- Posted by Alyse Wax
- On July 16, 2015
- 0 Comments
- david lynch
Here at CONtv we know that there are so many areas of fandom and so few hours in the day. In order to help you decide if a specific genre, sub-genre, artist, or hobby is worth the investment of your time, we present CONtv 101. A series of “introductory level courses”,CONtv 101 is NOT your typical “best of” list. The purpose of each course is to provide you with a strong, basic understanding of each topic through a carefully selected syllabus.
Course Description: David Lynch is more than just a director. He is a painter, an animator, a sound designer, an auteur. His films are twisted, dreamy, and darkly humorous. Early in his career, Lynch was often thought to be European, due to his methodical, dense, and often obscure plotting. But Lynch is as midwest as one can be, born in Montana and raised in Idaho. One brief article cannot get into the scope of Lynch’s work, but his work welcomes a viewer’s own point of view.
Lynch’s first feature was a black and white nightmare of the industrial age. Henry Spencer deals with a shrill girlfriend and their mutant spawn, which may or may not be human. Lynch did everything on this film: wrote, directed, produced, did art direction and special effects, including the monstrous “baby.” He also composed the score and handled the grating, industrial sound effects that are one of the most memorable – and unnerving – parts of the film. Eraserhead is often considered Lynch’s most complex and surreal film, but also his best.
The Elephant Man (1980)
The Elephant Man, though only Lynch’s second feature, was a commercial success. Also shot in black and white, it is based on the story of Joseph Merrick, a horribly deformed man who toured the sideshow circuit in Victorian England. The film starred John Hurt, Anthony Hopkins, and Anne Bancroft and went on to receive eight Academy Awards nominations. Complaints that the extensive makeup work done by Wally Schneiderman and Christopher Tucker wasn’t getting recognized by the Academy led to the creation of a Best Makeup category the following year.
Blue Velvet (1986)
What began as a contractual obligation for Dino De Laurentiis (which arose when Lynch signed on to the ill-fated Dune) became an exceptional piece of neo-noir filmmaking. Kyle MacLachlan stars as a college student, Jeffrey, who discovers a severed ear in a vacant lot when he comes home to visit. This leads him into a strange psycho-sexual relationship with a lounge singer (played by Isabella Rossellini) who is involved in an even stranger psycho-sexual relationship with a violent sociopath (played by Dennis Hopper, in a role that is credited with re-launching Hopper’s career). Initially, critical and commercial response was dismal, likely due to the violent sexual situations. Despite this, Lynch gained his second directorial Oscar nomination for Blue Velvet.
Twin Peaks (1990-1991)
ABC ran two seasons of David Lynch’s ode to small town weirdness. Looking back, it surprises me that it got two seasons. Twenty-five years ago, television was a very different landscape and didn’t handle “new” and “different” very well. I remember wandering in on my parents, who were watching Twin Peaks, and asked if I could join them. “It’s too… weird,” my mom told me. The plot of the show is easily summed up in four words: “Who killed Laura Palmer?” But the show was more about the strange citizens of Twin Peaks and the darkness that lurked beneath the surface: the woman who carried a log around like a baby; Laura Palmer’s twin cousin; the man who talks backward in the Red Room; the creepy, maybe-supernatural main suspect in the killing, Bob; and of course, that damn fine cherry pie.
Lost Highway (1997)
Lost Highway has always been a personal favorite of mine. A saxophonist may-or-may-not have been framed for the murder of his wife and may-or-may-not transform into a different man while in jail, who then gets mixed up with a gangster and his moll, who may-or-may-not-be the dead wife. Lost Highway is Lynch’s most dense film since Eraserhead, which may explain the mixed reviews. The ad for the film still sticks with me to this day: “‘Two thumbs down!’ says Siskel and Ebert. Two more reasons to see Lost Highway.”
Extra credit: Boxing Helena (1993)
Boxing Helena is the debut feature from Lynch’s daughter, Jennifer Lynch. While not nearly as obscure as her father’s work, she demonstrates a similar sensibility with her eagerness to explore dark corners of humanity with a touch of humor. Boxing Helena tells the tale of a doctor who is enamored with a woman named Helena. When she is in a car accident outside his house, he brings her inside to care for her, but his obsession leads him to cut off her arms and legs and keeps her in a box.