Best of the 2000’s: #3

– “The Best of the Decade Project” is an ongoing series of essays written by Match Cuts and The Filmist concerning the finest films of the last ten years.

In David Lynch’s Mulholland Dr., the nightmare stalks the dream, brutally pouncing only after maiming its prey with false pretenses and conflicting identities. Seething with spite and deceit, the nightmare watches as hope builds, ambition blossoms, and talent formulates, undermining a romantic origin story with a horrific dose of alternate reality. The main weapons are chance and circumstance, fabricated dimensions of an evil master plan without motive or meaning; just control over all fabrics of life. Everything comes crashing down, but when and where is always up for debate. But who’s the villain behind the nightmare? Continue reading

Surveillance (Lynch, 2009)

movie-surveillance-stills-573262528

As James van Maanen astutely noted earlier this year, Surveillance shouldn’t surprise an active viewer with its twist, since the script reveals it from a mile away. The shoddy writing and directing go along way toward explaining the lack of tension and suspense, but Jennifer Lynch’s film becomes even more disheartening as she obviously deconstructs her father David’s auteurist tendencies and fails miserably. Bill Pullman’s wacked-out FBI Agent seems to be a bad interpretation of Kyle MacLachlan’s Dale Cooper in Twin Peaks, and the fragmented, looney dialogue could be pulled from any of David Lynch’s leftover scenes.

But Jennifer Lynch explores one fascinating aspect contradictory to and ignored by her daddy’s best work. In Surveillance, she paints a disturbing picture of law enforcement as a failed institution, either corrupt, arrogant, impotent, and lastly and most importantly, altogether false. The FBI and local police do far more harm than good, using passive methodologies and brazen actions that are easily subverted by the killers on the loose. No innocent person is safe, yet this frightening concept doesn’t ring true because of the almost comedic villains and inept storytelling. But this specific theme keeps Surveillance from being a complete dud, making one wonder that if in the hands of another filmmaker, it could be diabolical stuff.

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (Lynch, 1992)

twin-peaks_l

Laura Palmer’s brutal demise begins the great Frost/Lynch television show and ends its maddening film prequel, a pertinent fact when discussing each as an entity of a greater Lynch universe. But that’s a different thesis paper entirely. Fire Walk With Me fails to attain the show’s greatness because Laura’s conflicted life can never match the impact of her “tragic” death. Twin Peaks has never been about Laura as a character, but what her image/likeness means toward instigating and uprooting the other characters’ true motivations. In this sense, she’s a martyr for both Lynch as a filmmaker and his battleground of psychological warfare. The most interesting element of Fire Walk With Me remains its stunning opening sequence which follows an FBI agent’s (Chris Isaak) brief but potent investigation of the Theresa Banks murder, an act Lynch treats more as a precursor rather than a story all its own. The ramifications of her tragic life end up transcending Laura’s.

Fissures of Joy in Twin Peaks (Lynch, Frost, 1990-91)

twinpeaks1

After countless false starts, I finally finished David Lynch and Mark Frost’s scarily addicting television opus (it’s prequel Fire Walk With Me is next on the agenda). Being a David Lynch fan,Twin Peaks is of course everything I’d hoped it would be – horrifying, funny, menacing, and most surprisingly, truly sincere. But after almost thirty hours, the small moments of pure joy shared between certain characters stand out, whether it be the trio of Donna, James, and Maddy singing a haunting song, Cooper sipping a nice cup of Joe while giving Audrey a smiling glance, or Nadine squeezing the life out of Ed with a superhuman strength hug. These fissures of joyous character interaction counter the overall darkness lurking around every corner of Twin Peaks, exemplified by reflections of demons in the mirror, the loud hoot of owls searching for prey, and the terrible screams of unfortunate women being extinguished. The unfinished mysteries of Twin Peaks will always overwhelm and outweigh its surface-level certainties.

Inland Empire (Lynch, 2006)

“He never changes, he just reveals.”

This statement, uttered by one of the two character’s Laura Dern plays in David Lynch’s new cinematic nightmare Inland Empire, can also describe the enigmatic director himself. Lynch has always been an allusive artistic force, and with Inland Empire he constantly reveals different representations of inner turmoils often addressed in his other film’s, specifically the duality and conflict of female representation within the Hollywood studio system, achieved more tragically and convincingly in Mulholland Drive. But Inland Empire is a revelation, at least for most of it’s 3 hour 15 minute running time. Consisting of multiple realities, a dynamic and hypnotic score by Lynch himself, and a mesmerizing set of performances by Laura Dern, Inland Empire functions as Lynch’s most complex and dubious mind fuck, an inclusive, specialty blow out for Lynch followers and cult film fans alike. One can’t help to feel people will look long and hard at Inland Empire and try and “figure it out”. I think it’s best left as an emotional experience, not a narrative puzzle.Inland Empire represents Lynch’s first feature film foray into digital photography, creating a sometimes muddy merging of mise-en-scene and a sometimes shockingly strident glow within interiors. I can’t say I prefer it to the layered, wonderfully composed images of his earlier work, but this strategy fits perfectly with Inland Empire as an experience. Lynch utilizes the grainy look of Inland Empire in multiple ways; first using this imperfection of image as a succinct parallel to the many character’s breaking psychosis’, second as a blurring of the many different sphere’s of reality Lynch wishes to explore, and thirdly, and probably most importantly, as a fuzzy reminder of the fluidity storytelling and filmmaking can have, and so often lack in today’s Hollywood system. Inland Empire exists on a grad scale, maybe too big for the film’s own good, opening doors as other’s close, light’s turning off and on as easily as faces blur, character’s recognizing their own faulty outlook on reality. Lynch pits his camera, often from behind/OTS, and in extreme wide angle close-up, more as a way of confronting the fragility of both the character’s and the actor’s playing them in the movie within a movie. Lynch wants to mess with the viewer, in turn calling into question whether or not film can transcend dreams or nightmares. I’d argue Lynch comes close to doing both.While a fascinating ride through a great artist’s mind, Inland Empire is above all a bloated creation. It’s running time and redundancy are exhausting, compelling the viewer to hold tight as multiple scenes play out over and over again with various differences in tone. However stifling, these moments fit perfectly within Lynch’s ideal fun-house, and it’s up to the viewer to go all in or shrivel up and hide. One gets the sense Lynch, who is apparently handling distributing himself, has finally attained the freedom/control he’s desired throughout his career. I’m not sure this situation has created the masterpiece most critics have called his latest venture. But I’d go as far as saying Inland Empire demands to be seen, multiple times maybe, and experienced for the enthralling mixture of German expressionism and Neo-noir it accomplishes beautifully. Above all, Lynch has crafted a lofty and fascinating tale of the many lost souls enhabiting/fighting to survive within the City of Angels, a place that can harbor the best of times, but mostly the worst ones you could ever imagine. I just hope David Lynch reveals a little more change in the future.

Blue Velvet (Lynch, 1986)

David Lynch has a way of expressing mood like no other director I’ve come across. In Blue Velvet, his mise-en-scene is textured with specific qualities existing primarily to advance atmosphere over story, something he even delves deeper later in his career in my favorite Lynch film Mulholland Drive. What strikes me about this viewing of Blue Velvet (a film I hadn’t seen since high school), has to do with Lynch’s use of sound and music as cues to character’s impressions, desires, and ultimately changes in perspective. Even Frank’s sniffs on the oxygen tank reveal character, each horrific gasp a glimpse into his monstrous and unexamined upbringing. Lynch’s obsessions with the fringes of the mind have never been more colorful or controlling than in Blue Velvet, the last scene with the bug in the bird’s mouth a prime example of a hidden, disturbed underground constantly knocking on the front door of the “normal” American family. Brilliant.