Monday, July 20, 2015

The Films of David Lynch: Introduction

There are few directors who are more distinctive or unique as David Lynch. Between 1977 and 2006, Lynch directed 10 films – after a brilliant debut with Eraserhead (1977), he struggled a little bit finding his voice in the studio machine with projects like The Elephant Man (1980) – which was a hit, and an Oscar favorite, but not one of Lynch’s best – and the disastrous Dune (1984) – a huge flop, that could have killed his career. Instead he rebounded with his masterpiece Blue Velvet (1986), won the Palme D’or at Cannes with Wild at Heart (1990), and then created one of the most iconic TV series in history in Twin Peaks – and although it ended badly, after just two seasons, it is so well remembered that they are resurrecting it over two decades later. From there, Lynch kept going his own way – his standalone Twin Peaks film, Fire Walk With Me (1992) was seemingly designed to piss off every fan of Twin Peaks (an odd strategy), Lost Highway (1997) was deliberately opaque in ways I have always found frustrating (which is why I look forward to seeing it again – about 15 years after seeing it the last time). His most daring move way well have to make a movie with no surrealism at all – playing it straight as it were, just to prove he could, and doing it brilliantly with The Straight Story (1999). When ABC rejected his pilot episode for a new TV series, he turned it into what I consider to be one of the 10 greatest films ever made – Mulholland Dr. (2001). And then he decided Mulholland Dr. was too normal and mainstream, so he made Inland Empire (2006) – all by himself.

Lynch is unique in that he has relatively few films on his resume as a director – and yet it known to everyone. He has a reputation for being weird – and he does has a strange comic personality, that has lent itself nicely to guest roles on TV shows like The Cleveland Show and Louie among others. While Lynch has pretty much said he is done making movies – he isn’t done directing by any stretch of the imagination. While he only has 10 features, IMDB lists more than 40 directing credits – for shorts, TV series episode, etc. – and Wikipedia adds a few shorts not listed in the IMDB list, as well as several music videos.

This series is going to look back at all of it - a few exceptions aside – like the TV series’ American Chronicles or Hotel Room, which I cannot find, probably a short or two and most likely the Duran Duran concert film, of which I just cannot be bothered (sorry) – or at least as much as I can find. I have been a long-time fan of Lynch’s – but must admit although I have seen all of his features (several times) and the entire run of Twin Peaks (which I will cover – briefly – in one post), I haven’t much delved into his shorts, videos and curiosities yet. From what I have seen, well, let’s just said it makes his features look normal.

As has become a tradition when I do this director retrospectives, here is how I would rank Lynch’s 10 features now, before revisiting. Let’s see if it will change.

10. Dune (1984)
9. The Elephant Man (1980)
8. Lost Highway (1997)
7. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992)
6. Wild at Heart (1990)
5. The Straight Story (1999)
4. Eraserhead (1977)
3. Inland Empire (2006)
2. Blue Velvet (1986)
1. Mulholland Dr. (2001)

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