I, like many film fans, enjoy David Lynch’s work. The mainstream filmgoers, however, have a different take on his films. Put simply: They don’t know what to make of them.
I think the audience’s befuddlement with Lynch’s films are justified. People go in expecting something more straightforward and less hallucinatory than what they are usually given. Why they think this about a Lynch film is beyond me, but I hear it all the time. I like the idea that they get taken for an unexpected ride, though. It’s like the teenage girls who went to see “Se7en” because Brad Pitt was starring. They came out a little shaken and more than a bit disturbed. I tend to think mainstream audiences exit a Lynch film much the same way.
“What the fuck was up with ‘Blue Velvet’?” I had one man ask me when I engaged him in a discussion about Lynch. “I saw that because of ‘Dune,’ and I didn’t know what the hell to make of it.”
“Did you like ‘Dune’?” I asked.
“No, but it was interesting.”
“Did you like ‘Blue Velvet’?”
He thought about this for a moment. “I’m not sure.”
That’s a normal reaction. People just aren’t too sure what to make of “Lost Highway,” “Blue Velvet” (a film I think is pretty linear for a Lynch work) and the like. They describe them as “dreams gone wrong” and “nightmarish.” “His movies look at America through dirty glasses,” one person told me. I tend to think of them as looking at America as it is, but that’s just me.
When “Twin Peaks” originally aired on television, I made a point not to miss any episodes. I enjoyed the show like few others. I also knew it wouldn’t last. It couldn’t last. It was too much for general audiences. It wasn’t that it was intellectually taxing; it was too dream-like, and things didn’t always make sense. They weren’t supposed to, though. The real world doesn’t always make sense, unlike mainstream movies, which need to be coherent to keep people on track with the story. In a mainstream movie, any twists have to be there for a reason. Things have to work out one way or another in the end, too. Lynch’s films are different.
It’s a strange world, and Lynch seems to understand that. I think he knows the effects his movies have on people, too. I also think he knows that some people just don’t get it because they are looking too hard. And I don’t think he cares. He may even like that. I know I would.
My favorite Lynch film is probably “Blue Velvet,” the movie my one friend said seemed “unnecessarily cruel.” I told him it showed small-town America as it really is — a vile, boring, horrid place to live with secrets nobody wants to know about. It’s a place where the citizens gloss over everything that may cause discomfort, and that, in turn, causes the filth to multiply like out of control cancer clusters.
Lynch, perhaps moreso than any other living director, understands America’s ghosts. He knows what lurks on the dark roads at night, and he senses the twisted undercurrents of Anytown, USA. When he turns his headlights on, it’s the audience that blinks in fright, trapped and afraid to move. We see the sick beauty of horrifying acts, and we feel a little animal-like for enjoying it. Lynch, unlike Spielberg, doesn’t try to paint every dream in primary colors. He’s unafraid to mix things up on the palette to present American life as it really is: out of focus and removed from reality.
Perhaps the worst thing that can ever happen to Lynch is that mainstream audiences finally embrace his films for what they are. That will truly signify the beginning of the nightmare, and I don’t think any director has it in him or her to portray what life would be like at that point. And if he or she did, I don’t think I’d like to see it. That would be just too scary.
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