Join 3,436 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Suddenly My House Became a Tree of Sores.
January 15, 2010 9:40 AM   Subscribe

He doesn't do metaphors. He doesn't make Postmodern references to other art. He doesn't even know what his own work 'means.' Richard Kovitch on the failure of the Tate Modern's recent symposium on David Lynch, which featured Gregory Crewdson, Louise Wilson, Chris Rodley, Parveen Adams, Simon Critchley, Roger Luckhurst, Tom McCarthy (edited remarks here), and Sarah Churchwell and Jamieson Webster (transcription here), among others. Write-up on Paris retrospective of Lynch's painting here, which was collected into the book The Air is On Fire.
posted by shakespeherian (121 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite

 
artists are never impartial and they didn't invent the symbolic order into which their work is released, firmly supporting the notion it isn't down to David Lynch to provide an explanation for his work, but for the audience. Therefore, that Lynch may not know what his work 'means' either was irrelevant.

I thought this was one of the charter principles of post-modern criticism since day one. It certainly isn't a new idea, and is certainly not isolated to criticizing Lynch's work. I had many a TS/Professor in college in the late 80s lecturing from this position in criticizing everything from Hemingway to Twain to Toni Morrison.
posted by spicynuts at 9:50 AM on January 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty sure the bulk of Lynch's work is inspired from the somewhat psychotic disconnect that avid practicioners of TM develop. Smooth veneer on the outside, raging storm of disjointed narrative on the inside.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:51 AM on January 15, 2010


Yes, it may seem to permit any number of theoretical interpretations (Freudianism, Postmodernism, Existentialism - take your pick!) but ultimately none really get you any closer to the actual work simply because, as an artist David Lynch doesn't function within such parameters.

Oh fuck off.
posted by litleozy at 9:56 AM on January 15, 2010 [10 favorites]


People read into things for deeper meaning that doesn't exist, film at eleven.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 9:59 AM on January 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Sorry, should read 'Chris Rodley.'
posted by shakespeherian at 10:03 AM on January 15, 2010


The key to all of Lynch's hard movies (Blue Velevet, Lost Highway, Mulholland Drive, Twin Peaks) is that to you and the characters, things seem to be a certain way. Things mostly make sense, except for the odd thing here and there that doesn't fit. But those odd things won't go away, and eventually you won't be able to deny them. They just don't fit. But if you solve the puzzle, you realize there is a way to make everything make sense -- but it means everything is opposite (and generally far more horrible) than you thought. You're not the good guy, you're the murderer. You're not safe, you're about to be eaten by a grue. Your comfortable life is not a haven but an illusion that could dissolve at any time, leaving you naked to the horror that is the truth.

And the true horror is that reality itself is no more trustworthy than a David Lynch movie. It could be that, as he told his biographer, coffee gets cold not because of some reliable thermodynamic principle but because you slighted it. You could wake up and realize that you've become Frank Booth or murdered your lover. That could happen to any of us, no matter how good we think we are, because after all those things are happening to people right now who probably thought they were good people at some point too. The highway from good to evil leads through an illusion that hides our destination until it is too late.
posted by localroger at 10:04 AM on January 15, 2010 [74 favorites]


I'm pretty sure the bulk of Lynch's work is inspired from the somewhat psychotic disconnect that avid practicioners of TM develop. Smooth veneer on the outside, raging storm of disjointed narrative on the inside.

I'd love to hear more about your theories on this. Do you think the disconnect is because of all the weird cult-like controlling aspects of Transcendental Meditation as an organization and how it treats its members, or are you saying that it's from the practice of meditation itself? Because from what I understand (and I'm by no means an expert on TM), the basic techniques involved boil down to fairly standard mantra-based raja yoga, at least until they get up to the higher levels with "yogic flying" and stuff like that.
posted by infinitywaltz at 10:08 AM on January 15, 2010


Is this where I talk about never having thought there was anything to David Lynch's work?

They showed me all of his movies in film school. They blathered on and on endlessly about them. And, yet, my reaction to them was always one of hollowness. That the movies were visually good and fairly creepy, and so compelling on that level... and that people then made up all sorts of utter bullshit in order to justify that Lynch's weird, pretty pictures were in some way more profound than a Saturday morning cartoon.
posted by Netzapper at 10:14 AM on January 15, 2010 [4 favorites]


People read into things for deeper meaning that doesn't exist, film at eleven.

Please point me to where the ontological reality of "meaning" sits.
posted by Saxon Kane at 10:17 AM on January 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


Do you think the disconnect is because of all the weird cult-like controlling aspects of Transcendental Meditation as an organization and how it treats its members, or are you saying that it's from the practice of meditation itself?

I'd say it's more from the practice itself. I've got nothing against meditation and do so myself regularly. But, there's something about the mantra meditation that TM advocates that causes some kind of subtle violence to the mind. True meditation, or communion with one's mind, shouldn't require a mechanistic repetition of some esoteric syllable nor suppression of the normal flow of associative mentation. The body should naturally relax and any thoughts would just be there. With TM, many practitioners develop odd anxiety disorders and other strange neuroses due to the constant suppression of a normal brain function. With someone like Lynch, who was already into odd film making, he was able to channel this to great advantage.

This is an off the cuff and lazy theory, mind you, and it doesn't really speak to the breadth of Lynch's work. I enjoy much of it, and appreciate that he can encapsulate what the weird trippy aspects of people stuck in their habits can really be like. But on the whole, I find it very unhealthy and have not been able to find it interesting like I did as a drug addled teenager. I've tried a variant of TM (didn't pay any money for it!) and found it to be a kind of pleasant somatic thing, but it causes what I feel is an untoward separation inwardly. Zazen, certain forms of qigong breathing, and other things I've found along the way have always registered as much more complete and nurturing than tricks of stilling the mind.

Apologies for any derail.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:21 AM on January 15, 2010 [4 favorites]


Please point me to where the ontological reality of "meaning" sits.

In the center of "truth," "justice," and "the American Way." Hidden within the Fortress of Solitude.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 10:21 AM on January 15, 2010


I love David Lynch movies because he seems to do what many horror directors don't seem to realize: what affects the characters does not equal a way to elicit an emotional reaction from the audience.

When I was a kid, I loved horror and I loved to draw. I kept thinking, perhaps inspired by Stephen-King-channelling-Lovecraft that there were images so monsterous that looking at my drawing would scare somebody. So I drew monsters, the scariest I could think of (not very, I was young). Fangs aren't scary? Add more fangs! And so on. Eventually I realized it wasn't going to work that way.

But I kept the idea in the back of my head: how do you make things scary if it's not by just upping what's traditionally thought of as scary. Then I discovered surrealism and realized how counterintuitive the solution was. There is nothing explicitly creepy about di Chiricho's work but this picture is, to most people, somewhat unsettling. It's pretty easy to break down what it is: the "global" perspective is incorrect, while each element's "local" perspective is pretty close to the mark. Translation: correct foveal images adding up to a wrong overal image.

That's when David Lynch is at his best for me. Somewhat correct, but deeply, deeply wrong in some places. Meeting a girlfriend's parents is a normal situation, eating tiny chickens that squirt blood is not. Coming across a bloody shootout is normal (for Noir films), having someone still standing after shot in the head is not.

I could go on, but I have a plane to catch.
posted by Brainy at 10:22 AM on January 15, 2010 [21 favorites]


I love David Lynch movies because he seems to do what many horror directors don't seem to realize: what affects the characters does not equal a way to elicit an emotional reaction from the audience.

Definitely. In "Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me", there is a dream sequence where Laura Palmer is told she has no chance for redemption. That, to me, is some pretty scary shit. Knive-finger gloved burn victims, demons, and other gore fests don't have anything on that kind of deep spiritual malaise.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:26 AM on January 15, 2010


David Foster Wallace wrote a nice bit about David Lynch for Premiere magazine that appeared in his collection of essays, A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again. He was on site for a night of shooting of Lost Highway.

Lynch does an amazing job of capturing the intensity of scene and feeling inherent in dreams. People take, or project, meanings of his work much like dream interpretation.

I tend to think of films as utilizing an offshoot of the unreliable narrator, the hyper-reliable narrator. We see everything from inside a character's mind. Whether their inner world accurately portrays reality or not is debatable. Perhaps unknowable. But what we see is Lynch's attempt to provide an unvarnished translation straight from mind to screen.
posted by Babblesort at 10:31 AM on January 15, 2010 [5 favorites]


I'm never worried about David Lynch's movies making sense or not. I think that to the extent they make sense or hint at some interpretation, some theory in which they make complete sense, it is a psychological trick. It would be one thing to just watch a horror movie filtered through spread fingers detatched just an observer. It's an entirely different experience to investigate a horror movie. To try futilely to unlock it. To have to really pay attention to the details and assemble the pieces so that when the shock comes you are wide eyed and pursuing that horror.
posted by I Foody at 10:33 AM on January 15, 2010


ugh...

to think of his films
posted by Babblesort at 10:33 AM on January 15, 2010


David Foster Wallace wrote a nice bit about David Lynch for Premiere magazine that appeared in his collection of essays, A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again. He was on site for a night of shooting of Lost Highway.

It was linked to in the first link, at least the shortened online version right here. (I believe the version in Supposedly Fun Thing is longer, but I don't have the book with me to verify.)
posted by shakespeherian at 10:34 AM on January 15, 2010


I don't buy the idea that his works are wide open to any interpretation. There is a solution to every David Lynch movie. There's an explanation for everything that happens. History will bear this out.
posted by naju at 10:35 AM on January 15, 2010


Oh what the hell, since I know there are fans of David Foster Wallace somewhere in here, why not link to his 1996 piece on David Lynch.
posted by barrett caulk at 10:35 AM on January 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Damn it.
posted by barrett caulk at 10:37 AM on January 15, 2010


He doesn't do metaphors. He doesn't make Postmodern references to other art. He doesn't even know what his own work 'means.'

For a second I was sure you were talking about Haruki Murakami.
posted by pts at 10:37 AM on January 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Nadya Lev repeated one of my favorite Lynchian remarks in a piece at Coilhouse recently:
“I call [depression and anger] the Suffocating Rubber Clown Suit of Negativity. It’s suffocating, and that rubber stinks. But once you start meditating and diving within, the clown suit starts to dissolve.”
Several of the commenters there concur with the critiques of TM presented here. But that Suffocating Rubber Clown Suit, that's a David Lynch movie waiting to be made.
posted by octobersurprise at 10:45 AM on January 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


also for folks who want to read about david lynch's process, lynch on lynch is pretty f. delightful. i get torqued when people say his movies and his shows ain't make much sense but i suppose the whole deal behind using dream logic is that you can dismiss shit as readily as you can interpret it. anyway rah rah david lynch, grew up in snoqualmie, feel twin peaks was pretty spot-on, although as a kid it just meant we had hella german and japanese tourists taking pictures of the mar-t.......
posted by beefetish at 10:46 AM on January 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


The book version of Wallace's essay is considerably longer, but the online version's not bad at all.

I think the guy who wrote the article made a mistake by pointing out David Lynch's talk about INLAND EMPIRE as proof that Lynch doesn't know what he's doing with his movies. INLAND EMPIRE was an experiment with the digital format, which let him shoot without extensive set-up and so allowed him to be more flexible than he'd ever been before. The writing was an extension of that — the script was improvised day-by-day, all on the singular theme of "a woman in trouble".

It's kind of a jazz movie, in a way, and if you watch it with the idea of jazz already in mind you'll find it's a surprisingly easy movie to watch. It's not about some central plot — though there is a plot to be untangled — but rather riffs on that one theme, each one different, all of them identifiable and brilliantly done. Take the scene at the beginning, when Laura Dern is told she got a part in the film, and screams with excitement. The music played, however, is horror music, so when you first hear the scream you think it's bad news. Then it's all topped off with the second-long image of her butler doing a jig and raising his leg in the air.

If you want an example of a movie meticulously constructed, however, Mulholland Drive does a remarkable job of taking half of a television script (here's that original script if you're interested) and finishing it off into a movie. Every scene is scintillating.
posted by Rory Marinich at 10:47 AM on January 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


The first time I saw Orson Welle's The Trial, I was shocked by how much of a David Lynch flavor I got from it. A lot of it is stuff that was carried over from the book pretty directly, but the way he staged it, the sense hidden malevolence everywhere, the arcane social and legal rules that are never fully enumerated, and the sense that even the most benign social interactions must follow a script that none of the participants understand, all this stuff I associate with Lynch really heavily.
posted by anazgnos at 10:51 AM on January 15, 2010


I don't buy the idea that his works are wide open to any interpretation.

I don't understand how you can NOT buy this ideas.

Interpreting is something an individual brain does. You say words to me, my brain interprets those words. My interpretation can't be objectively right or wrong in all possible intellectual and emotional frameworks. It can only be right or wrong within a specific framework. And why should I accept your framework.

For instance, my interpretation might wrongly assume your intended meaning was other than what it actually was. But that only matters if my goal, when I'm interpreting, is to guess your intention. And, on a larger level, we can only call such interpretations wrong if we've decided that the whole point of interpretation is to guess intent.

YOU are free to make that rule, but I refuse to follow it. Because it bores me. I LOVE watching moves, but I don't care a fig for the filmmaker's intent. My interpretation can't be wrong (given my framework), because my framework doesn't include intent. You may reject my framework, and that's fine. But I don't reject it. Stalemate.

You could also say that a "right" interpretation is the one MOST people would naturally come up with if they had sufficient training and sufficient time to examine the work. Or that it's the interpretation most people will accept if it's explained to them. (If, prior to the explanation, they had another interpretation, they will reject it in favor of the new one.) You could say that the "right" interpretation is the one that will most-likely give people the most pleasure.

But what if all that's true and yet I still interpret a work differently. I watch it and my brain reacts to it differently than most people's brains do. How does it make sense to say I'm wrong? I'm not wrong; I'm just eccentric.

Is red the "right" color for me to paint my walls because 4 out of 5 of my friends say they'd like my walls to be red. No. It's the color most likely to please 4 out of 5 of my friends. It's the "wrong" color for my 5th friend.

I don't buy the idea that his works are wide open to any interpretation.

What does "are open to" mean? That it's not possible for people to interpret them in certain ways? If not, what's constraining them from doing so? That it's not allowable? If not, who is the dictator in charge of interpretations and why should we do what he says? HOW can we do what he says? How can we help how we react to things?

Or do you mean that some interpretations are more likely to get you an A in Film Studies 101 than others?
posted by grumblebee at 10:52 AM on January 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


And why should I accept your framework.

Something that I find very admirable about Lynch is that, in Lynch on Lynch as well as elsewhere, he refuses to discuss what his films 'mean', even if he clearly has a preferred interpretation (see his remarks on Eraserhead for example). When Mulholland Dr. comes up, Lynch immediately states flat-out that he doesn't want to talk about interpretation, because, as he says, most people who watch the film feel like they get it, even if they can't exactly articulate what meaning they've derived from it, and he doesn't want to impose some sort of authorial stamp of approval on any one particular meaning, especially one that can be expressed in words while the impact of his films so often defy articulation.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:58 AM on January 15, 2010


artists are never impartial and they didn't invent the symbolic order into which their work is released, firmly supporting the notion it isn't down to David Lynch to provide an explanation for his work, but for the audience. Therefore, that Lynch may not know what his work 'means' either was irrelevant.

Ok... this might ramble a bit I apologize in advance.

See, I read stuff like this and it just clicks into an on going world theory I have that in general things are increasingly becoming hyper realitivized. Many things play into it, but art criticism has always been at the forefront. I firmly believe that the prevailing current notion that everyone must have an opinion about everything they see and read and hear, and that those opinions need to be strong and forceful, therefore we end up opinion-izing and building it into our internal world structure weather or not we are in any way competent to make those judgments. Furthermore, that our opinions are the most important thing/piece of evidence in whatever argument we have. Therefore, art is removed from whatever meaning the artist may have for and recontextualized as deriving meaning nearly solely from the point of view of the observer. In a recent FPP someone advanced the argument that it didn't matter what the author of a particular book meant to write, all that mattered was what the readers thought. And, it is not limited to the world of art, not by any means. A great example occurred a few years back when some politician or another used the word niggardly, and absolutely got pillared for it, despite the fact that niggardly had little to nothing to do with that other big bad word. The facts didn't matter to a lot of people, it was how they felt that mattered. Climate change deniers, 9/11 truthers, Birthers, Vaccination conspirators, hell, flat earthers... these are all things that exist despite all the evidence to the contrary. Things only derive worth in relative to how a given person reacts to it. Yes, I know, we likely have always done it to some extent. However, I believe we have see a major uptick of this in the recent past. It no longer is a matter of out of sight out of mind, but we must now fit ideas, events, and actions that may never actually affect us into what we believe in general. Sometimes that is good, sometimes no so much.

At the end of the day I refuse to accept that Lynch is operating in a vacuum and I believe that he actual does have some sense of what his work means. And that matters. It might not affect how I feel about a given film or painting, but it exposes me to how someone else thinks and creates art. A piece of art seen by someone else, fundamentally is about the interaction between artist and viewer. It is not some isolated pristine object devoid of contextual meaning. Indeed, often I find accompanying narrative to enhance and enrich an artist's work and can provide clear meaning to something that was incomprehensible prior.

yeah yeah tl;dr
posted by edgeways at 10:58 AM on January 15, 2010 [5 favorites]


I'd really like to see Lynch make a movie of Ishiguro's The Unconsoled.
posted by No Robots at 11:00 AM on January 15, 2010


There is a perpetual danger when academia ventures into the world of David Lynch ... because, as an artist David Lynch ... doesn't do metaphors. He doesn't make Postmodern references to other art. He doesn't even know what his own work 'means'...

I wouldn't say this is a problem because David Lynch does one thing as opposed to another. I'd say that it's a problem because many academics insist on approaching all works as if they were metaphors, as if they were social statements, or as if they contained hidden meanings. There are many other ways that the academy could approach art, but it's stuck in its track. This is due to tradition. Younger academics being trained by older ones.

Dogma and tradition are enemies to original thinking. If an academic wants to use a traditional method to look at a work, that's his right. But he's a fool unless he does that ONLY after examining that method and weighing it against other methods. Most academics I've met (I'm the child of two professors) just blindly follow trends.

And it doesn't seem to matter much which school is the in-school -- post-modern, new historicist, whatever -- in terms of this. Like Lemmings, the academics all follow each other off the cliff of WHAT DOES IT MEAN? WHAT DOES IT STAND FOR? WHAT DOES IT REFER TO? WHAT'S ITS POLITICS? Or they react to that cliff -- which is amounts to the same thing, as it still puts the cliff in a place of importance -- claiming that the work is meaningless, that it doesn't stand for anything, that it doesn't refer to anything.
posted by grumblebee at 11:02 AM on January 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


Olga Neuwirth made an excellent Opera out of Lost Highway.
posted by idiopath at 11:05 AM on January 15, 2010


True meditation, or communion with one's mind, shouldn't require a mechanistic repetition of some esoteric syllable nor suppression of the normal flow of associative mentation. The body should naturally relax and any thoughts would just be there.

Don't should on me and I won't should on you.

Actually, I don't meditate at all, but this seems like an unfairly generalized and prescriptive statement. Not every brain functions in the same way or at the same level as the next brain, so who's to say what entering into a meditative state should or should not require? It's like saying that one shouldn't need to go to church [or other place of worship] in order to experience religion or spirituality--for some people, church actually is a requisite, and it's not anyone else's place to tell them what should hold meaning in their experience.

Incidentally, I don't go to church, either. I'm just sayin'...
posted by SixteenTons at 11:05 AM on January 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


you know, I was all prepared for this essay to basically boil down to "nobody gets david lynch but me" lolism, and was pleasantly surprised. it's a well thought out essay, if a little judgmental, and it did something for me that nothing else has: it explained to me exactly why I am free to hate lynch's later work (post-lost highway) and exactly why if I chose to I could find so much to love about it. which is a neat trick.

in truth, I think there's something to be said for the idea that lynch's movies express something visually/aurally that he can't express narratively, and that if you're trying to tie them down with a point that is expressed in words you are necessarily going to fall short. and what this essay seemed to get at that I find extremely compelling is that this is because his films are guileless. maybe they really aren't meta anything, they're just what they are because he's not interested in playing games. he's putting on the screen precisely what he thinks should be there to express what he feels, and that's that. put another way: I wouldn't try to pin down Inland Empire with a phrase that starts out "this is about..." any more than I would try to do that with a Kandinski painting. (am I picking a bad example for that? Art History folks, hope me!) I mean, academics can analyze anything and help bring understanding to it by doing so, but there comes a point with work like this that maybe you've taken it too far and have failed to see the forest for the trees.
posted by shmegegge at 11:06 AM on January 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Therefore, art is removed from whatever meaning the artist may have for and recontextualized as deriving meaning nearly solely from the point of view of the observer.

You put vinegar on the salad because your intention is to make it taste good. You serve it to me. I hate vinegar, so my interpretation is that it tastes bad. And it DOES taste bad -- to me.

What do you mean by "meaning"? Do you mean the actual, real-time reaction one has to a work of art? Or do you the intellectual stance one takes about it, regardless of whether that stance gels with your gut reaction or not.

Of course, you are free to be hyper-intellectual about art if you want. I hope that give you pleasure. But it's perverse to me, because art is so sensual. Surely the way someone reacts to something sensual is personal. I'm not a relativist about all things, but are you really going to tell me that the sex I like isn't good sex?

Let's say that I accept your view: we're all being to relativistic. The author's intent matters. So I agree to accept your intent. What does that mean? What am I going to do that's different from what I'd be doing if I didn't accept your intent?

I watch your movie and it makes me laugh. I then learn that you intended for it to be a tragedy. Oops. I watch it again and it still makes me laugh. I REALLY want to respect your intent, but what can I do? I have the reaction that I have.

If we're talking about what one says, then I can follow your argument. I can lie and SAY that I found your work sad. I can never admit to the way my brain actually interpreted your work.

Nice coat the emperor is wearing!
posted by grumblebee at 11:12 AM on January 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


My review of Inland Empire. I feel that Lynch has slowly been abandoning narrative in favor of improvised elements that rely on mood and texture without concern for logic, which he never really cared much for anyway, but because he borrows his moods and textures from genres of films that had clear narratives -- especially from film -- we have a tendency to assume they must have some sort of intrinsic meaning, and, if we could just find the right interpretation, we could unlock it. But I don't think Lynch has his characters switch identities in his films because he's exploring schizophrenia, or because one identity is a false identity and the other is a true one, and I don't think he makes characters in films demonic becayse they are actually supposed to represent the devil, or any of the interpretive possibilities his imagery suggests. Instead, I think he just though they would be cool and fun to film and got obsessed with them.

And I'm fine with that. I sort of hate conventional narrative anyway -- it's just one storytelling option, and, in so many cases, a boring one. David Foster Wallace was right -- Lynch can be both maddeningly sophisticated and maddeningly jejune in a single picture, but the result are distinctive enough for me to forgive him that. He's a weirdo of the first order, and, God help me, I love him for it.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:16 AM on January 15, 2010


I wouldn't try to pin down Inland Empire with a phrase that starts out "this is about..." any more than I would try to do that with a Kandinski painting. (am I picking a bad example for that? Art History folks, hope me!)

As quoted in my profile:
One moment of our 1993 conversation made this especially clear, one during which we both looked at the textured surface of Blue Poles: Number 11, 1952, a painting by Jackson Pollock full of patches, slashes, lines, drippings, and blobs, with barely a hint of blue. “I don’t understand this,” I said. “Yes you do,” Lynch said. “Your eyes are moving.” They must have been, but I had not paid any attention. I had automatically experienced a lack of meaning because I could not stand at the prescribed, controlling viewing distance and read the painting as a rationally controlled system of shapes. Lynch had spontaneously identified the painting as a meaningful representation for me because it had released my moving eye from conventional viewer expectations. I saw that I could not contain the painting in some theoretical framework; he saw me performing with the painting. He saw as crucial that part of me that my education had taught me is inconsequential to my grasp of meaning.
—from The Passion of David Lynch by Martha P. Nochimson
posted by shakespeherian at 11:16 AM on January 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


Grumblebee - I meant that his films are not so utterly vague and opaque that no one has any idea what's happening and we are free to interpret without any concrete limitations whatsoever. You are free to interpret as you wish, but according to the guidelines of what actually occurs in the movie, at a minimum. There are solid THINGS that indisputably happen and plenty of clues that provide enlightenment as to what's going on. The Matrix has tons of wildly divergent essays written about it, but there's some kind of generally-agreed-upon idea about the movie's narrative, at the very least. That "generally-agreed-upon idea of what happens" seems to elude most people who've seen Inland Empire, but I'm insisting that there is such a thing, if we dig deep enough, that will constrain interpretations considerably. His movies operate on a consistent set of rules. It's not a good idea to ignore authorial intent so much that you ignore these rules - that's not good interpretation. Sorry if I'm wording this horribly.
posted by naju at 11:21 AM on January 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Don't should on me and I won't should on you.

Actually, I don't meditate at all, but this seems like an unfairly generalized and prescriptive statement. Not every brain functions in the same way or at the same level as the next brain, so who's to say what entering into a meditative state should or should not require?


Well, since you admit to not even having a cursory understanding of the subject and haven't spent years discussing these things at length with teachers and adherents of various practices I would submit to you that you just typed that statement just to see yourself say it.

posted by Burhanistan at 11:24 AM on January 15, 2010


Most academics I've met (I'm the child of two professors) just blindly follow trends.

Most people blindly follow trends at some point in their lives. The ones who don't can be described as a minority.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN? WHAT DOES IT STAND FOR? WHAT DOES IT REFER TO? WHAT'S ITS POLITICS?

Hey, those are actually not bad questions to ask sometimes.

There is at least more than one reason academics and critics like to pick at metaphors in art, aside from blindly following trends.
Looking for metaphors can be fun (if you are into that sort of thing).
posted by ovvl at 11:24 AM on January 15, 2010


With TM, many practitioners develop odd anxiety disorders and other strange neuroses due to the constant suppression of a normal brain function.

From looking at the cites and studies, as well as from looking at other anti-TM websites, it looks like most of the anxiety disorders, dissociation and neuroses weren't caused by mantra meditation, per se, but by combining intense and extended mantra meditation with classic cult brainwashing that included the idea that any negative side effects were an indication that "it's working!"

Plenty of other meditative traditions, including both Hindu and Buddhist, use mantra concentration to various degrees as part of their training without inducing the same sorts of mental breakdowns that seem so common in TM.
posted by infinitywaltz at 11:31 AM on January 15, 2010


I firmly believe that the prevailing current notion that everyone must have an opinion about everything they see and read and hear, and that those opinions need to be strong and forceful, therefore we end up opinion-izing and building it into our internal world structure weather or not we are in any way competent to make those judgments.
I think part of the issue here is outlined by grumblebee: the elevation of "interpretation" as a creative act on par with the creation of the work itself-- since the final part of the lifecycle for a work of art is "consumption," that's considered the most important. If your primary reason for consuming art of any type is because you enjoy the process of interpreting them, then the grumblebee mindset will be the one that puts the fewest constraints on you, and this might be best for you if your primary goal is to have no constraints.

At the same time, the critics do demand that art fit into certain parameters. It's possible that David Lynch "doesn't do metaphors. He doesn't make Postmodern references to other art," but who really cares? Why do there have to be metaphors and Postmodern references to other art in his movies?

Now, of course, if you look at interpretation as an inherently adversarial relationship, then one can go all the way down the rabbit hole with artists making their works more and more opaque to provide greater and greater challenges in interpretation, and grumblebee's thought process is a nice method of disarming (or rendering impotent) this adversarial relationship. And maybe Lynch is a guy who doesn't even view film as a storytelling medium at all (which is a shame, because that's how I enjoy movies).
posted by deanc at 11:34 AM on January 15, 2010


Or do you mean that some interpretations are more likely to get you an A in Film Studies 101 than others?

This is precisely what I mean when I say some interpretations are right and some are wrong. But when I say it the professor is Jesus. Or Scorsese, if you're an atheist.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 11:42 AM on January 15, 2010


I've vacillated back and forth on Lynch like a Necker cube for a long time, alternately loving his work or hating it. Both have generally applied to everything he's made, except Eraserhead which I really just couldn't even watch.

I have finally settled on this: Lynch is noteworthy for his technical skill at the art of making movies. He's an incredibly talented filmmaker, from a pure "putting together sound and moving images" perspective. This is why I can never quite just dismiss even his movies that don't appear to mean anything at all, if you're not David Lynch. They are so beautifully made.

On a narrative level, he tends to basically, as others have pointed out, transcribe dreams. Like being told about someone else's dreams, his movies have some narrative coherence, albeit of a hermetic sort, and ultimately don't mean nearly as much to you, the listener, as they did to the dreamer. Lynch appears to make movies for himself alone. They just don't quite make that jump that art has to make, from the individual to the universal.
posted by rusty at 11:48 AM on January 15, 2010


Lynch's best film in my opinion is his most conventional and aptly namedA Straight Story. Talk a bout a simple but layered narrative and great understated acting. they actually told a straight-up compelling story. It still sticks with me.

His worst is Mulholland Drive. Which to me seemed to be him retro-fitting as many well-worn Lynchisms into a Red Shoes Diary type script as he could replete with cheesy sexy saxophone. That movie bored me to tears. It was the only 'predictable" Lynch film to date.

As for him being uninterpretable? Interpretation isn't really necessary on a conscious level to get "something" from his films. Even if that that thing you get is a stomach ache.
posted by tkchrist at 11:49 AM on January 15, 2010


Actually, the work of David Lynch gave me an interesting insight into Aesthetics.

When Blue Velvet was first released we saw it in the theatre. We came out stunned, speechless, overwhelmed by the violence and weirdness.

Saw it again on video a year or so later, a bit more jaded: "He's just using a bunch of cheap shock effects, pushing buttons."

Saw it again on late night television many years later: "Hey these cheap shock effects are actually kinda interesting."

This led to the realization that the perception of a work of art is not only subjective from person to person, but also subjective within the view of an individual person over the course of time. This fluid temporal aspect of appreciation has been mentioned by various critics from time to time, but for me personally I would call it The Blue Velvet Effect.
posted by ovvl at 11:52 AM on January 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


You are free to interpret as you wish, but according to the guidelines of what actually occurs in the movie, at a minimum.

Sorry to harp at you, but I really don't know what this means. You're far from the first person to ever have said it -- or something like it -- but no one ever seems to care to define their terms. And I don't think those terms make sense when examined closely.

What do you mean by "interpret." What does that act involve for you? There is an involuntary thing that happens to you when you're stimulated. You have a response. It's absurd to say "you're free to have any response you want," because it's not a matter of what you want.

"You're free to flinch when I try to hit you."

It sounds like when you talk about "interpreting," you're talking about some "higher" order of cognition than gut reaction. (Which DOES involve interpreting, as your brain must derive meaning from raw sensory data in order to have a gut reaction.)

First, I'd ask you why one needs to do this higher-order stuff? What I most enjoy about art is how it hits me in the moment. How it makes me feel. Whether it makes me laugh or cry. If there's will involved -- if I'm working to have some sort of reaction or interpretation -- then I'm not diving into the the work's "ocean" and letting it carry me where it will. Which is what I love to do.

That aside, what sort of higher-order cognition are you talking about? I assume you sit there and think about what you've seen. You think about the film's events A and B and realize that if both of those are true -- if they really occurred in the movie -- then they necessarily imply idea C.

I agree that there are some Cs that are inevitable -- ASSUMING THAT YOU COMBINE THE EVENTS OF THE WORK WITH REAL-WORLD PHYSICS (If A and B, then C, assuming that things work in the movie world the same way as they do in the real world, or according to some alternate physics that the movie made clear.)

But so often this inevitability is not the case. If it is -- if movie event A and B MUST generate idea C -- then the movie is pretty limited. I suspect that when academics suggest that C follows from the movie's A and B, they usually mean something like "to most people who have thought about it, A and B will imply C -- once they see that connection, they won't be able to unsee it." Or, more usefully, they mean "most people will get greater pleasure from the work if they assume C, which is a very reasonable assumption given the film's A and B."

Again, these statements ignore eccentrics. Which is fine. As long as that's clear.

Here's a simple example: "Once upon a time, a sober man walked into a bar. An hour later he walked out, weaving as he walked. Then he passed out in the street."

MOST people will interpret a C in that. Their C is that the guy had too much to drink in the bar.

Let's say I don't interpret it that way. I say, "I don't think that happened. I think someone in the bar assaulted him. He managed to remain conscious long enough to stumble out of the bar, but then he collapsed."

Am I wrong? Granted, my interpretation is very, very odd. It flouts Occam's Razor for one thing. But wrong? How is it wrong? It's just not the interpretation that would occur to most people.

Certainly to work is OPEN to my interpretation. My interpretation doesn't contradict anything in the story. My interpretation is not one that the works makes it impossible for someone to have.

Even a very simple story is open to many, many interpretations. This is because unless a story is incredibly boring, it's going to omit information. Once information is missing, readers brains will fill in the gaps. Very few gaps can only be filled in a small number of constrained ways.

The best an academic can do is to try to predict the most likely interpretation someone will have if he comes at the work with common interpretive baggage.

Now let's say you asked me if I really had that eccentric interpretation naturally -- or if I was just trying to be weird. I insist that it was just my reaction. I didn't even think of it as an interpretation. It's just what I thought happened. As as you can't prove to me that it didn't happen, I still cling to my odd interpretation.

You then get 1000 scholars to tell me that my interpretation is WRONG! Eventually, I cave and say, "Okay. I admit it. It's wrong." The scholars all go home happy.

I read the story again. Again, I get this strong feeling that the guy was assaulted in the bar. Because I was shamed by the scholars, I vow to never mention that feeling again. From now on, if someone asks me what C is, I'll say "The guy got drunk." I'm not exactly lying. I'm just interpreting "the interpretation" to mean The Consensus of Most Scholars.
posted by grumblebee at 11:58 AM on January 15, 2010


WHAT DOES IT MEAN? WHAT DOES IT STAND FOR? WHAT DOES IT REFER TO? WHAT'S ITS POLITICS?

Hey, those are actually not bad questions to ask sometimes.

Yes, but they are not the only questions. But nine times out of ten (in my experience) they are the only questions academics ask.
posted by grumblebee at 11:59 AM on January 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Or do you mean that some interpretations are more likely to get you an A in Film Studies 101 than others?


This is precisely what I mean when I say some interpretations are right and some are wrong. But when I say it the professor is Jesus. Or Scorsese, if you're an atheist.

So the goal is to please an authority figure? Interesting. Fair enough if that floats your boat. I love art precisely because there isn't an authority between me and it.
posted by grumblebee at 12:02 PM on January 15, 2010


grumblebee: You don't seem like you have any idea of what the actual work of critical interpretation is. It has nothing to do with "your reaction" to a work. It has nothing to do with whether you liked it, didn't like it, laughed, cried, whatever. It also has nothing to do with asserting that works of art "contain hidden meanings," or inherently espouses some politics.

If anything, you're looking at it backward. If I'm going to take, say, a Marxist approach to the films of David Lynch, my project would be to write something that clarifies a Marxist view of the world, using David Lynch's work for examples. Critical theory isn't, generally, all that concerned with the works it talks about. It's concerned with what it's trying to tell you about your world, your society, human nature, the nature of language, ontology... etc etc pick your theme. The works are an accessible way in to the ultimate point.

And most importantly, it ought to be fun, in at least an intellectual sense. Ok, I admit that a lot of theorists don't seem like they're having much fun. But that's just because they're miserable bastards who read too much. I submit that the main reason people do this is because an interesting reading of an artwork can spark really fascinating connections between things you never thought were connected, and leave you understanding something you never even knew you didn't understand before.

I can't think of a particularly good way to ask this, without sounding insulting, so I'll preface this with: I'm not trying to be insulting. Seriously. But how much academic critical writing have you actually read? I hear views about it all the time that sound like yours, and they generally come from people who have never read any. If you're mainly basing your opinion on your view of professors you know, that would make more sense to me. But don't dismiss the whole idea of critical reading just because college professors can be quite offputting.
posted by rusty at 12:03 PM on January 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


This led to the realization that the perception of a work of art is not only subjective from person to person, but also subjective within the view of an individual person over the course of time.

This is very important. When I first read "King Lear," I was a teenager, and it was the story of a tyrannical father who was unfair to his child. Now, it middle age, it's the story of a lonely man losing his faculties, beset upon by horrible children who try to hurt him. There are even times when I feel like Cordelia is cruel to him. She clings to a principle, even when she knows doing so will cause her father pain.

Though I no longer am in touch with my teenage interpretation, I in know way think it's wrong. It was the correct interpretation for me at that age. It allowed me to mine great meaning and pleasure from the play.

I've had this same experience with hundreds of works that I've revisited at various points in my life.
posted by grumblebee at 12:07 PM on January 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


WHAT DOES IT MEAN? WHAT DOES IT STAND FOR? WHAT DOES IT REFER TO? WHAT'S ITS POLITICS?

"It must be clear even to the non-mathematician that the things in this world just don't add up to beans." --David Lynch, The Angriest Dog In The World
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 12:32 PM on January 15, 2010


This led to the realization that the perception of a work of art is not only subjective from person to person, but also subjective within the view of an individual person over the course of time.

Roger Ebert has written quiet nicely about this in relation to him re-watching La Dolce Vita every decade, and how the protagonist has turned from a suave older guy to a foolish young man over time.

That said, grumblebee is right but leaves out an important part ... anyone is allowed to have any reaction they like to a film, but that also means that anyone else is allowed to have any reaction they like to that reaction.

In other words, you're free to tell me that the films of Rob Schneider are the most powerfully erotic works of our time, and I'll free to notice my drink is empty and head back to the bar.
posted by Bookhouse at 12:39 PM on January 15, 2010


"I'm free"

dumb typos
posted by Bookhouse at 12:41 PM on January 15, 2010


This led to the realization that the perception of a work of art is not only subjective from person to person, but also subjective within the view of an individual person over the course of time.


I felt this very keenly with the movie Before Sunrise. When I first saw it I was a 19 year old guy and I identified with Jesse very strongly. It was a story about how Jesse got this French girl Celine to tag along with him and how awesome that was. Seeing it 15 years later I was struck by how Celine was in control of the situation the whole time and used subtle humor and persuasion to prod Jesse along. The power dynamic in play was so different to my older eyes.

The fact that I enjoyed the film immensely both times is evidence to me that it is a work of some sophistication. I was focused on different layers of the film at different times but both layers were always there.
posted by Babblesort at 12:41 PM on January 15, 2010


Speaking as a visual artist: when I am finished with a piece, I have a lot of fun figuring out what it might possibly be saying or meaning or being. When I am putting it together, I follow the Surrealist method of quite naturally ignoring any idea of "reason" or "meaning."

It's pretty clear to me that Lynch works on such an intuitive kind of level.

It's not hard to see why different people understand Lynch differently. I like to watch his movies like I watch my dreams, as some of you do, too, apparently. If you are interested in parsing the plot to Mulholland Drive, fine. I'm sure David Lynch doesn't care, as long as you buy a ticket. Nor am I dissing plot-parsers. Have it your way. My way. Highway, with tumbleweeds. Hissing radiator. No other cars in sight. One cloud in the sky. What's that music?
posted by kozad at 12:53 PM on January 15, 2010


Every time someone says that something "doesn't make sense," I want to scream "to you! to you!!" There are no objective qualifications for "making sense."

Something does not have to be logical or rational to "make sense." Something that "makes sense" to someone may be unfathomable to someone else.

This led to the realization that the perception of a work of art is not only subjective from person to person, but also subjective within the view of an individual person over the course of time.

Just wanted to agree. I feel sorry for people (if they truly exist) whose judgments and opinions never change.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:58 PM on January 15, 2010


His worst is Mulholland Drive. ... That movie bored me to tears.

The thing is that it's the one most amenable to straightforward interpretation even if it seems weird while watching it. It's almost as though Lynch used Mulholland Drive to showcase "what he's about"-- in that case, the movie really is a transcribed dream of one of the characters and there's some interesting stuff that comes out about that and you can discuss an overarching narrative that exists outside the "dream."
posted by deanc at 1:09 PM on January 15, 2010


Durn: What's this? A bear?
Durn's Offspring #1: It's a beaver!
Durn: What? A beaver? Where's the flat tail?
Durn's Offspring #1: ...
Durn: And look how big it is next to this little stick fellow. No beaver is that big.
Durn's Offspring #1: NO, daddy. It's a beaver.
Durn: Look. My interpretation is just as valid as yours. This is a terrible beaver. It is, on the other hand, a reasonably good bear. Nice going.
Durn's Offspring #1: I HATE YOU!
Durn: I interpret it as love.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 1:10 PM on January 15, 2010 [7 favorites]


Rusty: What a beautiful flower!
Rusty's offspring: It's a dragon, and you're holding it upside down.
Rusty: I feel like we lack a common critical framework.
Rusty's offspring: Shut up.
posted by rusty at 1:15 PM on January 15, 2010 [8 favorites]


Just wanted to agree. I feel sorry for people (if they truly exist) whose judgments and opinions never change.

I'm beating up the academy here, and I want to make clear that I know there are exceptions. There are good professors and good classes.

But many, many scholars are hell-bent on classifying things. This is true in many disciplines (e.g. biology). It can be useful, but there's also a grave danger in it. It can lead to rigid thinking. Once you've decided what a work "means," it may be hard for you to see the work any other way. Especially if there's authoritative weight behind that meaning.

So many times, I've heard people say, "Years ago, when I was in school, professor X explained that 'Catcher in the Rye' means Blah. That totally changed the way I thought of the novel. It's how I've thought of it ever since." That's not all bad. There's something immensely pleasurable about feeling a block slide into place. But art can offer a greater pleasure, which is ambiguity. And, alas, the two pleasures are mutually exclusive. Once you've classified something, you rob it of ambiguity.

(Ambiguity means that the work contains questions. Our minds are hardwired to answer questions. Unanswered questions itch. So if someone offers an answer, it's incredibly temping -- and pleasurable -- to accept it. Once the block slides into place, we can check that block off the list. Ah! So that's what "Mohalland Drive" means. Good. Done.)

Of course, ambiguity is pleasurable for me. Other people may not like it so much.

Above, I wrote about how I see art as an ocean that I dive into. I dive into it naked and it takes me wherever it takes me. I figured that would be a pleasurable metaphor which anyone could relate to. But now I see how it could also be scary.

I wonder if some academics who like to explain what works mean are people who are uncomfortable with ambiguity. Are they trying to tame art? I don't think it can be tamed. However, you can pound your chest and insist that you've tamed it. And many people will believe you. Is that because they want it to be tamed, too?

I have two other pieces of armchair psychology: the first is that the previous paragraph may be over-thinking the way most academics work. Most are just working stiffs. They are following a formula that works for them. "Works for them" means that it gets classes taught and gets papers written.

The more profound thought is this: an interpretation can be as meaningful to a person -- or more meaningful -- then the work itself. As much as I've railed against objective interpretations, sometimes I come up with or hear one that JUST.SEEMS.RIGHT. This is an overpowering feeling, and it's very hard not to tell other people that their different interpretations are wrong.

I think we often belittle the subjective. We act like it's a minor feeling. No. It's the most powerful feeling we can have. Which is why the world is filled with arguments about morality, aesthetics, religion and politics in which people INSIST that they are right. And that others are wrong. That's not just arrogance. It's based on profound feeling.

It's also wrong.
posted by grumblebee at 1:18 PM on January 15, 2010


The funny thing, grumblebee, is that the people in the academic field that are most insistent that there are multitudes of meanings and interpretations in a given work, are the ones who the most intensely hated outside of that field, the postmodernists.

From what I have seen it is much more the rest of the world outside critical academia that tends to demand clear absolute meanings.
posted by idiopath at 1:25 PM on January 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


I wrote about how I see art as an ocean that I dive into. I dive into it naked and it takes me wherever it takes me. I figured that would be a pleasurable metaphor which anyone could relate to. But now I see how it could also be scary.

Conversely, you may just like diving into a large ocean where you can't see the shoreline and so you imagine that a work of art is an unconstrained, seemingly limitless ocean that could take you anywhere, because that's more pleasurable to you than grappling with things like authorial intent and the like. I'm pointing out here that you have a personal interest the feeling that you shouldn't be constrained in how what a work means to you.

Ambiguity means that the work contains questions. Our minds are hardwired to answer questions. Unanswered questions itch.

Well, there's good and bad here. Some questions are just vacuous. Let's not all turn in to earnest grammar school teachers reassuring everyone that "there are no stupid questions!"
posted by deanc at 1:33 PM on January 15, 2010


From what I have seen it is much more the rest of the world outside critical academia that tends to demand clear absolute meanings.

Yeah I was going to say that. In other words, I agree with you grumblebee, but I think your complaint about 'academics' is misplaced: the vast majority of them agree with you. Critical essays about reading Lacanian theory in Jarmusch films are more about simultenously exploring the ideas of Lacanian theory and the depth of possibilities of meaning in art than they are about nailing down the film to a single one-to-one correlation between image and message.

There are, of course, numerous people who will say 'Mulholland Dr. is 2/3 dream sequence and 1/3 reality, and I can explain why, and anyone who sees it differently doesn't get it,' but I don't think you'll find many of them teaching university classes (at least not good classes).
posted by shakespeherian at 1:36 PM on January 15, 2010


I think grumblebee is having a breakdown.
posted by rusty at 1:39 PM on January 15, 2010


The funny thing, grumblebee, is that the people in the academic field that are most insistent that there are multitudes of meanings and interpretations in a given work, are the ones who the most intensely hated outside of that field, the postmodernists.

I may be wrong, but aren't postmodernists obsessed with intellectual interpretations? When I used to "discuss" art with them, this always seemed to be the case. I put scare quotes around "discuss," because were were always talking past each other.

It seemed as if the po-mo scholars where saying this:

"Before us, critics were claiming that a work's meaning could be boiled down to a concrete thematic statement. We reject that. If a critic claims that a work's theme is that 'racism is evil,' I can show him how that same work is claiming that 'racism is good.'"

To me, these stances are more alike than different. They are both obsessed with thematic meaning. (And, for some odd reason, the discussions continually centered around political themes.) And it seemed like the po-mo folks were more interested in overthrowing the previous generation of scholars than they were with the art itself.

To me, both stances are mind-numbingly boring. Most works TO ME don't say that racism is good. Nor do they say that it's bad. Nor do they say that it's both good and bad at the same time. For me, most works say, "Wow! That character sure is a lot like your uncle" or "Jesus Christ! What's going to happen next?" or "You're hungry!" or "You're turned on!"

I know that academics are supposed to be intellectual, but to ignore the sensual side of art -- which, TO ME, is it's most powerful side -- is like studying food without caring about how it tastes.
posted by grumblebee at 1:41 PM on January 15, 2010


There are, of course, numerous people who will say 'Mulholland Dr. is 2/3 dream sequence and 1/3 reality, and I can explain why, and anyone who sees it differently doesn't get it,'

Except that someone who says that is right. There are a multitude of other things to say about Mulholland Drive, but you can nail down this statement about it being mostly a dream sequence with other parts depicted "reality" pretty firmly. I mean, if you can't say that about Mulholland Drive, then you you're on the verge of saying that you can't say anything about any movie's narrative.
posted by deanc at 1:42 PM on January 15, 2010


I'm pointing out here that you have a personal interest the feeling that you shouldn't be constrained in how what a work means to you.

Yes.

Except I don't have a personal interest in stopping a work from being constrained. A work ISN'T constrained for me. I react to it how I react to it. It's not conscious. I can only control how I talk about it.

And I have no interest in converting other people to view are the way I do. My only interest here is to thwart the notion that there are right and wrong interpretations.
posted by grumblebee at 1:44 PM on January 15, 2010


I think grumblebee is having a breakdown.

Joke? Insult? I don't get it.
posted by grumblebee at 1:45 PM on January 15, 2010


Let's not all turn in to earnest grammar school teachers reassuring everyone that "there are no stupid questions!"

It depends on how you're using questions. I'm not sure what "stupid" means in this context, but there are plenty of questions that would be boring and pointless and off-topic in, say, a classroom discussion.

In a particular person's head, they might be fascinating, meaningful questions.
posted by grumblebee at 1:49 PM on January 15, 2010


I think your complaint about 'academics' is misplaced

I will admit. I've been out of academia for about fifteen years. Are you saying that academics are not interested in the sensual side of art more than they are in the intellectual side -- that they're talking more about how art makes people feel than they are about how it connects (or doesn't) to political and social ideas?
posted by grumblebee at 1:51 PM on January 15, 2010


Except that someone who says that is right. There are a multitude of other things to say about Mulholland Drive, but you can nail down this statement about it being mostly a dream sequence with other parts depicted "reality" pretty firmly.

In your opinion. Whereas just as solid an argument can be made for the film working in exactly the opposite way as you think it does, or that each of the two sections are dreams/mirrors of each other, or that the film is a narrative and thematic diptych. This relates directly to what I was saying about Lynch's refusal to talk about how he personally sees Mulholland Dr.-- he's not just being coy.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:52 PM on January 15, 2010


'David Lynch "doesn't do metaphors. He doesn't make Postmodern references to other art,"...

Someone hasn't seen Wild At Heart it seems...
posted by Mintyblonde at 1:59 PM on January 15, 2010


grumblebee, you simply enjoy things if you don't feel that you have to think about any issues of intent or narrative meaning for "answers." So you're going to consciously avoid having any thoughts of that and dismiss those who are trying to concentrate on those issues. Maybe you feel that putting in some kinds of limits/constraints on an interpretation is unfair or inappropriate, but it sounds to me like you're actually limiting yourself by insisting that there must be no constraints around possible interpretations, since it's only important how something makes you feel.
In your opinion.
As I said, you could use this answer to any statement about the narrative of any movie, to the point where it has no meaning.
posted by deanc at 2:01 PM on January 15, 2010


Joke? Insult? I don't get it.

Just a joke. You're on a bit of a tear here against... I can't figure out what. Something you imagine to be the case about academics and art interpretation. None of it resembles anything I've ever heard from academics.

...because were were always talking past each other.

I suspect that happens to you a lot. You're talking past everyone here who's trying to engage with you.
posted by rusty at 2:07 PM on January 15, 2010


As I said, you could use this answer to any statement about the narrative of any movie, to the point where it has no meaning.

Well, yeah, says you.
posted by infinitywaltz at 2:07 PM on January 15, 2010


There are, of course, numerous people who will say 'Mulholland Dr. is 2/3 dream sequence and 1/3 reality, and I can explain why, and anyone who sees it differently doesn't get it,'

Except that someone who says that is right.

In your opinion.

There are various levels of eccentricity. Let's take a look at some of them:

[SPOILER] In "City Lights," a blind girl regains her sight. She then sees that the man she thought was rich and handsome is actually a homeless tramp. The movie ends with them looking at each other. I've met people who INSIST that they become romantically involved after the movie is over; I've met others who insist they don't. The me, neither is being eccentric (except maybe in insisting that the movie only offers one interpretation of what happens after it ends).

[SPOILER] A somewhat eccentric guy might claim that the Land of Oz in "The Wizard of Oz" is not a dream. To me, this guy IS eccentric, because "it's a dream" is a much more reasonable interpretation. My grounds for thinking that are mostly Occam's Razor. But I can't really say that guy is wrong. His interpretation doesn't violate anything in the movie. Dorothy does wake up in bed, but maybe the ruby slippers caused that to happen.

[SPOILER] An even more eccentric guy claims that "Planet of the Apes" is not set on a future Earth. He thinks it's set on some other planet that just happens to have an identical Statue of Liberty. WEIRD. But, again, I'm not sure how this is wrong.

[SPOILER] An even MORE eccentric guy says that "Citizen Kane's" dying word was not "Rosebud." I argue with him that it's clearly shown to be "Rosebud" in the movie! You hear him say it and then he dies. The guy points out that you don't see him die. You see someone pull a sheet over him. Maybe he's actually still alive. Maybe he lives for a few more minutes and says something else.

That last guy is really weird. He's injecting all sorts of stuff into the movie that is complete conjecture. And it's gratuitous conjecture. I feel like saying he's wrong. But I still don't know what I mean by that. He's not wrong. he's just so eccentric that he and I have no basis for discussion. He views stories in a completely different way than I do.

[SPOILER] Finally, there's a guy who says that Humphrey Bogart does not say "Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship" at the end of "Casablanca." Here, I am happy to say that he's plain wrong. I think there are some complex grounds for arguing that he's not wrong -- that one needn't take what one sees and hears as gospel -- but I choose not to operate on that level, and I think most people do the same.

So my question, deanc, is where you do your place counter-claims about "Moholland Drive" on this scale of eccentricity? I have not seen the movie since it first came out, so I can't weigh in with an opinion. But I'm curious about how you know you're right and what you base that on. Is it movie "fact" that's as powerful as my "Casablanca" example?
posted by grumblebee at 2:14 PM on January 15, 2010


I suspect that happens to you a lot. You're talking past everyone here who's trying to engage with you.

Interesting how we see things differently. I'm interested in what everyone here has to say and have asked them questions about their opinions. And I don't get the impression that I'm clashing with everyone.

deanc is the person I'm having most fun talking to here (and I hope he's also having fun). Even though he disagrees with me about many points, he said, "If your primary reason for consuming art of any type is because you enjoy the process of interpreting them, then the grumblebee mindset will be the one that puts the fewest constraints on you, and this might be best for you if your primary goal is to have no constraints."

This doesn't seem like people talking past each other to me.

I may be wrong about academia, but I'm not coming from a place of total ignorance. Both my parents were film-studies professors. My dad founded the film studies department at Indiana University and retired as chairman of his department a few years ago. He championed the sort of sensual approach that I do, and he was challenged and hated by many of his colleagues. (Mostly the Po-mo people hated him.)

I was in academic from 1984 to 1996, both as a student and a teacher.
posted by grumblebee at 2:22 PM on January 15, 2010


Mullholland Drive is a series of photographic images on celluloid passing in front of a bulb, or another technology emulating that original celluloid and bulb.

Everything else is interpretation and speculation, with varying degrees of help from David Lynch and his process of deciding the content of those images.

There is a kind of artist who treats talking to his audience about what his work means as admitting that his art is flawed - as far as he is concerned the piece itself should do the job he is trying to do in explaining it. So of course an artist who thinks this way, and is sufficiently proud of his work, will refuse to discuss or admit meanings that are not directly present in the piece itself. Lynch may just be one of these.
posted by idiopath at 2:28 PM on January 15, 2010


why is this turning into a series of personal attacks on grumblebee? we've gone from differing viewpoints to stuff that comes across to me as "well, you come from some uneducated stupid line of thinking, so it's no surprise that you feel this way." not thrilled.
posted by shmegegge at 2:32 PM on January 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


As I said, you could use this answer to any statement about the narrative of any movie, to the point where it has no meaning.

Not really. Your evidence (I suspect) is that there are stylistic differences between two different sections of the film, and that these differences correspond to characters changing names, events being mirrored, etc., and that one of these two sections is filmed and edited in a more 'gritty' and 'realistic' way; also, that various motifs (the color blue, a dead woman in a bed) that parallel in each section seem to indicate that one has inspired the other; also, that there is a shot of a pillow at the beginning of the film and then, at the point of the stylistic shift, someone waking up.

I don't think that these facts obviate all interpretations but one, certainly not in the way that the clearly-presented narratives of most other films obviate wild interpretations the way you seem to imply. And Lynch doesn't seem the kind of guy who makes puzzle-box films like, say, The Unusual Suspects or Vanilla Sky, in which a simple declarative synopsis can be used to explain away mysteries and curious images. If anything, I thought INLAND EMPIRE seemed to be at least partially intended to refute people who have tossed around this kind of puzzle-box synopsis of both Mulholland Dr. and Lost Highway.

I'd also argue that the 'realistic' depiction of the last 1/3 of the film is offset by distinctly unreal elements not present in the first 2/3, e.g. tiny old people crawling under Betty's door, disjointed hallucination/flashback jump cuts, etc. I'm not saying that I disagree with your interpretation, but that I think claiming it as the only valid interpretation of the events of the film is incorrect.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:35 PM on January 15, 2010


hey grumblebee, I'm with you. I mean, I can argue with you about certain questions, but you raise some interesting points. And as shakespeherian says, some of your ideas do fit in with some Post-Modernist theories.

Po-Mo Theory is slippery stuff. Of course, Po-Mo itself is subject to interpretation.
posted by ovvl at 2:37 PM on January 15, 2010


For the record, I don't think grumblebee and I are talking past each other, but I think that rusty is referring to another thread of conversation between grumblebee and those engaging with him.

I was going to leave it at that, but since grumblebee asked a specific question of me, I'll add more:

I'm curious about how you know you're right and what you base that on. Is it movie "fact" that's as powerful as my "Casablanca" example?

I would say yes. Simplifying, and from memory, in the beginning, you hear a tired moan and watch from the perspective of someone's head heading downwards towards a pillow. Then the bulk of the movie occurs, and then there is an ending sequence with a character waking up and reacting to the dream and what has happened in her life.

Now, I think there are a lot of unanswered issues in the movie, some of which I still can't make sense of, and I'm always willing to hear people's take on it. However, to say that the movie doesn't contain the depiction of a person's dream or that saying that this is what happens in the movie is "just my opinion" is just an attempt to be ornery and contrarian (IMHO). To claim that one can't say, "Mulholland Dr. is 2/3 dream sequence and 1/3 reality," is to say that a movie needs to have a big caption on the screen or explanatory dialog of a character saying, "I am going to sleep now!" and then a sequence where the character wakes up and says, "Wow! What a strange dream where X, Y, and Z [that you just saw] happened!" is needed if you want to definitively say that a movie had a dream in it.
posted by deanc at 2:39 PM on January 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think a lot of academics get locked into a specific frame of reference through which they interpret everything. Sometimes this can be entertaining, if...um...a little oblique (Homer's Odyssey as Marxist class struggle! Jim Davis' Garfield comic strips as post-feminist gender critique!), and sometimes this can be a really enlightenening way to view a specific work.

Likewise, examining an artist's intent with a particular piece can be really enlightenening; although it's certainly not the only way to view a piece of work, it can be an interesting one, especially with a lot of "low" art, as in, "How well did that particular zombie flick hold up in comparison to other zombie flicks? What was the director going for? Was it homage? Parody? Just a blatant rip-off?" This is, of course, more difficult with people like Lynch who tend to evade questions about their own motivations.

All of these forms of interpretation are valid, and most of them defy easy proof, as grumblebee points out, but they all make art more interesting to discuss, at least, and I'd be hesitant to label anything that's at least interesting and thought-provoking as inherently "wrong."
posted by infinitywaltz at 2:39 PM on January 15, 2010


Ah. Film studies is still largely ruled by auteur theory, which makes it a sort of bizarre pre-New Criticism backwater, where this argument is still going on. Never mind. Carry on.
posted by rusty at 2:40 PM on January 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


I create "art" (I hate that word, but it's the only reasonable shorthand I know.) I refused to discuss meanings.

I refuse because my whole goal is to put something out that and let audience members relate to it in their own ways.

I refuse because I don't get how my meaning is privileged. I really don't. There's no part of the act of creation that leads me to this point of view. I know that some other artists feel differently, but I don't understand what leads them to that conclusion. Edison didn't intend the phonograph to be used for music.

I refuse because I learned certain lessons from my youth. When I first started directing (in school), I thought I was supposed to discuss meaning. All the other directors around me were doing it. My teachers were doing it. So I thought it was part of the job. So I told people what my plays "meant."

What I realized is that I was guessing and bullshitting. I was making things up to please interviewers. I was explaining what my work meant to me THAT DAY, which was not necessarily what it meant to me when I was creating it. Often, I would go back over what I said and think, "Why did I say that? That was a stupid thing to say!" And yet when I said it, I said it with authority, people believed it, and they thought it was important.

From what I've written in this thread, I wouldn't blame you for thinking I make art from my gut. But that's mostly wrong. I create more from my head than my heart. (I envy artists who create from a more emotional place.) I usually have a reason for everything I do. I could explain that reason. I just don't see a point. The reason is part of the under-the-hood stuff. It's not what the work means. It's what I needed to hold onto while I was creating.
posted by grumblebee at 2:41 PM on January 15, 2010


why is this turning into a series of personal attacks on grumblebee?

Thanks for standing up for me, but I don't feel attacked. We're all just discussing something we care about with passion. I hope no one feels attacked by me.
posted by grumblebee at 2:57 PM on January 15, 2010


nevermind then. overstepped my bounds. carry on.
posted by shmegegge at 3:03 PM on January 15, 2010


The claims made about the attitudes of this mythical monolithic group of "ACADEMICS" seem to me to be... well, a nice way to put it would be to say that they are stretching it. I think the idea of the academic who rigidly imposes one framework on all art and says "Everything is REALLY about [class struggle/patriarchy/Oedipal conflict/whatever] is 1) very dated; 2) referring to a very narrow slice of humanities-oriented academics who are generally not great at what they do and are respected, if at all, as theorists rather than literary critics; and 3) based on a misinterpretation of what it is that (theoretically-oriented) academics do when they "interpret" works.

To take infinitywaltz's first hypothetical: Odyssey as Marxist class struggle. I'm not in classics, so I don't know what the atmosphere is in that field or their theoretical sophistication, but I can say from my experience in English lit that it is highly unlikely that any respectable critic would say, "Homer's Odyssey is about class struggle" or "Homer [or the poets who constructed the narrative we now attribute to Homer] was writing about class struggle." What someone MIGHT say is, "Homer's Odyssey gives us an insight into the social organization of its time in the way that it depicts the relationships between people of different economic/political status, the kinds of language it uses, the way it depicts labor and wealth, etc; and we can use some Marxist concepts to help us to understand these relationships and the implicit or explicit attitudes in the text towards what we would now call 'class,' as long as we understand that we are dealing with a pre-capitalist society with a very different cultural-economic system than that in which Marx developed and wrote his theories."
posted by Saxon Kane at 3:06 PM on January 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


Yeah, it's really interesting how seeing a movie at different points in time can lead to very different views. When I saw Big Momma's House as a 16 year old boy, I thought it was pretty funny. 40 years later as a middle-aged lesbian, I thought it was an interesting exploration of institutional reinforcement of all-pervasive patriarchal power dynamics . When I saw it in the 15th century as a simple millworker, I had no context in which to interpret projected moving images and concluded that it was the work of Satan.
posted by anazgnos at 3:16 PM on January 15, 2010 [24 favorites]


anazgnos: "concluded that it was the work of Satan"

One of those stopped clock right twice a day moments.
posted by idiopath at 3:25 PM on January 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


In response to Saxon Kane's comment: you are only too correct, and my examples were more hyperbole than anything else.

I do have a humanities degree, and while I very much respect what theoretically-oriented academics do, it's the ones who might not be great at it (as you so delicately put it) are the ones I find most interesting, if perhaps not the most respectable. I'm not saying all academics are narrow-minded specialists who apply one ridiculously specific framework to everything; I'm just saying the few who do are the ones I find the most entertaining (I have a day job outside of academia, so any literary criticism I'm reading these days is for "pleasure," if you can call it that).
posted by infinitywaltz at 3:34 PM on January 15, 2010


infinitywaltz: Yeah, I assumed you were giving intentionally extreme examples, but there are many people who reduce academia to such black and white statements, whether because they have been exposed to shock-academics, or they misinterpret lit crit, or both (I was staying in a hostel in Dublin once, and in a conversation with a woman there I said I was an English grad student. She said that she never cared for English as a college student because "I'm sorry but I refuse to believe that the pillars holding up the plantation house in Gone With The Wind are two big penises!" I don't know if she had a shitty prof or what, but that's a ludicrous statement that I can't imagine any decent academic saying with a straight face).

In terms of the ones whom I indicated as "not so great", there really are multiple varieties, and I wasn't intending to say that all theorists are full of shit. There certainly are people who say, "Hamlet's sword is a penis, Ophelia's flowers are her vagina, Ahab wants to have gay sex with Moby Dick" or whatever -- I just think they are a very small minority and clueless -- they understand neither the literature nor the theory they are trying pathetically to use to explain it.

Then there are people who are very legitimately smart people but who are more theoreticians then literary critics. Take someone like Zizek* for example. The guy is clearly really, really smart, and has some brilliant things to say. But, he also writes analyses of movies that he's never seen. If I'm reading his stuff, it's for the theory, not for his insight into the "meaning" of a text (although he may say something that does help me to construct a meaning for a text). Zizek is one of the people who uses literature to develop his theoretical insights into capitalism, psychoanalysis, subjectivity, etc. That is, the literary text serves the purpose of explicating the theory.

I would classify myself more as the type of person who attempts to use theory to construct nuanced explications of the literary text, and I try to avoid ridiculous statements like the ones I listed above.

There are a few who are equally brilliant at both because they know and have read everything, and I hate those people because they are so much smarter than me.

* (I'm not in film studies, so I don't know just how respected Zizek's work on film is, but it seems to me that he is usually using a movie to explain how Lacan works, rather than using Lacan to explain how a film works.)
posted by Saxon Kane at 3:48 PM on January 15, 2010


I'm not an Academic myself, but I could defend Academia for a couple of reasons. One reason is that many of my friends are Academics. They are younger Academics, and work less rigid and doctrinaire than some of those from the previous millennium. The other reason is that Academia does a lot of the sorting and heavy lifting of some of the interesting or obscure ideas floating around in culture, which can then be applied to other avenues.

But it is also obvious that Academia is imperfect. The dry writing style of documentation can be mind-numbing. The petty infighting, silly turf wars, and political wrangling are enough to drive any intelligent person with a hint of idealism about the nobility of the pursuit of knowledge into cynicism and disillusion. But this also happens anywhere that big money is involved.

Between the theory and practice of French Post-Structuralism, some of their ideas did seem to turn into self-parody (kinda like Christianity, actually, during the religious wars) where the fluid gospel of "everything is subject to interpretation" was carved into rigid stones. Some Po-Mo theorists acknowledged the inherent absurdity of this, I might be thinking of Jean Baudrillard in Forget Foucault, but I can't quote chapter and verse, because I'm not an Academic.
posted by ovvl at 4:03 PM on January 15, 2010


Joke? Insult? I don't get it.

The artist claims it's a joke. But if you feel insulted, who's to say your interpretation is wrong?
posted by Obscure Reference at 4:10 PM on January 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


I didn't feel insulted. Just puzzled.
posted by grumblebee at 4:14 PM on January 15, 2010


"I'm sorry but I refuse to believe that the pillars holding up the plantation house in Gone With The Wind are two big penises!"

I think a lot of people reduce all theorists and critics to Freudians because it's more interesting to imagine academics spending all day looking for wangs in everything than to imagine them doing...well...what they actually do.

Besides, the pillars in Gone with the Wind are clearly representative of Boaz and Jachin, the two pillars used in Freemasonry ritual, which also ties into the image of The High Priestess (or The Papess) in the Tarot. How anyone could go with a Freudian analysis when the occult symbolism is so obvious is beyond me .
posted by infinitywaltz at 5:06 PM on January 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


All of Lynch's movies have a concrete underlying narrative that can be described unambiguously in linear time. None of his movies are as inchoate as they appear; they are all puzzles. If you have not solved the puzzle it may seem that it has many solutions or no solution, but once you see the solution it is very obvious that there is only one way that the film completely makes sense.

I have figured most of them out by myself, but Mulholland Drive took some help (it's very focused on tropes from old movies some of which were not familiar to me). A clearer example is Lost Highway, which can be conveniently and easily understood if one assumes...

SPOILER ALERT****

Lost Highway is a series of fantasies evolving in the mind of a man who has killed his wife and is running from the scene. The only parts of the movie that are real are what are depicted as being on video in the movie -- thus the main character's declaration that he hates video, because it shows you things as they really are. If you watch the movie with this idea in mind, it makes perfect sense and the points where the fantasy dovetails with reality are quite clear and obvious.

**** END SPOILER

As for Mulholland Drive, find proof that it really does have an unambiguous underlying narrative here.
posted by localroger at 5:16 PM on January 15, 2010


But art can offer a greater pleasure, which is ambiguity.

I love and appreciate ambiguity too, but just because you prefer the mystery doesn't mean it's wrong for other people to try and solve it. The word "greater" here is entirely your opinion. If one believes art has something fundamental to teach us about human nature, then trying to decipher it is the greater pleasure - and often people like to figure that out through conversation with others who are interested.

When you see a movie with a friend, don't you discuss it afterward?

"Hey, that was an awesome film. Do you think it was a dream?"
"No, not really. How would she be able to dream about the future? I think it was just a messed up reality."
"Yeah, but there are beds and sleeping people all over. That has to mean something."
"Yeah."

That's all criticsim really is. Just because academics don't qualify every statement with "IN MY OPINION!" doesn't mean they're saying "Yes, I have SOLVED this work! We may stop discussing it now!" anymore than that's the case in a conversation. Except a conversation between hundreds of people, so you can't just say "Okay, I think it's done - let's leave the rest ambiguous" because someone else has something new to say.

It's nice to leave things be sometimes. But why prevent others from trying to puzzle them out? Life would be so boring if people just went,
"Welp! That sure was a movie."
"Yes."
"Yes. Next!"
posted by Solon and Thanks at 5:38 PM on January 15, 2010


I think grumblebee has already addressed this issue. 'Solving' a film requires the acceptance of your framework. That framework is as valid and useful as any other - perhaps more so than some - but at no point does it become 'correct' just because it seems most appropriate to you.

grumblebee:
Having read through this page and a few of your blog posts, something stands out: is the purpose of Art just pleasure for you? You talk about theatre lulling an audience, and swimming in a vast ocean. What about Verfremdungseffekt? Without totally derailing the thread, it's fair to say that art is more than just entertainment.

I don't know where to go with that thought though, beyond discussing "better to be Socrates satisfied than a fool dissatisfied..." etc etc.
posted by deticxe at 6:08 PM on January 15, 2010


All of Lynch's movies have a concrete underlying narrative that can be described unambiguously in linear time.

I will agree with this, while mostly disagreeing with it.

Yes, Lynch movies can be made to fit to a certain narrative, and this is often useful for understanding how the parts fit together. However, narrative is a construct, and like any construct, relies upon certain rules. Things have to be massaged in order to fit into a narrative; interpretations have to be made about how one element relates to another, which are important and which are not important; things have to be excluded or explained; motivations have to be assumed; reasons have to be given. The rules of narrative are arbitrary, and I think that Lynch's films, while appearing to conform to a narrative but simultaneously exceeding or defying the rules that we use to construct narrative, force us to confront that arbitrariness -- the fictionality of all narratives.

*SPOILERINOS*
I'll talk about Mulholland Drive because I'm more familiar with it than Lost Highway. The "10 Clues" included in the DVD seem to offer us a decoder ring. We can use those to "figure out" the narrative. And once we put the majority of the elements together, we can construct a story: Diane meets Camilla, falls in love, is jilted, has her killed, then has a nightmare that rewrites the story, wakes up, we get a flashback, she kills herself. That does make sense, to a certain extent, and in figuring that out, there's a certain sense of pleasure and mastery.

But in constructing that narrative, we have to make assumptions and exclude some things. We have to assume that the film is not presented to us in strict chronological order. We have to assume that dreams work in a certain way. We have to assume that Camilla really is killed. We may make up reasons for why Diane would act in a certain way, etc. And then there are elements that don't quite fit, most prominently the blue-haired woman at Club Silencio. She exists in both "dream" and "waking" world. Why? How is that possible? How does she fit into the "real" world presented in the last 1/3 of the film? And then there are moments of delicious undecidability -- in the "waking" world, when Diane meets Coco, Adam Kesher's mother... do they know each other, or not? The scene is played very ambiguously, suggesting perhaps that Coco was in on the planned murder of Camilla (or perhaps not at all, maybe she's just a dottering old woman).

These moments puncture the narrative that we've constructed, showing that as seductive as it may be, it is not necessarily the "truth" -- just as Diane's dream of her life as Betty is a seductive illusion. That's not to say that the idea that the first 2/3 of the movie is a dream, the second 1/3 is waking is wrong, but rather that the difference between dream logic and waking logic is less than we normally believe, that one is not more "real" than the other, that in the act of creating a narrative out of the waking world, we are doing the same thing that we do when we dream.
posted by Saxon Kane at 6:27 PM on January 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


I love and appreciate ambiguity too, but just because you prefer the mystery doesn't mean it's wrong for other people to try and solve it. The word "greater" here is entirely your opinion.

If you believe I'm saying my way is the only way -- that I think "it's wrong for other people to try and solve it" --- then I have completely fucked up any attempt to communicate.

It's the height of arrogance to assume a communication failure is the other person's fault, so I am trying to take responsibility for this, but I admit I'm straining to understand how you could have taken my words as you did, when in the same post you quote, I wrote this:

Of course, ambiguity is pleasurable for me. Other people may not like it so much.

My view is this: if ANYONE -- including me -- EVER suggests that his way of watching or talking about movies is better than other ways, then he's an arrogant ass. Period. And he's also stupid, because he's saying something that makes no sense.
posted by grumblebee at 6:50 PM on January 15, 2010


Saxon Kane, did you look at the link I provided? Mulholland Drive can be fully and mostly unambiguously explained. It is a bit more complicated than first 2/3 vs. last 1/3, but it is a very typical David Lynch puzzle in that when you get all the pieces turned around the right way, it's obviously a fatal mistake.
posted by localroger at 7:00 PM on January 15, 2010


grumblebee:
Having read through this page and a few of your blog posts, something stands out: is the purpose of Art just pleasure for you? You talk about theatre lulling an audience, and swimming in a vast ocean. What about Verfremdungseffekt? Without totally derailing the thread, it's fair to say that art is more than just entertainment.


I know many people draw a distinction between "art" (a word I use but hate) and "entertainment" (a word I'm not crazy about, either), but I don't really understand the difference. So it's hard for me to weigh in. I know that when I watch movies, some of them affect me more profoundly than others. Generally, FOR ME, "affect me more profoundly" means they make me feel more deeply than other movies. They make me laugh more, cry more, cringe more, etc.

I don't value one feeling over another. So I rate a movie that makes me scared equally to a movie that makes me gleeful or angry. (Well, I don't really "rate" movies, but if you forced me to take one to a desert island and leave one behind, I'd definitely take the move that makes me feel the most deeply.)

For me, the best movies make me feel multiple things at once -- or they make me feel just one thing, but in a really pure, sharp way. Or they continue to make me feel with repeated viewings. Or they make me feel even when I'm not watching them, even when I'm just thinking about them.

I once had a discussion with someone about art vs entertainment. I have no idea how representative he is, but he eventually clarified that entertainment, in his view, is stuff you watch for fun. Whereas art is stuff you watch because it's good for you.

That turns me off.

I hope I never watch something "because it's good for me." And I don't even know what that would mean. Good for me how? If it broadens my horizons or teaches me something I didn't know, then I'll like it. Because I love to grow and learn and experience. But he made it sound like there are certain movies he watches -- or certain books he reads -- that are duties. Yuck.
posted by grumblebee at 7:14 PM on January 15, 2010


But he made it sound like there are certain movies he watches -- or certain books he reads -- that are duties. Yuck.

You know, to me you sound as if you've been having your argument with that person, not anyone who's actually involved in this discussion.

And in reaction to this "art-is-good-medicine" assertion, you seem to have developed the idea that art is pure experience, pure sensation, pure feelings about which it is at best pointless, at worst maybe even harmful, to think about at all. Maybe that's true. But if it is true, then why are we having this discussion at all? If the pure experience of art must remain unsullied by the imposition of any agreed upon meaning or interpretation, then isn't silence in its presence the only proper approach? Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent, as Wittgenstein said.
posted by octobersurprise at 8:43 PM on January 15, 2010


I think a lot of people reduce all theorists and critics to Freudians because it's more interesting to imagine academics spending all day looking for wangs in everything than to imagine them doing...well...what they actually do.

for straight male theorists and critics, it's more that there is one particular wang which interests them and they spend all day trying to put it in everything. academia is just the way that works for them.
posted by shmegegge at 8:50 PM on January 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


localroger: My comment was about the very process of narrative explanation itself.
posted by Saxon Kane at 8:59 PM on January 15, 2010


All of Lynch's movies have a concrete underlying narrative that can be described unambiguously in linear time.

Yeah let me know when you see INLAND EMPIRE.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:53 PM on January 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


you seem to have developed the idea that art is pure experience, pure sensation, pure feelings ...

I didn't explain myself well, I guess.

Art ISN'T pure experience. Art is ink on paper, images on celluloid, people walking about on stage, clay molded into various shapes, etc.

People react to those objects and rituals in various ways.

I react to them by enjoying that the sensual things they have to offer me. That's the way I react. Me. It's not a good way to react, a better way to react, a bad way to react, a superior way to react... it's the way I react. I don't choose to react that way any more than I choose to like chocolate and hate cockroaches. I just react that way.

...about which it is at best pointless, at worst maybe even harmful, to think about at all. Maybe that's true. But if it is true, then why are we having this discussion at all?

Oh, no! it's useful (to me) and fascinating (to me) to talk about art. It's about 90% of what I talk about every day. I've been talking about art for 25 years without ever discussing it in terms of meaning, theme, politics, etc.

For reasons I don't understand, academics (in MY experience) are largely uninterested in discussing the sensual aspects of art. I don't get why that is. Art is many things to many people. Surely ALL those things -- intellectual AND emotional -- are worthy of discussion. Surely I'm not alone in responding to art primarily in an emotional/sensual way. Most of the people I know -- the ones that haven't been trained in the humanities -- respond this way.

Emotions aren't unfathomable, mystical things. They are things we can discuss objectively, even if we feel them subjectively.

We don't know everything about how they work, but neither do we know all the inner workings of the intellect.

Emotions are physical processes. When we consume art, it affects specific parts of our brains. One of the parts it affects (not the only part) is the Limbic System. It's worth discussing the specifics of how art affects the brain.

There are people -- Vilayanur S. Ramachandran, for instance -- who are studying this in the lab. I assume his findings and theories are being discussed every day in English lit classes NOW. But they weren't when I was in school.

We can take polls to discover if there are commonalities to the way we react, emotionally, to art. Common sense tells us that there are (e.g. many of us laugh at the same jokes in comedies), but we desperately need more thorough, systematized studies. Academics could be so helpful here. And their findings would help real-life artists create better works. Their findings would also help art consumers understand why art drugs them the way that it does.

Meanwhile, we can pick specific works apart and try to discover how they are achieving the emotional effects they achieve. I'm talking about drilling down to the level of sentences, words and phonemes -- or brushstrokes, musical notes, etc.

We can do historical studies: are there moments in Shakespeare plays that affected Elizabethan audiences different from modern audiences? Why? Were there colors that moved people in Rembrandt's day in different ways than they move us? Why?

Are there universal, timeless, cross-cultural emotional/sensual effects? What are they? How have certain works managed to achieve them? How have others failed to achieve them?

Are there ways we could take a work and alter it to change its emotional palette?

I could go on and on, but I'll spare you more. My point is that just because one is interested in the art as an emotion machine, that doesn't necessarily mean talking about that machine is useless or distasteful.

What I DO find useless and distasteful -- usually -- is talking about intellectual content GENERATED BY a work of art, e.g. the work's theme or political message. That's a totally different subject matter than what one would discuss in an intellectual discussion about how the work achieves its emotional and sensual effects.

And even given my tastes, I do NOT think it's useless to discuss theme. It's just useless to ME. Clearly, many people find it rewarding.


But he made it sound like there are certain movies he watches -- or certain books he reads -- that are duties. Yuck.


You know, to me you sound as if you've been having your argument with that person, not anyone who's actually involved in this discussion.

How have I lead you to think that? That example was in response to a specific side-line question someone asked me about art vs. entertainment.

Who am have I been addressing in this theead? The people claimed that there were right and wrong ways to interpret art (see their posts, above). I participated in this thread specifically to counter their claims, which to me are misguided. It wasn't a figment of my imagination that people were making such claims. People really made them. I really countered them. Perhaps I did a terrible job. But that's what I was doing. Or trying to do.

In that discussion, I claimed that academia is partially responsible for the view that there are right and wrong ways to view art. Some folks here disagreed with me. They and I have been debating that point, too. I may be wrong about academia. I am judging from thirty some years of being around and involved with academics. But I am willing to consider the possibilities that I either got very unlucky or didn't pay close attention.

How does any of that relate to my totally tangential claim that a friend of mine claimed he had a duty to read certain books? I don't see how you think I'm having an argument with that person in this thread.
posted by grumblebee at 10:00 PM on January 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


I agree with grumblebee because he/she/it grumbles and is a bee. And I like to grumble, myself. And I like bees. Also, I like sake and have been drinking some.
posted by infinitywaltz at 11:50 PM on January 15, 2010


I'm an it and a he, not a she. Though I am in touch with my feminine side.
posted by grumblebee at 9:05 AM on January 16, 2010


Regarding Lynch and Academia. I think we can agree that many members of various Academies around the world have hundreds of different views about David Lynch and his movies, including Dr. Grumblebee Sr. and the PoMos. Let a thousand seminars bloom.

But I would suggest that 90% of Lynch fans have little to do with academia. So go back and delete 90% of this thread, somebody. From what I know of David Lynch, he is not thirsting to be Canonized by The Academy of Expert Theoretical Opinon.

And if TMTM has deranged Lynch's neuroaesthetics, all hail Sexy Sadie.
posted by kozad at 9:20 AM on January 16, 2010


I react to them by enjoying that the sensual things they have to offer me ... I don't choose to react that way any more than I choose to like chocolate and hate cockroaches. I just react that way.

We can take polls to discover if there are commonalities to the way we react, emotionally, to art ... we desperately need more thorough, systematized studies.

You see, aside from a dislike of some picture of academia that you've imagined, I confess that it isn't clear to me what your larger point is. On the one hand you seem to be asserting that your own emotional reactions to art are primary and ultimately unfathomable ("I don't choose to react that way ... I just react that way."), while on the other hand deriding "the academy" for failing to study the specific mechanics of emotion. Now I think that we can talk about our likes and dislikes and our emotional reactions to such and that furthermore, we can also talk about how our emotions are complicated by a variety of contingencies: history, class, gender, ethnicity, spirituality, etc., etc.; I also know that this isn't a unique belief; people do study these things. Scholars do study how, say, Shakespeare's plays have been received by audiences ( cf. Reception theory). I'm largely ignorant of the field of psychology, but I would be very surprised to learn that no one's at least attempted the kind of finely-grained studies of emotions that you wish for. Certainly, your wish to discover a key to emotional effects must be shared by advertising agencies around the world.


For reasons I don't understand, academics (in MY experience) are largely uninterested in discussing the sensual aspects of art.

Again, it isn't obvious to me what you mean by "discuss the sensual aspects of art," precisely, but I defy you to go to JSTOR or Project MUSE and tell me that you can't find dozens, at least, probably hundreds of papers on "sensuous form" or on the effects of some performance, or text, or piece of art on audiences. If your complaint here is that academics don't write sufficiently about their own emotional reactions to art, then the only response is that, well, outside of the fields of autobiography, literary journalism, or belles lettres, such work, however enlightening, is something of a scholastic dead end unless the identification of those emotions leads back into the work and its complicated history.

We can do historical studies: are there moments in Shakespeare plays that affected Elizabethan audiences different from modern audiences? Why? Were there colors that moved people in Rembrandt's day in different ways than they move us? Why?

The work of Stephen Greenblatt and the New Historicists come to mind here. And people do write on the history of colors. Victory Finlay's Color: a natural history of the palette comes to mind immediately, but I'm sure she isn't the only one.

Are there universal, timeless, cross-cultural emotional/sensual effects? What are they? How have certain works managed to achieve them? How have others failed to achieve them?

This moves into the field of aesthetics, a philosophical field, not a field of the study of the arts as such. James Elkins' paper on "Why don't art historians attend aesthetics conferences?" might interest (or at least amuse) you. At any rate, there is an entire scholarly field devoted to asking such questions.

How have I lead you to think that?

Just a feeling that you've ground this axe before, I guess. Maybe because you've conducted a campaign against straw academics, or at least against scholars or theoretical schools that you haven't identified. I'm left with an impression that you believe that the academy is full of Gradgrinds. Most scholars who do work in the humanities are (a little) more sophisticated than that high school teacher who determinedly explained the symbolism in every Hemingway story he assigned.

Lastly: What I DO find useless and distasteful -- usually -- is talking about intellectual content GENERATED BY a work of art, e.g. the work's theme or political message.

All of us are attracted to different things in cultural products, of course, and people who reduce some work to a message, merely, are dullards, equally so, but still, works have intellectual content and the prosaic content of those works are as valid a topic for discussion as the form, or effect, or reception. Your reluctance to admit this ("I've been talking about art for 25 years without ever discussing it in terms of meaning, theme, politics, etc.") comes across as a bit teeth-gratingly hyperbolic.
posted by octobersurprise at 12:12 PM on January 16, 2010


you seem to be asserting that your own emotional reactions to art are primary and ultimately unfathomable ("I don't choose to react that way ... I just react that way.")

Why does a lack of conscious will equate to something being unfathomable? Presumably ants don't have conscious will, but we can fathom why they do much of what they do. I may not be able to change my reactions, but I can reflect on why I have them in interesting ways.

I would be very surprised to learn that no one's at least attempted the kind of finely-grained studies of emotions that you wish for. Certainly, your wish to discover a key to emotional effects must be shared by advertising agencies around the world.

Agreed. I'm sure there are academics who are studying this stuff. I also suspect they are in a tiny minority. And while you're also right about ad agencies, they aren't studying Shakespeare and Beethoven. And they have an economic agenda that is totally different from that of helping people appreciate, understand and create art.

but I defy you to go to JSTOR or Project MUSE and tell me that you can't find dozens, at least, probably hundreds of papers on "sensuous form"

I'll do that.

But I was taking more about the run-of-the-mill sorts of practices I encountered in Eng Lit 101, Art History and Introduction to Milton. I was continually told what the works MEANT an didn't mean (or that the very idea of meaning is absurd). I was told how the works tied in with various theoretical frameworks -- Marxism, Feminism, etc. I was told about historical context. I was told about the artist's intent and biography. I wan NEVER -- not in one single class -- told anything about how people relate to the works emotionally.

I attended Indiana Univeristy, New College of USF and Ohio University. I took many lit classes. Off the top of my head, I remember taking a bunch of Shakespeare classes, Greek classics classes, and class about Chekhov, Brazillian Lit, Sci-fi, 20th Century Novels, Dickens, History of Drama and Restoration Comedy. And I know I took more, but I can't remember what they were. In addition, I had tons of friends who were lit majors, art history majors, film studies majors, etc.

I always tried to bring up sensation and emotion in class discussions. But I NEVER phrased my comments and questions as emotional "chat filter." In other words, I knew better than to say, "This novel made me sad."

Rather, I brought up questions about how specific word choices may have contributed to specific physiological responses. And how those responses might have changed if the word choices were different. I questioned how emotional responses might have changed to the same works over the years. Etc.

I don't remember a SINGLE instance when these questions were encouraged. At best, they were tolerated. On the other hand, if I brought up Marxism, Feminism, Racism, Theme, Authorial Intent, etc., no one ever stopped me from talking or looked at me like I was from another planet.


Did I just get really unlucky? Would I have had a significantly different experience in other schools?


This moves into the field of aesthetics, a philosophical field, not a field of the study of the arts as such.

I don't understand how you can meaningfully divorce those two fields. That sounds like trying to study cognitive science without getting into biology.

Just a feeling that you've ground this axe before, I guess.

Truthfully, I am sorry I brought up academia, and I wish I hadn't. My main reason for posting here, which I seem to have derailed by making some (false?) claims about professors (based on my -- unlucky? -- experience), was to counter the claim that there are right and wrong, better and worse forms of interpretation.

works have intellectual content and the prosaic content of those works are as valid a topic for discussion as the form, or effect, or reception. Your reluctance to admit this ("I've been talking about art for 25 years without ever discussing it in terms of meaning, theme, politics, etc.") comes across as a bit teeth-gratingly hyperbolic.

I don't see anywhere where I've stated that works don't have intellectual content (actually, I don't think works have intellectual or emotional content -- rather, I think works tend to spark thoughts and feelings in people's brains). Nor do I see anywhere where I've suggested that intellectual topics aren't valid. MY CORE BELIEF IS THAT ALL INTERPRETATIONS ARE VALID.

I do NOT believe that schools should stop teaching about themes, etc. I do NOT believe they should devote themselves to teaching about emotion. (But I do wish they'd strike more of a balance than -- IN MY EXPERIENCE -- they have, when it comes to exploring both intellectual and emotional topics.)

Again, I take responsibility for my failure to communicate, but I'm at a loss. I feel like over and over I'm being accused of saying that intellectual interpretations are stupid. No! I'm simply saying that I DON'T LIKE THEM. What I like and dislike has ZERO priority over what anyone else likes or dislikes. What am I doing that fails to get that message across?

That's what I THINK I'm saying. That's what I'm TRYING to say. But obviously, something very different is "coming out of my mouth" than what I intend.
posted by grumblebee at 1:02 PM on January 16, 2010


The general feeling seems to be that I'm grinding axes, ignoring what people have to say, fighting straw men and being unclear. Sorry about that. I'll refrain from posting more in this thread. (Without any resentment -- there's been WAY more than enough grumblebee here).

I will continue to read the with interest, so if you want to refute what I've said, you may do so without fear that I'll barrage you with "yes, but...."s

I'm available via MeMail.
posted by grumblebee at 1:09 PM on January 16, 2010


Um, sorry grumblebee, that shouldn't be the general feeling. I am getting the general impression that there is a minority of sharp cheekiness, but speaking for myself, while I might argue/discuss a bit, I do take your ideas seriously, because they raise questions which I find interesting. Perhaps more on this after I gather my thoughts, I had another longish comment in my head.
posted by ovvl at 2:00 PM on January 16, 2010


I brought up questions about how specific word choices may have contributed to specific physiological responses. And how those responses might have changed if the word choices were different.

These are all very good, interesting questions. Poets ask themselves exactly those (or, well, if not exactly, then very similar) questions. It's a shame you didn't find someone willing to think about them with you. And yet, it doesn't surprise me to learn that your TAs or undergraduate instructors were reluctant to entertain them, because, really, how the hell do we determine with any degree of certainty which words correspond to which physiological response? Poets do this by intuition, or experience, or dumb luck, and still not everyone responds to a poem or a word the same way. I know of instructors who have/had entertained these kinds of questions, but I'll agree with you that it isn't the sort of topic likely to be covered in depth in an Lit survey class, more in a MFA writing class.

I don't understand how you can meaningfully divorce those two fields.

That's why I recommended the paper by Elkins. He's opposed to it, too. But people do study the history of art without studying aesthetics. And don't people study cognitive science without studying biology?

I don't see anywhere where I've stated that works don't have intellectual content

I don't think you did; but you've been emphatic about how distasteful the prosaic or verbal qualities of a work is to you. My point was that discussion of the intellectual content of a work, the themes or ideas a work raises, is just as valid as its syllabic qualities. Talking about a work with no recourse to the ideas which "surround" it seems strangely formalist, almost impoverished.

MY CORE BELIEF IS THAT ALL INTERPRETATIONS ARE VALID.

Mm. I would say, rather, that all interpretations are valuable, but not every interpretation is valid. Every interpretation of a work, or a text, or a performance will say something about how it has been received. That's valuable. But not every interpretation of some work, or text, or performance is an equally valid assessment of the historical artifact before us. Refiguring Lear as a story about, say, a 21st century woman happy to see the robots she built acquire intelligence might be fun; it might be moving; it might even be profound, but it tells us very little about Shakespeare's Lear, if we've chosen to study that. Offhand, I'd put it something like this: a text (or work of art, or performance) can produce infinite subsidiary meanings, but only finite interpretations. Authorial intent does not determine the sole interpretation of a text, but it is one interpretation among a finite number. And if for nothing but historical reasons and because we live historically, it tends to be privileged for better or worse.

What I like and dislike has ZERO priority over what anyone else likes or dislikes. What am I doing that fails to get that message across?

Well, writing emphatically and at length can be mistaken for prescription, sometimes. You definitely have very strong preferences on these matters and there's nothing wrong with that. I come back to my earlier remark: if you genuinely believed that your viewpoint here was absolutely no more or less astute than any other viewpoint, what would be the point of expressing it at all?
posted by octobersurprise at 3:53 PM on January 16, 2010


My theory of Mulholland Drive (which echoes various other people's theories):

Nothing in the film is, strictly speaking, real except for the guy and his shrink at the diner. The patient is a psychic sensitive who has had the misfortune of coming into inadvertent contact with Diane/Betty's ghost. Because he's a shrink and all, the psychiatrist believes that the ghost is the manifestation of various neuroses, etc., on the part of the patient, and intends to help said patient confront his fears by showing him there really isn't anything evil lurking behind the diner. However, there totally is, and this poor fucker (the patient) is zapped down a supernatural rabbit hole from which he eventually emerges as an acerbic stand-up comedian with a cheating wife in 1962. But that's another story.

But understand: The guy-and-shrink aren't present in capital-R Reality; they're present in our reality. That's the reality that Diane started out in, too. If we ever see her there (alive), though, it's for that ten seconds before she shoots herself. This reality is incomplete -- or anyway, our perception of it is incomplete. There are gods and monsters and ghosts here, but we (for the most part) can't see them. The patient saw a glimpse of one (Diane, after death) and died, lost his mind, or both. The conditions of life probably take the ability to see these beings (and these other levels of reality) away from us just so we can function. But Diane, in the moments before her death, is able to see much more. She's almost able to escape our reality altogether, but not for long.

I don't know whether the Betty/Rita reality existed implicitly, or Diane created it and then fled into it; causality isn't terribly important here anyway. The important thing is, Diane is trying to move from one sphere to another, which -- as the episode of the psychiatrist and his patient illustrates -- is Not a Thing that Should Be. Bad things happen when you cross the streams! Maybe Rita/Camilla and the director are fantasy figures that Diane's created, analogues for people she knew in our reality -- but a more interesting idea to me is that they are the people Diane knew in our reality, and they've been pulled into the vortex of Diane's new world just by her desire to transcend that reality. Hence, Rita doesn't know who she is, the director's whole life ceases to make sense and quickly slides out of his control, et cetera. On some level, they know that their lives have been Brand New Dayed, but they can't grapple with that idea directly -- it's insane. They can only try to deal with the altered condition.

Meanwhile, you have supernatural figures who know exactly what's going on, and are able to cross these different worlds/realities with ease. They can't act directly to set things right, but they can attempt to influence people. They can even kill. These figures would include the old couple, the cowboy, the blue-haired woman, probably the hitman (who is trying to set some other mess right when he kills the woman and the vacuum cleaner; this scene may also take place in our reality, or in a reality separate from our reality and Diane's Brand New Day reality), and probably, uh, Billy Ray Cyrus. My guess is the blue-haired woman is the most powerful of them. The idea of such figures -- spirits that take on physical form, either through incarnation or bodily possession -- is a pretty familiar one in Lynch, seen also in Lost Highway and, obviously, Twin Peaks. I think the ones in Mulholland Drive, though, are less good/evil (as in Twin Peaks) than neutral forces that just want to bring our reality back to its natural state. (There's, um, maybe a Hollywood metaphor or two hiding away in here.) They're working at confronting Diane with what she's done not because they're bringers of judgment but because it's the only way to snap her out of it and put everything right again.

Even when Diane gets it and remembers what she's done, she's still not seeing things as they happened in our reality. But she gets the idea, and that's enough. She finally dies -- as she was meant to, having pulled the trigger on herself -- and our reality goes on as it was meant to. Maybe she gets some enduring happiness with Camilla in the afterlife, maybe that last scene with them is pure dying fantasy, maybe we're seeing a last glimpse of that world that Diane tried to run to (that also goes on?)...but whatever the case may be, it doesn't really matter to us, because our ability to see outside our reality is gone now. Our window's closed. One would hope we're on the fun side of it, as opposed to the Diane-masturbates-bitterly-and-then-caps-herself side, but the film implies otherwise...

Anyway, that's what I got out of it. Who knows?
posted by kittens for breakfast at 3:55 PM on January 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Hey, grumblebee — this is perhaps pitched in the general area you've sketched out. I haven't read this book, but I have read others of his and attended a seminar with him, and emotion is central to his approach to film.
posted by Wolof at 8:38 PM on January 16, 2010


In other news, idiot makes bad link which is later corrected.
posted by Wolof at 10:28 PM on January 16, 2010


We were 'parsing' a poem in senior English in High School (probably something enigmatic by G.M. Hopkins I think) and someone (not me, but it could have been) complained that the process was defeating the spirit of the poem, taking the fun out. Our English teacher replied (paraphrase): "This process is like an autopsy or scientific dissection, but we hope that if it is done properly we can sew it back up together, and when we are finished hopefully it will then come back to life and fly away."

There is the initial process of looking at art closely, which I might describe as evaluation, and then there is the dissection of motives and contexts, which might be called deconstruction.

Obviously, virtually all artists operate intuitively. David Lynch says: (paraphrase): "I nudge it, and then I nudge it, until it feels right." Artists often evaluate their own work for technical reasons, but very few wish to plumb the psychological depths for explicit schematics, and those who do often get things wrong. The creative process is truly a subconscious process, and conscious considerations are often an interference. This sometimes leads to weak and awkward artist's statements and didactic panels.

Personally I feel that courses in studio art and creative writing are sometimes useful in undergrad years, but the excessive self-analysis and self-deconstruction which can happen in grad and post-grad studio art are generally not constructive to an overall healthy creative environment. The academics who I know tend to agree.

So when Lynch refuses to discuss the 'meaning' of his work, he is not just being coy, he is actually being fairly common sense about the process. But he's not stopping anyone else from saying anything about it. He can't. That is left to the people who enjoy analyzing things.
posted by ovvl at 3:39 PM on January 17, 2010


note: I am big fan of most of David Lynch's movies, but he started to lose me around the time of Lost Highway.

I have not seen Inland Empire, terrified by the descriptions of an extended scene of film technicians placing lighting set-ups. This kind of stuff scares me.

I loved his version of Dune.
posted by ovvl at 4:13 PM on January 17, 2010


« Older Arctic Survival::Desert Survival::Jungle Survival:...  |  Do you want to personally veri... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments