Close Up

7 - 29 April 2017: Close-Up on David Lynch


David Lynch’s films expose the horror and turmoil that lurks within the pores of society. Drawing heavily upon dreams, Lynch portrays the pervasive, nefarious influence of the subconscious upon our waking lives. Lynch takes mainstream genres – horror, soap opera, teen movie – and perverts their conventions, making strange the familiar.

The Grandmother
David Lynch
1970 | 34 min | Colour | Digital

The Grandmother is a wordless film, mixing live action footage and animation to tell the story of a boy who grows a grandmother to take care of him instead of his abusive parents. Lynch imbues the otherwise whimsical tale with grotesque signatures much like Eraserhead, and relies on ambient music cues to set the tone – an ability that he would hone to near perfection in such films as his 1986 classic, Blue Velvet.” – Sean Hutchinson read more

David Lynch
1977 | 89 min | B/W | Digital
Presented from a new 4K restoration

“Generally considered one of the truly groundbreaking independent films to emerge in the horror and horror/thriller genres, Eraserhead offers a vaguely linear plot, ambiguously motivated and realised characters, and, despite an atmospheric dreamscape created via such familiar images from psychoanalysis as spewing liquids and worm-like organisms, an arguably incoherent set of messages about the interconnectedness of sexuality, identity, violence and loss.” – Senses of Cinema read more

The Elephant Man
David Lynch
1980 | 124 min | B/W | DCP

"The Elephant Man has the power and some of the dream logic of a silent film, yet there are also wrenching, pulsating sounds – the hissing steam and the pounding of the start of the industrial age. It's Dickensian London, with perhaps a glimpse of the process that gave rise to Cubism." – Pauline Kael read more

Blue Velvet
David Lynch
1986 | 120 min | Colour | 35mm

After the failure of the epic sci-fi Dune that nearly ended Lynch’s career, he resolved to make a personal film, and ultimately settled on what would become his undisputed masterpiece of the 1980s, Blue Velvet. After finding a severed human ear in a field, Jeffrey Beaumont (Kyle MacLachlan) discovers, beneath his idyllic suburban hometown, a sinister underworld inhabited by damaged mystery lady Dorothy Vallens (Isabella Rossellini) and her sadistic captor, Frank Booth (Dennis Hopper). The intense color palette, lush Old Hollywood orchestral score, and anachronistic flourishes inch Blue Velvet just past the realm of realism into a space without signposts that gets more disorienting the longer you stay in it. Upon its release, Blue Velvet became an instant cult film and, as more people saw it, a lightning rod for polarized reactions. – Film Society of Lincoln Centre read more

Wild at Heart
David Lynch
1990 | 125 min | Colour | 35mm

“With its good and wicked witches, and references to Toto and the yellow brick road, Wild at Heart (based on Bay Area writer Barry Gifford’s homonymous novel) is an overt, elaborate homage to The Wizard of Oz, a “road movie” before the term existed. Lula (Laura Dern) and Sailor (Nicolas Cage) set out from Cape Fear, North Carolina, in a Ford Thunderbird, headed for the obligatory Oz of California but end up detained in the Texas hellhole of Big Tuna. In many ways conceived in direct opposition to Blue Velvet, the film is anxious and scattered where the earlier film was contained and claustrophobic; where sex in Blue Velvet is wrapped up in guilt and terror, this film is as close as Lynch has come to a celebration of libidinal energies. Winner of the Palme d’Or at the 1990 Cannes Film Festival, Wild at Heart is Lynch’s first all-out comedy, but despite the prevailing tone of aggressive absurdity, it nonetheless contains some of the filmmaker’s most harrowing scenes.” – Film Society of Lincoln Centre read more

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me
David Lynch
1992 | 134 min | Colour | 35mm

"Lynch’s harrowing attempt to close the book on both his signature series and arguably his most memorable and tragic character. A prequel to the television phenomenon surrounding the mysterious death of a 17-year-old homecoming queen, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me plunges into the show’s dark heart and defining trauma, chronicling the final week in the brief life of Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) – a film predestined to end with the death of its protagonist. For Lynch, the entire Twin Peaks project was a laboratory where he worked out some ideas that would define his later films. In Fire Walk with Me, the filmmaker experimented with narrative strictures and structures, and moved toward more direct expressions of emotion, as if the time he spent in the Twin Peaks cosmos allowed him to reduce the film counterpart to its essentials: pain and sorrow, hypnotically and heartbreakingly rendered." – Film Society of Lincoln Centre read more

Lost Highway
David Lynch
1997 | 134 min | Colour | 35mm

"Most of Lynch’s later films straddle (at least) two realities, and their most ominous moments arise from a dawning awareness that one world is about to cede to another. In Lost Highway, we are introduced to brooding jazz saxophonist Fred Madison (Bill Pullman) while he lives in a simmering state of jealousy with his listless and possibly unfaithful wife Renee (Patricia Arquette). About one hour in, a rupture fundamentally alters the narrative logic of the film and the world itself becomes a nightmare embodiment of a consciousness out of control. Lost Highway marked a return from the wilderness for Lynch and the arrival of his more radical expressionism – alternating omnipresent darkness with overexposed whiteouts, dead air with the belligerent soundtrack assault of metal-industrial bands, and the tactile sensations that everything is happening with the infinite delusions of schizophrenic thought." – Film Society of Lincoln Centre read more

Mulholland Drive
David Lynch
2001 | 147 min | Colour | DCP
Presented from a new 4K restoration

"Like Billy Wilder’s film named after another iconic Hollywood street, Mulholland Drive tells a sordid tale of the industry of illusion and its boulevards of broken dreams – but for Lynch, these dreams fold into dreams within dreams within dreams. Originally intended as a pilot for a television series, Lynch’s möbius riddle was rejected by TV executives. In restructuring it for the silver screen, Lynch crafted one of his finest masterworks. When the perky, wholesome Betty Elms lands in Hollywood for what could be her big break, she meets "Rita," an ostensible femme fatale who is rendered identity-less because of amnesia from a car accident. Lynch’s (and Hollywood’s) dazzling dream factory sets to work with mysterious objects, startling visions, amusing detours and revelatory alterations in acting styles and character identities. The noir cracks open and gives way to a multi-toned, terrifyingly beautiful hallucination that is as much a complex reflection on Hollywood as it is an endlessly transforming psychological puzzle. Cinematic archetypes – including all versions of the female presented or rejected by Hollywood – double, reflect and regenerate into uncanny metaphors in Lynch’s subconscious minefield where the fluid layers of identity, nostalgia, desire, deception and projection could be in the minds of the characters, the audience, or a complete fabrication by dark, unknown forces behind the scenes … or well beyond." – Harvard Film Archive read more

Inland Empire
David Lynch
2006 | 180 min | Colour | 35mm

"It’s an understatement to call Inland Empire Lynch's most experimental film in the nearly 30 years since he completed Eraserhead. Cheap DV has opened the artist’s mental floodgates. Inland Empire is suffused with dread of … what? Sex, in Lynch, is a priori nightmarish. But there's a sense here that film itself is evil. Movies are all about editing and acting, which is to say, visual lies and verbal ones, and Inland Empire insures the that viewer is cognizant of both. Lynch's notion of pure cinema is a matter of tawdry scenarios and disconcerting tonal shifts. Everything in Inland Empire is uncanny, unmoored, and out of joint. The major special effect is the creepy merging of spaces or times. The heroine’s persistent doubling and Lynch's continuous use of "creative geography" reinforce the sense that he assimilated Maya Deren's venerable avant-noir Meshes of the Afternoon at an impressionable age. And like Meshes, Inland Empire has no logic apart from its movie-ness.” – J. Hoberman read more

Otto Preminger
1944 | 88 min | B/W | DCP
Presented from a new digital restoration

One of the most enduring entries in the noir canon, Preminger’s film is a stirring portrait of erotic fascination and an expertly choreographed whodunnit, replete with narrative twists, reversals, and red herrings. Gumshoe Mark McPherson is investigating the recent murder of the eponymous Laura, and everyone’s a suspect, from her aunt to her fiancé to her fey, acid-tongued admirer. read more

Scorpio Rising
Kenneth Anger
1964 | 28 min | Colour | Digital

"A swift and dense Eisensteinian montage of leather-clad bikers and hustlers, road accidents, Hollywood stars, comic strips, Christian icons, Nazi imagery, and a simulated orgy, Kenneth Anger's Scorpio Rising […] stands as one of the most widely seen and influential masterpieces of American cinema. Anger completed the film in late 1963, only a few weeks before the Kennedy assassination. He would later summarize Scorpio Rising as "a death mirror held up to American culture," and as society seemed to unravel in the years that followed, audiences flocked to peer into Anger’s morbid looking glass." – Ed Halter read more