Tag Archives: David Lynch

More Coffee, Marge

David Lynch: The Art Life

by Hope Madden

Filmmaker David Lynch is nearly as enigmatic a cultural fixture as his films. Indeed, as is the case with most of his cinematic output, you might be tempted to assume that his own folksy exterior covers something dark and lurid.

The new documentary David Lynch: The Art Life does what it can to confirm that impression. While it hardly resolves anything in a concrete way, if Lynch’s art imitates the artist, then this film imitates both.

Co-directors Jon Nguyen, Rick Barnes and Olivia Neergaard-Holm recorded Lynch as he mused on childhood stories and the events that led him into the world of art and film. The audio is used to narrate footage – some recent, some archival – working together to illuminate the artist and his work. To a point.

Nguyen, who produced the doc Lynch about the making of the auteur’s 2006 film Inland Empire, has created another appropriately Lynchian film.

Once again there is a sweetness, almost innocence, about the filmmaker that feels wildly at odds with the darkness and macabre of the art we watch him create – and at the same time, seems fitting.

Much of the film is spent with Lynch in his studio as he molds, spreads and sculpts materials for art pieces. His artwork is far more immediately disturbing than his films, which tend to situate the horrifying inside a landscape of beauty. On canvas, the horror is right up front.

The work and process behind it give the film a wonderfully tactile quality and the team of directors frame and shoot the proceedings in a style Lynch himself would appreciate.

The doc takes us through Lynch’s artistically formative years and ends somewhat abruptly around the time of Eraserhead. The goal is not to document his life’s work, nor even to truly shed light on the conundrum of his particular artistry.

Instead it is a fascinating and beautifully filmed piece of what you might expect. You’ll find a lot of cigarette smoke and Coke bottles, unassuming odd-duckery and gruesome imagery.

But if you’re hoping for insight into what exactly inspires David Lynch’s fears, obsessions and grim work, be warned: The Art Life does more to continue the mystery than to solve it.


Boys On Film

Duran Duran: Unstaged

by Hope Madden

What has director David Lynch been up to, you ask? That bastion of all things weird and wonderful nabbed his 4th Oscar nomination for 2001’s dreamy Mulholland Drive, then kind of disappeared.

Well, weep not for David Lynch, for he is living the dream – my dream, anyway. He’s been hanging out with Duran Duran, piecing together a documentary of the best looking boy band ever. Their collaboration, Duran Duran: Unstaged, is a concert doc like no other.

Lynch filmed the band’s live show at the Mayan Theater in Los Angeles, a gig that kicked off their world tour in support of the 2010 album All You Need is Now. Now years removed from the arena tours of the Eighties, the band put together an intimate, strong stage set for this club tour. Lynch later retooled the footage for the theatrical release.

The gig itself – quite unlike the tour that followed – relies heavily on songs from the current album at the expense of many of the band’s sing-a-long Eighties tunes. But frontman Simon LeBon is in excellent voice, and luckily, All You Need is Now is quite a strong effort. While the group does launch into the biggest fan favorites – Rio, Hungry Like the Wolf, Girls on Film – they also fall back on some album cut gems that should thrill longtime Durannies. They also pull out their more underappreciated later hits Come Undone and Ordinary World to beautiful effect.

The event boasts a handful of cool guest appearances, including My Chemical Romance’s Gerard Way on a fun version of Planet Earth, and Gossip’s Beth Ditto, with a lively duet for Notorious. These join four of the band’s original five: LeBon, Nick Rhodes on keyboards, Roger Taylor on drums, and John Taylor on bass.

But the 5th member of the band is clearly Lynch.

Directing a concert documentary can be a thankless, mostly anonymous task. Did you really notice Hal Ashby’s presence during the Stones’ doc Let’s Spend the Night Together? Did even the great Scorsese leave his fingerprints on the same band’s 2008 doc Shine the Light?

Well, you notice Lynch. The auteur overlays tangentially connected images on concert footage in a fashion truly his own. The images range from the absolutely literal to the wildly random, either way lending an air of absurdity to the otherwise straightforward set.

In a press release, Simon LeBon says, “I was particularly delighted with the sausage barbeque sequence during the song Come Undone – something I would never have expected but it works superbly!”

A dreamlike dissonance marks Lynch’s entire film career (with the possible exception of his utterly lovely ’99 effort The Straight Story), and that’s certainly at work here. Sometimes it seems to gel, other times it stands out as almost needlessly bizarre and silly, but who’s to question the inspiration of David Lynch?

It’s certainly a different way to appreciate Duran Duran.


Fright Club: The Reflecting Skin

The Reflecting Skin (1990)

It isn’t often when documenting horror cinema that you have the need to mention an art director, but for The Reflecting Skin, the work of Rick Roberts deserves a note. His gorgeous, bucolic Idaho is perfectly crafted, with golden wheat and decrepit wooden outbuildings representing both the wholesomeness and decay that will meld in this tale.

Writer/director Philip Ridley has a fascinating imagination, and his film captures your attention from its opening moments. A cherubic tot walks gleefully through wheat fields toward his two adorable little buddies, carrying a frog nearly as big as he is. “Look at this wonderful frog!” he calls out to them.

What happens next is grotesque and amazing – the casual but exuberant cruelty of children. It’s the perfect introduction to this world of macabre happenings as seen through the eyes of a little boy.

Seth Dove lives with his emotionally abusive mother and his soft but distant father, who run a gas station in rural Idaho sometime after WWII. Seth’s older brother Cameron (Viggo Mortensen) is off serving in Japan. Seth has decided that the neighborhood widow Dolphin Blue (a wonderfully freaky Lindsay Duncan) is a vampire.

Positively horrible things begin to happen, each of them clouded by the dangerous innocence of our point of view character.

The film plays a bit like a David Lynch effort, but with more honesty. Rather than the hallucinatory dreaminess Lynch injects into films like Blue Velvet (the most similar), this film is ruled by the ferociously logical illogic of childhood. With this point of view, the realities of a war blend effortlessly with the possibility of vampires. Through little Seth Dove’s eyes, everything that happens is predictably mysterious, as the world is to an 8-year-old. His mind immediately accepts every new happening as a mystery to unravel, and the jibberish adults speak only confirm that assumption.

This film is a beautiful, horrifying, fascinating adventure unlike most anything else available. A kind of thematic cross between Lynch’s Blue Velvet and Terry Gilliam’s Tideland (nice company!), The Reflecting Skin manages to feel more honest, and therefore more deeply frightening, than either.

Fright Club Live: Calvaire (The Ordeal)

The Ordeal (Calvaire) (2004)

This week’s Fright Club – 9pm at the Drexel Theatre in Bexley – unspools the 35mm print of Calvaire. It’s the first time the film has screened in Columbus, and we could not be more excited!

A paranoid fantasy about the link between progress and emasculation, The Ordeal sees a timid singer stuck in the wilds of Belgium after his van breaks down.

Writer/director Fabrice Du Welz’s script scares up the darkest imaginable humor. If David Lynch had directed Deliverance in French, the concoction might have resembled The Ordeal. As sweet, shy singer Marc (a pitch perfect Laurent Lucas) awaits aid, he begins to recognize the hell he’s stumbled into. Unfortunately for Marc, salvation’s even worse.

The whole film boasts an uneasy, “What next?” quality. It also provides a European image of a terror that’s plagued American filmmakers for generations: the more we embrace progress, the further we get from that primal hunter/gatherer who knew how to survive.

Du Welz animates more ably than most our collective revulsion over the idea that we’ve evolved into something incapable of unaided survival; the weaker species, so to speak. Certainly John Boorman’s Deliverance (the Uncle Daddy of all backwoods survival pics) understood the fear of emasculation that fuels this particular dread, but Du Welz picks that scab more effectively than any filmmaker since.

His film is a profoundly uncomfortable, deeply disturbing, unsettlingly humorous freakshow that must be seen to be believed.