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David Lynch’s Wild At Heart

David Lynch’s Wild At Heart can be given the nutshell description of ‘Lynch does Bonnie & Clyde’, but that doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of this twisted, surreal, beautifully scarring piece of bizarro cinema cunningly disguised as a love story. It is a love story, first and foremost, but that’s also only a blueprint onto which all sorts of other dreams, visions and nightmares are painted. It’s very, *very* loosely on a book by Barry Gifford, but what Lynch whips up makes the source material seem grey and unrecognizable in comparison. Gifford’s book is the black and white prologue to The Wizard Of Oz and Lynch’s version is the dazzling yet unnerving technicolour dream world that follows, and indeed he uses imagery and gives shout outs to that film any chance he gets here. Nicolas Cage and Laura Dern are Sailor Ripley and Lula Pace Fortune, lovers on the run from the Deep South and Lula’s tyrannical monster of a mother Marietta, played by Diane Ladd in an Oscar nominated turn that doesn’t just chew scenery but devours it with the force of an imploding neutron star that eats galaxies. Marietta is intent on keeping the two of them apart for reasons slowly and subtly unveiled, and she sends everyone and their mother after them including mopey private detective Johnnie Farragut (Harry Dean Stanton) and dangerous mobster Marcellos Santos (the late great J.E. Freeman). Sailor and Lula’s journey is a deranged yellow brick road through 50’s infused Americana, perverse apparitions abound and literally almost everyone they meet ranges from deeply disturbed to outright psychotic to marginally quirky. Santos sends a cabal of weirdo assassins headed up by ghoulish sadist Perdita Durango (Grace Zabriskie in a pants shittingly scary performance) and her cronies (David Patrick Kelly and Calvin Lockhart). In Texas they run into reptilian scumbag Bobby Peru, brought to life by Willem Dafoe in a skin crawling portrait of sexual menace and warped glee that would scare off Frank Booth. Lula tells tales of her delusional cousin Dell (Crispin Glover) putting cockroaches on his anus and of being raped at age thirteen by her father’s business friend (actually shown in a brief but upsetting cutaway). Why all this unpleasantness, you ask? Well… I don’t know, but Lynch seems to and he isn’t sharing the coordinates of his moral compass with anyone, he’s simply storytelling and holding nothing back of the weird or wild variety. Amongst all the violence and monstrosity there’s an undercurrent of tenderness and love that pulses via Sailor and Lula’s relationship, cultivated in an ebb and flow tide of simple, candid pillow talk and unbridled passionate sex that mirrors their frequent and feverish visits to sweaty dance clubs. This is their story, and every ghost, goblin and witch they meet along the way is simply a dark passenger or otherworldly day player in their tale, plus they often make for hilariously off colour vignettes, like Jack Nance’s deranged 00 Spool or Freddie Jones’s gnomish pigeon expert. My favourite sequence is a sobering, haunted diversion off the side of a freeway where they discover a distraught girl (Sherilyn ‘Audrey Horne’ Fenn) rambling through a bout of brain trauma from a car accident. Angelo Badalamenti’s score sings through this to the point of chills, as it does throughout the film. Also traversing down this dark yellow brick road are William Morgan Sheppard, Frances Bay, musician John Lurie, Nicholas Love, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Frank Collison, Ed Wright, Isabella Rossellini and Sheryl ‘Laura Palmer’ Lee herself as Glenda the Good Witch. As proclaimed by Lula at one point, “this whole world is wild at heart and weird on top..” It is indeed, and we’re lucky to have a filmmaker like Lynch to do his part in keeping it that way by making unique, bizarre films like this to remind us just what is possible in cinema with a little invention, a whole lot of colour, splashes of horror and a love of storytelling. Maybe not Lynch’s most prolific or instantly recognizable work, but a full on classic for me and high up on his filmography list.

-Nate Hill

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The Raymond Benson Auteur Series: David Lynch Part II

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Raymond, Tim, and Frank finish their discussion about David Lynch’s filmography. They cover WILD AT HEART to TWIN PEAKS: THE RETURN. Please visit Raymond’s website for more information on his latest novel and where to order it!

 

“I hate to admit this but I don’t understand this situation at all.” An appreciation of David Lynch’s impenetrable entertainment, Twin Peaks and all- by Josh Hains 

These days, when I watch anything David Lynch has filmed, be it Blue Velvet, Wild At Heart, Inland Empire, or even his flawed yet hypnotic and deliciously crazy adaptation of Frank Herbert’s Dune, I check my brain in at the door. I let my mind become invaded by the alluring sights and sounds that populate his stunning body of work, letting them burn themselves into the deepest parts of my soul. I don’t over think what I’m watching, and I don’t allow myself to obsess over such cerebral, intentionally puzzling works. Above all else, the images tend to stay with me like dirt under my fingernails, or a ghost lurking in an old house.

The point of Lynch’s life’s work is breaking convention, trying truly new things with the form, narratively or visually, that most people in the movie or television businesses will never think of in their lifetime. Ever. Taking cinematic standards we’ve become comfortable with and breaking them like a sledgehammer against concrete, dismantling what’s considered safe, easy, and profitable, his works always risky, provocative, difficult, and confounding. I find just about everything he’s made confounding to varying degrees, and just like any great puzzle, the necessary pieces to solving any given mystery in any of his works are always right there in plain sight, staring me right in the face, taunting me. I’m reminded of a quote from Christopher Nolan’s brilliant puzzler The Prestige: “Now you’re looking for the secret… but you won’t find it, because of course you’re not really looking. You don’t really want to know. You want to be fooled.” Except that I don’t want to be fooled, at least not entirely.

I have a tendency to want to know what pieces go where and watch them all slowly fit together, though an equal part of me doesn’t want to completely kill the mystery, doesn’t mind the ambiguity and relishes in being challenged on such deeply psychological levels. The first time I saw his Mulholland Drive, I disliked it because I couldn’t make heads or tails of what I’d just witnessed. Nothing I’d seen made any amount of sense, or could easily be summed up in a quick sentence. It was impenetrable, and I hated it. A couple years ago I learned that the impenetrable, confusing, ambiguous nature of everything that is Lynch, is the point. Whether or not I can solve the puzzle of Mulholland Drive, Lost Highway, or Twin Peaks, isn’t the point of those and most of David Lynch’s filmography. That’s never been the point. You’ll only drive yourself mad trying to solve something you aren’t meant to solve, or find yourself underwhelmed and ungrateful if you do somehow manage to decipher the code that solves the mystery and don’t like the results. The point is the journey, and just like any grand adventure, everything he’s made has a beginning, a middle, and an end. It’s not the destination that matters, but how we get there, and though the journeys Lynch takes us on between those points on the map is different from what we’re used to, in the end it’s actually a really good thing.

All great art should be more than just disturbing to the comfortable and comfortable to the disturbed. It should be challenging. It should make us think deeper than we’ve ever thought before and inite us to continue to think deeper. It should make us look at the art and ask why, make us take a deeper look inside ourselves and ponder why we didn’t think if it ourselves, and what we can do to be more creative and open minded. It should open a wide assortment of doors to all kinds of endless creative potentials and ideas, and challenge us to tackle subjects we’ve been too afraid and comfortable to explore. Twin Peaks: The Return, is this year’s prime example of taking the standards we’ve become so accustomed to, and breaking them for 18 episodes straight. 

I haven’t been able to wrap my mind around most of what happened this season on Twin Peaks, and though repeated viewings of Twin Peaks when the Blu-Ray arrives some months from now will surely unlock a few secrets and tie up some loose ends I didn’t immediately comprehend, I doubt I will ever be able to fully understand everything that happened over the course of The Return. I also don’t fully understand what the hell happens in Mulholland Drive, Lost Highway, or Inland Empire, but that’s quite alright with me. I’m not supposed to understand the plots, I’m supposed to be swept up in everything else that’s going on. The acting, the symbolism, the trippy nightmarish images, the sudden graphic violence, the sensuous love stories, thunderous pulsating scores, the sublime aura of it all. Like I said before, it’s not the destintion that matters, but how you got there, and how I got there was a magnificent achievement. 

My biggest takeaways from Twin Peaks: The Return, as of right now because I’m still processing what I watched, are that David Lynch is perhaps the foremost essential artist of our times, and a truly brilliant one at that, willing to break rules and conventions for the sake of experimentation and trying to provide more sophisticated entertainment to us all. My other takeaway is that though the battle between good and evil in fiction or our reality never truly ends, as long as the world is occupied by Dale Cooper’s, the light stands a chance of winning.

Top Ten David Lynch Characters: A list by Nate Hill

The cinematic universe in which legendary director David Lynch has chosen to tell his stories is a yellow brick road which leads the way to a rabbit hole, wherein can be found dreams, nightmares, horror, love, spirits, small towns, psychological torment, offbeat humour, danger and endless gallons of hot black coffee. Within this mesmerizing realm lives a whole armada of strange and wonderful human beings, often with antennas extended out into both the metaphysical, the supernatural and the just plain undefinable. This makes them some of the most richly fascinating, deeply felt individuals to ever dance across our screens. If you have clicked on this post, you will see below a list of my personal top ten characters to have ever wandered out of the one of a kind mind of Mr. Lynch and been brought to life by the intuition, grace and startling gut instinct of many fine actors. Enjoy!
 
10. Marietta Fortune, played by Diane Ladd in Wild At Heart

  

Diane Ladd plays the ultimate mommy from hell in Lynch’s wacky, colourful romance road trip flick and livens the proceedings up no end with her mental instability, overprotective mania and frequent banshee screams that echo the terrifying melodrama of an exaggerated and psychotic Joan Crawford. Ladd rightly earned an Oscar nomination for her feral work, and one only needs to witness the unnerving sight of her sprawled across the bathroom floor with a liver full of martinis and a face smeared with crimson lipstick to appreciate the work funnelled into both the performance and direction to give us this horrific harpy.  

9. The Man From Another Place, played by Michael J. Anderson in Twin Peaks 
  

No other character solidifies Lynch’s pipeline to the collective subconscious like the red suited, inter-dimensional man of limited stature, a haunting presence who dances, speaks backwards and is always one step ahead of every fellow character and watching audience member who lays eyes on him. He serves as an image of what lays beyond, and no doubt an experimental choice for Lynch, one that would go on to become a token image of the television series, and his career as well. 

8. Bobby Peru, played by Willem Dafoe in Wild At Heart
  

The uniting forces of Willem Dafoe’s brand of creepiness morphed together with Lynch’s intuition for everything weird resulted in Bobby Peru, a disgusting psychotic whacko who only shows up in the last quarter of the film, yet dominates every frothy frame. Peru is a scary son of a bitch, and Dafoe lends every Joker grin, sallow grimace and harsh syllable he can muster in a very discomforting scene in which he abuses Laura Dern’s character to squirm inducing effect. This heinous outburst only makes the explosive end he meets all the more satisfying. A true Lynch monster, a Dafoe creation to remember and spin yarns about in years to come beside the cinematic campfire. 

7. Nikki Grace/Susan Blue, played by Laura Dern in Inland Empire
  

Dern turns the performance of her career in what is perhaps Lynch’s most peculiar film to date, a purposefully meta, altogether perplexing soul bender of a tale that revolves around two incredibly strong female characters, both played by her. There’s a galvanizing monologue buried within the heart of this dense saga that’s at once both a savage outcry and a self reflective summary to the character, Dern nailing every sharp turn of both that passage, and her work in the film as a whole. Lynch sat on Hollywood Boulevard with a cow and a sign advocating an Oscar nomination for her powerful work here, and upon viewing it it’s easy to see why. ‘A woman in trouble’ cries the DVD cover. Dern cries out into the dark and lets us know this character is exactly in that place, but her and Lynch lay out the breadcrumb trail in an ambiguous fashion that never really lets us in on the how and the why of said trouble. Such an achievement is pure collaboration, and worth every penny spent on the cow rental. 

6. Margaret Lanterman, aka The Log Lady, played by Catherine E. Coulson in Twin Peaks
  

The Log Lady is the symbolic lynchpin of Twin Peaks, a woman who lost her husband in a fire long ago, and quite literally carries a log around in memorial, speaking to it as if it were a person. Such a concept could be seen as silly, but in Lynch’s hands it simply is compelling. Coulson too treats it with reverence, giving her the undefined gravity that is a key ingredient in the Twin Peaks mystery and will be remembered by fans, loved by veterans and discovered by newcomers for eons.

5. Frank Booth, played by Dennis Hopper in Blue Velvet
  

The third scariest person on this list comes in the form of Booth, an oxygen loving, volatile kinkster played with primordial menace by a wild eyed Dennis Hopper. Booth took audiences by storm when Blue Velvet was released, showcasing a villain’s ability to completely shatter the idealistic and womblike notions of small town, old world bliss that came before him. He barges into the film and immediately flips the table as far as tone goes, catching everyone off guard with his criminal and very twisted antics. A true Pabst Blue villain and force of perverted nature that we won’t soon forget. 

4. BOB, played by Frank Silva in Twin Peaks
  

No demon has shivered the timbers of viewers quite like Killer Bob. He was a fluke, a lightning bolt of creative energy that Lynch channeled into what would become the scariest and strangest villain in his stable. A nightmarish and all too real apparition who feeds on rape, murder, fear, abuse and all the tools which reside within the darkest corners of humanity’s toolkit. Silva is a salivating horror, feeling his way through a performance that is rooted directly within the forces of undiscovered nature and firmly committed to scaring the pants off of us. 

 3. Mystery Man, played by Robert Blake in Lost Highway
  

Blake unsettles big time as a pasty faced, hollow laughed denizen who torments the protagonist at the most unexpected of moments and can’t help but utter a grinding giggle every time he can harvest an iota of confusion from his quarry. Whether the accusations against Blake in real life are true or not, the guy just has a corrosive vibe to his work and it kills me that he never got a chance to live out more years in cinema. This was one of his last two roles, and he’s the acrid soul of the piece, a snarling symbol of mental instability and otherworldly nastiness within the main character’s psyche.

2. Special Agent Dale Cooper, played by Kyle Maclachlan in Twin Peaks
  

Ahh, Dale Cooper. No one puts a big old smile on my face like him. In a career that has a whole bunch of lunatics and weirdos running amok, Lynch has given us the ultimate good guy, a comforting, likeable lawman with a keen sense of character and a deep love for both coffee and copious amounts of cherry pie. Maclachlan soars into pop culture legend with his winning smile, delightful idiosyncrasies and unyielding dedication to the law. 

1. Laura Palmer, played by Sheryl Lee in Twin Peaks
  

The battered angel, the homecoming queen, the beauty wrapped in plastic. No one represents both the decaying, corrupted human spirit and the same purity that wages war upon the sickness as well as Laura. When Twin Peaks was cancelled and Lynch launched plans for a big screen follow up, he stuck with the one element that made the show so special: Laura. Through hell, high water and every horror in between he stuck with Laura, turning the film into a final loving ode to her that would be seen by many as too much, and a stark deviation from the show. He was simply following through with the uneasy themes which mean so much to him, represented by the ultimate girl in trouble, whereby spiritual forces or simply the malfunction within humanity. Lee has never been better, serving as the rose within the centre of the dark bouquet of characters which Lynch  draws forth from his dreams.