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Archive for the ‘Jim Clark’s David Lynch Series’ Category

Richard Farnsworth in 'The Straight Story'

 © 2010 by James Clark

      It would be difficult to identify a wider gulf between film casts than that presented by the two David Lynch productions, The Elephant Man (1980) and The Straight Story (1999). In the former, we are treated to blue-chip displays by a roster of British thespian-aristocrats, including, John Hurt, Anthony Hopkins, Wendy Hiller and John Gielgud, each of whom constitutes an advanced clinic in tradition-buttressed sheen, in sophisticated self-possession. In the latter, there has been raked up a company largely consisting of rural American Midwestern candidates with only their day-to-day personas to offer, headed by an ailing old pro, Richard Farnsworth, pulled out of retirement and headed into suicide soon after the work was done.

    Both casts, as it happens, were letter-perfect to deliver transfixing explorations of the buoying and deflating arena of home turf. Though the latter film was not written by Lynch, he has been able, by dint of expunging any trace of diversity of cultural energies, to provide as sharp and compelling a stimulus for proceeding into the unknown and unusual as he let fly with his experimentally-controlled surrealist shocker, Eraserhead. And so, by reason of, rather than in spite of, production demands that could have been fatal (this was a Disney-managed event), Lynch could, with gusto, see to unfinished business about interpersonal intent, exerting troublesome pressures in the aftermath of Lost Highway (1997). And his most fertile reference-point in this safari would be another atypically mainstream (and likewise showered with lucky stars) entry, the Mel Brooks production of The Elephant Man. (more…)

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© 2010 by James Clark

The prospect of understanding what it is Lynch communicates from film to film is never within easy reach; but it only attains to extra-galactic proportions with that battle-fatigued singularity, titled, Dune (1984), and directed, variously, by “David Lynch” and “Alan Smithee.” Lynch has been quoted as being attracted to a film rendition of Frank Herbert’s 1965 blockbuster sci-fi novel, inasmuch as there were “tons and tons of possibilities for things I loved.”
Notice he did not allude to “things” Herbert loved. As coming from a practitioner in good standing of sci-fi as “entertainment,” those latter “things”—abundantly salient in the literary plot—would occupy a groove of breath-stilling futurity (the story begins in the year 10,192) wherein awesome physical forces clash for the sake of succeeding in dominating all comers. “Domination” is the keyword; and, you know what? It ain’t new. One of the “things” Lynch loved was industrial design in the form of continuation of the occupant’s level of consciousness, and in Dune he clearly relishes enmeshing the “advanced” experiences in fusty Victorian/Edwardian decor (and garments). For instance, on a reconnaissance mission by the hero and his royal father, conducted by someone known as the “Judge of the Change,” the plush, quaint and busy interior of their flying craft (with silk-quilted walls, no less) strongly resembles that of “innovator” Captain Nemo’s submarine in the Disney version of Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea (1954). (Design tinctures [as well as Oxbridge emanations] from other Victorian adventures, like Journey to the Center of the Earth [1959] and The Time Machine [1960] also come to bear. And, to cap things off, the desert derring-do comes saturated with tropes from the “stout chap” heroics of Lawrence of Arabia [1962].) (more…)

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                                   Copyright © 2010 by James Clark

      On first viewing Fire Walk with Me (1992), we soon find a motif sending out characteristic Lynch wit and daring, and then our heart sinks. There are two FBI agents, the junior member of the exploratory team bearing a vertigo-inducing resemblance to long-ago child star, Bobby Driscoll, who lent such charm to Walt Disney’s 1950 adventure, Treasure Island. During their brief stint on the screen, their investigation into the murder of a runaway teenaged girl is interrupted by a denizen of the trailer park setting, one eye covered by a poultice of sorts, hunched over a makeshift crutch. He backs off when questioned as to the case, but he has already made his point, as “Black Dog,” delivering the “Black Spot” of pirate recriminatory (resentful) justice to “Billy Bones.” The senior partner is “Chet Desmond,” a spare, self-impressed and combative representative of “Federal” power on behalf of mainstream justice. He soon perishes on poking around a trailer nearby the girl’s last home, his windshield becoming lipstick- inscribed to read, “Let’s Rock.” (more…)

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Dennis Hopper and Isabella Rossellini in 'Blue Velvet'

 Copyright © 2010 by James Clark

      While her lover, “Sailor,” is absent, headed into an ill-fated robbery/assassination, “Lula” trembles and cries out, “This whole world is wild at heart and weird on top,” the phrase resulting in the film’s name. In fact, its extended form, with the bit about “weird,” constitutes the heart of Lynch’s presentation of both of the films in view here. Though you might at first imagine she’s referring to corruption not having claimed her, she occupies a room in the Iguana Motel of Big Tuna, Texas, whose floor is compromised by a mesa of her vomit which for twenty-four hours she has somehow neglected to clean up. Sailor, too, had noticed the smell of “puke,” and doing something about it had never crossed his mind. During the 1980s, such tenacious infection dragging down “wildness” came in for close-up investigation by Lynch, and here we should look at two closely related instances.

    David Lynch’s films exude a strange traction by way of a number of means, visual and aural, as heightened by mastery in compositional and narrative judgment. The story of his art’s maturation consists of a lavish outlay for the sake of freeing that most elusive of overtures. The groundbreaking Eraserhead clings to a little beast’s death throes to maintain the possibility of delight. Two films following that debut, Blue Velvet (1986) and Wild at Heart (1990), audaciously concentrate upon the viscous lockdown oppressing his (and our) task of coordinating such an unruly play of power. In accordance with the windfall of America’s peculiarly fertile boisterousness, he sets these adventures in the most unselfconsciously overripe of its zones, the South. Moreover, the work situates the rebellious implications of that upswing amidst the poetry and attitudes of rockabilly music. Lynch is a connoisseur of rock and roll in its maximal incendiary payload. This most sensual, tactile of the arts has always thrived upon piratical menace toward a rational status quo. Blue Velvet snaps into view largely by virtue of a company of small-town North Carolina drug dealers whose leader has been transfixed by the following song.

  (more…)

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© 2010 by James Clark

In the course of the bewildering machinations propelling David Lynch’s Lost Highway (1997), two detectives have under surveillance a young man enjoying a full calendar of trysts. One says, “Fucker gets more pussy than a toilet seat.” What we have to keep in mind with this is that toilet seats are unisex. And what the film demands we notice is that the two most conspicuous male protagonists (one of whom under surveillance) are pussies, hardly worth a shit to the (same) woman in their life.

Patricia Arquette, the actress inhabiting the sensibility of the leading lady, is a natural for a femme fatale hearkening to the noirs of yesteryear. She is so natural that, with hair styling and color, eye makeup and high beams from a stolen car (whose owner’s murder she has presided over) lighting up some lovemaking in the desert night, she fires out at us Jeanne Moreau’s “Jackie,” doyenne of the roulette tables in Jacques Demy’s noir, Baie des Anges (Bay of Angels) (1963). She is a gambler, for sure; but, confining yourself to classical noir history, you’d never guess what kind of gambler she is. (more…)

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                                        Copyright © 2010 by James Clark

    Lynch had spent quite a few years as a student of visual arts and would continue to produce tableaux and other structures.  As such, he was adept at visual and aural design, and, perhaps even more importantly for Eraserhead, completely fluent in the litany of insulting grotesquerie constituting the lingua franca of aspirants to visual heroism.

      In the full edition of David Lynch’s Rabbits (2002), quite a different matter from the tenuous clips comprising his Inland Empire, there is indeed a depiction, however cryptic, of Mulholland Drive’s Rita’s productive torment, productive, that is, of leaving the cage that was her—and Betty’s and Adam’s—protection  against legions of those hostile toward their (variously assimilated) contrariness. The premise of the little drama in eight scenes (each of about five minutes in duration) in which the two actresses from Mulholland Drive and an actor replacing the male lead, are concealed under rabbit (or donkey) costumes, is that Betty (now “Suzie”) and Adam (now “Jack”) having more in common with each other than with the hyper-physical Rita (now “Jane”), are becoming a couple (on Jack’s first entrance, Suzie puts her right hand over her heart), and Jane has now become the most solitary of the solitary. When they embrace on the sofa, it is Suzie who occupies the middle. Jane sporadically remarks, “It did not happen that way;” “There is something I want to say to you, Suzie;” “I was wondering when Suzie was going to do that;” “I only wish that they would go somewhere.” And by the beginning of scene three, they have disappeared from the living room staging area. That is the moment when Jane (performed, in this scene only, by Rebekah Del Rio, who, in Mulholland Drive, with her performance of the song, “Crying,” had revealed a formative kinship with Rita) could attempt to rekindle the magic of Club Silencio. And that, as it happens, is the moment when there emerges a dimension of loss not specifically entailed in  the blast-off pad (to both despair and joy) that was “Crying.” Fixing upon a vocal timbre very close to Laura Elena Herring’s dark resonance, she sings and recites, (more…)

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Lynch in his films engages his muse in a furtive way:
she is too hot to handle…

© 2010 by James Clark

A film so dark, violent and bloody as Inland Empire does not readily translate as abounding in whimsy. Notwithstanding that concealment, the movie does carry a peculiar payload of delight.

On bringing her wild drive to a close at an L.A. mansion where she was based while making a movie, some scenes of which were going to be shot in cost-effective Poland, Nikki Grace, played by Laura Dern, lowers herself into a sofa in the salon at high tea time, looks across the table at a far less bashed up mustering of herself and then looks around to find Laura Elena Harring, a.k.a., Rita, from Mulholland Drive. They smile and each blows a kiss to the other, the latter’s kiss having the inflection of Betty’s, “Taunk you, Daahlink.”

That latter bit of Slavonic fizz is about all the Poland you get in the glamorous, witty and subtle precincts of the realm of Rebekah Del Rio, Empress of the heart-stopping range of “Crying.” There is, of course, Betty’s Canada, readily emitting an uncool quotient as unsettling as Poland’s. (When Betty first meets Rita and blurts out that she’s just in from Deep River, Ontario, her new friend closes her eyes and reels slightly against a picture on the wall, not entirely because she’s just been through a near-death shake-up.) But Betty was a product of introspection indoors during long winters, and conjuring arcane, atypically slanted dreams to ward off a frozen nightmare, and as such she could go some distance with Rita toward a cogently hot “somewhere.” She eventually heeds the Cowboy’s advice to “wake up” to safe and easy rewards, leaving Rita confined to a solitary vigil on behalf of real excitement. (more…)

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The world boils down to those who want safety and those who want to live. Safety is easy to understand. Life isn’t. The impenetrability of Mulholland Drive stems from a remarkable acknowledgment of just how dark and lovely is the drive we’re on. Mulholland Drive does tell a coherent story.   But it is a story hollowed out and scrambled on behalf of a display of almost universal self-betrayal. In succumbing to that gravity one retraces horrors going on forever. Thus the movie comes at us like a lava-storm from a volcanic explosiveness – a Pandora’s Box – whereby straightforward personal and public action defers to a more complex sequential power.

Copyright © 2010 by James Clark

Within a scenario crowned by countless dazzling moments, the performance of Roy Orbison’s “Crying” (“Llorando”), at Club Silencio, by Rebekah Del Rio, to an audience including the protagonist detectives, Betty and Rita, musters a level of detonation setting it apart and constituting the key to what could be an impenetrable evening out. An M.C. goes to bemusing lengths of histrionics insisting that at the Hôtel de la Silence there is no band and all the singing is taped. “Everything is illusion!” Then a plump, rather dowdy figure emerges from the curtains, her suddenly riveting face fills the screen and she lip-syncs a tidal wave of despair. The two investigators, who earlier that night had consummated their love for each other in a culmination brimming with beauty and forward momentum, begin to tremble and cry, tears streaming down their cheeks. For Rita it was tears alone; for Betty it was tears following from convulsive shaking. The performer collapses. The tape blazes on. She is carried from the stage, and Betty reaches into her glowing purse for a closed blue box (a Pandora’s Box), the blue key to which figures as ever more specifically crucial for their resolve to overcome the car-crash induced dilemma of Rita (and that of Betty, with no car-crash to blame), namely, “I don’t know who I am.”

Though a wide swathe of French New Wave cinema enacted again and again (none of the components of which more ardently, wittily, gracefully and pervasively than Jacques Demy)—as did Michelangelo Antonioni in Blow-Up (1966) and Wong Kar-Wai in In the Mood for Love (2000)—a secret tribute to the American film noir, Kiss Me Deadly (1955) and its serious business with Pandora’s Box, no American filmmaker would see the point in sustaining such a puzzling congress until David Lynch, a born exponent of horror and noir, manufactured his astounding vehicle, Mulholland Drive (2001). Among myriad instances of sureness of touch for such an endeavour about Pandora’s Box, was his assimilation of Demy’s epigraph to his first feature, Lola (1961), namely, “Cry who can/Laugh who will” (“Pleure qui peut/Rit qui veut”), attaining to the stature of an axiom of dynamical integrity. To maintain sufficient buoyancy (and its glee) upon the strike (kiss) of eventuation, calls for courageous and loving maintenance of that deadly opening. To settle into personal leadenness is to become lost in a zone of self-dramatizing and self-tormenting despair, notwithstanding adept compensatory manoeuvres (like the sensual coherence bursting through the performance of lostness by Rebekah Del Rio). Therefore, the giving in to tears and its implication in resentment undermines all the promise of their concerted dedication to casting light on Rita’s history—her past, of course, but also on powers more immediately pertaining to the present and future. With the onset of the tempting show of decadence in the club, a precipitous shift occurs. They return to Betty’s aunt’s townhouse, Rita recovers the blue key to the blue box having strangely materialized in Betty’s purse in face of the plunge that was the delivery of “Crying,” confronts an abyss, and finds that Betty is no longer there. Where she has gone is into the matrix of “Diane,” Rita’s homicidally possessive, betrayed and resentfully blue (crying) former lover. Demy had no interest in his players’ actually fitting into the personae of A.I. Bezzerides’ noir about Pandora’s Box, choosing instead to flick out echoes of the high risk action in such a way as to diminish those players in their historically honorable positions. Lynch, on the other hand, was attentive to the twists of quantum energies deposited by Bezzerides in the configuration of the credits to Kiss Me Deadly, coming about from the top of the screen but reading backwards from bottom to top. On making a move, one has been already visited by an electrodynamic double, moving downward at speeds superior to those of the straightforward output. In this way one’s unfurling of intent includes an outset of challenge to proceed aright. This structure of action encourages Lynch to oversee shifts from one incarnation (Betty’s wholeheartedness) to another (Diane’s half-heartedness). The pre-credit vignette of swing dancers of the era of Kiss Me Deadly, i.e., 1955, shows some of the jivers occasionally losing themselves in delving into large silhouettes of dancers (black holes). That motif constitutes the grounds for a panoply of startling and puzzling narrative twists. (A second vignette of heavy breathing under a bed sheet—redolent of Christina on the highway about to encounter Mike’s car—would be Betty, now Diane, having plunged from Club Silencio and the blue box suddenly palpable in her purse.) (more…)

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