lynch. I just go with the flow. I remember spending days trying to figure out Mulholland Drive. That is what I like about Lynch there is no beginning, middle or end and no straightforward story. You can see the influences Lynch has on, whether consciously or not, other writers and directors (The film Donnie Darko and telly drama Desperate Housewives are just two examples… well, even more so since Lynch favourite Kyle “Agent Cooper” MacLachlan joined Desperate Housewives..)

Rather like Inland Empire, you never truly get it but it is 3 hours of spectacular Lynchian invention with no denouement except more weird and whacky dance routines at the end.

I don’t have a clue at what the rabbits set in a 1950s telly “comedy” (including canned laughter) represent…….


AN said...

Although strangley my favorite lynch film is "The Straight story", which was his most formally conventional.

There is also an intersting link to the debate on osler's blog where Snowaball has been agreeing with zhadanov that there are class lines in Art.

Lynch is an amazingly right wing indiviudal but great artist.
(the other example i would give is novellist cormac McCarthy as a great artist but political neanderthal)

Louisefeminista said...

Oh yeah, I agree, he is utterly right-wing but bloody great inventive film director. And yes, same with Cormac McCarthy.

I am big fan of Rodin, Cezanne, Renoir and Degas yet they were reactionary as hell. Their views on the Dreyfus affair were utterly appalling riddled with anti-jewish racism.

Dreyfus split the Impressionist movement down the middle with Pissarro, Monet and Mary Cassatt (one forgotten woman painter...)supporters of Dreyfus.

AN said...

With regard to Mccarthy, I have always suspcted that the over praise of "All the pretty Horses", is because the literary establishment were simply too uncomfortable with praising his completely brilliant master piece, "Blood Meridian" due to its moral ambiguity over genocide, and must have been so releived when his next book was about something else, anything else!
BTW - before i get comments YES i perosnally thikn genocide is a bad thing, and i am sure mccarthy also does, but the chracters in the book think it is a good thing, and there is no editorialising to contradict them. (Actually writing a book from the point of view of the genocidal murderers makes it an even scarier and more shocking book to read than it sounds, which is why it is such a chellanging read)

Louisefeminista said...

All the Pretty Horses was made into such a terrible film...........

Louisefeminista said...

David Lynch originally trained as a painter at art college.

A claim to fame for me is an ex-work colleague met Lynch and seriously the exchange between them could easily be something out of a Lynch script... as it was utterly surreal and plain bizarre...but very funny (unintentional methinks!) and so Lynchian....

Tawfiq Chahboune said...

Don't get Lynch one bit (or most of Cronenberg, for that matter). Take Mulholland Drive. A perfectly understandable film for about two-thirds of the film. Then, for no reason I can fathom, some of the characters shrink to about two inches in height. Twin Peaks was quite a fascinating watch until, almost suddenly, it became completely incomprehensible. Lynch is what Kristeva is to philosophy.

The worst thing about Lynch is that he made The Elephant Man. By doing so, he ruined an entirely worthless career by making a great film.