David Lynch, 2021

The Pure Cinema podcast did two three-hour episodes on the films of David Lynch in April this year. I listened along, thinking I’d seen many of his films, but I quickly realised I hadn’t. In fact, I had only seen the first series of Twin Peaks on TV in 1989, and The Straight Story and Mulholland Drive in the cinema when they were first released... twenty years ago. I actually had this massive blind spot in my film knowledge. Someone once suggested that my writing reminded them of Lynch, which I took as an amazing compliment, and I thought I could see what they meant, but the term Lynchian can be used as a clichè for a kind of quirky, surreal darkness, and listening to Elric Kane and Brian Sauer talk about his films, his work is that in places, but also much more.

In May, I embarked on my own journey into the land of Lynch, watching chronologically, and writing a few thoughts as blog posts on the way:

  • Eraserhead (1977)

    Eraserhead (1977)

    2 May 2021, 13:35

    It’s surprisingly hard to see David Lynch’s Eraserhead in the UK, which means it is easy to avoid. To me the title was abstract and off-putting, as was its reputation as one of Lynch’s most experimental, gruesome works. The ...

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  • The Elephant Man (1980)

    The Elephant Man (1980)

    6 May 2021, 18:40

    The Elephant Man is as traditional and straightforward as Eraserhead is surreal and obtuse. Both are black and white, and Lynch does use some dream imagery in The Elephant Man, but they’re at opposite end of the narrative ...

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  • Dune (1984)

    Dune (1984)

    9 May 2021, 20:10

    I went into Dune thinking I would see something the critics were missing – I mean, how could the director of Eraserhead and The Elephant Man direct a complete dud? – and… it’s so over-the-top, it manages to not be ...

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  • Blue Velvet (1986)

    Blue Velvet (1986)

    12 May 2021, 15:02

    I was nervous going in to Blue Velvet, more so than any horror film. It has a fearsome reputation but is also culturally beloved. Dennis Hopper’s over-the-top performance has become iconic, and its themes foreshadow those in the massively ...

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  • Wild at Heart (1990)

    Wild at Heart (1990)

    18 May 2021, 17:41

    After Blue Velvet, Lynch made the first season of Twin Peaks, then pivoted into Wild at Heart. It’s a series of deliberately melodramatic, hyper-violent and sexual scenes stitched together into a road movie, with a tenuously-made connection to ...

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  • Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992)

    Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992)

    24 May 2021, 12:59

    A howl of pain from Laura Palmer, the murdered girl that opened the TV series, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me is difficult, heavy, hard to watch in places, and grapples with incest, rape, drug-taking, murder, domestic abuse, and ...

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  • Lost Highway (1997)

    Lost Highway (1997)

    26 May 2021, 18:12

    Lost Highway is a puzzle. It opens with a jealous husband who thinks his wife is having an affair, and ends with a deadly resolution, but what happens in between is ambiguous and complicated. There are unsettling video tapes ...

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  • The Straight Story (1999)

    The Straight Story (1999)

    27 May 2021, 19:46

    If David Lynch were trying to somehow redress all the darkness of his earlier films in one go, then he would make The Straight Story. Like The Elephant Man, it’s straightforward and forgoes the dreams, fantasy sequences and excess ...

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  • Mulholland Drive (2001)

    Mulholland Drive (2001)

    29 May 2021, 11:41

    The pattern David Lynch tends uses in his more archetypal work is again on display in Mulholland Drive – events organically unfold, the images are striking, the narrative is confusing, characters are not who they seem to be, and ...

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  • Inland Empire (2007)

    Inland Empire (2007)

    30 May 2021, 18:02

    In Inland Empire, which is also a massive region of land with nebulous boundaries east of Los Angeles (just saying), married actress Nikki Grace wins a part in a film opposite known philanderer Devon Burk. On the first day ...

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