David Lynch is one of the greatest living artists of our time. He is a master of the avant-garde. He takes our deepest fears and nightmares and casts them on the screen, asking us to draw our own conclusions, making each experience an intense, personal journey for each viewer. After producing several diverse short films in the early sixties, Lynch burst on to the scene with Eraserhead, his first feature. It was produced by the American Film Institute for a mere ten thousand dollars. However, due to lack of sufficient funds, the film took five years to complete. Once post production was complete, Lynch had trouble finding a distributor for the film. The film reached cult status when Ben Barenholtz, the owner of the Elgin Theatre in New York, offered to screen the film during special midnight showings.
Word of mouth spread concerning Lynch and his unique debut, and caught the attention of film producer and director, Mel Brooks. Brooks offered Lynch the chance to direct The Elephant Man, and Lynch accepted. The Elephant Man was a huge commercial and critical success, and won many awards. Afterwards, Lynch was one of the most sought after directors in the industry. Lynch continues to create thought-provoking, difficult, and abstract films. I have selected two Lynch films which I would recommend.
1.) Eraserhead: Lynch’s debut concerns a timid man named Henry Spencer. Henry spends his days wandering aimlessly through a post-apocalyptic wasteland, listening to Fats Waller albums on his turntable, and watching a puffy-cheeked, miniature sized woman sing and dance in his radiator. During an awkward dinner with his girlfriend and her strange family, Henry is informed that she is pregnant with his child. Her parents force the young couple to marry immediately after the child’s birth. The child in question is nothing more than a reptilian alien creature, who constantly cries and wails, making it impossible for the new parents to get any sleep. Horrified by the child’s appearance and weary from a lack of sleep, Henry’s wife runs home to her parents, leaving him to take care of the wretched creature on his own. That’s only the beginning. David Lynch’s Eraserhead is open to multiple interpretations. The dreamlike imagery is pervasive, as is the meticulously crafted sound design, and you feel as though you are watching a nightmare unfold before your eyes. Many critics have claimed that the film is simply a visual poem, a statement on the fears that arise from becoming a parent. Whatever the case, this much is true: Eraserhead is a film that you will never forget. This film is Unrated. 89 minutes.
2.) A Straight Story: The first G-rated film that Lynch ever directed was distributed by Walt Disney Pictures. It tells the touching true story of Alvin Straight, an elderly man who soups up his tractor, and heads out on a long journey to visit his older brother who has fallen ill. Long ago, the two siblings had a falling out, and Alvin sets out to seek forgiveness. This film is one of the most touching, beautiful films ever made. Featuring a heartbreaking performance from the late Richard Farnsworth, with Sissy Spacek in an equally powerful supporting role, this is unlike anything Lynch has done before or since. A slow, meditative film about the power of redemption, this is a film that should not be missed. It also features Lynch’s trademark industrial sound design, and more than a few haunting moments.
Rated G. 112 minutes.
Other Lynch films include Blue Velvet, Mulholland Drive, and Inland Empire. Parents, use discretion as most of Lynch’s work is strictly for adults.