David Lynch

Hack or visionary?

I seem to go back and forth between opinions while watching his films. I’ve seen:
Blue Velvet
Mulholland Dr.
Inland Empire

The last two of which I watched this week. Sometimes when watching these types of movies I can’t get past the idea that the director is making them wierd just for the sake of being wierd, instead of doing it because it’s the best way to tell the story. It seems to me that when it works it works well, when it doesn’t… well… it doesn’t work at all and instead leaves me annoyed and frustrated.

I’m not one of these people that claim to like (or understand) a movie just because everybody else hates it. I think “The Wall” did a poor job of conveying whatever the hell it was Pink Floyd or the Director had in mind. I think Donnie Darko just tried too hard and left too much on the editing room floor. I was bored for two hours watching Dark City.

But with David Lynch films he has alot of experience trying to pull stuff like this off. This fact alone can make his films even more torturous for me. With films like Donnie Darko I can just tell myself that the director was in over his head and write off the movie as a bad film that fails at telling the story. But with Lynch films I know the guy has talent. I know he’s one of the best at doing what he does in this reguard, so when I can’t figure out what the hell is going on I’m convinced that it’s me who’s missing something – instead of an inexperienced director with a poor vision.

Even though these types of films can sometimes frustrate me I’m left with an urge to watch more and more of them as time goes on. Anyone know any good films of this type I should check out? I don’t need uninspired wierdness that goes nowhere, but wierdness that serves a purpose and adds to a film, rather than being there as nothing more than a gimmik.

I searched for David Lynch threads before posting this but got 8 pages of stuff unrelated to what I was looking for. So if you are going to be a forum Nazi and berate me have the courtesy to send me a PM instead and I’ll delete it without bothering to read it.

I love his films, but I think that the point isn’t that he’s trying to tell a story using all that weird stuff. Think of the weird stuff as Lynch manipulating your emotions and deliberately seeking to create a sense of unease but trying too hard to force the plot to make sense would truly be exercise in frustration.

I don’t ever think he’s being weird “for the sake of being weird.” There’s no other way to tell the story of, say, Mulholland Dr. That fractured, surreal, alienating narrative IS the story. I’d call that movie his masterpiece, along with Blue Velvet.

I think he’s a very personal filmmaker, and that these visions are just the way he needs to express himself, rather than calculated oddness. He can do straight filmmaking–like the aptly named The Straight Story and Elephant Man–and the results can be tremendous. I’ve only seen parts of Inland Empire on Netflix’s “play instantly” thang, but I liked what I saw, even while agreeing with some reviews that called it to insular and oblique.

He’s erratic, for sure. I could barely stand Wild At Heart, and Lost Highway was also a bit much for me. But, in the latter, I at least appreciated what I think he was attempting to visualize, and which he did so spectacularly in Mulholland Dr.

On the other hand, I’d totally understand anyone else who comes on and says he’s a hack and a fraud. :) But I’m on the bus.

The thing about lynch is that if you take his bad movies and just cut them up scene for scene each individual scene will stand on it’s own and blow me away. It’s just that sometimes they don’t tie together very well. This is going to be a horrific analogy, but it’s the best one I can think of: On the Metallica album St. Anger we have songs that are literally just hours and hours of riffing during Jam sessions snipped, cut and pasted together to form songs. Each little section might sound good on it’s own, with the potential to coalesce into one cohensive unit and thus create a great song, but instead each song sounds very fragmented and not quite unified in solidarity. Certain songs just seem blatantly bi-polar, if that makes any sense at all.

I get the same feeling with some of these types of movies. The individual scenes are sometimes better than the whole. I love grapefruit juice and I love pineapple upsidedown cake, but I don’t dunk one in the other for an enjoyable experience.

And BTW, Mulholland Dr is my favorite Lynch film so far, and not just because of the half-naked Niaomi Watts lesbian makeout scene. The ending, (I will try not to spoil it here), the moments right after the 3 inch tall old folks crawl under the door… it leaves a fucking impression. My god that scene alone was worth the price of admission.

Yeah. It was worth the price of admission five times in the theater for me. Mulholland Drive is very possibly my favorite movie of the last ten years. Jeff’s right; total masterpiece.

One thing you have to admire about David Lynch is that he finds so many diverse outlets for his talent, be it film, music, painting, photography, furniture design… you name it, he does it. Well and strangely.

Lynch is one of my gods :)

Watch the first season of Twin Peaks. Then get back to me…

Whenever Lynch comes up I usually just point to David Foster Wallace’s long article about Lynch, written for Premiere Magazine around the time Lost Highway came out. I just point and say “yeah, pretty much, that.” A short excerpt:

Definitely read the whole thing:

I love David Lynch’s stuff and agree that it’s not the narrative that excites me, but rather the experiences of individual scenes that can affect me to the bone. You get feelings more than a coherent through-line from him and the story itself doesn’t always deliver, but that’s part of the point, I think. He defies the mold of modern storytelling which makes the impact more viceral I think than the modern method of filmmaking. just roll with what he presents and enjoy the ride.

Hack. It’s hard to say whether he’s more boring or more pretentious, but he never fails to deliver both boredom and pretense in spades.

While I don’t necessarily like everything I’ve seen from David Lynch, I can in no way defend calling him a hack – the good stuff is far too good. I love Roger Ebert’s review of Mulholland Drive, it really captures how the movie makes you feel, and defends its lack of logic as driven by its subject matter, even contrasing that movie with Memento for doing the same thing to entirely different purpose.

I read another reviewer whose name I cannot remember, whose point was that it’s impossible to think your way through most David Lynch films, but it’s usually possible to feel your way through. They defy plot as we are used to thinking of it, but get where they’re going through some fairly circuitous paths very often. I’ll watch anything the guy does.

edit: I envy you your certainty, extarbags.

“Hack?” Come on, “hack?” Really? No offense intended, but you guys need to get out a little more.

I gotta agree with both Jeff Green and David Foster Wallace on this one. I love and admire Lynch as an artist, even if I don’t like or “get” everything he does. The guy has got to be one of the most uncompromising directors in existence. Nothing about his work is affected or self-consciously weird – he’s just really in touch with the deepest parts of his own unconscious and completely unafraid to put what he dredges up on screen. He is the utter opposite of a sell-out.

“Hack.” Right.

Jason, except for Dune?

Hack and sell-out are two different things.

Yeah, if only more filmmakers had the wherewithal to make movies that don’t make sense and aren’t about anything. Although, you know who else isn’t afraid to just film whatever dimly-lit nonsense comes to them in their sleep, no matter how impenetrable it is? Crispin Glover. So if you love David Lynch, you might also enjoy this, I guess.

He didn’t sell out on Dune, the studio fucked up the cut he wanted. Nor is that film the work of a hack. By any freaking stretch of the imagination.

Yeah, thanks, I wasn’t saying they were the same thing.

Right, 'bags. Comparing two completely different artists makes your point perfectly. The corollary to your argument is that Stanley Kubrick sucks because Jerry Bruckheimer sucks.

The problem* is that Lynch’s work goes out into the mainstream marketplace, where, as Foster Wallace noted, people generally expect to be entertained and led by the nose through a linear narrative. Lynch’s work often fails to meet those expectations, so some people end up alienated and pissed off, or resentful because they didn’t “get it.” Of course you’re free to loathe what he does, but you’ve got to come up with a better critical argument than “Crispin Glover sucks, ergo David Lynch sucks.” Because that’s not even an argument.

*which I don’t think is a problem at all – quite the opposite.

He didn’t sell out on Dune, the studio fucked up the cut he wanted. Nor is that film the work of a hack. By any freaking stretch of the imagination.
Well, he did say that he spent too much effort trying to make the film the way fans/actors on the set imagined/wanted it instead of following his own vision. I guess it’s debatable if that equals a sell out.

The guy has got to be one of the most uncompromising directors in existence. Nothing about his work is affected or self-consciously weird – he’s just really in touch with the deepest parts of his own unconscious and completely unafraid to put what he dredges up on screen. He is the utter opposite of a sell-out.
What would you call it when he tones down a story so it will be okay for television (Mulholland Dr.)? This seems like a compromise. He didn’t film the nude or ultraviolent scenes until after the Networks lost interest and he felt free to make the movie he way he wanted.

If you think this is what David Lynch’s films are, the problem is with you, not him.

I think David Foster Wallace nailed it too (big surprise). I think his movies–like dreams–are there for you to derive meaning if you want to look for it, but Lynch doesn’t seem to give a shit if you do or not. These are his demons he’s wrestling with, his way of expressing them. If you want to look at the surface narrative, you’re obviously going to have trouble. “That didn’t even make sense!” Well, yeah, duh. Most dreams don’t make sense either.

Certainly I could sit down when I’m in particular moods (like when I want someone to tell me a linear story), and even Mulholland Drive, which I love, is going to drive me crazy and make me want to call bullshit. And as I said in another post, I couldn’t buy into Wild at Heart or Lost Highway at all. But at other times, when I give into it, or when I’m feeling reflexive about the shit in my own brain and dreams, I can watch a movie like M.D. and it’s utterly profound to me, the way he can evoke certain emotions and senses, people’s fear and dread. I know of no other filmmaker who can get under my skin quite that way (Kubrick, sometimes) and I am amazed by it. To me he’s a true artist.

This really is the best way to put it, I think. One of my favorite interpretations of Mulholland Dr. (probably my favorite Lynch film) is that it’s a dream Los Angeles is having about the people who live in it.

What the man said.

Easily my favorite director out there. I’m no fanboy, Blue Velvet bores me, I’m no fan of Lost Highway (in this case I agree with kerzain’s theory of some scenes being better than the sum of the parts), but this man has taken me places where no other living or dead director has managed to take me.

He made movies into total sensorial experiences (listen to the sound design, it’s absolutely amazing) and into pure abstract pieces that still make sense but not in a narrative way.

I agree he has a tendency to sometimes parody himself, but many great artists do the same.

When cinema was first invented movies were not about the narrative and artists used it as a new form of expression in sometimes completely abstract and out-there experiences. In your view Bunuel or Dali must have been hacks. It’s not because the narrative/Hollywood way has prevailed and formatted our minds that anything that derives from the formula is crap. Granted, you can find it boring and uninteresting, but a “hack”…