Tag Archives: david lynch

Wild at Heart – Review

25 Apr

I’m a huge fan of David Lynch and could realistically talk about him for an entire week straight without getting bored. When I first saw his short film The Alphabet, I didn’t really know how crazy film makers could get. Ever since then it’s been a wild ride in my attempts to find some of the most insane movies to ever have been created. This all ties back into David Lynch because he’s never let me down when it comes to mind boggling weirdness. Even The Elephant Man has some pretty strange moments, but Wild at Heart shows the same type of odd characters and situations that were present in his previous film Blue Velvet and his short lived television show Twin Peaks.

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Lula (Laura Dern) and Sailor (Nicolas Cage) are two young people in love who are torn apart when Sailor kills a man trying to protect himself and Lula. This entire attack was organized by Lula’s psychotic and overly protective mother, Marietta Fortune (Diane Ladd), who forbids Lula from seeing Sailor when he gets out of prison. Of course, Lula disobeys her mother and runs off with Sailor as soon as he gets out with dreams of moving to California. As the two lovers spend their time making love and speeding down the highways, Marietta hires her private detective boyfriend Johnnie Farragut (Harry Dean Stanton) to track them down, but she also hires her other boyfriend, a gangster named Marcellus Santos (J.E. Freeman) to kill Sailor when he is found. Lula and Sailor have other problems, however, as they follow their version of the Yellow Brick Road into a small Texas town that makes hell seem comfortable. Problems that threaten to tear their beautiful relationship apart.

Wild at Heart shows a cool transition between the older style of David Lynch with films like Eraserhead and Blue Velvet and his later works like Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive. It has the same dirty characters and brutal violence seen in the early films and the trippy sequences and the more oddball characters of his later movie. While this movie does act as a bridge between the older and the newer David Lynch, it doesn’t quite have the intensity and mystery of his other films. As many strange characters and scenes there are in this movie, it doesn’t have the most fun aspect of David Lynch movies: figuring out what it all means.

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Wild at Heart is certainly a romance, except seen through the twisted eyes of David Lynch, much like how Danny Boyle’s  A Life Less Ordinary had a more frenetic view on romance. The style of this movie is very effective, and really is the coolest part of the movie. The jazz music mixed with the heavy metal music Sailor and Lula listen to combined with the rockabilly attitude of Sailor is just ludicrous in a way that only David Lynch could pull off. The supporting cast that I didn’t mention in my synopsis really contribute to that insane “Lynchian” factor. Crispin Glover’s small role is memorable, even though he has three lines of dialogue at best. Returning players who’ve worked with Lynch before include Sheryl Lee in a small part as the Good Witch from The Wizard of Oz, Jack Nance as a crazy rocket scientist, and Isabella Rossellini as a criminal who has a shady past with Sailor. The scene stealer in this movie is Willem DaFoe as an off the wall hit man/bank robber named Bobby Peru. Everything from his outfit to the way he talks is completely ridiculous, creepy, and hilarious in the darkest sort of way.

Out of all of David Lynch’s movies that I’ve seen, Wild at Heart is one of my least favorites. I do love the style and the crazy romance, but it doesn’t have elements that made other films in Lynch’s filmography as memorable as they are. The plot seemed to be on the straight and narrow the entire way through, with only scenes that broke up the predictability of it all. The word “predictable” is a weird way to describe a movie of this film maker, but the plot seemed to follow a pretty straight line. There were small moments that shocked me and made me laugh, but as a whole it moved in a pretty normal way which I don’t want to see when I put on a movie made by David Lynch.

The video above shows the awesome first scene of Wild at Heart, and the insanity really doesn’t slow down at all. Lynch even made the slower parts of the movie feel really weird and nightmarish. Unfortunately, the plot wasn’t as interesting as the smaller scenes that were in the movie. The soundtrack and the performances were great and David Lynch’s entire style make this movie still really, really cool. Looking at it in terms of Lynch’s entire filmography, it doesn’t quite hold up to Lynch’s masterpieces like EraserheadBlue Velvet, and Mulholland Drive. Still, if you’re a fan of David Lynch or movies that make you feel very weird, Wild at Heart is still a hellish road trip worth taking.

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The Elephant Man – Review

12 Nov

Joseph “John” Merrick is a man that throughout the years has become a very interesting individual. This isn’t due to any achievement or talent that he had, but because of the rare and extremely curious disease that ailed him, now known as neurofibromatosis. In 1980, the year of this film’s release, David Lynch only had Eraserhead in terms of feature films, but the uncredited producer Mel Brooks was so impressed with this film that he hired Lynch to act as director of the story of Merrick’s later life in The Elephant Man.

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Doctor Fredrick Treves (Anthony Hopkins) is a surgeon in London who comes across an interesting specimen at a traveling freak show one night. This specimen is John Merrick (John Hurt), a man whose extreme deformities make the general public reel in horror at just the sight of him. Treves takes Merrick to the London Hospital to be studied, but soon gets him permanent residence and care. Over the time spent together, the two men become very close friends and Merrick’s reputation as a tragic human being is made known after he befriends famous stage actress Mage Kendal (Anne Bancroft). While everything seems to be going better for Merrick with the help of many kind and caring people, hateful and greedy men from his past and present still use him for fear and money, making Merrick’s ailment all the more difficult.

The Elephant Man is a hard movie to summarize because it isn’t really a plot based movie, but more of a character study and a look at how society should see people who are different. Casting David Lynch was a very interesting choice given his absurd and surreal filmography. This is a much more straightforward film than his others, but there are still glimpses of his trademark style from nightmare sequences to the heavily industrialized area with beautiful shots of smoke blowing out of chimneys and grimy machinery being operated, all embellished an excellent industrial sound design.

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Now, there are a few movies whose sole reason for existence is to test the limits of my tear ducts. Crying isn’t the most enjoyable past time, but sometimes when I’m watching a movie (or the last episode of the John Adams miniseries!!) I just can’t really help myself. The Elephant Man is a very difficult movie to watch in this respect. Seeing Merrick dealing with his disease is hard enough, but seeing his very human reactions to people gawking, screaming, and making fun of him is even worse.

So no, this is not an uplifting movie at all, but this isn’t really a film to watch if you’re looking for a good feeling to be had. This is something to watch to learn about a man’s life, how to treat other human beings regardless of their individual circumstances, and to admire the cinematography by Freddie Francis, who went on to work with Lynch in Dune and later on with Scorsese in his remake of Cape Fear. The point is that you really need to know what you’re getting into with The Elephant Man.

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David Lynch may forever be known as one of the strangest and most surreal film makers of the modern era, with films like Eraserhead and Mulholland Drive to stand as testament. He did something beautifully different with The Elephant Man. He created a very human drama an very unusual and interesting man to come out of the Victorian era. It’s beautifully shot, wonderfully acted, and succeeds in telling this man’s story, despite some historical inaccuracies. It’s one of those movies that are just plain perfect.

Inland Empire – Review

11 Aug

Recreating nightmares and mental decay is not an easy task, but David Lynch has always stepped up to the challenge. EraserheadLost Highway, and Mulholland Drive all have the same nightmarish feeling, as if you might fall asleep later that night and have a dream that plays out exactly like these movies. Of all of Lynch’s films, I feel like Inland Empire encompasses his career perfectly and really makes you feel like you are part of a nightmare. That being said, this isn’t his best film, but it certainly can be said that this might be the strangest movie I have ever seen.

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Nikki Grace (Laura Dern) is an actor whose time in the spotlight has ended, so when she lands a roll that might restart her career, she is ecstatic. The film is called On High in Blue Tomorrows and is being directed by Kingsley Stewart (Jeremy Irons) and her costar is Devon Burke (Justin Theroux), a man with quite a conspicuous sex life. As she gets deeper and deeper into her character, and her relationship with her costar seems to be getting closer, Nikki starts losing track of what is happening first, now, and later. Soon she can’t even begin to tell her life from the character’s leading to a complete psychological breakdown.

I’ve been putting off this review for a little while because the thought of reviewing a David Lynch movie and really giving it justice is a little intimidating. Much like his other movies, Inland Empire has many different interpretations and themes to explore, and everyone’s view of the whole can be very different. The first time through, it may seem like this movie makes absolutely no sense, but in the days to come and you think about it more, or even watch it again, things in the movie start to piece together and an idea will begin to form. Like Eraserhead and Mulholland Drive, I found Inland Empire to be quite frustrating.

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All interpretation aside, I have to say that I have a newfound respect for Laura Dern as an actor. Her performance demands a lot, from screaming and crying to manic laughing and then to calmness, maybe all in one scene. I can imagine that David Lynch is not the easiest director to work with, being in his own head and all, and even Dern has said that she isn’t entirely sure what the movie is about. Justin Theroux has said the same thing. Imagine acting on a movie where you really don’t know what it is about. That’s a tricky thing to do but they both pull it off very well and pull you into the “story,” despite how difficult it is.

This is where the review might get a little spoiler-ish because I want to talk about things in the film. You have been warned. Ok. In my opinion, Inland Empire is the story of a woman who is struggling to find a character that she is unable to tap into. Much like in Black Swan, she gets so obsessed with finding the character, that she sees herself becoming the character. At first it starts with scenes where we don’t know it’s the movie within a movie until the end of the scene to the point where nothing is really decipherable. This leads to the nightmarish world of Nikki’s mind. There’s still a lot that I’m not sure about, like the woman watching the television and the rabbit sit-com that we keep seeing. This just means the I’m going to have to watch it again.

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I can’t really say if Inland Empire is good or bad. It’s sort of one of those movies that redefines your definition of a good or bad movie. I will say that Inland Empire is art, through and through, but saying it’s entertaining wouldn’t be doing it justice. This is a terribly uncomfortable experience that you can’t help but staying focused on it, no matter how difficult it is. Fans of David Lynch will love his deepest, darkest trip into the fractured human mind, but anyone looking for a narrative that makes perfect sense will find no happiness with Inland Empire.

Twin Peaks and Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me – Review

24 Aug

Diane, it’s 4:37 on August 24th. I’m laying in bed thinking about the best way to review Twin Peaks and Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. There are some things in this world that go beyond words and traditional description, and I believe that I have found one of them. As a proper introduction, imagine you are reading 10 different books at once but they each are part of the same bigger picture, despite how different they are. Some are romance, comedy, horror, sic-fi, and drama. That’s how you feel while watching the television show and subsequent movie.

When a local teenage girl, Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) is found dead floating in the water, the quiet town of Twin Peaks turns into a beehive of criminal activity. FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle McLaughlin) is sent in to investigate Laura’s mysterious death, but no one in Twin Peaks is as innocent as they look and massive web of murder, love, lust, and supernatural occurrences  tangles the town into chaos.

To really say what the entire plot is about would take many paragraphs of detailed information and explanations that it would pretty much ruin the experience of watching this fantastic tv show for yourselves. I don’t consider myself much of a tv person, but I have seen my fair share of shows, and Twin Peaks is my favorite for many reasons.

The characters are all so memorable. Special Agent Cooper is one of the most confident and likable protagonists despite all of the crazy things he says about dreams, mystics, and Tibet.  Then we have villains like Leo (Eric Da Re) and Windom Earle (Kenneth Welsh) who are so easy to hate. Characters come and go, but are always remembered due to the unique mark that each one leaves on you. When something good or bad happens to them, you care very much. We want to see everything turn out ok despite all of the drama.

Special credit goes to Angelo Badalamenti who has created a score for this show that is just as important as the dialogue. If something seedy is happening, we are treated with an undercurrent of smooth jazz that perfectly complements the scene. If things get romantic or dramatic, then cue the strings because a sweeping song is ready to play.

This was not a show that lasted for too long. Only two seasons were made due to a decline of interest half way through the second season. Also, if you look at this show and any other show, you’ll find that Twin Peaks is on a whole different playing field. It’s so strange and twisted that I can imagine it really wasn’t for everyone.

Think of your favorite genre. Drama? Twin Peaks is a drama. Comedy? Twin Peaks is a comedy. Sci-fi? Horror? Twin Peaks is these as well. Get my drift? This show has something for everyone. To me, it is the perfect television show. But that’s not all. In 1992, David Lynch released a prequel to his show, the feature length movie Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me.

In the town of Deer Meadow, a seventeen year old girl has just been murdered. Special Agent Dale Cooper is sent to investigate, and soon begins to predict that this same type of murder will happen again. Cut to one year later. Laura Palmer is not your typical high school girl. She is in deep with all of the wrong people both of this world and not. In one week, she will be dead.

Again, that’s all I can say about the plot without ruining anything. The great thing about this movie is that it perfectly answers some of the questions that the show asked, and all the while creates a few more questions that can only be answered by digging deeper into the hell that is Twin Peaks.

This movie goes way crazier at times than the show ever could because of either the censors or just what people would want to watch on television. There are scenes that left me speechless because of how strange they were. One scene in particular features a whacked out David Bowie yammering on about who knows what. Only David Lynch can think up this kind of stuff.

A lot of the great stuff about the tv show is in the movie. For instance, we see some characters that we have come to enjoy and also the great music composed by Angelo Badalamenti. The story is all about Laura Palmer, so not everyone is in the movie, unfortunately. As much as I would have liked to see everyone, it would have been really hard to and keep the main story on track. That’s why the show was so great.

Look at the picture above this sentence. Yeah. Pretty freaky. This is a lot more intense than the television show could have possibly hoped to be due to what was allowed. This is no hold bars David Lynch. It’s violent, sexual, dirty, and raw in the most twisted and repulsive ways. It may not be Lynch’s best work, but it is certainly a perfect compliment to the show.

Twin Peaks and Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me have one of the most addicting narratives ever put to screen because, I guarantee, you have never seen anything like it before. Prepare your mind, lose all sense of sanity, and enjoy the trip into dementia with these two excellent pieces. It’s one of the best trips I’ve ever been on.

Eraserhead – Review

13 Jul

David Lynch is one of my favorite directors of all time and a huge influence for me. He is the writer/director of films such as Mulholland DriveLost Highway, and Blue Velvet to name a few. He is also the creator of the cult classic television show, Twin Peaks. Every great director has their start somewhere, and David Lynch’s was with his 1977 surrealist film, Eraserhead.

Henry Spencer (Jack Nance) is a quiet man who is trying to survive in an industrial wasteland where even a walk home from the grocery store is dangerous. Life for Henry gets even more complicated when his girlfriend, Mary X (Charlotte Stewart) gives birth to his mutant child, born with a small head, a pencil-like neck, and no arms or legs. Night after night, Henry is forced to listen to this baby cry nonstop, with only the Woman in the Radiator (Laurel Near) to give him comfort through song and the Beautiful Girl Across the Hall (Judith Ann Roberts) to satisfy his sexual fantasies.

I knew that this was going to be a strange movie because of my past experience with the twisted stories of David Lynch. Everything I’ve seen by him so far is far from normal, but Eraserhead is so distanced from reality that I was left speechless. The best way I can describe this movie for anyone who hasn’t seen it is that it is the equivalent of a live action nightmare. Things happen that aren’t explained, but are horrifying. Images are warped to the point of being terrifying. And, of course, darkness hides our fears leaving the worst to our imaginations.

An interesting about the filming of Eraserhead was that it was done periodically over the course of five years due to funding and technical issues. There is one scene that I need to look for next time I watch it where Jack Nance opens the door and you can actually see how he aged when the door opens. I also read that Nance kept his hair the same for those 5 years. Not so easy with hair like that.

Back to the aesthetics of the movie, I’d like to talk about a major part of this movie: the lighting. A lot of the cinematography is done in the noir style, filling the screen with intense whites and blacks. The lighting is rarely soft, with hard light the accentuates what the audience should be looking at or to reveal every detail of a subject. This works well for the movie, as I said before, by hiding a lot of what is seemingly frightening. There is one scene in particular at the end where the lights are flickering on and off, and what we are trying to see in truly unbelievable.

Almost, if not equally, as important is the sound design. There isn’t a whole lot of talking in this film, so the sound has to be done right in order to keep the viewer interested. Luckily, Lynch has created a haunting ambient soundtrack that is guaranteed to send shivers down spines. It’s hard to comment on the acting since there isn’t much talking and the actions aren’t done in the silent era kind of way, but more downplayed. I can say that Nance is perfect for Henry, and plays him with both love and fear.

Surrealism isn’t for everyone which is totally understandable. Many people have given their interpretations, but David Lynch says he hasn’t heard a correct one yet. I, personally, view it as a growing fear against parenthood, especially when unexpected and unprepared, but there is so much more to this movie than that. That being said, this Eraserhead requires many, many viewings before (if) it can be understood. This is one of my new favorite movies and, to anyone brave enough, I recommend it.