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Cut up just like regular chickens
May 12, 2011 1:01 AM   Subscribe

Eraserhead is on YouTube. It's OK! 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
posted by flabdablet (109 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite

 
So I just, uh... I just queue them up like regular chickens?
posted by outlaw of averages at 1:08 AM on May 12, 2011 [10 favorites]


I just finished watching Blue Velvet five minutes ago, thats weird to log onto mefi and see Eraserhead linked.
posted by TheCoyote23 at 1:10 AM on May 12, 2011


This movie should be shown in every high school to prevent teen pregnancies.

"Oh! You ARE sick!"
posted by benzenedream at 1:16 AM on May 12, 2011 [11 favorites]


I wonder if, unlike 15 years ago, I am now sophisticated and mature enough to watch this film without feeling desolate for days afterwards and anxious every time I think about it for years.
posted by weston at 1:26 AM on May 12, 2011 [5 favorites]


I wonder if, unlike when I was 15 years old, I am now able to sit through it without feeling like I'm wallowing in dada and bored every time I think about it for years.
posted by rhizome at 1:28 AM on May 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


I knew something good would happen if I checked MetaFilter at 3:00 a.m.
posted by Krazor at 1:41 AM on May 12, 2011 [5 favorites]


David Lynch Signature Cup Coffee
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:46 AM on May 12, 2011 [6 favorites]


I haven't seen this since I was 16. Neptune theater. Wish I can remember what was the other part of the double-bill. Also saw Holy Grail there, an infinitely more fun experience.
posted by maxwelton at 1:48 AM on May 12, 2011


I have a difficult time understanding the appeal of this movie. Seriously, what is it that people like?
posted by psycho-alchemy at 1:49 AM on May 12, 2011


Bruce McCullogh loves Eraserhead
posted by codswallop at 2:03 AM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Seriously, what is it that people like?

It is so fucking weird and wrong that you are just constantly WTFing yourself. Some people like that (I do).
posted by Meatbomb at 2:08 AM on May 12, 2011 [7 favorites]


Seriously, what is it that people like?

What i recall liking best about it is that it did a really good job of capturing the mood and feel of a dream. The kind that you have at night while sleeping. Lynch conveyed the logic (or illogic, whatever you wanna call it) of dreams quite brilliantly, I think.

Been a loooong time since I've seen it though.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 2:33 AM on May 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


I ponied up for a rewind charge on that piece of crap. Was happy to pay it.
posted by hal9k at 2:41 AM on May 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


psycho-alchemy: For me, the appeal was initially the strangeness and eerie feeling the movie was abel to evoke. It was also coupled with a certain pride in being able to stomach such a movie.

When I watched again a couple of years later, I felt that it was also very much polished and thought out considering that it was Lynch´s first long movie.

I do not want to watch it again, as there is much else to watch but I still like to think about it and, e.g. marvel at the scene where the protagonist lies in bed: fever ridden and twitching under his blankets. I feel like he excelled at conveying a fever dream-like quality in a well composed and beautifully framed movie.
posted by Glow Bucket at 2:43 AM on May 12, 2011


Earlier this week a certain David Lynch (Filmmaker. Born Missoula, MT. Eagle Scout.) tweeted: In Heaven Everything Is Fine.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:50 AM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Eraserhead is a deeply unsettling film. It's not just that it's weird and a lot of "wut?" - it has a lot of Hitchcockian 'Don't actually show the worst of it, let people's imagination do that for you.' The use of black and white and sparse soundtrack is obviously intentionally enforcing this, leaving even more room to the vivid terrors and weirdness of the imagination.

It takes some doing to make a film that's this unsettling. The timing between gestures. The way people will itch and scratch at themselves along with the weird soundtrack that... for some reason has birds and... crawling, buggy, rustling outdoor noises indoors and in all the wrong places. The really uncomfortable, awkward tension that leads to an implied horror much worse than what you're seeing.

The budget was a shoe-string for all the weird crap that's in this film - and almost every single shot has some really complicated lighting scheme to kick up the surreal high contrast black and white photography. There's box lights and floods in the elevator in the opening scene. When have you ever seen lighting like that in an elevator? Look at the skewed boxlight floods implying weird angles to windows all over the place throughout most of the indoor and lighted scenes. I have a general grasp of movie/photo lighting techniques and he does a lot of strange/difficult lighting plans that maximize what he's working with by using a lot of reflectors and bounces in conjunction with the spots, fills and floods, box lights with baffles and gobos, etc. And much if this is on location interior shots, not sets. If you watch the composition of single take shots throughout the film watch how he frames them many shots have to be framed to hide light sources in unusual places. It's like the glowing briefcase from Pulp Fiction turned inside out.

There's this implied illusion of really strange decay nearly everywhere in the film. Lynch uses light like an unethical, immoral weapon, a poison gas. Same goes for the soundtrack. Turn down the sound and it's much less threatening. All that white and pink noise is intentional, and is meant to synergize with the grain and noise of the stark visual quality of the film and make you see and hear things that aren't there, and question the things you are actually seeing and hearing.

It's one of those nightmares where you can't walk fast enough, or you keep finding yourself falling, or naked, or losing your teeth or hair, or where you can't walk or talk, or people keep trying to fight you but you can't throw a punch. It's not so much like being chased by monsters but internal demons or situations.

It's not a pleasant movie, unless you're a masochist or sometimes a masochist and like unpleasant things - and unpleasant things have a place in art, just like bitter or spicy has a place alongside sweet or salty in food.

A lot of this unsettling power of suggestion through the use of timing, pacing, lighting and sound shows in Lynch's later works in varying quantities. Like Dali he has a motif or a theme. It's not just weird for the sake of being weird, it's about a deliberate, particular sort of tension. If you fall under the spell of his illusions and this tension, you may feel that at any moment, from second to second, a giant, terrible, tentacled monster is going to suddenly burst through the wall and start eating people. Or someone in the room will stand up and do something horrible - or everyone in the room except you will suddenly do something horrible. Or everyone is hiding secrets, maybe even yourself. Things do get worse, but there's never any climax, the hint that it could be even worse, no sense that the worst is over. All you get is tension, hints or suggestions of darkness, tips of icebergs of unspeakable horrors or incomprehensible things.

No matter how graphic and implied Lynch is, it's the unspoken part that's always worse.

If I remember that there's any real message at all that I took away from Eraserhead - it's that if you really look around you with the right kind of eye everything is dark and dreary and crappy and really deeply, unsettlingly weird if you think about it too much - so maybe you shouldn't do that, because that power of imagination and projection (and the implied fulfillment of those projections) goes both ways.
posted by loquacious at 3:16 AM on May 12, 2011 [90 favorites]


Still not as good as Liquid Sky though.
posted by joannemullen at 3:40 AM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Last time I saw Eraserhead, it was being projected in a bar in Barcelona. We were in there all evening, so I saw it twice, though with the sound down. It's a much better story than one might think - essentially Henry is trapped in a bleak marriage by an unplanned pregnancy, and has to try to look after the disabled baby despite having no support or source of information - once one gets the weirdness out of the way. Also, immensely sad - Henry tries so hard to do the right thing and ultimately fails completely.
posted by Grangousier at 3:50 AM on May 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


Seriously, what is it that people like?

I like the mood. And the sounds. And the dirty city feel. And the absurdity.
posted by telstar at 3:51 AM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'll have what she's having.
posted by pracowity at 3:55 AM on May 12, 2011


ERASERHEAD in 60 seconds with clay
posted by telstar at 4:04 AM on May 12, 2011


This film is one of my favourites. Anyone who cannot understand its brilliance is someone more to be pitied than scolded.

Half Man Half Biscuit are brilliant too.
posted by Decani at 4:10 AM on May 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


Anyone who cannot understand its brilliance is someone more to be pitied than scolded.

Anyone who would even suggest that someone else might need to be "scolded" for not "understanding" some piece of art's "brilliance" is to be pitied.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:23 AM on May 12, 2011 [10 favorites]


Pixies - In Heaven
posted by the painkiller at 4:29 AM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


I hadn't seen the entire movie before, so I decided to watch it before bed. Says it all right there, really.
posted by howlingmonkey at 4:48 AM on May 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


Anyone is to be pitied.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 5:31 AM on May 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


Seriously, what is it that people like?

The fact that it is extraordinary. Lynch has never made a film that was more thoroughly his own, more completely Lynchean, although Inland Empire comes close. This is an utterly distinct film, completely the work of one man's aesthetic, which draws more from the visual arts in its interest in mood and texture than it does from cinema's usual obsession with narrative and movement. But it manages to retain an essential humanity. It's a deeply sad movie. A lot of Lynch's films are.
posted by Astro Zombie at 5:40 AM on May 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


Anyone is to be pitied.

Actually, we are all to be pitied and scolded. I say we need a new word. Will it be "scitied" or "polded"?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:43 AM on May 12, 2011


v. disappointed this film was not about a superhero who is half-man, half-pencil and who erases his foes with the top of his head.

Dammit, Lynch. First you ruin Dune, now this???
posted by Eideteker at 5:49 AM on May 12, 2011


Dude, this is not OK. You do realize that the person who uploaded this to YT doesn't have the rights to it, don't you?
posted by mkultra at 5:53 AM on May 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


Hey, David Lynch, I just watched this on my FUCKING PHONE. Hurts, doesn't it?
posted by fungible at 5:59 AM on May 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


Hey, David Lynch, I just watched this on my FUCKING PHONE.

You are to be polded.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:01 AM on May 12, 2011 [11 favorites]


I scity the fool.
posted by _Lasar at 6:05 AM on May 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


His nightmare is not my nightmare.
posted by Obscure Reference at 6:17 AM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm easily affected by movies with the slightest amount of creepiness to them. I managed to freak myself out last week just looking at Twin Peaks clips on YouTube (I just wanted to refresh my memory about why I disliked the motorcycle boyfriend so much, but ended up watching clips of BOB, and Maddy's murder, etc).

There's no way I'm watching Eraserhead. I'd probably wet my pants.
posted by harriet vane at 6:20 AM on May 12, 2011


The fact that some people don't "understand" it doesn't make it brilliant.

For that matter, the fact that it represents one or more outstanding technical achievements doesn't make it "brilliant."

And some brilliant creations aren't very interesting. And some brilliant, interesting creations serve no constructive purpose, existing only as expressions of the auteur's vision (and leaving us to riddle out why the hell we should care about some auteur's vision). We are not morally or aesthetically obligated to pay attention to auteurs just because they're skilled, talented, "brilliant", or even uncomfortable-to-watch.

I was fascinated by this film when I first saw it, even though in those years, like Weston, I felt desolate and depressed for days every time I saw it. Powerful? Sure, I'll give it that. But I felt dirty after watching it, like I'd just been sitting watching and listening to some stranger on the bus expound on the virtues of some odious personal philosophy, complete with detailed and disturbing personal anecdotes in support of said.

I don't see it as boring dada. I think Lynch is setting out to accomplish something and pretty much accomplishes it. But unlike my 17-18 year old self, I now have sufficient intellectual confidence to listen to my own gut about whether I ought to be spending time on something like Eraserhead.
posted by lodurr at 6:21 AM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Man oh man, watching Eraserhead my freshman year in college changed me as a person. It unlodged something unsettling deep down. I love it.

I disagree with Loq's and AZ's interpretations a little bit, though that's part of the fun of Lynch — what you walk away with tends to say as much about you as it does about him. For me, Lynch keeps returning to this divide between what we're really like and what we pretend we are. Sometimes his characters are unaware of their own pretense, and things usually happen to jolt them out of their unconsciousness. Sometimes they just give in entirely to their brutal nature, and usually that leads to a lot of feral sex and violence. Or else they've figured out how to balance their inner nature with an acceptable social persona.

One of the things that gives Eraserhead such a powerful dreamlike feeling is how there's such a marked contrast between what the characters are saying and what they seem to be feeling. There's Henry's despondent hopelessness, there's Mary's fear which she masks by pretending it's mere social convention (I need sleep, care for the baby, be a good husband, &c.). There's that scene where Mary's mother kisses Henry on the neck that I think might be my favorite scene. Each character reveals a lot about themselves without saying a word that makes the things they do say seem meaningless.

It's also funnier about this than most people are willing to give Lynch credit for. There's something humorous to how bleak it is. The slow, dread-inducing timing is almost comic.

I disagree that this was the most Lynch film Lynch ever made. All of his examinations here, especially into lighting and sound, carry on with his subsequent movies and with Twin Peaks. (Watch how Lynch lights nighttime scenes in Twin Peaks. It's gorgeous.) But Eraserhead is the least "movie"-like of his movies. You watch it and suddenly wonder why other films aren't a little bit like this.
posted by Rory Marinich at 6:29 AM on May 12, 2011 [6 favorites]


When it came out I went to the local art house theatre and watched it. Came back the next night and watched it again. As though I'd been infected. Ended up seeing it 11 times in a row. The twelfth time I left the theatre at the halfway point. Done....
posted by judson at 6:33 AM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


"They're still not sure it is a baby."
posted by stargell at 6:33 AM on May 12, 2011


The rambling interview included with the dvd is video marijuana.
posted by TAP at 6:47 AM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


The first time I saw it, I remember being really on the line about what I was watching. Like, maybe it was the product of intelligent design, but maybe it was all just button-mashing. And then this part happened, where the wife is leaving him, and then she suddenly hurls herself to the floor at the foot of the bed and starts wordlessly shaking the bed in these spastic jolts. By this point in the movie that just seems like a perfectly plausible thing for a person to do! But then it turns out that she's just getting her suitcase out from under the bed.

It's one of the best moments in the film, and one of the funniest moments he ever filmed. It certainly helped me relax, safe in the knowledge that someone was definitely in charge of the whole mess.

Speaking of "mess", thanks to this post INLAND EMPIRE (my personal favorite Lynch) is going to get re-watched again this weekend, yessiree. And maybe Fire Walk With Me as well.
posted by hermitosis at 6:54 AM on May 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


Tossing the salad has clearly always been Grandma's job.

If anybody ever asks you to recommend a film depicting solid family values, this has to be the one to pick.
posted by flabdablet at 6:59 AM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


My introduction to Eraserhead was from Jello Biafra - in Too Drunk to Fuck he says, "you bawl like the baby in Eraserhead" and fifteen year old me was like, "Wow! That must be some crazy bawling!". And with my friends I tried to pull off this fiction that I had seen Eraserhead (oh, at some midnight showing last summer while you were at your aunt's house, before you knew me. When I was 13) based on that line and on Jack Nance's hair. They sort of bought it, I guess.

But then anyway, sometime later, when I actually saw Eraserhead, it was NOTHING like what I imagined it would be. I realized that anyone who had actually seen Eraserhead (and who I had had furtive conversations about it with (because I didn't want them to catch on, and all I could talk about was a bawling baby and some terrific hair)) knew that I was a fraud. But no one ever called me out on it.

Remember before the web, when you would hear about some interesting thing, some film or band, and you had to actually wait to find out more about it? You couldn't just learn all about it, what people thought about it, and probably view it for yourself, instantly?

But yeah, all that aside, I really like the film, and now I have since seen it several times. I can understand not enjoying it, I guess, but boy. I find it striking and troubling and hilarious, and not Dada (nonsense) but full on Surreal (evocative of the subconscious). Thumbs way up, for me.
posted by dirtdirt at 7:02 AM on May 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


Oh is this part of the new legal Youtube rentals? Oh I see it is not, and will last about a week.
posted by smackfu at 7:18 AM on May 12, 2011


Hilarity, from Wikipedia:
Poet and author Charles Bukowski referenced the film when interviewed on the subject of cable television. Bukowski said, "We got cable TV here, and the first thing we switched on happened to be Eraserhead. I said, 'What’s this?' I didn’t know what it was. It was so great. I said, 'Oh, this cable TV has opened up a whole new world. We’re gonna be sitting in front of this thing for centuries. What next? So starting with Eraserhead we sit here, click, click, click — nothing."
posted by dirtdirt at 7:19 AM on May 12, 2011 [10 favorites]


This is an utterly distinct film, completely the work of one man's aesthetic...

This.

It is a film that absolutely no one else could have made. Lynch's sensibility is stamped not just on every frame but throughout the soundtrack - which he labored over as obsessively as the visuals.

This gives only a small taste of its fevered production history:

From 1971 through 1976, this obscure, terrifying, original film consumed Lynch and a small group of friends, with whom he has remained close. ''David was developing a film grammar all his own,'' says the cinematographer Frederick Elmes, who also shot ''Blue Velvet'' and ''Wild at Heart.'' Most of ''Eraserhead'' was shot at the Greystone Mansion, an estate in Beverly Hills then the headquarters of the American Film Institute, where Lynch was illicitly living after separating from his wife. With blankets over the windows, his room became his world. He would ask Elmes to padlock him in at night so the watchman wouldn't suspect.

A fascinating account can be found in J. Hoberman's Midnight Movies.
posted by Trurl at 7:21 AM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh I see it is not, and will last about a week.

Actually I see this is up since last July. What is up with that? Is it because it wasn't on a major studio so there is no one bothering to enforce the copyright?
posted by smackfu at 7:23 AM on May 12, 2011


This is one of those films that you haven't truly seen until you've seen it in a big old art house cinema; preferably a slightly drafty one in midwinter. I really hope it stays up long enough to help generate enough interest to make that experience available to another generation.
posted by flabdablet at 7:27 AM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Had a friend in college who made the big move and invited the girl he liked over to his dorm room to watch a movie. What'd you get? I asked him. Eraserhead, he said, I heard it's an art movie so that ought to be good for a first date.

It was also the last date.
posted by escabeche at 7:27 AM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


As for me, I saw this at the midnight showing at our local art house -- after the movie I ran home and got under my covers and wouldn't come out. I don't know if this is the most frightening movie ever made but it's the most frightening one I've ever seen. For years I couldn't hear "In Heaven" without sort of freaking out.
posted by escabeche at 7:28 AM on May 12, 2011


It was also the last date.

Anti-chick flick.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:35 AM on May 12, 2011


Heh. A few years ago, one of my friends was telling me about how she'd found a torrent of this show, Twin Peaks, and it was really dark, but good! I mentioned that Lynch had done it, and she said that while she'd always meant to check him out, she'd never seen any of his movies, and didn't really know anything about them.

"You should check out Eraserhead first," I said. "It's his most accessible film."

The angry call the next day was totally worth it.
posted by honeydew at 7:44 AM on May 12, 2011 [16 favorites]


I wonder if, unlike 15 years ago, I am now sophisticated and mature enough to watch this film without feeling desolate for days afterwards and anxious every time I think about it for years.

Yup, same here. I kinda made it worse by watching Event Horizon immediately afterwards, expecting a cheesy and amusing horror film to lighten the mood. That combo left me terrified for days.
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 7:50 AM on May 12, 2011


Shuffling around a stage for 10 minutes is a special kind of brilliance that I always seem to miss.
posted by Brocktoon at 7:52 AM on May 12, 2011


I remember waiting so long for the DVD to be available on Lynch's website and rushing over to my film partner's house so we could watch it right away. Same thing happened with Forbidden Zone, and we need a post about that one too.

H.R. Giger has said that Eraserhead is the closest he's ever come to seeing his vision on screen and he would love to work with Lynch. But Lynch is mad at him because he thinks Giger stole the chestburster from the Eraserhead baby.

I used to have an Eraserhead shirt with the baby on the back. I've heard that Lynch would never let anybody know how the baby was made but that maybe it was a cow fetus. I like that idea a lot, but I can't imagine how it would last the whole shoot.

It was on Netflix instant a couple years ago. We had a guest over the night before Halloween and we put it on. They were alternately horrified and amused. I may have fallen asleep.
posted by Brainy at 7:53 AM on May 12, 2011


I kinda made it worse by watching Event Horizon immediately afterwards, expecting a cheesy and amusing horror film to lighten the mood. That combo left me terrified for days.

That is a really good combo, now that I think of it. Event Horizon, despite its flaws, is enormously underrated. It's atmospheric and genuinely frightening, and has touches of the same dream logic as eraserhead. It's the jackpot of B movies.
posted by fleetmouse at 8:01 AM on May 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


I can't imagine how it would last the whole shoot.

Just keep a whole cooler full of them close at hand, swap one out whenever the smell starts to make your eyes water. (Under those hot lights, I'm guessing that takes about fifteen minutes.)
posted by hermitosis at 8:02 AM on May 12, 2011


The thing that always struck me about Eraserhead is that the movie itself is not caustic. It may even have a gentle, frail heart. It's the outside world of the movie that's so bewildering and menacing. Harry seems like a sweet, affable, hapless fellow (I think there's something in the old silent comic tradition in his movements). You get the sense that he's a good person trying to live an honest, decent life, but who's confused, terrified, caught up in swirling events outside of his control. It's about corruption and debasement due to all of us being intrinsically part of this messy causal web of events and emotions and duties. That gentle, good heart staring in speechless horror at the world is what always sticks with me in all the indelible images and sounds of the movie.
posted by naju at 8:08 AM on May 12, 2011 [6 favorites]


I managed to freak myself out last week just looking at Twin Peaks clips on YouTube (I just wanted to refresh my memory about why I disliked the motorcycle boyfriend so much, but ended up watching clips of BOB, and Maddy's murder, etc).

Oh, the reason you didn't like James was because he was the most boring inert sad-sack biker ever (I'm actually in the process of rewatching the series with my ladyfriend). However! If you want to see a spectacular creation of Twin Peaks / youtube clips....
posted by FatherDagon at 8:12 AM on May 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


I disliked Eraserhead but I respect it because I think it is one of the most effective movies ever made. I can't think of another movie off the top of my head that so clearly and decisively fufills the goals that it sets for itself (maybe Fargo?). Eraserhead is one of the only horror movies. Horror is a word with a meaning and typically what gets called horror is a combination of being startled, grossed out, and basically satisfied in simple bread and circuses/ Joseph Campbell sorts of ways.

Eraserhead is horror, that bewildering, inadequate, desperate, unclean, wrong, feeling. Watching it I was constantly mentally distancing myself from it, reminding myself that it was fiction, that it wasn't my world, because it was too unpleasant to give myself over to it. This seperation wasn't the movie's fault. Normally when I'm as detached from a film as I was with this it is because I felt the movie cheated somehow, or because a filmmaker made a choice to call attention to the artificialtity of the film. In the case of Eraserhead I did it because I strongly did not, do not, want to feel the way the film wanted to make me feel.

I will say this; don't watch Eraserhead on youtube. Divided up into how many parts. That's not how this movie works.
posted by I Foody at 8:20 AM on May 12, 2011 [9 favorites]


Harry seems like a sweet, affable, hapless fellow (I think there's something in the old silent comic tradition in his movements).

Seriously? He's more or less a non-entity. He barely has lines.

That was the most horrifying part of the movie for me: Henry's basically a void.

Which is another decent parallel to Event Horizon, now that I think of it...
posted by lodurr at 8:22 AM on May 12, 2011


I will say this; don't watch Eraserhead on youtube. Divided up into how many parts. That's not how this movie works.

Yeah, if you're going to watch it, watch it all the way through in a darkened room. In YouTube clips, it's just memory-touchpoints and punchlines.
posted by lodurr at 8:24 AM on May 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


I mean, this is technically about iPhones but I'm pretty sure the effect is roughly the same. If you watch a movie on youtube (especially a Lynch movie), you only think you've seen it.
posted by bookwo3107 at 8:26 AM on May 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


That was the most horrifying part of the movie for me: Henry's basically a void.

That reminds me of my favorite pet theory about Blue Velvet: the only things "real" in the film are Frank Both and Dorothy Valens. Everything else, all the characters, the plot, etc, is just sets, cardboard cutouts, totally empty, void. And yet what else are Frank and Dorothy if not two polar opposite embodiments of the void itself?
posted by treepour at 8:29 AM on May 12, 2011


But then you lose Frank's role as Jeffrey's evil double/dark side. Isn't Frank more a projection of Jeffrey than Jeffrey is a projection of Frank?
posted by Mocata at 8:46 AM on May 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


The documentary Midnight Movies: From The Margin To The Mainstream includes Eraserhead in its pantheon of All Time Greatest Midnight Movies: El Topo, Night Of The Living Dead, The Harder They Come, Pink Flamingos, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and Eraserhead.

It's kind of a real life study in that Sesame Street segment "One Of These Things Just Doesn't Belong Here".

The other films have, at their core, a joy about life which (while perhaps a bit off-center) is palpable and makes for brilliant communal experiences when seen stoned out of your mind in a group of like-minded individuals.

Eraserhead, on the other hand, is so.... well, it really isn't any of that kind of movie, is it?
posted by hippybear at 8:55 AM on May 12, 2011


Although I have to say, I have had kind of a daddy crush on Jack Nance since his strange fascinating blue eyes and peculiar drawl and little white moustache captured me during Twin Peaks.

He's not nearly as crushworthy in Eraserhead.
posted by hippybear at 8:57 AM on May 12, 2011


Is Henry just a void? He never struck me that way. All of the characters have their own inner logic and ways of moving around this hermetic world that Lynch has created. Certainly he doesn't say much, but it's all about how he says what he says, his hesitations, the way he walks, his expressions and reactions to things, his micromovements. I haven't seen the movie in ages, though. The same thing struck me about Inland Empire, how the wordless nuances of the performances were so important when it came to interpreting the film. It's one of the things I love the most about Lynch.
posted by naju at 8:58 AM on May 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


On first view, some 40 years ago, this film made me feel as though I had just awoken from a terrible nightmare for days after.

Watched it again this winter and found it hilarious--it felt as though Lynch was having a ball being the kid in the dark tent who tells the scariest stories.

Lynch was brilliantly frugal in his filmmaking, in more ways than one.
posted by kinnakeet at 9:05 AM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's also funnier about this than most people are willing to give Lynch credit for. There's something humorous to how bleak it is. The slow, dread-inducing timing is almost comic.

Absolutely, and this continues in many of his other movies as well. There are times when it feels like Lynch is smiling and winking at his audience even in his darker, more disturbing movies like Eraserhead. LOOK AT MY KNEES!

It may even have a gentle, frail heart. It's the outside world of the movie that's so bewildering and menacing.

This is also very true in my opinion. When I first saw it, I was 17 and had just discovered existentialist fiction. I still think there's a lot of overlapping themes.
posted by Hoopo at 9:15 AM on May 12, 2011


Anyone who would even suggest that someone else might need to be "scolded" for not "understanding" some piece of art's "brilliance" is to be pitied.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 12:23 PM on May 12


Lighten up, flap.
posted by Decani at 9:24 AM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


There's something humorous to how bleak it is. The slow, dread-inducing timing is almost comic.

There's a lot of this in Inland Empire. There may be no director alive who is better at inducing pure dread. And much of it is in the service of ... nothing in particular. He'll have people take long, agonizingly suspenseful walks down long hallways that lead to -- another room! A guy talking!
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:29 AM on May 12, 2011 [5 favorites]


That is clearly the offspring of a sloth and ET.
posted by giraffe at 9:32 AM on May 12, 2011


You owe it to yourself to see Eraserhead in a theater. On a big screen, ass planted in a chair (ideally with a beer in hand). So you can't move. Or leave. Or turn your head away. Most of us have seen Eraserhead on videotape, or DVD, or VCR, where it's contained safely in a little box far away from you, where you can see around it and pause it and get up to take a little break. The horror of the film becomes much stronger if you really have to sit and experience the whole thing immersing you.
posted by Nelson at 9:37 AM on May 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


He'll have people take long, agonizingly suspenseful walks down long hallways that lead to -- another room! A guy talking!

Well if that's what you like, you'll love Last Year at Marienbad!
posted by binturong at 9:47 AM on May 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


don't watch Eraserhead on youtube. Divided up into how many parts. That's not how this movie works

Quite so.

Download the clips, make a playlist file (in a terminal window on Linux or Mac:

cd ~/Videos/eraserhead #or wherever you saved the .flv files
ls -1 *.flv >playlist.m3u

or a cmd window on Windows XP:

cd "%UserProfile%\My Documents\My Videos\eraserhead"
dir /b *.flv >playlist.m3u

or Windows Vista/7:

cd "%UserProfile%\Videos\eraserhead"
dir /b *.flv >playlist.m3u

Fire up VLC, make sure "Show media title on video start" is turned off under Tools->Preferences->Subtitles & OSD, then Media->Open File, browse to your playlist.m3u file, choose Video->Fullscreen and turn off the lights.
posted by flabdablet at 9:48 AM on May 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


The film that Lynch made before beginning on Eraserhead is called The Grandmother, and it's the story of a boy whose parents berate him and treat him terribly because he wets the bed. So one day he goes up into the attic and finds some seeds and plants the seeds in his bed, out of which grows his grandmother.

I've talked about this before, and I don't mean to hammer on it, but Lynch has stated that his beginning in filmmaking came from the desire to make a 'painting that moves.' Which is, in a painfully literal sense, what his first couple of short films (Six Men Getting Sick and The Alphabet) are-- quick little animations without plot or character or narrative, just some painty stuff happening in time. But with The Grandmother and Eraserhead, Lynch begins exploring a less literally-minded way of going about creating a painting that moves-- a film that follows the logic of a painting, the ways that a good painting has an internal cohesion and feel even if it doesn't correspond to the way that we experience the real world-- a good painting, by capturing a particular logic, can give us that logic and weird cohesion and allow us to walk away and look at the real world, briefly, through that logic rather than our own.

The important thing to bear in mind about Eraserhead, I think, is that everything that happens in it is real. Or, rather, everything in Eraserhead is just as real as everything else in Eraserhead, which is not quite the same thing as what we tend to think of as 'real' when we approach a movie. This isn't a like Fight Club limited-perspective deal where some parts are imagined and some parts are the 'true' story. The framing device-- the man in the planet who pulls levers and creates Henry, whereupon the baby floats out of his mouth-- isn't a funny little symbolist trope or something, it's also part of the narrative. It's like: Lynch's favorite painter is Francis Bacon. That painting feels a lot like Eraserhead, because I think it's functioning in the same way. The level of reality in Bacon's painting is a different sort of reality than we're used to: it's clearly not true-to-life in terms of Bacon is depicting what he thinks the Pope really looks like, but it's also not a political cartoon in which the sides of beef Stand For Something with labels and one-to-one correspondence with some clear message. Eraserhead is the same way. It's a world of painterly reality rather than regular-life reality or even horror-movie reality: it's not a science fiction film about a man who has a weird-looking baby that otherwise takes place in a fleshed-out alternate world. Everything in Eraserhead has an internal logic, a cohesion, but it's not like Lynch is positing a world that's slightly askew from ours or anything-- it's just not a film that's interested in that kind of thing.

Instead, Eraserhead arranges its details-- its dialogue, its lighting, its sound & set design, etc. etc.-- to create an inward-facing internal engine of a world, where things that seem bizarre or make no sense still seem, somehow, intuitively right. You never really wonder why there are big mounds of earth around Henry's apartment building. When it takes a seeming eternity for the elevator doors to close, you don't wonder whether the elevator is broken: it seems correct, even as it's unsettling. Lynch has a deep, deep trust of his own intuition, and with his best collaborators he's able to communicate that trust to others. You can hear it in interviews with Isabella Rosselini from the set of Blue Velvet: Sometimes Lynch would direct her, in extreme close-up, by holding his breath slightly, and she knew to pull back slightly on her performance. Somehow, he's able to translate this intuitive sense of what 'feels right' to dozens of set-ups, hundreds of shots, to a seven-year-long filming process to create something like Eraserhead, a film that feels like it's being beams straight from Lynch's subconscious. And when you walk back outside, the world is changed.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:49 AM on May 12, 2011 [14 favorites]


It's also funnier about this than most people are willing to give Lynch credit for.

Another great example of this is the scene where Mary is trying to get her suitcase out from under the bed. Comedy!
posted by Hoopo at 9:52 AM on May 12, 2011


Erased

...

guitar hero with jack nance
posted by mrgrimm at 10:19 AM on May 12, 2011


I just finished watching Twin Peaks last week and was just about to say "this is nothing like Eraserhead" as that had been my only non-Dune experience with Lynch and then the final sequence happened.

Also, I am not sure that Lynch has ever seen a human fetus or baby as his depiction of Alia in Jessica's womb in Dune was also pretty terrifying in a not medically accurate kind of way.
posted by epsilon at 10:34 AM on May 12, 2011


Eraserhead is why my brother hates axolotls.
posted by The otter lady at 10:41 AM on May 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


If you're going to sit at home and watch this then I suggest the Eraserhead: 2000 Edition which is the one I finally saw a couple of weeks ago, but if I had to go back I would watch that as a follow up to seeing it at a midnight showing at an art theatre. The 2000 edition has a long interview with Lynch talking about how he made the movie and an extra scene not in the original. There's a ton in there that I think any Lynch fan would appreciate.
One thing that Lynch mentions, that I think is really important here in light of some of the comments, is that (paraphrasing here) he has read many reviews and analysis of Eraserhead over the years and has never seen one that has gotten it right.
The very real importance, beyond what anyone takes away for themselves, is that it is Lynch through and through. I wish I had seen this film previous to seeing his other works including Twin Peaks. It would've allowed me to enjoy them much more along with an immensely better understanding.
posted by P.o.B. at 11:02 AM on May 12, 2011


I wish I had seen this film previous to seeing his other works including Twin Peaks. It would've allowed me to enjoy them much more along with an immensely better understanding.

I agree with this sentiment. Whenever I'm giving people a Lynch introduction, I always start with his short films (the DVD that has Lynch talking-head segments between each film) and then Eraserhead before getting into Blue Velvet or Twin Peaks or Mulholland Dr or anything else. Lynch's stuff isn't weird because he thinks weird stuff is neat, it's weird because he's, for the most part, working in a genre that you don't think he is.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:14 AM on May 12, 2011


If you want to see where Lynch started to veer into the Lynch we have today, you have to watch Lost Highway (I'm surprised no one's mentioned it, yet).

Right after Pullman's character is arrested, what started as an insanely creepy and perhaps amazing horror movie (Robert Blake was typecast) now turns into a "Well, I'm David freakin' Lynch, I have carte blanc. Just watch how many times I can get Roseanna Arquette's daughter naked."

IMO David Lynch switched the bodies not only in the jail cell, but behind the camera, too. All subtlety and artistic intent was traded for some absurdist manifesto that I, personally, don't like.

To be fair, I'm ignoring Dune's existence.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 11:49 AM on May 12, 2011


The slow, dread-inducing timing is almost comic.

The slow, dread-inducing timing is hilarious. Waiting for that damn elevator door to close was a tremendous wind-up, and then when it finally . . . just closes? I was in stitches.
posted by whuppy at 11:55 AM on May 12, 2011


In the interest of population control, I propose the Baby Fear Film Festival:

Eraserhead

Alien

Rosemary's Baby

Any other suggestions? I am looking for movies that instill a traumatic dread at the thought of pregnancy, and bonus points if it makes parenthood look bad too.
posted by idiopath at 11:58 AM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


The entire run of Full House.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:06 PM on May 12, 2011 [9 favorites]


The one question I would ask Lynch if I ever met him would be: If he was given full artistic right and merit, would he do a Director's cut of Dune? Pretty please?

And hopefully he wouldn't punch me in the face and/or immediately start meditating in front of me.
posted by P.o.B. at 12:23 PM on May 12, 2011


I think he'd say no, as he had a pretty rotten time with Dune and didn't really like it at all after it was finished and would probably sooner forget about it now.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:29 PM on May 12, 2011


And hopefully he wouldn't punch me in the face and/or immediately start meditating in front of me.

Based on the man whom I've seen speak in DVD features or be interviewed on Bravo or wherever, nothing remotely like either of these things would happen. But I do imagine that whatever his oblique, non-sequitor, eyes-focused-in-the-distance response or answer was, you would likely be dissatisfied.
posted by aught at 12:33 PM on May 12, 2011


I found it to be a really accurate depiction of how I've felt having dinner with certain girlfriends' families.
posted by neuromodulator at 12:33 PM on May 12, 2011


The slow, dread-inducing timing is hilarious. Waiting for that damn elevator door to close was a tremendous wind-up, and then when it finally . . . just closes? I was in stitches.

This is kind of the way I felt about the opening scene of the second season of Twin Peaks. That scene with Cooper on the floor that lasts about ten minutes with almost nothing happening except the weird elderly bellhop giving a thumbs-up is a landmark in television. I'm not being ironic. I'm also aware that others in my circle of grad school friends watching with me were less enthusiastic than I was.

It was so much fun watching Twin Peaks when it was a new thing. Seems like a million years ago now.
posted by aught at 12:38 PM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'll be honest that whenever I watch something by David Lynch I'm giggling almost all the way through, because it's all just so goddam Lynchy.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:47 PM on May 12, 2011


While I respect the man's opinion, I have to say that out of the few times I've watched Eraserhead, the most intense was on an iPod touch, with high-quality IEMs, on the bus, over two sessions. I started it on the way home one day, and finished it the next morning, nodding in and out of consciousness in spurts of 30 - 90 seconds. That day at work was very oddly colored. I find that I really focus on a movie on a personal device so much more intently than on a television or sometimes even in the theatre.
posted by owtytrof at 12:51 PM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Based on the man whom I've seen speak in DVD features or be interviewed on Bravo or wherever, nothing remotely like either of these things would happen.

Yeah, I wouldn't think so but those exist at the extremes on the continuum of options that I humorously thought he might possibly ponder doing. I figure most likely he would just blankly and unhesitatingly just say "no" without any explanation whatsoever.
posted by P.o.B. at 1:03 PM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


You owe it to yourself to see Eraserhead in a theater.

If you do that - sit towards the front. Half way through, turn around and take a look at the expression on everyone's face as they sit illuminated and un-selfconsciously watching this movie. That moment in itself is worth the ticket.

I saw this film when I was kid visiting Germany - went in surrounded by a lot of black turtleneck folks looking very cool and hip and in the scene - their faces all looked so different in the light of Eraserhead.
posted by astrobiophysican at 2:13 PM on May 12, 2011


MetaFilter: their faces all looked so different in the light of Eraserhead.
posted by hippybear at 2:21 PM on May 12, 2011


If you want to see a spectacular creation of Twin Peaks / youtube clips....

I was going to post that video, if you hadn't beaten me to it. So wonderful.

I spent several hours last night cutting snippets out of it and converting them into animated GIFs for forum avatars, in fact.
posted by rifflesby at 2:53 PM on May 12, 2011


Couple quick things.

Laurel Near, the lady in the radiator, was a close family friend of ours. Her kids and I grew up together. Then, around fifteen or sixteen, I found "Eraserhead" and fell completely in love with it. Still have the poster and everything. I asked her about making the movie. My recollection of the conversation is, Lynch had found her working a dance program in the Bay Area, liked how she moved and how she sang, and hired her. She only came to the set once or twice to shoot, and it was a long time before she saw a finished cut of the movie – which she thought was good, if inscrutable.

Also, I really enjoyed the short film "Eraserhead: The Lost Auditions" which just recently premiered at a monthly DIY short film thing in Portland.
posted by churl at 4:57 PM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


PS thanks for the post!
posted by churl at 4:57 PM on May 12, 2011


My little brother is 15 and is making unsettling little horror films already. I wonder if I should send this to him and break his brain.

I saw Eraserhead at college. I was 16. The theatre started half full and ended with me and one other person. I loved it because it felt so strange and alien. The fearfulness of late nights home alone.
Every other David Lynch film has disappointed me. Blue Velvet and Lost Highway felt too 'normal', and I haven't seen Twin Peaks.
I don't watch movies (or read books, or play games, or read comics) to experience the real world. The less connection with reality something has the more I prefer it, or it feels that way often. Eraserhead is the flip side of Speed Racer - it presents a world that makes perfect sense only in emotional terms, and is all the better for that.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 5:16 PM on May 12, 2011


What does David Lynch like to eat? Fillet O' Fish and a warm pair of panties
posted by hubs at 6:08 PM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Huh. Those who live in NYC might be interested in knowing that Eraserhead will be shown twice at midnight showings in June at IFC Center.
posted by hippybear at 6:25 PM on May 12, 2011


And now I'm digging trying to find Lynch online for viewing, but apparently it's not available. I captured it on my DVR a while back, and ended up playing it during a very hungover morning when I was kind of drifting in and out of sleep... and like all things Lynch, that isn't the best way to see it, or perhaps it's the perfect way to see it. I should watch it again as an alert person sometime.
posted by hippybear at 6:30 PM on May 12, 2011


Father Dagon, that Twin Peaks clip was simply perfect. Hypnotic and just the right kind of atmosphere. Although it does remind me how much Sheryl Lee's hairstyle made her look so much older than she or Laura were at the time.

And yeah, after a look at a few plot summaries, I remembered James' love-triangle with Donna and Maddy, and then the older woman subplot that wouldn't die. Why couldn't BOB kill him instead?

Shakespeherian, what genre would you say Lynch is working in? Given that the only thing I can say with certainty about his work is that he prefers non-verbal & non-literal communication with the audience, I'd love to have even a vague idea of where he's coming from.
posted by harriet vane at 12:19 AM on May 13, 2011


The best way to get an understanding of Lynch is to watch the Short Films of David Lynch DVD. Lynch is notorious for declining to discuss the 'meaning' of his films, but in Short Films you get the next best thing: He talks, at length, about the circumstances of his life, his ideas, his inspirations, his debts, and his desires surrounding each of his short films. The ones at the very beginning of his filmmaking career are especially illustrative of where he's coming from.
posted by shakespeherian at 6:41 AM on May 13, 2011


Aha, yep I see where that would be the best source of info. I'll see if I can get hold of it from Quickflix or somewhere. I wish Kubrick had done something similar!
posted by harriet vane at 7:07 AM on May 13, 2011


I tend to see David Lynch's films, particularly the ones that I like best (Lost Highway, Mulholland Drive, FWWM, TP), within a Jungian framework, perhaps unfairly so. But they often involve an exploration of "inner space" and characters are often divided, literally, into two (Leland/Bob, Laura/Maddie, Dale, Fred Madison, Betty/Diane).

"Individuation" seems to be what most of his movies are about, characters coming to terms with their personalities, particularly as those individual personalities clash with their external worlds. Elephant Man, The Straight Story ...
posted by mrgrimm at 8:53 AM on May 13, 2011


"Huh. Those who live in NYC might be interested in knowing that Eraserhead will be shown twice at midnight showings in June at IFC Center."

Weekend of my birthday! Thanks, hippybear. Shall I call a meetup, NYC MeFites?
posted by Eideteker at 9:09 AM on May 13, 2011


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