The Darkness and David Lynch

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It may seem redundant to say that David Lynch is one of the more colourful filmmakers exist within the boundaries of Hollywood. Many filmmakers of his style have often only been lucky enough to survive on the fringes.

What makes his films popular? Popular might be the wrong word, perhaps resonant and enduring is more appropriate. Is it because while some of Lynch’s films are difficult to penetrate cognitively—a few to the point of frustration—there is something deep within them we can recognise and appreciate, even if we cannot name what that something is?

Whatever the reason, Lynch is a filmmaker that intrinsically understands the medium he works in, and is able to use it to its full effect to intrigue, disturb, haunt and frighten us. Much like a piece of art in a gallery, his films are exhibits. As a filmmaker Lynch doesn’t interpret what we are seeing for us. He leaves that up to us.

For the next few Sundays The Astor is playing some of Lynch’s best.

Eraserhead & Blue Velvet – July 22

Lynch’s first feature took him five years to make, and is a masterpiece of independent cinema. A favourite of Stanley Kubrick and John Waters, Eraserhead (like many other Lynch films) has a loose narrative that accommodates Lynch’s exploration of ideas. The film is made up of striking moment after striking moment, and though less subtle than his later films, the imagery is stark and quite wonderful, particularly the chicken dinner scene and the smiling Lady in the Radiator squashing strange sperm-like creatures with her high-heels.

Blue Velvet begins with an innocent young man Jeffrey (Kyle MacLachlan) finding a severed ear in his quiet suburban town. As Jeffrey investigates the crime, he quickly finds himself uncovering the town’s underworld of psychotics, lead by sociopath Frank (Dennis Hopper), who is involved in some heavy shit. Signature surreal Lynch moment in this is when Dean Stockwell’s character Ben mimes Roy Orbison’s ‘In Dreams’.

Mulholland Drive – July 29

Mulholland Drive was conceived as a pilot for a series that could have been Lynch’s return to TV 10 years after Twin Peaks, but was rejected and became a film instead. One of Lynch’s more disjointed outings (which I guess is saying something), Mulholland Drive is a Hollywood story only David Lynch could tell. The film starts with aspiring actress Betty Elms (Naomi Watts) befriending an amnesiac in her apartment block, and whirs off into a series of vignettes that are all somehow connected to Hollywood. As haunting and atmospheric as any of Lynch’s films, this is perhaps not one for newcomers to Lynch.

Lost Highway & Twin Peaks Fire Walk with Me August 5

Lynch’s most haunting film, Lost Highway, is a rarity. Very few films have been able to capture, let alone match, the sense of disorientation and paranoia that this film presents. Lost Highway is a dark tale about how jazz saxophonist Bill Pullman is framed for the murder of his wife and sent to prison, where he inexplicably metamorphoses into a young man and begins a new life. The film also features perhaps the most disturbing character of all time, an unblinking man who may or may not be the devil, played by Robert Blake.

A prequel made before prequels were all the rage, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me shows the lead up and act that was the inciting incident that kicked off the TV series: the death of Laura Palmer. This film is perhaps less engaging than the series for several reasons. First, the events that occurred after Laura Palmer’s death and the revelations behind it are more interesting than seeing the act itself. Second; a living, breathing version of Laura Palmer isn’t able to match the allure, complexity and mystery of the absentee Laura from the series. Having said that, Fire Walk with Me still contains many trademark-Lynch moments that make it worthwhile viewing.

For tickets and sessions times visit astortheatre.net.au.

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