Masters of Cinema : David Lynch

                          The disquieting and painterly films of David Lynch defined the evil underlying suburban life in the 80s and 90s. The director's vision depicts forces at work behind the innocent facade of small town America. In films such as Eraserhead, Blue Velvet, Lost Highway, and Mulholland Dr., Lynch has proven adept at evoking terror and loss through the isolation of all the particulars of every day life, fusing the common place with an undeniable energy. 

                        The undoubted perversity that runs throughout the works of David Lynch extends to his repeated and unexpected career turns; coming of the semi-underground Eraserhead to make the respectable Elephant Man with a distinguished British cast; then bouncing into a mega-budget science-fiction fiasco, Dune; creeping back with the seductive and elusive small-town mystery of Blue Velvet; capping that by transferring his uncompromising vision of lurking sexual violence to American network television in Twin Peaks; and alienating viewers with more bizarre movies, and also surprising with stupefying road-movie like Straight Story, Lynch has proven awesomely difficult to pin down. 

  • David Keith Lynch was born January 20th, 1946 in Montana. He grew up in the same kind of small town environments he has used a central theme in almost all of his films. Lynch aspired to be a painter from a young age; it was until the age of 13, when he met the artist Bushnell Keeler, that he realized how difficult it was to making a living as a painter.
  • He moved to Boston and attended the School of the Museum of Fine Arts. After visiting the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Lynch decided that he had found a school more suitable for his needs and studied painting there from 1965 to 1969. 
  • Lynch's early paintings included street scenes and a series of complex geometric arrangements of mosaic tiles. Painting proved too limiting a medium, and during the second year at the Academy of Fine Arts Lynch embarked upon a series of "film paintings." Then he made a variety of short films like Six Figures, The Grandmother.  
  • In 1972 Lynch began work on Eraserhead, a surreal black-and-white nightmare concerning familial responsibility that took place in a industrial wasteland. Partly inspired by his disgust of industrial and violent Philadelphia, and expressing many of his anxieties over having just become a father, Eraserhead remains Lynch’s most personal film.
  • The production of Eraserhead took about 5 years and the film was released in 1977. It was never a box office success but was an instant cult hit. Both Stanley Kubrick and Francis Ford Coppola are amongst the huge group of fans of this film.  
  • One of Eraserhead‘s biggest fans was comic writer/director Mel Brooks. Brooks introduced Lynch to Hollywood by having him direct The Elephant Man (1980), the beautifully sad true story of grotesquely deformed John Merrick (John Hurt).
  • Again the film never made a lot of money but seemed to find an audience anyway.  Lynch’s second Hollywood film, Dune, adapted from the cult science-fiction novel by Frank Herbert was a commercial and critical disaster. Dune is a folly by any standards, and the re-cut television version, is no help in sorting out the multiple plot confusions of Frank Herbert's unfilmable science-fiction epic.
  • In excahnge for the directors work on Dune, producer Delaurentis agreed to produce Lynch's next project, Blue Velvet, albeit with a considerable small budget of $6 million. Blue Velvet is a tale of misogynist violence hidden beneath the face of idealized small town middle America. The movie gained Lynch his second Academy Award Nomination for Best Director.
  • This time the project was completely in Lynch's hands. He did not have to adjust his style or methods in any way and this resulted in a film that not only made more money but also introduced the character, Frank Booth (Dennis Hopper), that is still high on the all time top five of movie villains.   
  • The success of Blue Velvet, allowed Lynch to join forces with renowned television writer Mark Frost to develop the television series, Twin Peaks. Twin Peaks is an exploration of a small town whose dark secrets are revealed during the murder investigation of high-school prom queen.  Combining characters and story-lines straight out of detective stories, science fiction, and horror, Twin Peaks was a huge hit with its post-modern humor, and supernatural themes.
  • Wild At Heart, based on the novel starred Nicolas Cage and Laura Dern as young lovers on the run; the funny and terrifying film featured witty references to 'The Wizard of Oz.' Lynch was forced to trim several seconds of hyperbolic violence from the film in order to achieve an R rating. Wild At Heart received the prestigious Golden Palm Award from the Cannes Film Festival. 
  • Although the Twin Peaks series had finished, Lynch was not ready to leave the town of Twin Peaks. He returned by making the prequel film, about the last seven days of Laura Palmer’s life in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992). The film was a commercial and critical flop hated by fans who missed the humor of the series and were expecting explanations to the mysteries left behind by the series.
  • Lynch went back to the raw and sometimes incoherent stories that his audience loved him for, like Wild at Heart and made Lost Highway (1997) and Mulholland Drive (2001). Lost Highway was a surreal nightmare from the perspective of its lead character, Fred Madison. 
  • Backed by French company Canal+, and Disnney Lynch made The Straight Story (1999). It was a G-rated movie based on the true story of a man who drove a tractor across two states to visit his dying brother. The film showed that Lynch's quirky sensibility was translatable to more mainstream family fare and  earned actor Richard Farnswoth, an Academy Award nomination.
  • In 2001, Lynch once again won Best Director at Cannes, and gained a Oscar nomination for Mulholland Drive. Mulholland Drive combines actual events that happen to struggling actress Diane (Naomi Watts) and her imagined idealised interpretation of events. Mulholland Drive is also an attack on the artificiality of male-dominated Hollywood where everybody has a hidden agenda, and anything that appears to be beautiful or genuine is simply an illusion that will eventually collapse.
  • For the next few years he focused on the comic strips he drew for newspapers like The L.A.Reader and different animation projects. In 2006 the film Inland Empire was released. The story was similar to the older ones like Blue Velvet and was David Lynch's first venture into the world of digital video. Parts of the movie were shot by Lynch himself.   
  • Trade Mark : Has a taste for low/middle frequency noise, dark and rotting environments, distorted characters, a polarized world. Use of slow-motion during key scenes of violence. Red Curtains. Films are often sexually charged & graphically violent. Extreme surrealism.
David Lynch Quotes
"I don't think that people accept the fact that life doesn't make sense. I think it makes people terribly uncomfortable. It seems like religion and myth were invented against that, trying to make sense out of it."
"I like to make films because I like to go into another world. I like to get lost in another world. And film to me is a magical medium that makes you dream...allows you to dream in the dark. It's just a fantastic thing, to get lost inside the world of film."
"My mother refused to give me coloring books as a child. She probably saved me, Because when you think about it, what a coloring book does is completely kill creativity."
"Absurdity is what I like most in life, and there's humor in struggling in ignorance. If you saw a man repeatedly running into a wall until he was a bloody pulp, after a while it would make you laugh because it becomes absurd."
"In Hollywood, more often than not, they're making more kind of traditional films, stories that are understood by people. And the entire story is understood. And they become worried if even for one small moment something happens that is not understood by everyone."
                       David Lynch brings a painterly sensibility to his work, creating unforgettable images that meld dream and reality and expose the darkness behind even the most innocent seeming aspects of our culture. By abandoning objective realism, and making visuals and music dominant over narrative, Lynch has generated a body of work that captures a unique emotional reality, reflecting dread, sorrow, and, sometimes, hope.
* Quotes are from David Lynch biography on IMDb

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