Weekly Film Recap (David Lynch)

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Our favorite filmmaker of all time here at Mandalay is the iconic David Lynch. He’s a director we’ve talked about many times here and for the Film of the Day series this year, we discussed two of his biggest films, Blue Velvet and Mulholland Dr, hence why they’re not included here.

This past week, on our Instagram page, we started our David Lynch retrospective week with his debut feature Eraserhead, his surreal nightmare about the anxiety and fears of fatherhood. From there, we traversed to his first for-hire work with the highly sensitive The Elephant Man.

The 80s were full of dips for David as he rode the high of The Elephant Man only to be thrown to the deepest pit after making Dune. From there, he polarized audiences and critics everywhere with his 1986 cult classic Blue Velvet. Of course, he gained quite a bit of notoriety with his 1990’s television series Twin Peaks, which again was followed by a downward spiral after he released his prequel film to Twin Peaks, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me.

The 90s also proved an interesting time in David’s career, and in fact we discussed all 4 of the features he released in this decade!

Lastly, since we already discussed his 2001 masterpiece Mulholland Dr earlier in the year, is Inland Empire. Inland Empire is the last film David has made and it is by far his most avant garde.

We hope you guys enjoyed learning about the master David Lynch this week! Check out our more in-depth reviews on the films we watched this week below!

ERASERHEAD     (dir. David Lynch)   David Lynch’s nightmarish debut  Eraserhead  is what he calls his “most spiritual film.” Made over the course of 5 years,  Eraserhead  is a surreal take on the acceptance and trials of fatherhood.  Jack Nance stars as Henry Spencer, an awkward young man who finds out that his girlfriend Mary X had a child. Completely unaware, he’s told that he is the father and that he and Mary must get married before he can see the baby. However, this ‘baby’ his more of an alien hybrid creature that wails and hollers all throughout the night, creating intense friction in Henry’s personal and romantic life.  It’s pretty difficult to give a standard synopsis to any of Lynch’s films, but  Eraserhead  might actually be the toughest. Lynch, who’s known for his surreal imagery, created a black and white world in  Eraserhead  where the natural horrors of the human experience are exaggerated the point of absurdity. This film is the perfect stepping stone into the world of David Lynch, as it also acted as the platform for launching the prolifically weird career of one of the finest filmmakers of the generation!    5/5     WATCH: The Criterion Channel, iTunes (RENT)

ERASERHEAD

(dir. David Lynch)

David Lynch’s nightmarish debut Eraserhead is what he calls his “most spiritual film.” Made over the course of 5 years, Eraserhead is a surreal take on the acceptance and trials of fatherhood.

Jack Nance stars as Henry Spencer, an awkward young man who finds out that his girlfriend Mary X had a child. Completely unaware, he’s told that he is the father and that he and Mary must get married before he can see the baby. However, this ‘baby’ his more of an alien hybrid creature that wails and hollers all throughout the night, creating intense friction in Henry’s personal and romantic life.

It’s pretty difficult to give a standard synopsis to any of Lynch’s films, but Eraserhead might actually be the toughest. Lynch, who’s known for his surreal imagery, created a black and white world in Eraserhead where the natural horrors of the human experience are exaggerated the point of absurdity. This film is the perfect stepping stone into the world of David Lynch, as it also acted as the platform for launching the prolifically weird career of one of the finest filmmakers of the generation!

5/5

WATCH: The Criterion Channel, iTunes (RENT)

THE ELEPHANT MAN     (dir. David Lynch)   After seeing  Eraserhead , Hollywood legend Mel Brooks rushed to Lynch and asked him to adapt  The Elephant Man  to screen! The result, is one of David’s most emotionally driven films of his career.  John Hurt stars as John Merrick, a man with extreme deformities that has left his body with countless tumors. Anthony Hopkins, playing Dr. Frederic Treves, discourse Merrick in a sideshow circus and brings him to the hospital where he hopes to learn more about his condition. While in London, Merrick is still subject to discrimination and unfair treatment, however as people get to really know Merrick, they see that underneath his disfigured exterior is a charming and delicate soul that ‘regular’ humans could only hope to have.   The Elephant Man  was an immediate success, both critically and commercially. Despite being a major Hollywood production that David took on for-hire, he was still able to demonstrate his auteurist sensibilities by creating an industrial, black-and-white world very reminiscent to that of  Eraserhead . After earning quite a few Academy Award nominations, including Best Director, Lynch was now the first of a new breed of filmmakers in the United States that would go on to inspire a whole generation!    5/5     WATCH: Putlocker (FREE), iTunes (RENT)

THE ELEPHANT MAN

(dir. David Lynch)

After seeing Eraserhead, Hollywood legend Mel Brooks rushed to Lynch and asked him to adapt The Elephant Man to screen! The result, is one of David’s most emotionally driven films of his career.

John Hurt stars as John Merrick, a man with extreme deformities that has left his body with countless tumors. Anthony Hopkins, playing Dr. Frederic Treves, discourse Merrick in a sideshow circus and brings him to the hospital where he hopes to learn more about his condition. While in London, Merrick is still subject to discrimination and unfair treatment, however as people get to really know Merrick, they see that underneath his disfigured exterior is a charming and delicate soul that ‘regular’ humans could only hope to have.

The Elephant Man was an immediate success, both critically and commercially. Despite being a major Hollywood production that David took on for-hire, he was still able to demonstrate his auteurist sensibilities by creating an industrial, black-and-white world very reminiscent to that of Eraserhead. After earning quite a few Academy Award nominations, including Best Director, Lynch was now the first of a new breed of filmmakers in the United States that would go on to inspire a whole generation!

5/5

WATCH: Putlocker (FREE), iTunes (RENT)

WILD AT HEART     (dir. David Lynch)   After kicking off the 80s with two ‘for-hire’ films w/ the critically acclaimed  Elephant Man  and not so acclaimed  Dune , David came into his own as a filmmaker with his 1986 cult classic  Blue Velvet . His follow-up,  Wild at Heart , is arguably even more zany and further staples David’s presence as the new king of American Surrealism.   Wild at Heart  is an adaptation of the novel by the same name by Barry Gifford. It follows a young, sexually charged couple named Sailor and Lula, played by Nic Cage and Laura Dern. Lula’s mom doesn’t like Sailor and does everything gin her power to keep her daughter from seeing Sailor, including homicidal attempts upon the young man’s life. Once he gets out of prison, him and Lula skip town and head towards Texas. Unbeknownst to them however is a hitman out to track down the couple and kill Sailor. The two find refuge in the strange town of Big Tuna, Texas where Sailor gets in more trouble when he meets the bizarre criminal Bobby Peru.  Thanks to Blue Velvet, David had cemented his own personal style and he was able to include that style in this adaptation of  Wild at Heart .  Wild at Heart  is a non-stop thrill ride that indulges in pure surreal expressionism, with countless allusions to  The Wizard of Oz . The characters of the film, which includes a ton of cast members from  Twin Peaks , are among David’s most idiosyncratic with every single last character in the film having enough substance within them that they could each easily be the star of their own individual picture. While the film is somewhat forgotten and pretty difficult to find, it’s one of the most memorable in Lynch’s cannon thanks to the eccentricity of his characters!    4/5     WATCH: Ok.ru (FREE)

WILD AT HEART

(dir. David Lynch)

After kicking off the 80s with two ‘for-hire’ films w/ the critically acclaimed Elephant Man and not so acclaimed Dune, David came into his own as a filmmaker with his 1986 cult classic Blue Velvet. His follow-up, Wild at Heart, is arguably even more zany and further staples David’s presence as the new king of American Surrealism.

Wild at Heart is an adaptation of the novel by the same name by Barry Gifford. It follows a young, sexually charged couple named Sailor and Lula, played by Nic Cage and Laura Dern. Lula’s mom doesn’t like Sailor and does everything gin her power to keep her daughter from seeing Sailor, including homicidal attempts upon the young man’s life. Once he gets out of prison, him and Lula skip town and head towards Texas. Unbeknownst to them however is a hitman out to track down the couple and kill Sailor. The two find refuge in the strange town of Big Tuna, Texas where Sailor gets in more trouble when he meets the bizarre criminal Bobby Peru.

Thanks to Blue Velvet, David had cemented his own personal style and he was able to include that style in this adaptation of Wild at Heart. Wild at Heart is a non-stop thrill ride that indulges in pure surreal expressionism, with countless allusions to The Wizard of Oz. The characters of the film, which includes a ton of cast members from Twin Peaks, are among David’s most idiosyncratic with every single last character in the film having enough substance within them that they could each easily be the star of their own individual picture. While the film is somewhat forgotten and pretty difficult to find, it’s one of the most memorable in Lynch’s cannon thanks to the eccentricity of his characters!

4/5

WATCH: Ok.ru (FREE)

TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME     (dir. David Lynch)   After ABC practically ruined Lynch’s acclaimed television show  Twin Peaks , David was eager to get back into the  Twin Peaks  world and decided to make this prequel film that takes place right before the death of Laura Palmer!  The film opens with two FBI agents played by Chris Isaak and Keifer Sutherland, who arrive in Washington to investigate the murder of a young girl named Theresa Banks. During the investigation, Chris Isaak’s character, Chet Desmond goes missing. The film then picks up in Twin Peaks, documenting the final days of Laura Palmer’s life.  The film doesn’t include many of the characters from the series, most of which declined in fear of being typecast, but it allowed David to expand the world and build up the mystery surrounding the death of Laura Palmer.  Fire Walk With Me  doesn’t provide any answers fans were looking for at the end of the series, in fact it introduced us to even more questions surrounding the story. It is possibly the most avant garde film in his filmography and without seeing  Twin Peaks , this film acts as nothing more than random expressions of surrealism. Hell, even as a Twin Peaks fan it still feels that way.  This isn’t a film that can be digested in one, two, or even three viewings. This film is like a fine wine and only gets more intriguing after each viewing.    4/5     WATCH: The Criterion Channel

TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME

(dir. David Lynch)

After ABC practically ruined Lynch’s acclaimed television show Twin Peaks, David was eager to get back into the Twin Peaks world and decided to make this prequel film that takes place right before the death of Laura Palmer!

The film opens with two FBI agents played by Chris Isaak and Keifer Sutherland, who arrive in Washington to investigate the murder of a young girl named Theresa Banks. During the investigation, Chris Isaak’s character, Chet Desmond goes missing. The film then picks up in Twin Peaks, documenting the final days of Laura Palmer’s life.

The film doesn’t include many of the characters from the series, most of which declined in fear of being typecast, but it allowed David to expand the world and build up the mystery surrounding the death of Laura Palmer. Fire Walk With Me doesn’t provide any answers fans were looking for at the end of the series, in fact it introduced us to even more questions surrounding the story. It is possibly the most avant garde film in his filmography and without seeing Twin Peaks, this film acts as nothing more than random expressions of surrealism. Hell, even as a Twin Peaks fan it still feels that way.

This isn’t a film that can be digested in one, two, or even three viewings. This film is like a fine wine and only gets more intriguing after each viewing.

4/5

WATCH: The Criterion Channel

LOST HIGHWAY     (dir. David Lynch)   5 years after David closed the book on the world of Twin Peaks,  Lost Highway  introduced us to an altered world of Los Angeles that he would frequently enter over the rest of his film career.   Lost Highway  stars Bill Pullman as Fred Madison, a saxophonist who starts receiving strange video tapes in the mail that implies an intruder has been sneaking in and has been filming him and his wife, played by Patricia Arquette. The final tape that Fred receives shows him killing his own wife which leads to prison time followed by a death sentence. However, while in his cell Fred transforms into a 24 year old mechanic named Pete. Pete is then released from prison where he meets a doppelgänger version of Fred’s wife named Alice, who leads him further into the mysteriously convoluted world of  Lost Highway .  This, like most of Lynch’s films take time to grow on you and it wasn’t until my third viewing of  Lost Highway  that I truly enjoyed it.  Lost Highway  introduced a lot of tropes that would become apart of Lynch’s vision including the use of doppelgängers and the use of LA as a surreal wasteland of mystery. At many points,  Lost Highway  feels a lot like a rough draft of David’s 2001 masterpiece  Mulholland Dr  and it’s clear that many of the ideas swirling around in his head for  Mulholland  presented themselves during the making of this film.  With plenty of allusions to Robert Aldrich’s 1955 noir  Kiss Me Deadly , Lynch creates a nightmarish tale about infidelity, paranoia, and the struggle of coming to terms with the choices you make. Behind  Blue Velvet  and  Mulholland Dr ,  Lost Highway  truly is one of the quintessential Lynchian films!    4.5/5     WATCH: Putlocker (FREE), iTunes (RENT)

LOST HIGHWAY

(dir. David Lynch)

5 years after David closed the book on the world of Twin Peaks, Lost Highway introduced us to an altered world of Los Angeles that he would frequently enter over the rest of his film career.

Lost Highway stars Bill Pullman as Fred Madison, a saxophonist who starts receiving strange video tapes in the mail that implies an intruder has been sneaking in and has been filming him and his wife, played by Patricia Arquette. The final tape that Fred receives shows him killing his own wife which leads to prison time followed by a death sentence. However, while in his cell Fred transforms into a 24 year old mechanic named Pete. Pete is then released from prison where he meets a doppelgänger version of Fred’s wife named Alice, who leads him further into the mysteriously convoluted world of Lost Highway.

This, like most of Lynch’s films take time to grow on you and it wasn’t until my third viewing of Lost Highway that I truly enjoyed it. Lost Highway introduced a lot of tropes that would become apart of Lynch’s vision including the use of doppelgängers and the use of LA as a surreal wasteland of mystery. At many points, Lost Highway feels a lot like a rough draft of David’s 2001 masterpiece Mulholland Dr and it’s clear that many of the ideas swirling around in his head for Mulholland presented themselves during the making of this film.

With plenty of allusions to Robert Aldrich’s 1955 noir Kiss Me Deadly, Lynch creates a nightmarish tale about infidelity, paranoia, and the struggle of coming to terms with the choices you make. Behind Blue Velvet and Mulholland Dr, Lost Highway truly is one of the quintessential Lynchian films!

4.5/5

WATCH: Putlocker (FREE), iTunes (RENT)

THE STRAIGHT STORY     (dir. David Lynch)   David Lynch’s single most sympathetic film,  The Straight Story  comes completely out of left field when analyzing all the works from the great Americana Surrealist.   The Straight Story  recounts the true story of Alvin Straight, a 73 year old man from Iowa, whose brother fell victim to a stroke in Wisconsin. Alvin, played by Richard Farnsworth, and his brother Lyle (Harry Dean Stanton) haven’t spoken in 10 years, but Alvin’s determined to make amends with him before it becomes too late. However, Alvin doesn’t have a license due to his poor eye sight and he doesn’t trust a bus driver to get him there. So, Alvin has no other choice but to take a tractor 370 miles to visit his brother. Along thaws, Alvin’s touching soul enlightens all those whose path he crosses, from a young pregnant teenager, to a John Deere dealer, to a fellow WWII veteran.  This is by far the most different film in Lynch’s filmography, but it’s still just as beautiful as any of his others, only in a different way. Where most of his films take form in the surreal,  The Straight Story  is pure realism that pulls on the heartstrings through the impeccable character performances of every single last actor in this film. Truly, there is not a single performance that falls flat and Richard Farnsworth leads the film in a way that most actors can only dream of. His authenticity in approaching the role of Alvin Straight is so present that it feels almost like a documentary that’s accompanied by jaw dropping visuals of Midwest America!    5/5     WATCH: Putlocker (FREE), iTunes (RENT)

THE STRAIGHT STORY

(dir. David Lynch)

David Lynch’s single most sympathetic film, The Straight Story comes completely out of left field when analyzing all the works from the great Americana Surrealist.

The Straight Story recounts the true story of Alvin Straight, a 73 year old man from Iowa, whose brother fell victim to a stroke in Wisconsin. Alvin, played by Richard Farnsworth, and his brother Lyle (Harry Dean Stanton) haven’t spoken in 10 years, but Alvin’s determined to make amends with him before it becomes too late. However, Alvin doesn’t have a license due to his poor eye sight and he doesn’t trust a bus driver to get him there. So, Alvin has no other choice but to take a tractor 370 miles to visit his brother. Along thaws, Alvin’s touching soul enlightens all those whose path he crosses, from a young pregnant teenager, to a John Deere dealer, to a fellow WWII veteran.

This is by far the most different film in Lynch’s filmography, but it’s still just as beautiful as any of his others, only in a different way. Where most of his films take form in the surreal, The Straight Story is pure realism that pulls on the heartstrings through the impeccable character performances of every single last actor in this film. Truly, there is not a single performance that falls flat and Richard Farnsworth leads the film in a way that most actors can only dream of. His authenticity in approaching the role of Alvin Straight is so present that it feels almost like a documentary that’s accompanied by jaw dropping visuals of Midwest America!

5/5

WATCH: Putlocker (FREE), iTunes (RENT)

INLAND EMPIRE     (dir. David Lynch)   I begin writing this review with a deep sigh. The last film David released,  Inland Empire , is not only David’s most convoluted and dense film, but quite possibly the most incomprehensible film I’ve ever seen.  I can’t do much in ways of giving a synopsis other than note that Laura Vern plays an actress named Nikki who receives a strange premonition that she’ll get a role in a film involving murder. Sure enough, the role she receives for a drama film, slowly reveals evil within. On the set she begins an affair with her co-actor Devon, played by Justin Theroux. From this point on, a series of strange vignettes and short films inter-cut the storyline with Nikki as she begins traveling through various storylines in what feels like a never ending stream of consciousness.  Now, I’m by no means saying that this is a bad film. However, it is incredibly difficult to sit through and watch. Beyond the impossible ‘plot’, David shot the film on a Standard Definition camcorder. The quality here is not great, yet it loans an interesting home-movie feel to it, which makes Inland Empire 100x creepier than if it were done professionally. However, the 3 hours run time drags on to the point of insanity and the pure expressionistic approach David took makes this a film  for  David and nobody else. Not even the true Lynch fans.    2/5     WATCH: Ok.Ru (FREE)

INLAND EMPIRE

(dir. David Lynch)

I begin writing this review with a deep sigh. The last film David released, Inland Empire, is not only David’s most convoluted and dense film, but quite possibly the most incomprehensible film I’ve ever seen.

I can’t do much in ways of giving a synopsis other than note that Laura Vern plays an actress named Nikki who receives a strange premonition that she’ll get a role in a film involving murder. Sure enough, the role she receives for a drama film, slowly reveals evil within. On the set she begins an affair with her co-actor Devon, played by Justin Theroux. From this point on, a series of strange vignettes and short films inter-cut the storyline with Nikki as she begins traveling through various storylines in what feels like a never ending stream of consciousness.

Now, I’m by no means saying that this is a bad film. However, it is incredibly difficult to sit through and watch. Beyond the impossible ‘plot’, David shot the film on a Standard Definition camcorder. The quality here is not great, yet it loans an interesting home-movie feel to it, which makes Inland Empire 100x creepier than if it were done professionally. However, the 3 hours run time drags on to the point of insanity and the pure expressionistic approach David took makes this a film for David and nobody else. Not even the true Lynch fans.

2/5

WATCH: Ok.Ru (FREE)