David Lynch

I like movies that tell a story, even if it must be puzzled together. I don’t like the theory that his movies are there for us to to ‘experience’. The only way I can have any faith in a director who choses to direct these types of films is if the film DOES tell a story, no matter how abstract, that can be puzzled and pieced together through overlogic and by looking for clues throughout the film. If the movie doesn’t tell a story it has no business being, in my opinion. I don’t need to be spoodfed story, I just demand that there be one - no matter how incoherent it might seem on first viewing.

There is only one real reason I feel this way: I don’t want to waste my time trying to figure this crap out if there’s nothing to figure out. That frustrates me. It’s like playing an adventure game (if you’ve ever played the old point-and-click type) where you’ve been working on a particulr puzzle and have been stuck for three hours: You sweat it out, trying to keep yourself from looking for cheats/spoilers the entire time. FINALLY you figure it out and the game progresses, but it turns out the solution was not only completely illogical, but it was overly difficult because it was poorly designed, rather than brainy. In situations like this I lose faith in game designers, and even film makers. I feel like they couldn’t quite pull it off.

While typing this I came to a realization. I guess it will either make me a hypocrit, or just picky, it depends on how you look at it. Music. The first time I listened to a band like Pink Floyd I was introduced to sound elements in a song that were not music. They were not part of the songs story and essentially they were simply there to create atmosphere (My guess is they were there because when you’re taking heavy amounts of LSD your brain reacts differently to different types of sounds than a normal brain, like me, does). It took me several listens, several years, to fully appreciate the sound-bytes and voiceovers as part of the listening ‘experience’ for an album.

In certain albums the sound bytes were relevant (mostly The Wall, Welcome to the Machine etc) and in others they might have been, but aren’t so obvious. It took me a while to get over all the interuptions in the music, it annoyed me because it just sounded like filler.

Here’s the thing, I enjoy this type of thing in music. I do not enjoy it so much in a movie. In music stuff like this is pretty fleeting. It can happen, but you know you won’t be listening to two straight hours of this stuff. You won’t be puzzling out the sounds because the album moves on and eventually a good song will start. If I look at David Lynch movies like music albums I guess you could say each scene is like a different song. It sets a mood, and doesn’t always have to tie in to the next song/scene. They might be part of the same overall movie/album, but different scenes, like different songs on an album, can be very distinct and tell thier own story. Not all albums are concept albums that tell one overall story – and apparently not all movies do this either. I just wish they would because they seem to demand different things from the viewer/listener.

I respectfully think this is the wrong way to approach Lynch’s movies. As you said it yourself, there is nothing to ‘figure out’, when at the same time it has meaning for everyone in the most profound way (never heard the “LA dream” theory regarding Mulholland Drive) .

When asked to he does not want to explain his movies or give clues - although he did it sometimes for Mulholland Drive, but I think it was more a fun way of misguiding people than anything else. I’m not saying his work does not make sense even in an abstract way. But his movies are not mental puzzles you can solve like a giant enigma, by collecting clues. This is where people may get frustrated with his art and call him a hack, etc. I don’t think there is only one way to accept and experience Mulholland Way, for example, as it is often the case with any work of art that does not rely on narrative conventions. Everyone has its own interpretation. That’s the fun of it and that’s why he’s often subject to clear love/hate reactions. It’s so intimate it can sometimes be unnerving and/or pissing you off for feeling left out the experience.

It can be its greatness but to some it can also be its flaws, as with modern paintings for example where everything is left to the viewer’s discretion (that’s very strange, I’m defending Lynch’s movies but I hate modern art…). Maybe you can find a general meaning but I don’t think one can say he has the unique solution that is the only logical explanation to something that is not logical in the least.

Whether it touches you or bore you to death its up to you of course.

So… stuff like Koyaanisqatsi just shouldn’t exist, then? Why must there be a story for something to be worthwhile?

What if you applied the same criteria to games? Fuck off, Geometry Wars, you lack a compelling narrative.

Lynch is weird, but proficiently weird.

I have to love that quote though earlier in the thread. Film is soooo powerful of a medium we need to build up psychic protections against it? Is this some Scientology thing I don’t know about? Seriously, film is just as powerful as any of our other developed mediums. I get his more general point, a film/book makes a pact with the watcher/reader. Lynch’s films at times abandon that pact and sometimes even the proper language of film. That’ll leave people confused, bored, or intrigued. What it won’t do is leave people psychically assaulted. That’s why we have Transformers.

Has anyone read a book that reads like a David Lynch film (intentionally)?

I might be going off the deep end a bit here, and I’m not going to bore everyone by rocking what would likely be some deeply suspect literary analysis, but Lynch’s work often reminds me of later Joyce, particularly Finnegan’s Wake.

I prefer Dubliners myself, mind.

Dune, kinda.

Naked Lunch?

Lynch is also pretty tight-lipped about his own motivations and thoughts about a movie, which makes him seem impenetrable. He doesn’t do commentary tracks (although I loved his ten clues for Mulholland Dr. he listed in the DVD), he doesn’t go on The View to talk about how Eraserhead is about his fears of fatherhood or whatever.

In the years after Blue Velvet and Twin Peaks, I would have been more inclined to agree with extarbags that Lynch was more style than substance. I find Wild At Heart to be a deeply unlikable movie, and while Lost Highway is beautiful to look at it’s also a dry and inert viewing experience. But the one-two punch of The Straight Story (which is a movie that more people should see, especially his detractors) and Mulholland Dr. brought me back on track.

I still haven’t quite got the courage to watch Inland Empire, mostly because of it’s length. Three hours is a long, long time to spend trapped in Lynch’s psyche.

Do not forget Eraserhead and Elephant Man, where he shows in the first case that he did not wait for Lost Highway or Mulholland Drive to fuck with our heads, and in the latter that he’s a as good as any when using a style one can describe as terribly “classic”.

He showed it again in beautiful The Straight Story - I always forget this one, thanks madkevin- where he had the ability to almost bring me to tears with nothing but two old man sitting under a porch.

Then, of course, there’s Dune.

I don’t see a section in Blockbuster called “Wierd shit nobody understands, but that’s okay because the directors weren’t really trying to entertain you anyhow, they were just stroking thier own flacid members trying to get a rise out of themselves”. If they did it might just be called “The last four Movies by M. Night Shyamalan”.

I guess there is a market for everything, and this is America after all (well for me it is, who knows where the rest of you guys are), so people can buy and sell pretty much whatever they want… but it’s tiresome when you’re 30 minutes into a movie you’ve read good reviews about (minus spoilers) only to find out it’s not so much a movie with a story than a random assortment of scenes intended to screw with your emotions. Unfortunately instead of evoking dread or wonder it invokes frustration.

Someone up above said it best, if it is marketed as a standard movie it only makes sense to expect entertainment. I know everybody has a different idea of what entertainment is, but alot of these movies make it to the local AMC instead of being restricted to midnight showings at the local emo hangout. I don’t go to the AMC 30 screen IMAX enabled theater to sit there wishing I had a placard of scratch-and-sniff stickers to help more fully immerse me in the experience.

What if you applied the same criteria to games? Fuck off, Geometry Wars, you lack a compelling narrative.
What if I applied the logic that, like submarines, my car should carry a crew to the bottom of the ocean? I don’t carry expectations over from one medium to the next. I don’t care if music tells a story. It’s okay if it does, but it isn’t a requirement.

Games entertain differently than movies. Geometry Wars is a very coherent and straightforward experience from beginning to end. There’s no question that the developers know exactly what they were doing when they decided to throw 7.2 million hexagons at you in two minutes. The same can’t be said for directors who are unable to tell a story – I don’t care if they claim they weren’t trying to, it’s a cop out. Different mediums work in different ways to entertain, enlighten or educate.

I think a better game to compare to a movie with no story and no compelling reason to watch, and also created by an egomaniac would be Diakatana.

Ah, spare me the troll Jason, it doesn’t suit you. I love movies that are unconventional, when well done. I’m happy to hunt down weird movies on DVD and in art houses, and I don’t hold them to a different standard or bring a different set of expectations just because I’m seeing a movie at my local Regal. And I actually enjoy confusing, surreal movies, again, when well done. I like puzzling through them to get to some understanding of their meaning, and I think that this is a way that films can actually be more powerful.

But here’s the thing: if I’m going to put that work in, there damned well better be something in there to make it worthwhile. Every David Lynch movie that I’ve seen has been lacking in this aspect. I haven’t seen Mullholland Drive, but its biggest boosters seem to revel in the fact that it’s the same way. Which is fine, for them, but I’m personally not inclined to give the guy much credit for piecing together a dream that doesn’t make sense and isn’t using that lack of sense to get some kind of point across. My brain does that on its own a couple of times a week, automatically and with no help from me, but I don’t wake up and recreate them on film.

Fair enough, but Roger Ebert and David Foster Wallace both say that that’s what his films are in these fawning love letters to him that you guys think are so great.

I don’t automactically expect “entertainment” for every movie I watch. Maybe that’s because I’m eurotrash and we grow up with a very wide variety of movies here, I don’t know. To me they all have different values and different purposes. Some movies are here to provoke, to shock, to attract your attention to a particular problem, and some don’t even have a goal at all.

True, you could say that all these things are different kinds of entertainment or that you could do that while being entertained, but sometimes I just want to be moved or immersed in something a filmmaker has to offer, not expecting to feel better at the end or satisfied or having lived through the tiresome “punishing the bad guy” catharsis and adrenaline rush. Just having experienced something different.

Now I’m not saying it has to be boring, and to each is own, but so what if some of Lynch’s movies are not “entertaining” in the strictest sense of the word ? If that’s all you are expecting from a form of art is’nt it a little bit restrictive ?

The Straight Story is AMAZING - easily one of my favorite movies, hands down. I am going to tie extarbags to a chair and make him watch it. But can you really talk about it in the same breath as Blue Velvet et. al? I mean, it’s really accessible, hardly surreal at all. If you look closely enough, you can tell it’s a David Lynch film, but it’s a really sweet movie with a strong emotional foundation.

I really like David Lynch when he’s constrained by commercial reality. I love Twin Peaks for this reason - network TV clearly took the edge off of his unbridled weirdness and I liked it all the more for it.

Elephant Man is in the same vein although the Lynch part are more visible than in A Straight Story. But you can always tell it’s a Lynch movie by the way he beautifully crafts each of his shots and how well he uses the frame.

Well, debatably there’s a parallel layer going on there too. It’s just handled more subtly than Lynch’s usual parallel layers.

Koyaanisqatsi has a pretty clear narrative throughline. It’s open to interpretation to some degree, but there’s a definite dramatic progression and story there. Not to diminish your point, which I agree with entirely.

You contradict yourself in this statement. “A story, no matter how abstract” is the broadest possible description of narrative. How would you choose to define “story?” Something you can figure out and clearly summarize in a one-paragraph imdb entry? Because Lynch’s films are all stories. Just not the kind of stories you like. Where you like logic and clue-driven puzzles (nourishment for the conscious mind) Lynch prefers to explore things less easily understood (nourishment for the unconscious), but no less valuable as subjects of exploration. Probably more valuable these days, since those realms of experience and expression seem to diminish with each passing year.

Well, that’s your problem right there. Art shouldn’t have to have to function like a car or submarine, but the three-act Hollywood formula and has conditioned us expect certain things from a film or book, and to feel disappointed when those specific things are no delivered, so we expect a story to work like a toaster or a bicycle – to satisfy a very specific need. But that need has been beaten into us by the film industry. It’s not innate. It’s the same kind of consumer conditioning that leads people to say, for instance, that Tolkien’s work isn’t worth reading any more because books are so much better written today.

Luckily, you don’t have that same expectation of music, but film is just another medium – it’s just light and sound manipulated over time. Why are you holding it to a different standard? I know why, I’m just asking you to reflect on that some more. There’s nothing about film per se that necessitates the kind of narrative you feel it must convey. The problem is that it’s been commodified to the point where we can’t appreciate anything that steps outside of the incredibly narrow definition that the marketplace has been refining and repeating for decades now. It’s a tightening feedback loop that limits both our experience of the medium and our willingness to engage with other kinds of storytelling.

David Lynch was a painter before he became a filmmaker, and he still paints. His approach to film straddles the art/commerce line. He comes up with images or feelings or impulses and develops a narrative around them intuitively, but he thinks really hard about how to best convey those feelings to an audience. He cares a hell of a lot about communicating, just not so much about communicating something that makes sense to our solution-hungry conscious minds.

If you want to see truly self-absorbed, hermetic, dead boring art filmmaking, give Matthew Barney a look. Lynch is Walt Disney by comparison.

I agree with this, too, and from what I understand this is exactly how Lynch approaches making his films. I’ve heard anecdotally that he will sit and drink cup after cup of coffee just writing down images from his dreams, images that pop into his head as he writes about his dreams and then look at those collection of images and decide that his film is there. The story, narrative, and so on work themselves out later. I heard with Twin Peaks, he and David Frost were both looking at a river and almost simultaneously had the flash of a body wrapped in plastic floating down stream. He very much lets his mind’s eye take over.

Oddly, he said part of what inspired Lost Highway was the OJ Simpson case.

For me, while I never declare his films to be my all time favorites, they always affect me on an emotional level leaving me with a positive vibe for the film as a whole.

That wasn’t directed at you at all, 'bags. I am often the guy who feels like he doesn’t get it.

Fair enough. That’s a good critical analysis. We can just disagree about his worth as a filmmaker.

Also: many shots of steaming ductwork.