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February 2, 2012 10:23 PM   Subscribe

The 50 best David Lynch characters. And David Lynch films - from worst to best. And David Lynch's best music moments. Craziest David Lynch moments.
posted by crossoverman (55 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
I was just happy to see the Lady in the Radiator.
posted by mr_roboto at 10:26 PM on February 2, 2012


Lynch isn't to my taste, but I think The Straight Story is a very, very good movie.
posted by dglynn at 10:32 PM on February 2, 2012


00 spool
posted by Ad hominem at 10:42 PM on February 2, 2012


Kyle Mclaughlin

Damn good actor. And hot too.
posted by littlesq at 10:44 PM on February 2, 2012


Except for the Slate article (and this has to be the first time I've ever said that) I think these rankings are all completely screwy.

Someone please tell me I'm not the only Lynch fan who found Inland Empire completely unwatchable. And better than Lost Highway? Not hardly.
posted by mikeand1 at 10:51 PM on February 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


Also, #1 character is Dale Cooper?? Good lord no...

"the potato-faced Kyle MacLachlan" One of those DFW lines that made me bust out giggling.
posted by mikeand1 at 10:54 PM on February 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh they did not just say that about On The Air.
posted by darksasami at 11:06 PM on February 2, 2012


Yes, I found Inland Empire very very had to watch. Parts of it hurt my brain.
posted by Ad hominem at 11:12 PM on February 2, 2012


You know I used to think Lost Highway was a little subpar. Then I saw it in the theater.

Go see it in the theater.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:33 PM on February 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Can i just say i hate these 50 or 100 lists. They just seem like too much and unfocused, sort of like throwing it all at the wall. :P
posted by usagizero at 12:02 AM on February 3, 2012


Lost Highway is every bit as good as Mulholland Drive.

They're dreams from the same night.
posted by Sebmojo at 12:56 AM on February 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


EYE EM HO
posted by Sebmojo at 12:58 AM on February 3, 2012


One of the most memorable movie going experiences I've had was seeing Fire Walk With Me on its first run. People were absolutely baying their displeasure, proclaiming the movie all manner of things, screaming profanities at the screen, the room, and the film in the general. I've rarely seen people made so angry by a film, and the fact that the source of their anger was shocked bewilderment (as opposed to a moral or religious objection) seemed hilarious to me at the time.
posted by stinkycheese at 1:22 AM on February 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


I found Inland Empire to be incomprehensible gibberish. It's as if David Lynch wasn't even bothering to make films that had some semblance of story - that he was making "Lynchian" films.

A while after that I saw Lost Highway, and I think that marks the point where David Lynch said, "You know, these fuckers are just expecting me to make weird movies. I don't have to bother following any of the rules for making good movies. They'll watch whatever I put out, because I'm Hollywood's weirdo."

Related: David Foster Wallace's essay on the making of Lost Highway, where he points out that the star of the film seems to be an absolute asshole.
posted by The River Ivel at 2:41 AM on February 3, 2012


50 best seems a bit much, like the author is being paid by the word or something. The beauty of David Lynch's films and especially his characters is that even if you don't particularly like them (Blue Velvet the film and especially Frank Booth left me absolutely cold) they really stay with you. Almost everyone I've ever met who has seen a Lynch film is able to remember specific characters vividly, and they can usually quote them too. My own favorite just off the top of my head is The Cowboy from Mulholland Drive:

"If you do good, you'll see me one more time; if you do bad, you'll see me two more times."

It's like poetry for people like me who don't like poetry.
posted by motown missile at 2:49 AM on February 3, 2012


A while after that I saw Lost Highway, and I think that marks the point where David Lynch said, "You know, these fuckers are just expecting me to make weird movies. I don't have to bother following any of the rules for making good movies. They'll watch whatever I put out, because I'm Hollywood's weirdo."

I'm always amazed when people talk of Lynch being some obtuse weirdo, when both Lost Highway and Inland Empire were fairly straightforward in terms of the actual story. Especially when compared to Mulholland Dr.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 4:06 AM on February 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm always amazed when people talk of Lynch being some obtuse weirdo, when both Lost Highway and Inland Empire were fairly straightforward in terms of the actual story. Especially when compared to Mulholland Dr.

Can you please tell me what the hell happened in INLAND EMPIRE, then? I understand Mulholland Dr. way better than I understand that one.

Lynch is one of the kindest-hearted and best artists I know of in any medium; I think one of the things that makes all his movies so watchable (YMMV) is the love and sympathy he clearly has for every character, from the rightest to the most wretched. They're all parts of him, and he treats them as such.

Beyond that, he does just a fantastic job of illustrating the struggle between necessary civilization and alluring wilderness. To be civil is to abandon your primal impulses and do what's right rather than what's wanted. That first article expresses astonishment that Dale Cooper from Twin Peaks manages to be so thoroughly good, yet so fascinating; I don't think he's interesting because he's a quirky guy. Rather, he's interesting because every moment he's good, Kyle MacLachlan is showing us how his goodness is a conscious choice on his behalf, one he contemplates and strives for, and while there's a warm and weird goodness beneath that keeps him propelled, a lot of his best moments are artificial and labored-upon and you get a clear sense of him thinking, "I don't want to do or say this, but this is what a good person ought to say or do."

On the flip side is the fact that when you give into the wilderness, you give up your civilized nature for something far more magnetic, fierce, savage. Lynch's villains are utterly compelling, but we never side with them, because we know what they've given up to be so powerful. There's a contradictory weirdness to trying to be good, yet to give up the contradictions and be purely vile is not a trade-off worth making. Though Lynch shows, and sympathizes with, all his good characters frequently giving into various temptations, and he never judges them for their lapses.

His films are among the most purely religious that I know, yet there's no dogma to any of them.
posted by Rory Marinich at 4:49 AM on February 3, 2012 [9 favorites]


Can you please tell me what the hell happened in INLAND EMPIRE, then?

Woman sold into human trafficking watches TV, thinks about stuff, is later rescued.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 4:53 AM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


and/or possibly murdered.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 4:59 AM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


INLAND EMPIRE is fantastic. I think that people who see it as a departure for Lynch rather than a summation have deeply misunderstood him as an artist.
posted by shakespeherian at 5:34 AM on February 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Dune is not better than Wild at Heart.
posted by dortmunder at 5:37 AM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]



Can you please tell me what the hell happened in INLAND EMPIRE, then?

David Lynch took a camera and disappeared up his own ass.
posted by dortmunder at 5:38 AM on February 3, 2012


Lynch's "hard" films like Mulholland Drive, Lost Highway, and Inland Empire are like Chinese puzzle boxes -- entirely impenetrable until you discover the trick, after which they become quite transparent and obvious.

Example: In Lost Highway, the only scenes that happened in real life are the video replays. That's why the guy hates video -- "it shows how things really are." The rest of the movie is the fantasy running through the guys head as he hurtles down the lost highway, running from the scene of the crime he just committed.
posted by localroger at 5:44 AM on February 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


David Lynch took a camera and disappeared up his own ass.

See, but that's not fair. Lynch is weird, but he knows that he's weird and he makes his weirdness funny. Pauline Kael said that Blue Velvet was ultimately a romantic comedy, and in a strange way she's right, it fits the romantic comedy structure better than it fits a horror movie or thriller (though its contents are clearly horrific and thrilling).

Lynch has an incredible poker face, which leads people to confuse him as pretentious or bizarre. But when I watched Eraserhead with a group of friends, there was a surprising amount of laughter at stuff which I thought was disturbing when I saw it alone. The movie's hilarious, once you get over the part of you that feels perpetually repulsed at its contents.
posted by Rory Marinich at 5:45 AM on February 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


Oh, and this David Lynch/Coil mashup has been linked before, but it's still terrific.
posted by Rory Marinich at 5:50 AM on February 3, 2012


It was all downhill from Eraserhead.
posted by clvrmnky at 5:55 AM on February 3, 2012


Inland Empire is probably my second favorite, after Mulholland Drive.
posted by Houyhnhnm at 5:59 AM on February 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


I disagree with the puzzle box version of understanding Lynch's films. It's simultaneously working too hard and not giving the films enough credit that they want to be exactly how they are. They're exactly the events that transpire on the screen, no part more real than the rest. You have to remember that Lynch fell sideways into narrative storytelling-- it's never been the chief interest of any of his work to develop a narrative. I'm quite serious when I say Lynch's most difficult film is The Straight Story.
posted by shakespeherian at 6:06 AM on February 3, 2012


What would you say is difficult about The Straight Story? Are you going with Tim Kreider's interpretation that there's something dark about Alvin's past which he's trying to atone for?
posted by Rory Marinich at 6:21 AM on February 3, 2012


They're exactly the events that transpire on the screen, no part more real than the rest.

The Straight Story is the only film Lynch has ever made of which this can be considered even approximately true.
posted by localroger at 6:41 AM on February 3, 2012


On the Air was so good. So, so good. I mean, I know that it was actually horrible, but it was also so, so good.

When I was a little kid, I wanted badly to see Twin Peaks, but my parents said it would have been wildly inappropriate. So, when On the Air showed up, I figured that was my chance to finally see something like Twin Peaks, but appropriate for kids.

I think it was the first time in my life that I was excited to see a new sitcom. The only television I had really watched up to that point were reruns on Nick at Night. So, when I saw this new show called On the Air, I came to it from a place of ignorance, and I figured that this was what new sitcoms were all about.

Anyway, I loved it, and I never forgot it.

What I loved especially was the contempt it had for the typical set-up and punchline format of a sitcom. There wasn't really anything witty about it. Maybe the reason I loved it so much as a kid was because it was structured like a joke made up by a kid, where it winds up like someone doing an impression of someone telling a joke, where you can tell rhythmically where there are supposed to be punchlines and such, but they have no real meaning. It's like a forerunner to Tim & Eric, in a way.

Anyway.

"BLINKY IS NOT BLIND" remains to be one of my favorite jokes of all time. I'm also deeply amused to discover that there is a band called Bozeman's Simplex, who have a song called "Blind," and that right there is like a double lutz of obscure references.
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:44 AM on February 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Are you going with Tim Kreider's interpretation that there's something dark about Alvin's past which he's trying to atone for?

More or less. The Straight Story is the only one of Lynch's films that deals explicitly with regret and events that occur outside the temporal bounds of the film. It is the least self-contained picture and requires the most work on the audience's part to piece together Alvin's character and story. First runner-up, I think, is Fire Walk With Me.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:02 AM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


They're exactly the events that transpire on the screen, no part more real than the rest.

The Straight Story is the only film Lynch has ever made of which this can be considered even approximately true.


See, I disagree completely, just as I also disagree with the puzzle-box methodology.

What makes Lynch movies work, when they do work, is that Lynch actually has an excellent grasp on narrative structure. He really, truly does. He knows how to draw people in, he knows how to make a piece progress, he knows how to give make a scene rise and fall and lead into the next scene, he knows how to make a movie stand together as a united whole, etc.

As a matter of fact, Lynch is an absolute master of narrative, filmic storytelling, except for one tiny, important detail: he doesn't tell stories, at least not as we understand them. It's a willful technique. Just as Cronenberg's Crash has been aptly described as pornography for a fetish that doesn't exist, Lynch's movies are narratives for stories that don't exist.

To put it more clearly: you know how dreams are interesting when you have them, but they're tiresome when you're either telling them to someone else, or being told one by someone else? I mean, hell, you know how generally frustrating it is to discover that a story has been a dream all along, even just within the fictional universe of the narrative?

Dreams are immediate, enthralling experiences, where events fade in and out, and you normally have to train yourself to even recognize when a dream is a dream. But as soon as they're taken out of that immediate, enthralling zone, they become laughable dumpsters of events and possible symbols. Something gets lost whenever we try to take a dream out of a dream world. Most of us lack the ability to consciously piece together what makes a dream so irresistibly hypnotizing.

Well, that's where David Lynch comes in. He knows that dreams aren't normal stories, but he also knows that they're not just explosions at the symbol factory. He's able to make a movie flow like a dream, where things don't seem to happen normally, but instead do unfold with a fluid dream logic. He knows which associations can lean into others; he knows when and how to make transitions; he knows how helpless the "main character" of a dream really is.

He knows, for example, that mood, image, and sound can trump logic. Consider a moment in Eraserhead, when the main character walks into a room, and there's a weird suckling sound. Things happen, but then he eventually looks down and sees a mother dog suckling her pups. Of course dogs don't actually suckle that loudly, and of course it's not a story about puppy-suckling. But Lynch understands that, in dreams, a small detail can become absorbing for a moment. In dreams, we're all reduced to children - oh, what's that sound, be quiet for a moment, I need to see where that sound is coming from. That sort of thing can move the story along just as well, if not better, than any typical sort of conflict.

Think elsewhere in Eraserhead, with the little chickens served for dinner. First we see the little chickens, then we hear a horrible story about their origin, then the main character tries to slice one, then the legs start wiggling, then it starts oozing something or other. (I might be misremembering the order here.) Again, this is terrible story logic for a normal story, but this is excellent dream logic. Each moment slides into the next, led only by gut and emotion, unmoored by logic or any other attempt to interrogate it. It's much like the yes-and rule in improvisation.

Think about how you'd feel about that scene if you were in it. Oh, isn't it time for dinner? Yes, it is, here, have some little chickens. Oh, what are these little chickens? Oh, there's a story about them. Oh, that's weird, pretty unnerving, doesn't really sound like a food story, I guess I'll try to eat them, but now I can't think of them as food, and they look so odd, they look like they wouldn't do something normal if I were to try to eat one. Oh, dammit, looks like I was right, now the damn thing is wiggling. Is it alive? Is it dead? Oh God, what else...oh, of course it's oozing something horrible, why wouldn't it do that. Just my luck.

The main character keeps on moving forward, never stopping to soak in the weirdness.

For one thing, the characters in a Lynch movie always want something. The audience might not understand the universe, and the audience might not even understand the main character, but there is something that the main character wants, and the audience will always understand what it means to want something, and the audience will sympathize and follow along when that character faces obstacles in getting what they want.

For another, everything is real in a dream, which is why dreams lack reality. Compare this to our own tired world, in which we must vigilantly police what is true and what is false. Outside of lucid dreaming, we are only able to take our dreams at face value, when we are having them. Dreamers don't critique, and dreams don't critique themselves. After all, it took an awake person to invent latent content.*

This is why it's safe to say that everything in a Lynch movie is "actually" happening. Just as you can't say that one stretch of your dream didn't "really" happen, just because it didn't fit in thematically with other parts of your dreaming or waking life, or just because you eventually became someone else or appeared somewhere else in your dream, you can't really say that parts of a Lynch movie aren't really happening, because they're right there in front of you, playing at 24 frames a second.

Lynch has obviously internalized Hitchcock's credo that you should never show the audience anything which didn't actually happen. It's just that Hitchcock had meant that in the context of thriller-mysteries, where you should never show a "cheat" flashback, as that isn't fair to the audience, whereas Lynch takes it quite a bit further into his own universe, where everything either hangs together equally or not at all.

...

Just as in a Pinter play, individual slices of a Lynch movie may make perfectly good sense unto themselves, but assembled into a greater whole, it moves gradually into total nonsense. Think about the "fumbled assassination" scene from Mulholland Dr. Individual snippets of that sequence make perfect sense, on some level or another, but assembled into several minutes, it becomes like something between a joke and a nightmare. Think about Blue Velvet, where the aw-shucks corniness slides deftly, back-and-forth into the darkness. Individual scenes might not strike anyone as being particularly odd, and even the scenes that are odd unto themselves seem like they could have come from a more conventional movie, but assembled into a whole, it becomes an epic of weird.

Compare Lynch's work to some of the material from self-proclaimed avant-garde filmmakers. Often, there is no attempt to obey a narrative framework. Outside of some of the masters' work, much of the avant-garde comes off as static, cerebral, or as merely a formalist experiment - and this is often on purpose, mind. There may be no characters, and even if there are, none of the characters may "want" anything in any real sense.

Think what happens when people try to do what Lynch does, but without Lynch. Consider many attempts there have been to make Twin Peaks-alikes. Why are they all so clumsy? Why is it obvious that they're not at all from the same guy, or even the same sort of guy? They always err on the side of either overexplaining things, or on the side of having too many weird, unexplained things, without real dream logic holding it together.

I mean, even compare the Lynch-free parts of Twin Peaks' second season to the better parts that bookend it. Much of what made Lynch's parts work was the fact that the Laura Palmer case was something which kept characters moving forward, no matter the weirdness around them. The weirdness almost always eventually dovetailed into the greater "plot," and vice versa, even though it never really cohered as a concrete reality. But after they got rid of that mystery, they lost the thread - unlike in a dream, where you wander through a haunted house because something unknown is calling to you, it became like a theme park, where you're shuffled along by railways and people in costume.

...

*I know that in Waking Life, they do play around quite a bit with whether or not the main character is dreaming. However, the movie is so permanently heightened that this is okay, especially since the dream is really just a structure for a series of what would be otherwise unconnected monologues.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:31 AM on February 3, 2012 [17 favorites]


This was a great line from the article: "Glancing at Cage's post-'Wild at Heart' career, you can see a little bit of Sailor in every subsequent performance – sometime for better, sometimes for worse."

Thought this was a nice summation actually. Had a chuckle that 'Time Out London' is the source. I remember being a study abroad (from the usa) student in the UK when they had the first season of Twin Peaks, I was literally popular on campus solely for the fact that the first season had already aired in the US and that I had watched 'em all, and I was able to explain and hint at a lot for the new Twin Peaks fans.
posted by mctsonic at 7:32 AM on February 3, 2012


Not enough Angriest Dog in the World.
posted by kirkaracha at 7:34 AM on February 3, 2012


This is why it's safe to say that everything in a Lynch movie is "actually" happening. Just as you can't say that one stretch of your dream didn't "really" happen, just because it didn't fit in thematically with other parts of your dreaming or waking life, or just because you eventually became someone else or appeared somewhere else in your dream, you can't really say that parts of a Lynch movie aren't really happening, because they're right there in front of you, playing at 24 frames a second.

Thanks for that, Sticherbeast. Your whole-- great-- comment is exactly what I was trying to get at, but phrased far better than I could.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:36 AM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Dune is not better than Wild at Heart.

I quit reading when Wild at Heart was #10.
posted by coolguymichael at 8:27 AM on February 3, 2012


Thanks to the magic of Netflix, I am currently rewatching Twin Peaks for the first time in...well I don't know. A long time. It's even more brilliant than I remembered, and in retrospect it pretty much wrote the book for the 1990s, and I can still see its influence in all corners of culture today.
posted by vibrotronica at 8:46 AM on February 3, 2012


Some of the list is a little iffy, but I love, love, love that Agent Cooper is #1.
posted by duvatney at 8:54 AM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


I just always thought Lynch films narrative events exactly as they transpire in the mind of the narrator. Which is why you could at once call him hyperreal and surreal.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 9:01 AM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Inland Empire definitely has a story and a strong narrative focus, even if the details are in dispute. Every scene has crucial clues and is cohesive in relation to the rest of the work, so I don't know why people think it's just Lynch just doing whatever he wants? Maybe people are getting confused by the idea that the same person is manifested as multiple characters (Nikki/Sue/possibly Lost Girl), or that some important characters exist on the periphery or don't exist at all upon first viewing (The Phantom.) Or maybe the significance of the Polish folk tales, sound cues, acting cues (Dern in particular), etc. is lost. It's not a conventionally told story, but there's much to talk about when just considering plot by itself.
posted by naju at 9:15 AM on February 3, 2012


It could also be the insistence that plot elements should be stable/concrete and not fluid/mutable/archetypical or something. Maybe there's a essay to be written about how Lynch films require "systems thinking."
posted by naju at 9:26 AM on February 3, 2012


Good lord, man! No Audrey Horne? This is an outrage!

Five feet of heaven in a ponytail!
posted by silkyd at 10:22 AM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


No one ever mentions his most boring "work" being that bonus movie of him cooking quinoa for like, 30 minutes...I think it was on the Inland Empire (count me in as a big fan of that one, and I don't care much for a lot of his fan favorite-y stuff like Blue Velvet, Fire Walk with Me, etc. though I liked Mulholland Drive and love Eraserhead...hated Lost Highway...) DVD bonus features. I literally fell asleep, and when I woke up when it was over my husband, a devoted fan 'til the end and hence still awake, told me I hadn't missed anything.
posted by ifjuly at 11:18 AM on February 3, 2012


Nah you should watch it. He starts off just telling you how to cook quinoa and then while it's simmering he walks outside for a cigarette and sits down and tells you a story for like twelve minutes and then goes back in and is like 'It's done!' and it's awesome.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:22 AM on February 3, 2012


You are clearly more hardcore than me, shakespeherian. (: Though yeah, I'm totally with you on most other matters re: DL.
posted by ifjuly at 11:23 AM on February 3, 2012


I dunno, the only time I watched it was right after I got INLAND EMPIRE on DVD (I'd already seen it in the theater) and I had that ooh shiny new excitement when you get something new that you've been excited about for a while but I didn't really have the time to sit down for three hours so I ran through all the special features on the second disc and that was one of them, so I probably had a lot of momentum and enthusiasm going into it. That probably accounts for the difference.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:27 AM on February 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Personally, I think the "weird" Lynch movies are so amazing because they send me into this fugue state that I have never experienced with another director. His movies ARE like dreams. Hypnotizing.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 1:23 PM on February 3, 2012


Go see it in the theater.

This is true of all his films. It should be true of most films, but it isn't. But it is true of all David Lynch films. It has to do with the big screen, of course. But mostly it has to do with the sound. Lynch's films use sound in an amazing way - not just to surround and envelope you but to put you slightly off balance, to lull you into a false sense of security and to make you feel like your some place you've never been.
posted by crossoverman at 3:28 PM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't know why people think it's just Lynch just doing whatever he wants?

I'm guessing because they didn't have a script and were making up what they were doing each day. Which kind of is "Lynch doing whatever he wants".
posted by neuromodulator at 4:48 PM on February 3, 2012


So you've never heard of the editing process?
posted by shakespeherian at 4:52 PM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Isn't it possible that he had a good deal (or all) of the overarching/archetypal story in his head and knew exactly what he wanted to accomplish and how, but didn't want to be tied to particular sets and words because he preferred a more fluid approach? It's not an either/or where you're either working with a script or you're disappearing up your own ass. In the documentary I saw, he was very particular about what he demanded from his crew, prepared a good deal of the sets himself and scouted them out, directed the actors very carefully and was just generally a control freak about the whole process.
posted by naju at 10:39 PM on February 3, 2012


The way Lynch makes movies reminds me a bit of how Nikola Tesla built machines -- he would disappear into the lab for a week, not a note or blueprint or diagram in sight, and emerge with a functional linear motor or turbine. Just because you can't see what's in his head as he works the lathe doesn't mean there isn't a plan.
posted by localroger at 5:58 AM on February 4, 2012


As a writer, I probably shouldn't be saying this, but sometimes narrative is overrated. Now, I'm not saying you should put random shit on the screen for two hours and be done with it, but Lynch's aesthetic makes what he puts on the screen fascinating - almost regardless of the story he's trying to tell. I mean, Lost Highway frustrated the crap out of me while I tried to figure it out exactly - but not once was I bored while watching the film. It's one of the films of his I've seen the least, but likely one I've thought about the most.

Lynch said he got into filmmaking because he wanted the paintings he was making to move a little. And some of his early work in film, combinations of film and sculpture and his very early short films do feel like paintings that move a little. And Lost Highway to me is the ultimate end to that promise - even if the narrative doesn't entirely make sense (and it does to me on a lot of levels make sense, but never quite makes complete sense), it is a moving painting, enhanced by Lynch's incredible use of sound, populated with some incredible actors playing amazing parts.
posted by crossoverman at 2:29 PM on February 4, 2012


Part of what makes Lynch's movies work is that even if you can't see what the solution to the puzzle is, you often sense it. This is what gives Lynch's movies that magic Stitcherbeast is trying to describe -- There really is an underlying narrative. People aren't "reaching" to find solutions in Lynch's movies; the solutions are there and they wouldn't be if it was really random crap on the screen.

A good example is a friend's reaction to Blue Velvet. I figured that movie out on the third viewing, and on N's first she was almost unable to express how the movie made her feel. So I prodded her by saying, "Well you do realize part of the horror is that Jeffrey is about to take Frank Booth's place." And she said "Of course! That's obvious, but I can't say why!"

Well it's obvious because Lynch dropped a lot of emotional cues, but it makes sense because the key to Blue Velvet's narrative is that Detective Williams is running the drug trade, and is Frank Booth's boss both on the force and in the corruption game. Lynch hides several cues in plain sight which, when you realize where they're pointing, make this very obvious; several cut-pieces that seem out of place or random actually make perfect sense when you realize they are the small reveals Lynch has permitted. A big one is that in the climactic scene where Jeffrey shootes Frank, Booth knows that Jeffrey calls him "the well-dressed man" -- something Booth would only know if Williams or Sandy (like really) had told him.

Blue Velvet has an obvious front story with serious flaws, which turns into a flawless back story when you figure out the key. I think one of the reasons Lynch started to make movies like Lost Highway is that he got tired of people taking the sham front story at face value, so he started giving us front stories that make no sense at all. I think part of his art -- and possibly what Stitcherbeast is latching onto when he insists there is no back story -- is that it is remarkably creepy to have your subconscious warning you about things it's figured out that you can't perceive consciously. I've gotten that vibe from all of his movies, but it only works if there actually is something there for your subconscious to get. The reason Lynch's imitators don't measure up is that they really are throwing random crap at the screen and calling it art, or they don't hide the backstory perfectly enough for us to miss it consciously but get it subconsciously.
posted by localroger at 3:24 PM on February 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


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