Something Puzzling

David Lynch

As I mentioned in class yesterday, when I was in high school I was particularly enamored with art that I didn’t necessarily “get” right away. I probably still am. I like movies, books, and TV shows that show me something new. If it leaves me with a sense that I didn’t get everything there is to get right away, then all the better. To me, this is a reason to discuss and revisit to a text…which I love to do. If I feel like I understood everything immediately, why bother spending any more time with a text?

If I had to pick something from high school that left me wanting to understand it better, then it might have to be the work of filmmaker David Lynch. David Lynch is a highly acclaimed filmmaker who’s been working for more than three decades now. He exists somewhere between mainstream cinema (his movies have pretty big budgets and well-known actors in them) and “art” films. Lynch’s movies are generally pretty accessible, there are characters and a plot, there’s humorous elements and sometimes mysteries, and there’s elements of recognizable genres like melodrama and horror. However, Lynch’s movies adhere to a logic all their own. Lynch likes to blend genres in unusual ways. Oftentimes his films begin one way and then abruptly veer into a different direction at some point, changing their tone, and even aesthetics, entirely. Other times, Lynch’s films include strange scenes that disrupt the narrative flow of an otherwise recognizable genre. In both cases, you the film viewer are invited to think you’re watching one kind of film and then shown things that just don’t make sense for that kind of film!

Always in Lynch’s films there’s a sense that things are happening for a reason. The disruptions to the narrative don’t feel random. You think as you’re watching his films that if you spend just a little more time, you can understand what’s going on. Like I said, there’s a logic at work. But it’s not the logic of typical Hollywood films; rather, it’s a logic more akin to the logic of dreams. Once you begin to accept that aspect of his films, you can take quite a lot away from them. These are movies that refuse to be what you expect them to be; you have to take them on their own terms or not at all.

Lynch was the first filmmaker who had me wanting to look up things about him, his films, and what other people said about them (going “online” to do so in the early days of the internet. I’m old). I studied his work in a way I never had before. In doing so, my views on films and filmmaking were expanded and new doors were opened.

Some suggested viewing (WARNING WARNING WARNING, David Lynch’s films are almost all rated ‘R’ and feature adult themes…like violence and nudity. I am in no way saying that you should see these films. But if you wanted to see them…):

Lynch’s most accessible work:

The pilot episode of Twin Peaks – Used to be on Netflix. Probably the most commercially successful thing Lynch did. The series as a whole doesn’t live up to the pilot, but is also worth watching too.

Blue Velvet – One of his most accessible and acclaimed films. Some very disturbing content, though.

The Elephant Man – Probably the only film of his I could show in school. Very good, a little atypical for him.

Mulholland Drive – His second most acclaimed film. Very good, was on Netflix recently. Lots of adult themes, though…

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