There are of course his films... Eraserhead. Perhaps the most striking debut feature ever, made at exactly the right time. While we still have The Rocky Horror Picture Show kicking around in cities across the world, there was actually a midnight movie audience throughout the 70's, before the VCR become a household item, theaters had time and a place and an audience for oddities like Eraserhead and these movies would play for months. And believe it or not kids, there was a time called the 90's where finding a decent copy of the movie to put in your VCR wasn't an easy thing to come by. So now, on David Lynch Day, is a good time to count your blessings and watch that crisp digital 2000 DVD version and remember that you're one lucky bastard.
Elephant Man. To me it seems like it's his forgotten movie. But it's also his most beautiful. Let's set the stage... Mel Brooks has the rights to the story and needs to find a director (wisely enough he knows he's not the man). By some happenstance he ends up watching Eraserhead -- perhaps he heard it was a hit on the midnight movie circuit and it was in black and white. He knew from the get-go that Elephant Man was going to be a story told in black and white -- certainly the make-up would be a whole lot easier to deal with. With Eraserhead you have a movie that knows how to make a striking B&W image and knows how to create a palpable atmosphere. And hey, this David Lynch with his one feature will no doubt be inexpensive. Oh, to be able to hear that first conversation between Mel Brooks and David Lynch.
Dune. You know, this might be one of those movies where I've seen parts -- many parts -- I've probably seen the entire thing, just not in one sitting. It's a hell of a movie. A hell. Of a movie. That's not to say I don't enjoy it. Well, maybe enjoy is not the right word. I do find it fascinating. I also find it pretty fascinating that Alejandro Jodorowski was going to helm this beast before Lynch. Which is my segue into this little treat.
The combination of a David Lynch produced Alejandro Jodorowski directed movie featuring Nick Nolte can get me pretty excited even though I'm probably a luke warm Jodorowski fan at best. I mean, that interview gave me no misgivings about thinking the guy is a narcissistic, pretentious filmmaker but I can't be anything but happy to see that in this day and age he's able to make the uncompromised movies he wants to. That is what it's all about.
Blue Velvet. The Hardy Boys Nightmare. The movie that really set the tone for everything that would follow. As good as it gets? I could certainly see, and possibly agree with, that argument but I would postulate that his next work, the pilot episode of Twin Peaks, which aired before Wild at Heart, is the real masterpiece. Taking everything that has come -- Lost Highway, Straight Story, Mulhulland Drive, Inland Empire -- Twin Peaks, the television series, still serves as a beautiful Lynchian bouillabaisse.
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. The film that followed the series is like the best punk rock kick to the teeth. It's a kick that you could see coming if you watched the last episode or read his daughter's book. But the film is Lynch at his most severe. Twin Peaks the series, at least during the first season, is him welcoming you into his world with only a few reservations. Fire Walk With Me is what the bouillabaisse looks like when it's been left on the stove for a week. It's an unfairly maligned film, something that couldn't possibly satisfy fans of the series looking for answers or Lynch fans looking for another Wild at Heart. But it is a wonderfully didactic tour through the land of Lynch.
As far as the rest of his filography goes, I think most of us are familiar enough. I leave this tribute with my Netflix summary of Inland Empire that I wrote some two years ago -- the movie that spawned Cambridge's dedication to this fine filmmaker...
"I'm not one to say that all movies should be considered art – but cinema should be considered an art form and there should be more people out there pushing the medium experimenting and testing its limits and doing this within the mainstream. No one out there does more to further the art of cinema while playing in the Hollywood swimming pool than Mr. Lynch. And just like other pieces you might find at gallery or museum – you don’t have to understand it to appreciate it. You might find the story interesting (as I did) or a bunch of nonsense, but cinema is a visual medium and this is how this story is being told. Sadly I don’t think this movie will work quite as well in a living room as it did in the theater but people’s living rooms are getting close to matching the quality so I hope for the best. Turn off the lights let it creep you out and think about the story afterwards (The rundown: There’s a dead actress watching INLAND EMPIRE on tv. There’s a living actress, Laura Dern, playing the dead actresses roll in this movie, a remake, that she just got the part for. Soon the roll she’s playing and her own life and the life of the dead actress start to blend. At the end of it – perhaps it’s just the process she went through in her head to nail the part? Maybe.) – or don’t think about it at all. It doesn’t really matter, it’s a wonderful experiment and it’s too bad there aren’t more people out there doing this type of exploration and pushing cinema forward. Oh, and Laura Dern is amazing."
But perhaps the most direct way to celebrate David Lynch Day is to spend some time with Mr. Lynch's own website where you can get possibly the coolest Lynchian product known to man: the Lime Green Collection, the most disturbing ringtones known to man and get to know the Rabbits... yes, the Rabbits.
It's all pretty darn swell.