There is no greater compliment than to have your name become an adjective. For a ball player who smashes a towering home run, his drive is said to be “Ruthian.” For daring camera angles and bravura performances, a film can be said to be “Wellesian.” When someone uses the term “Lynchian” these days, well, that’s a little harder to pin down. So is the oeuvre of David Lynch, America’s dark genius. As you can see on the HD movie channels, Lynch’s body of work has everything from low-budget semi-horror (Eraserhead) to G-rated Disney gems (The Straight Story), but it’s everything in between that has made his reputation.
His early film Eraserhead caught the attention of many big directors at the time, including Stanley Kubrick and George Lucas. Through a variety of recommendations, Lynch was given the opportunity to direct The Elephant Man starring Anthony Hopkins. A huge commercial and critical success, the famous story revolved around a deformed man (played by John Hurt) who is brought into society in 19th century England. At times a straightforward film, The Elephant Man also shows its Lynchian touch: in haunted dream sequences, in its industrial age paranoia and in the deformed lead character himself. Grabbing eight Oscar nominations, the film brought Lynch into the spotlight. It is often shown on Turner Classic Movies in high definition black-and-white.
His next major film was Blue Velvet, one of the most stunning American films of the 1980s. Beginning with the discovery of a human ear on a suburban lawn, a young man’s small town illusions are quickly crushed. Over the course of an investigation, the town’s seedy underbelly is exposed. Starring Kyle MacLachlan as the boy and Dennis Hopper as the psychotic criminal, this film presented many of Lynch’s classic tropes: the darkness that exists just below the surface of every society; the extreme capacity for debasement in some individuals; the ability of spectacles to erase all traces of the unpleasant. Blue Velvet is a landmark of independent cinema and can be seen on the Independent Film Channel’s HD feature broadcasts,
Since the early 1990s Lynch has stayed in the public sphere, if always at the edges. His hit show Twin Peaks introduced television audiences to Lynchian soap opera. Wild at Heart, his first collaboration with novelist Barry Gifford, starred Nicholas Cage and Laura Dern but never got the attention it deserved. Lost Highway, another Gifford story, featured Robert Blake in a wonderfully creepy role before he was accused of murdering his wife. Yet many of these films seemed to be warming up for Mulholland Drive.
Originally conceived of as another television series, Mulholland Drive is the ultimate vision of the dark side of Hollywood. Starring Naomi Watts in two roles — one real, one dreamt — Lynch flexes all of his creative muscles in this film, which earned him another nomination for Best Director Oscar. At times hallucinogenic and at times storybook Hollywood tale, the film follows the rise and fall of a desperate actress. Along with Blue Velvet, it is his most sustained work to date. For satellite TV subscribers, it is featured on the independent movie channels like Sundance in HD.
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