Tag Archives: jack nance

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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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.