Sunday, January 24, 2010

Favorites of My Favorites #7 -- David Lynch

There’s a real danger to David Lynch’s work that is almost unrivaled in the history of the medium.  He’ll take us to places most others won’t dare go.  And he does it with a power, a punch, and a sexiness that for me, at least, is ultimately much more appealing than it is unpleasant.

If being a great filmmaker means having a wonderful eye and ear, creating an experience that is intellectually and viscerally satisfying, and delivering remarkable performances, then I would have to say that Lynch is indeed great.  Many polls recently chose Mulholland Dr. as the best film of the decade, and you won’t hear an argument from me.  It’s just amazing to think, it’s not even my favorite David Lynch film.

I’ve long felt that the medium is 50% visual/50% aural, and no one makes a better argument for this than Lynch.  His sound designs and collaborations with Angelo Badalamenti uncover another layer, an underbelly, that most filmmakers can only graze. 

I would imagine much of his strength comes from his thirty plus years of transcendental meditation.  He trusts himself and his instincts so fully that his work takes on a primal intensity at times.  Of course, I also find that he has a lovable innocence and moments where he demonstrates both a great deal of heart and a wonderful sense of humor.  

I love the way he manages his career.  He’s an independent, an artist, one of the most unique people working in the medium.  Although I can’t say that I understand every moment from every one of his films, it really doesn’t matter to me.  His work affects me about as much as anyone's.

DAVID LYNCH (in preferential order)
1.  Blue Velvet
2.  Mulholland Dr.
3.  Twin Peaks (pilot)
4.  The Elephant Man
5.  Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me
6.  Lost Highway
7.  The Cowboy and the Frenchman watched 4/17/11
8.  Inland Empire
9.  Eraserhead
10.  Wild at Heart
11.  The Straight Story
12.  Dune watched 1/26/10
13.  DumbLand (short) watched 1/30/10
14.  The Alphabet watched 4/16/11
15.  The Amputee watched 4/16/11
16.  The Grandmother watched 4/16/11
17.  Lumiere: Premonitions Following an Evil Deed watched 4/17/11
18.  Six Figures Getting Sick watched 4/16/11

Never seen:
More Things That Happened (video)
To Each His Own Cinema (segment "Absurda")
Boat (video short)
Darkened Room (short)
DumbLand (short)
Lumiere and Company (segment "Premonition Following An Evil Deed")
The Grandmother (short)
The Alphabet (short)
Six Figures Getting Sick (short)


  1. Nice introduction there Jeffrey, and certainly one of the most worthy of all American directors still working on the contemporary scene. Here's my list:

    1 Blue Velvet
    2 The Elephant Man
    3 Inland Empire
    4 Mulholland Drive
    5 Twin Peaks
    6 Lost Highway
    7 Dune
    8 Wild at Heart
    9 The Straight Story
    10 Rabbits

    Well Jeffrey, I only saw three from the bottom section, though two of those made my 10. I agree with you that as much as MD is seen as a masterpiece, the more I favor BLUE VELVET for that top spot.

  2. Hey Sam! Thanks so much for the comments. I love seeing your list, too.

    I definitely will be watching DUNE this week and updating my post (in red). Also, I plan on tracking down Lynch's short films and commenting on those as soon as I've had the chance to watch them. He seems to be one of the few directors that keeps going back to the short film format, between features. I like that he keeps experimenting in this way, probably also a pretty good way for him to keep his skills sharp.

    Thanks again, Sam! It sounds you and I have the same admiration for Lynch.

  3. "I’ve long felt that the medium is 50% visual/50% aural, and no one makes a better argument for this than Lynch"

    Well put. Jeffrey.

    My top 5:

    1 Twin Peaks : Fire Walk With Me
    2 Mulholland Drive
    3 Lost Highway
    4 Inland Empire
    5 Twin Peaks (pilot)

    Fire Walk With Me would be pretty much in that position if I was including all Directors. I wrote a little thing on it a while back and have been evangelizing about it ever since:

    Those Lynch shorts are very good and well worth checking out.

  4. I could flip-flop on MULLHOLLAND DR vs. BLUE VELVET depending on the day I watch -- both are obvious classics in my book, with BLUE VELVET providing a more straight-ahead style (though with Lynch, I guess that's never fully the case) and MULLHOLLAND DR a deeper mystery.

    Also, I had to leave a comment to admit, ashamedly, that my brother Kevin game me your movie to watch a while back and I never did. I just saw your link via Wonders in the Dark and it reminded me that I need to watch it, asap. I will set out to do that in the next week or so.

  5. Stephen:

    Great to see you here! To be honest, I just in the last week or so saw FIRE WALK WITH ME for the first time. I was actually guilty of what you mention in your great piece on the film. Having heard the negative critical consensus, I avoided the film for many years. But man was I blown away!

    I definitely plan on seeking out the short films. And, part of these "favorites" posts is that I will update them (in red) each time I see a new film or happen to change an opinion on something I've already seen.

    Thanks again for commenting here!

  6. Troy:

    Great to see you here! I feel exactly the same as you when it comes to BLUE VELVET and MULHOLLAND DR. I love them both, and it's really difficult to determine which of the two I like better. I guess I finally gave it to BLUE VELVET, only because for me it's the most "clear" of all his labyrinthine, more puzzle-like films.

    Kevin's been great to me. It's really because of his blog and write-up circa last year's Salem Film Festival that I first became aware of the whole cinephile blogosphere. I look forward to you seeing LULLABY. And once again, I really appreciate you stopping by here.

  7. Great list! Lynch is certainly one of my favorites as well; there are no other directors whose cinema is so consistently mysterious and haunting. As I've said many times before, when I first saw Mulholland Dr., the whole world seemed strange and warped by the experience when I went outside afterwards. Few films can actually alter one's experience of reality in that way. Here's my rough list:

    1. Mulholland Dr.
    2. Inland Empire
    3. Blue Velvet
    4. Lost Highway
    5. Eraserhead
    6. The Straight Story
    7. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me
    8. The Grandmother
    9. Wild At Heart
    10. The Elephant Man
    11. The Cowboy and the Frenchman
    12. Industrial Symphony No. 1

    It's hard to rank Twin Peaks and all the shorts in there, but suffice to say I always find his work at least interesting, even in the most tossed-off shorts and ephemeral website bits. I appreciate Lynch's tendency to use his shorts and digital series as experimental labs, trying out all kinds of things and eventually incorporating many of these shorter pieces into his features.

    I'd also certainly recommend More Things That Happened, which suggests that Lynch could have made a nearly infinite number of movies, each of them with a different emphasis, from the raw material of Inland Empire. It's not just a collection of outtakes from the finished film, it's a whole alternate imagining of the film's world and characters.

  8. Ed, so great to have your comments here! I couldn't agree more with both the adjectives "mysterious" and "haunting" when applied to Lynch. Also, looking back, I think I had a similar experience leaving the theater after seeing MULHOLLAND DR. for the first time.

    I've been remiss, for some reason, in catching up with his short films. But I certainly intend on filling in these gaps in the near future. MORE THINGS THAT HAPPENED sounds fantastic. As do many of the other side projects.

    You and I also completely agree that these side projects seem to serve as almost a laboratory for Lynch. I think when we see how perfectly some of his more offbeat stylistic innovations work in his features, his "spring training" approach really starts to make sense.

    Thanks again for the great comments!

  9. I love Lynch's films and he's probably my fave filmmaker of all-time and so picking a Top 10 is tough and changes on a weekly basis depending on my mood.

    1. Blue Velvet
    2. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me
    3. Mulholland Drive.
    4. Wild at Heart
    5. Twin Peaks
    6. Lost Highway
    7. Eraserhead
    8. Dune
    9. The Straight Story
    10. Industrial Symphony No. 1

    I really enjoyed your thoughts on Lynch and certainly agree with you. Lynch is the master and creating such a distinctive atmosphere in his films through a complex soundscape and textured imagery. Amazing stuff.

  10. JD, great to have you on here! I think we also share a real obsession with Michael Mann too, right?

    Thanks so much for sharing your list. I love having these by other people. It really makes me look at my own taste and inspires me to seek out things that I might not have already seen, like INDUSTRIAL SYMPHONY NO.1.

    Thanks again for the great comments!

  11. Ah yes! Michael Mann is definitely right up there with Lynch as one of my fave filmmakers. I'm hoping to publish a book about his film some time in the near future.

    INDUSTRIAL SYMPHONY is a fascinating piece in Lynch's career done when he was at his most prolific and basically features all of his thematic preoccupations.

  12. J.D., I'd love for you to do a book on Mann. There's really not a great one out there. I keep waiting for him to be a part of that Conversations with Filmmakers series that the University of Mississippi press does.

    Can't wait to catch up with INDUSTRIAL SYMPHONY. Sounds great!

  13. Favorite Lynch for me:

    1. Mulholland Dr. -- very, very easily my #1
    2. Lost Highway
    3. Twin Peaks (pilot)
    4. Blue Velvet
    5. Fire Walk With Me

  14. Dave, love seeing your list! Those are almost my exact favorite five, too.

    Thanks again for the comments here!

  15. Before I met Lynch in person last November, I had to weigh in on what my favorite of his films was. I ultimately realized that, despite my overwhelming enthusiasm for Eraserhead, Blue Velvet, Lost Highway, Mulholland Drive and Inland Empire, my absolute favorite of his work remains the entire Twin Peaks series. Including the moronic second season. I know it's cheating to take a series over choices of films, but I simply can't deny that the world of Twin Peaks seduced me. I love the show so much that I'm not even so sure I ever want to watch it again: it seems like the kind of series that is experienced best when fresh. Would it be just as fascinating to watch the episodes again even after already knowing what happens? I don't know. It's television, after all...

    The only film of his that I dislike is Wild at Heart. There's a cynicism to that film that makes me wince. It feels less like Lynch is putting his imagination to good use and more like he's "enjoying the rewards of the box office", as Ebert put in his review (for the record, the only negative Ebert review of a Lynch film that I agreed with; the rest of Ebert's criticisms of Lynch are rather pathetic). By comparison, I even prefer Dune. It's not really a *good* movie, but I enjoy it.

    Indeed, Lynch sure does seem to get a lot of his inspiration from TM. When I asked him a question about that, he gave me a thoughtful response about how anger is a weakness in an artist and not the "edge" that some (including me) take it for.

    At the same time, I made a complete fool of myself when I assumed that he believed that "film is dead", and he had to correct me, pointing out that he was talking about celluloid and not cinema. Here's the video of me and him conversing about that:

    It was definitely one of the most embarrassing moments of my life to ask him something so idiotic like that! Haha. Still, the experience as a whole was a blast. I hope you get to meet him too, Jeffrey; he's one of the nicest men on the face of the Earth.

  16. Hey, Adam, that's an interesting take on WILD AT HEART. I haven't seen it in some time, but I would imagine it's the "cynicism" you're describing that makes me like it a little less than some of the others.

    I love TWIN PEAKS so totally with you there!

    Wow, I'm so jealous that you had the opportunity to meet him. This clip of you and him is absolutely fantastic. And your questions were great. Thanks so much for sharing!