As we finally arrive at the eleven year, ten month anniversary of Mulholland Drive’s release at the Cannes film festival, I felt we should take some time out to discuss the controversial director who created the film. There will be no prizes for guessing which side of the fence I’m sitting on, but for the purposes of unbiased journalism I’ll make every effort to omit my own point of view from this article.
In hopes of achieving as fair a result as I possibly could, I invited an audience of various ages, races etc., to join in me in a discussion about Lynch, from which I would deride the argument. I then proceeded to utilise the age old technique of making a cloud; collating word density information, then presenting it visually by the complex process of altering word height and size.゠In order to get the best results I also deprived the think tank of food and sunlight for a couple of days before producing the cloud, as I feel it really fires up the appetite for discussion and gets the creative juices flowing.
As is enormously evident, the think tank unanimously agreed that David Lynch is a massive dickhead, but, again, in the spirit of fairness, let’s take a look at the other results and see if we can understand why this may be. Now, as per the cloud’s design, we find that the next most popular idea that came to mind when thinking of David Lynch was “Director”, which for the sake of brevity we can couple with “Writer”.
These things are correct.
In fact if we’re going to talk of brevity, we ought to remove these titles and instead apply the term ‘Auteur’ – a French (we’ll come back to them later) word which, in film theory, implies a complete creative and visionary control over the whole project. Now this is something we can certainly credit Lynch with. If you look back over his filmography and actually bother watching some of his earlier works, you find a religious devotion to creating hypnotic and seemingly nonsensical scenes throughout everything he’s done.
Take a look at Six Men Getting Sick (Six Times) for instance (if you make it to the end there’s a gold star waiting for you in some psychiatric ward somewhere). I know this is pretty much his first short film, and it’s probably unjust to draw any conclusions from it given that he was just starting out, but I feel this sets a fair precedent for his later works.And so, back to the cloud! We find some of his better known titles; Mulholland Drive, Eraserhead and Twin Peaks. Again, if anyone is familiar with these works, they’re undeniably Lynchian. Although they’re not stylistically the same as his earlier films, except for perhaps Eraserhead, the same themes present themselves over and over again, with the lines between what is real and what is imaginary perpetually blurred into one big conspiratorial swirl. Eraserhead was Lynch’s star-jump into the realm of the feature film and utilises everything you could possibly associate with avant garde, French (we’re getting to them soon) cinema. If you haven’t seen it I think the following is an accurate summary: Pervasive white noise desecrates the whole film, set in some post-industrial wasteland. A lever pulling bloke in space that looks bad and pulls levers, pulls levers whilst heavy handed sexual symbolism floods your eyes. Then the strange guy with big hair has to kill his weird alien baby with scissors.
I’m not sure I completely got it, but that’s basically what happened.
Twin Peaks, which was Lynch’s first foray into television, though certainly not as bizarre as Eraserhead, was again steeped in the surreal. Along with co-writer Mark Frost, Lynch set up one of the most enthralling murder investigation involving the FBI to hit the screens since Wiseguy. Apparently bowing to pressure from studio bosses, Frost and Lynch had to reveal Laura Palmer’s killer early into the second series. This lead to a huge decline in viewing figures, compounded by increasingly bizarre plotlines concerning owls and aliens and some other things, that seemed to endlessly unfurl as the series played out. Of course in this respect we can say at least Mark Frost is also to blame. If you ever actually finish a whole episode of On The Air, co-written by the Frost and Lynch, I think you’re entitled to go out and punch a child or a kitten or whatever. It was horrendous, and taken off air after only 3 episodes. I mean, it was so bad, the opening jingle even had fart noises in it! But Frost went on to write Fantastic Four and Rise of The Silver Surfer, whilst Lynch made…
Mulholland Drive – the film about a blue box which didn’t exist. Endemic of his last few ventures, Lynch managed to set up a malevolent mystery concerning the murderous ambitiousness that Hollywood breeds inside those it attracts, only to be let down by some backhanded ‘it was all a dream’ ending.
Really? This is primary school stuff. Though critics and fans debate the meaning of Mulholland Drive even to this day. Lynch in his decidedly ‘I’m David Lynch and I do what I want’ way, has been vague about the meaning of the whole film and twiddled his thumbs at those asking what exactly happened, creating in its wake a rip tide of confusion, debate and praise. I think the real question to ask is not what does the film mean, but why does this keep happening? The answer may be a simple twenty minutes of silence and humming – which you must all begin now.
Ok, I hope that went well. Have any visions or compelling ideas as to how you could ruin the end of a film or TV series? No? Well, try harder!
When ABC closed down Mulholland Drive, once he had already filmed the feature length pilot, Lynch was hell bent on getting his work out there like the true imagination-bot he is. He turned to French (soon) production company StudioCanal for additional funding and set about shooting what was required to turn the pilot into a feature. Of course this meant rewrites and finding a way to curtail the tendrils of a whole series worth of plots, in one foul swoop. Struggling to find a way to accomplish this, Lynch sat in a quiet room and hummed a mantra for twenty minutes as his $1000 subscription to transcendental meditation purports one simply must when faced with real world problems.
It was during this time that “the ideas came in”. These ideas obviously being to get Rita and Betty to lez off a bit, and have the blue box open and then the cowboy again and a party and make everyone, everyone else. For most people this is the weird blurring of a sexual fantasy and your monkey brain confused by a logistical problem – you tend to dismiss these thoughts and concentrate on the actual matter at hand. However, for Lynch, this is the epiphanic revelation of his true visionary purpose.
For many directors the accolade of ‘visionary’ is a title given not taken. In Lynch’s case its a decidedly self applied term, though hilariously enough it’s not the only title he’s been given. The French, so infatuated with the director, initiated him into the Légion d’honneur. Ex-French President-turned politician, Nicholas Sarkozy, ingratiated Lynch with the title as he convinced Sarkozy that cinema was a “very important matter”. Though I’m inclined to say we ought not to take this title particularly seriously, not least because it’s French, but also because Sharon Stone has also been on the receiving end. Of the honour that is.
The French giving the Legion d’Honneur to a foreigner, although not unheard of, is a rarity. So why did they? The answer, I believe, lies in one simple word – arrogance. Internationally regarded as the most uppity nation to have existed ever since Napoleon Bonaparte decided he was an emperor, the French famously adore pomposity in all its forms (at this point the Editor politely coughs in the background, and wants it on record that Gorilla quite likes France). And it is this pomposity that I believe has served Lynch so well over the years.
Most filmmakers are keen to create a movie experience that gives the audience a sense of completeness and though questions may remain, on a basic level there is feeling of satisfaction with having been told a story, and an emotional response to it.゠Lynch, on the other hand, seems to think that the story isn’t so important, but that the images in his head are. He veils his vague, deconstructionist narratives in a matt-finish quirkiness and Angelo Badalamenti’s synth sounds, and feigns some kind of depth or meaning by refusing to explain what it’s all about – going on to claim that it゠ means, ‘whatever you think it means’. Leaving the audience with a sense of bamboozlement that some seem to mistake for genius.
His obsequious followers don’t seem to think that it is in fact Lynch’s own righteous, indulgent, unwithering, self-aggrandising ego that serves his creations, not Brahma or whatever source he claims to divine creative inspiration.OK. Perhaps I got a little carried away there. The fact is that for Lynch meaning and narrative are secondary to imaginative imagery and sensual fecundity. If that’s your bag, then of course you’re entitled to enjoy it, but embellishing him with Christ-like qualities for thinking weird things and using good music is a nonsense. I’d even go one step further and say it’s a slight on other filmmakers who make a concerted effort to tell a story well.
Likewise, perhaps it’s unfair to call him a massive dickhead. As one of my think tank pointed out – he’s just a human being like the rest of us, and we’re all a subject of our own egos, mottled with their individual fancies and flaws. Behind it all is just some bloke like you or I, that has to poo in the morning and sometimes cleans the inside of the toilet bowl. It’s just that for this bloke the poo is a key to the soul and the bowl some kind of secret chamber with which he shares a sacred experience.
That said, someone seems to believe he is also Geri Halliwell, so who really knows what to think?