Posted by: markfender | November 11, 2015

David Lynch

David Lynch makes weird movies that critics love.

david_lynchThey’re weird, sometimes disturbing, and generally really out there. It can be hard to figure out what Lynch is going for when someone starts talking backwards, smears their face in lipstick, or some characters switch which part they’re playing in the middle of a film. This sort of rich framework means critics and people who care about “art,” can spend pages and pages describing various interpretations and declaring Lynch’s genius.

But Lynch isn’t a genius. He’s just really, really literal.

Example the first: In Blue Velvet, the movie opens with an idyllic town (Lynch goes out of his way to make sure you know it’s idyllic by showing people waving happily at the camera). This shot changes to someone mowing his lawn. While he has a heart attack (which sets up the arrival of McLachlan’s character), the camera dips beneath the surface of the grass to reveal lots and lots of bugs crawling everywhere. What could this shot mean?

It’s pretty obvious, actually. Lynch is saying that beneath the surface, this town isn’t so idyllic. And, over the course of the rest of the film, he reveals that to be true as Kyle McLachlan voyeurs, Isabella Rosselini breaks down, and Dennis Hopper, well, Hoppers. And that’s about as deep as Lynch gets. The weird, opening scene is meant to be interpreted literally – there’s weird stuff going on (Granted, there’s other weird stuff. Like, I don’t know what’s up with Dean Stockwell’s character).

That extends to the much maligned Dune as well. Lynch takes a line from the book, “My name is a killing name” and makes it literal, the Fremen making use of vocal weapons that require “Maud’dib” to be said first before they work. In the book, that line is meant to convey that people are killing in Paul’s name, but Lynch found that too subtle, I guess (Or he just really doesn’t understand metaphors).

That doesn’t mean I think Lynch is a bad director (although Dune is pretty terrible). He’s one of our better noir directors. But I find that a lot of the weird stuff in his films isn’t all that weird – it’s just literal – more literal than is normal, to be sure. But it’s still just literal. There’s still things that are weird and unexplained. But I find that, a lot of times, if I just interpret whatever symbol he’s thrown onto the screen in the most literal, unimaginative way possible, it makes sense. He takes metaphors and similes and explains them. And that somehow blows people’s minds.


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