David Lynch is my favorite director. Everyone calls his quirky or weird or whatever, but I don't think he is. Most everything he does connects with me pretty solid. I love him, and I'd watch footage of him planting peanuts if he filmed that.
Six Men Getting Sick (1967) -- Not really a movie so much as a moving art piece, it's nice for what it is.
The Alphabet (1967) -- A short movie about the horror of language (more or less), a nightmare precursor to Eraserhead. Great for being such a short movie.
The Grandmother (1970) -- Another practice run for Eraserhead, this time half an hour long. A very good movie about a replacement parent.
The Amputee (1973) -- Not really a legitimate movie, just something David Lynch shot because he had some free videotape that someone let him use. It's just the Log Lady (before she became the Log Lady) oozing liquid from her stumpy legs. And you get to see it twice!
Eraserhead (1977) -- Lynch's first film is full of imagery (mostly sexual, with tons of blood and other fluids, babies, sperms, eggs, etc.) that could have been confusing or just stupid by a lesser director, but he manages to tell a real story with it (rather than just a barrage of abstractions) that also have the added bonus of maintaining their open-endedness, so that you can get slightly different things out of each viewing. Alan Splet's sound effects are amazing. Also pretty scary.
The Elephant Man (1980) -- When I first saw glimpses of this as a kid (I was always too scared of the ugly face to watch it), I always thought it was an old movie from at least as far back as the 1940s. And it still looks like that to me, though now I also see Eraserhead-ish factory atmospheres and sounds peeping in with their modern-ness. The only thing that really hurts this movie is the sometimes over sentimental Phantom of the Opera effect (that is, the "Oh, isn't he pathetic and beautiful and don't we feel sorry for him?" nature of the movie), but it doesn't hurt too much, and it also doesn't hurt that we actually do care for The Elephant Man (unlike I did for the Phantom). A pretty and emotional piece of work.
Dune (1984) -- When I became a David Lynch fan, I didn't like this movie. It just seemed like a lot of cool-looking but confusing images of people riding around on worms. It also seemed more of a Dino De Laurentis project than a Lynch one. Eventually I sat down to watch it and really paid attention to it, and I liked it lots better. It is confusing, for one thing. Lynch isn't extremely forthcoming about who's who and what's going on on the screen, and Frank Herbert's story is so complicated that it feels like we need some things spelled out. That's obviously why the "Alan Smithee/Judas Booth" extended version was made for TV with a voice-over and several extra minutes of explanations and background material (which, in its way, also is confusing). The Alan Smithee version certainly isn't an improvement (and Lynch of course refused to put his name on it), but it is worth watching once or twice to make sure you understand the story so you can then go back to the original version and enjoy it fully. The movie is full of great performances, memorable lines, an atmosphere unlike anything else, and a truly involved and mystical story. I've come to appreciate it more and more over the years, and -- if nothing else -- it allowed Lynch absolute freedom for his next movie, Blue Velvet.
Blue Velvet (1986) -- The first "pure" David Lynch movie since Eraserhead, but this time it's not just an "art film." Jeffrey Beaumont, played by Kyle MacLachlan, is the embodiment of Lynch ideals and evils: a character who is 100% pure and "wholesome" while always attracted to the mystery that evil provides, even if the evil itself only confuses him. Dennis Hopper as Frank Booth, of course, is more than just a representative of evil, since throughout the movie he's extremely funny, charming, and often even sympathetic. The atmosphere of the movie is perfect, and Lynch and production designer Patricia Norris have really worked to make a brand new world here, providing staples of many future Lynch films such as the blend of modern and 1950s styles, dark and light, and use of dominant colors. All of this is seen not only in the sets, but the costumes and music by Angelo Badalamenti, who began working with Lynch on this movie. The quintessential David Lynch movie, seeming to say almost everything he wanted to say at that moment of his life, and by the end leaves us with true and "earned" feelings of love and hope.
The Cowboy and the Frenchman (1987) -- A short special Lynch directed for a "how we see the French" TV show, this is the first time we get to see Lynch in full-blown comedy mode (a similar kind of comedy would be found in his TV show On the Air and sometimes Twin Peaks), and it actually is really funny.
Twin Peaks (1989-1991) -- This review refers to the entire run of the TV show, or tries to--as briefly as possible. This is my favorite television show of all time and paved the way for some of my newer favorite TV shows (not to mention a slew of some of the most horrible). This was also my first real introduction to David Lynch. The pilot episode directed by Lynch was like nothing I'd ever seen before (certainly not on television), and most of the best episodes from the series were also directed by Lynch himself, including Episode 02 with the dream of the red-curtained room. The entire first season (seven episodes) was pretty tight and flawless and had a great finale (directed by co-creator Mark Frost) that had so many cliffhangers that you realized how great this show was at being sincere, but also a parody. Season two was a mix of the best stuff ever seen on TV and some disappointingly low moments. Episode 08 (the first of season two) was Lynch-directed and took the show in a more supernatural direction, in a way that I loved. Episode 14 is the best episode of all, the revelation of who killed Laura Palmer, and is some of the greatest of Lynch in any form. Episode 16, directed by Tim Hunter, was another good episode in which Agent Cooper catches the killer, and this would have been a fitting ending to the entire series--something you wish would have happened as we enter "the drifting episodes" of 17 through 23, featuring Evelyn and "flannel Cooper." The worst of that batch is episode 22, directed by Diane Keaton, where the show becomes what some had previously accused it of being: "weird for weird's sake." Luckily, it regains its footing with episode 24 and is pretty solid until its finale of episode 29, a scary Lynch episode that sets up some of the story for Fire Walk With Me.
Wild at Heart (1990) -- David Lynch teams up with average writer Barry Gifford to adapt Gifford's book about a couple of romantics (Sailor and Lula, played by Nicholas Cage and Laura Dern) running from a crazy mother. Lynch was involved in his TV show Twin Peaks at the time, and much of the look, sound, feel (and cast) of that show is present here. The movie certainly isn't as personal as something like Blue Velvet, but it is a really fun road movie with a lot of energy and imagination: all the little pit stops you'd hope to get in a movie like this. The movie version of The Wizard of Oz is also blended nicely throughout, something a lot of directors couldn't get away with, but Lynch makes it effective. The movie is also hilarious, if you're willing to watch it that way, since I realize it might be hard to laugh at a film where the opening scene involves a man bashing another man's head into the ground until his brain falls out. Improves with age, and gets funnier.
Industrial Dream No. 1: The Dream of the Broken Hearted (1990) -- A pretty wonderful "concert movie" (if you can call it that), especially if you're a fan of Lynch's teamwork with Angelo Badalamenti and Julee Cruise. Well worth watching. It even features a cameo from Sailor and Lula.
American Chronicles (1990) -- Short-lived documentary TV show produced by Lynch and Frost (in which they directed a little) about American people and places. I only saw one episode before it went off the air, and it's hard to find, but I liked what I saw.
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992) -- This is my favorite movie of all time. It sounds like a goofy thing to say, that my favorite movie ever is a prequel to a cult TV show, but it is. The reasons why are so personally tapped into my existence that it's almost impossible to explain why I love it so much. I can count on my fingers the number of times I've seen it since I only bring it out when I feel emotionally "ready" for it. The beginning part with Chris Isaak and Kiefer Sutherland buzzes under my nerves with its red look and backwards music. The next section with Laura Palmer feels like home, then begins slipping away. The ending destroys me every time. Every tiny element of the movie means something profound to me, right down to the monkey saying "Judy." This is it, folks.
On the Air (1992) -- Still plugging away at TV, Lynch and Frost put out this half-hour comedy show about a live TV show in the 1950s. The comedy is wacky, sometimes too wacky. Only two or three episodes were shown on TV, but you can find the entire show on videotape. The pilot is a mild classic.
Hotel Room (1993) -- A made-for-TV movie consisting of three stories from different times set in the same hotel room (that old trick). David Lynch didn't write any of them (Barry Gifford and Jay McInerney did); he directed the first and third, while James Signorelli directed the second. Enjoyable enough, but it seems like a throwaway for Lynch.
Lumiere (1995) -- Featured in the documentary Lumiere and Company where respected filmmakers from around the world used the original Lumiere camera to make a very short film, David Lynch's piece is worth watching in that context to see how soooo much better his is than everyone else's--and that's just not me saying that because I like Lynch. Whereas most of them used their minute to make some sort of "movie about movies" movie (as a further tribute to the Lumiere brothers), and some of them just made dull little nothings (Spike Lee being probably the worst, using it to try to get his baby to say "daddy" the entire time), David Lynch decided he would milk the minute of film for all it was worth, making this super fantastic little crazy narrative (called "Premonition Following an Evil Deed"), like some lightning bolt flash of brilliance.
Lost Highway (1997) -- Teaming up with Barry Gifford as a writer usually means that the movies are only exceptional instead of super-exceptional. Lynch likes happy endings and he likes cycles (or snakes eating their own tail, or mobius strips), and this one is a cycle, looping right back into itself at the end. It's got a good dark mood and different kind of modern music. I didn't like it as much at first, but I like more the more I see it.
The Straight Story (1999) -- Replacing the super-fast dotted lines of Lost Highway with slow streaks as Richard Farnsworth's tractor goes cross-country, Lynch made a perfectly-paced movie that let me fall in love with it completely. Richard Farnsworth has the best face ever.
Mulholland Drive (2001) -- A mix of Blue Velvet and Lost Highway, the best things about this movie are (a) the emotional punches that overwhelm, even by Lynch standards (the behind-the-wall sequence and the ending with the grandparents especially) and (b) the pacing of the movie which unfolded its mystery with every scene. Because it was a TV pilot retooled into a feature film, some of it suffered from the "European Ending"-type wrap-up of the story (Twin Peaks' pilot had a special ending shot for European TV, who wanted a complete story and not open endedness... and it was a stupid ending which relied on confusion and abstraction and dreams) which turned the intrigue of the story into another Lost Highway-type cycle. But even this aspect of the movie ended up all right in the end, and the movie didn't suffer too much for it: it basically just made you worry a bit for about ten minutes before the new "logic" of the movie replaced the old. More than any other Lynch movie, perhaps, this is the one that begs to be watched over and over, something about the dark colors feeling sleek against your skin.
Inland Empire (2006) -- Lynch had the freedom of lightweight digital cameras with this one, which he'd been using a lot for his davidlynch.com site where a handful of shorts were released. (One of those shorts, "Rabbits," made it into this movie.) With the ease of the cameras and a seemingly flexible time frame, he was able to shoot whatever he felt like at various times, molding and building a movie that wasn't planned out beforehand. If you're in the mood for a more solid story like Blue Velvet, then this is a bad thing, but this is simply a different kind of movie. It's got a narrative, but it's told in much the same way that a story is told in a concept album or even a piece of classical music, where the story is secondary and the music is primary. In this case, the "music" (the shots, the acting, the sounds, the editing, the wind, etc.) can have a profound emotional effect on you if you let it. I was even more scared watching this the first time than I was with Eraserhead. It's not what you usually think of as a horror movie, but it's pretty horrifying.
Copyright (c) Jan 2001 - Aug 2006 by Rusty Likes Movies