Lynch Film Retrospective in Philadelphia Sept/Oct

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Lynchland
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Re: Lynch Film Retrospective in Philadelphia Sept/Oct

Postby Lynchland » Sun Sep 21, 2014 9:25 am

Thanks for your detailed and well written reports, Jmichael.
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hopesfall
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Re: Lynch Film Retrospective in Philadelphia Sept/Oct

Postby hopesfall » Mon Sep 22, 2014 4:01 am

Lynchland wrote:Thanks for your detailed and well written reports, Jmichael.


Seconded. They were a joy to read! I would love to one day attend something like this.
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jmichael
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Re: Lynch Film Retrospective in Philadelphia Sept/Oct

Postby jmichael » Wed Sep 24, 2014 8:16 am

I'm glad folks are enjoying these write ups. I'll be back after tonight's screening of Inland Empire.

In the meantime, the Film Society has put up a video of David's talk at the Lost Highway screening:
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Re: Lynch Film Retrospective in Philadelphia Sept/Oct

Postby jmichael » Fri Sep 26, 2014 2:24 pm

Another great showing this week. I had only seen Inland Empire once (maybe twice) before. Despite owning it, I've never been compelled to revisit it. It's a strange looking piece. Shot on standard definition digital video and then transferred to film, the projected image exists in this strange world between film and video. Sometimes it's effective and other times not. The opening sequence with Laura Dern and Grace Zabriski just in inescapably looks like "David's Home Movies." I spent several sections of the movie wondering if I'd be more engaged with it if it had been shot on film or in film-like HD. So much of Lynch's work is about carefully composed shots with precise lighting and sets, but IE features large swaths of material that was filmed almost Guerrilla style that I find myself being taken out of the film.

That said, I enjoyed it more this time than I have before. It benefits from repeated viewings if only to help keep a few of the plot lines straight in your head. As always, the sound presentation was outstanding and having it rumble through me absolutely enhanced the experience. "Polish Poem" remains the most beautiful song David has written outside his work with Angelo & Julee.

I didn't stay for the talkback, which was too bad because the city's leading film critic was speaking, but the film was so long and I'd had such a long couple of days, I need to go pass out and sleep. Next week: "Dune"

The rest of the schedule has been announced. The final four showings are part of the Philadelphia Film Festival.

10/18 - Muholland Drive (4:45pm)
10/19 - Wild at Heart (10:30pm)
10/20 - Blue Velvet (10:00pm)
10/21 - The Straight Story (6:00pm)

That's in addition to the already scheduled Dune (10/1) and The Elephant Man (10/9). Sadly, Elephant Man is the only film in the entire series that is not being shown on 35mm. Because it's being shown at an outdoor venue (a public garden), they're playing it digitally. My understanding is that when it played at the Bryn Mawr Film Institute a few weeks ago in conjunction with David's talk there, it was also shown digitally. (The critic I spoke to specifically said it was a DVD, but I can't confirm.) I wonder if prints are hard to come by? I would love to see it as I've seen the rest of the series - on film in a darkened theater. I'm incredibly grateful to the organizers of this series for giving me the chance to see Lynch's work as I've always dreamed of seeing them.

See you next week!
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Re: Lynch Film Retrospective in Philadelphia Sept/Oct

Postby Mb3 » Fri Sep 26, 2014 6:11 pm

jmichael wrote:"Polish Poem" remains the most beautiful song David has written outside his work with Angelo & Julee.



Thanks again for sharing your impressions. Unfortunately I've only been able to see two of Lynchs movies in a cinema so far (Lost Highway & Inland Empire). And I feel exactly the same as you do about Polish poem.
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Re: Lynch Film Retrospective in Philadelphia Sept/Oct

Postby jmichael » Thu Oct 02, 2014 8:09 am

Another great night at the movies with Dune.

First off, let me say again how great the staff of the Philadelphia Film Society has been. They are just a great group of people, legitimately excited to be showing all these great Lynch films. I'm excited for the Philadelphia Film Festival, which starts next week. They're bringing in a lot of really great work. I think that Philadelphia sometimes gets overlooked as far as the arts go, being in the shadow of New York, but great stuff is happening here.

As an example of the staff's care and dedication, they provided everyone with a two-sided hand out with a list of terminology from Dune, which I thought was pretty funny, but a nice touch. Nothing tells you you're in for a confusing movie than a list of definitions you need to read before watching. :lol:

It was small crowd for Dune. I would venture to say the smallest yet. Lots of familiar faces from the past few weeks - fellow series pass holders, I assume. There was a speaker before the film, who lead a Q&A after. I don't know her name, I'm afraid. It had been advertised as a professor of film from Temple (The same guy who was a no show for the FWWM talkback), so she was obviously a last minute replacement. She was good. The best speaker yet. (Though, again, I missed the Inland Empire speaker, who I bet was good.) She spoke very briefly about the film beforehand, giving some quotes from Robert Ebert's (negative) review of the film as well as some of David's thoughts on it from the "Lynch on Lynch" book. She then asked us to think about certain things while watching the film, like where we see Lynch's hand in the work and what links can we see to his other films. It was a much better way to start off than the talking points given before Eraserhead.

It was great seeing Dune on a giant screen. This was a very uneven print of the film. Everything from the start of the film right up until Gurney and Paul do shield training was dirty and scratched. Things then improved, but it would switch back and forth from scene to scene, with both picture and sound effected. Some parts that stand out in my mind as pristine: the shield training, the sequence with Dr. Keynes, Paul and Jessica's escape into the dessert, Jessica becoming a reverend mother, the final battle.

This was one of the more interesting screenings for me. Next to FWWM, I've seen Dune more than any other Lynch's film. I grew up with this film. Along with Star Wars and Star Trek, this was a gateway into science-fiction for me. It ran all the time on local TV (in the two part "Alan Smithee" version). It was the first DVD I ever bought and I've owned both DVD editions and the Blu-Ray. I caught it on the Universal HD movie channel while visiting my parents about a month ago. This is a film that is pretty fresh in my mind...and yet I don't know the last time I WATCHED it. It's a film I can put on while I'm doing other things or even let my mind wander a bit while watching, because I know it so well. Being in the theater, immersed in it and having seen so many other Lynch films in close proximity, I was real struck...this movie is WEIRD. I mean, there is no denying it's a David Lynch movie. The thought that this could be a Star Wars sized, blockbuster franchise is mind-boggling (As much as I probably would have loved that). What must have audiences, fresh from seeing the downright warm and fuzzy Return of the Jedi thought about this? The grotesque look of the villains, the strange imagery, the whispered internal monologues, the impressionistic dream sequences...not to mention the typical Hollywood pifalls of cramming a massive, textually rich book into a two hour action movie. It's a mess. A beautiful mess. I was struck, not for the first time, that beginning of the film through Leto's death is done slowly and with great care - laying out all the pieces and carefully introducing characters. And then...chaos. From the time Paul and Jessica crash in the dessert, they have to cram SO MUCH into the last 45 minutes or so that it looses a lot impact. A slew of characters are dispatched or pushed to the background with little or no fanfare: Gurney, Duncan, Thufer, Piter, Dr. Keynes and others are introduced or re-introduce so quickly, it's hard to feel why they're important: Stilgar, Chani, Reverend Mother Ramallo, Gurney (again!). And why does Irulan narrate the movie? Given how reduced her part is from the books, to a movie audience it makes no sense. She does NOTHING at all the rest of the movie!

And still...I love Dune.

The Q&A after was good. Of the people who stayed for the talkback, less than half indicated that they'd seen the movie before. There was a small group of people there who were fans of the books, but had never seen the film, as well. I thought the moderator did a great job and we talked about parts of the film that fit in with Lynch's cannon: industrial landscapes, the intense sound design, dreams/visions/meditation, extreme close ups of the grotesque, the use of his "rep company" of actors. It was a good talk and she kept things moving at the right pace. Sadly, I believe this is the last talkback - there isn't one planned for The Elephant Man and there are none advertised as accompanying the final sets of films playing the festival. These talks were a mixed bag (when they happened), but overall I thought they were a good idea.

See you back here next week for The Elephant Man, which is showing on Thursday outdoors at one of Philly's popular "pop up" gardens. Better bring my jacket - it's getting pretty chilly here!
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Re: Lynch Film Retrospective in Philadelphia Sept/Oct

Postby jmichael » Fri Oct 10, 2014 9:28 am

Sorry, folks, no recap this week. I decided to skip the outdoor screening of The Elephant Man. My regular film going companion couldn't make it and I was less interested in seeing a DVD of the film being projected on the side of a building than I was in seeing it on film in the cinema.

We'll resume next week as the Philadelphia Film Festival burns through the rest of the cannon from the 18th-21st with one screening a night. I'll try and post each day if I can!
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Re: Lynch Film Retrospective in Philadelphia Sept/Oct

Postby Odnetnin » Sun Oct 19, 2014 8:30 am

Just wanted to chime in that I've really been enjoying the recaps!
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Re: Lynch Film Retrospective in Philadelphia Sept/Oct

Postby jmichael » Mon Oct 20, 2014 6:32 am

Odnetnin wrote:Just wanted to chime in that I've really been enjoying the recaps!


Thanks!

This final marathon run of four films started on Saturday with Mulholland Drive. Because these last four are part of the Philadelphia Film Festival, they're on a tight schedule with other screenings, so there's no additional talkbacks or guest speakers, so I'll just be giving my impressions of the films.

MD is actually the only Lynch film I had previously seen on the big screen. My admiration for the film hasn't diminished at all in the decade or so since it first came out. What amazing performances all around from that cast. Naomi Watts delivers a performance for the ages. I've always felt this was a great introduction to David Lynch for people who don't know his work as the surrealism, sex and violence that define him are all present, but not quite as over the top as in WAH, FWWM or BV. The print looked good and the sound presentation was done as it should be. What a great film to get lost in late on a Saturday afternoon. I could revisit again and again.

Last night was a late night showing of Wild at Heart, a film that I don't think I've seen since it first came out on DVD - or maybe when it was reissued on the Lime Green set. I have never enjoyed the movie more than I did last night. Maybe it had something to do with the late hour, but I almost felt like I was dreaming the whole thing. What amazing work Fred Elmes gets out of the camera in this movie. I was particularly struck this time by the use of colors throughout the film. I was routing for Sailor and Lula the entire time. I would say that this is the second time in the film series, after Eraserhead that seeing the movie on the big screen transformed my opinion of it for the better. There were some hoots/applause for cameos from Twin Peaks cast members, with Sheryl Lee's turn as the Good Witch getting a some chuckles (including from me - it's so wonderfully absurd.)

Two more to go. Tonight's late night showing of BV and tomorrow evening closes things out with SS. I'll probably recap them together on Wednesday.
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Re: Lynch Film Retrospective in Philadelphia Sept/Oct

Postby Carl » Mon Oct 20, 2014 12:50 pm

I've yet to see a Lynch film in a theater. Dune would be my choice; in an old-style Movie Palace, please, with smoking allowed in the loges.
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Re: Lynch Film Retrospective in Philadelphia Sept/Oct

Postby jmichael » Tue Oct 21, 2014 8:44 am

I was going to hold off until after I'd seen Straight Story and do a final double recap, but last night's screening needs its own entry.

When I first arrived, the lobby was packed. The Philadelphia Film Festival brings in its own fans, so I was expecting a capacity crowd. However, it really wasn't much bigger than the crowds have been - maybe even a little smaller (It was 10:00 on a Monday, after all). The film festival director got up on stage and mentioned that they were very lucky to have secured a "beautiful NEW print" of Blue Velvet - I was instantly excited about how good this was going to look.

What a disappointment.

This was tied with Dune for the worst looking print of the series. Soft, full of scratches and emulsion problems. The sound was fantastic...until it wasn't. From the time Jeffery and Sandy start planning their first visit to Dorothy's apartment, there was an audible and persistent pop on the soundtrack that lasted for a long while. Finally, things cleared up around the final reel. From the time Jeffery shows Detective Williams the photographs he's taken until the end, the print was stunning. I'm going to guess that only the last reel or two of the film were made from a new print. Because if that really was a pristine, newly struck print, then the original negative/master is in terrible shape. A real disappointment. With only one print left to view, I still think that Eraserhead is going to take the prize for the most stunning looking film print.

The overall experience wasn't so hot last night. Even in a half empty theater, a disgusting looking man decided to sit right next to me and proceeded to unwrap hard candy throughout the entire movie...that is, when he wasn't hacking up a lung. Plus, directly behind me, there were a couple of David Lynch "superfans" trying to impress each other with their trivia, whispering to each other throughout - "Oh, this is the first song he ever wrote with Angelo!" "Yeah, Mysteries of Love." "Listen, you can hear the instrumental of Mysteries of Love here." "It's the old woman from Twin Peaks" and, every single time Jack Nance was on screen: "Oh, Jack, Jack!". Towards the end of the movie, somebody finally shushed them.

There was also a lot of laughter during the more shocking parts of the film - a common element of nearly all the screenings. I know that it's a natural reaction to laugh to something uncomfortable, but it just broke my heart to hear an entire audience cracking up during the entire sequence of Dorothy appearing naked in the street. I think if you've seen the movie enough times to know what to expect, it's easier to get invested in the emotion of the moment than that first time when you're shocked. I took a friend who had never seen the movie before and while he liked it very much, the first thing out of his mouth at the end was "For much of the movie, I didn't know what to think."

Still a treat to see it in the movies, despite the disappointing condition of this "beautiful new print." We close things out at 6:00 tonight with The Straight Story.
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Re: Lynch Film Retrospective in Philadelphia Sept/Oct

Postby jmichael » Wed Oct 22, 2014 6:48 am

What a difference a day makes! The Straight Story print was FLAWLESS! I mean, really stunning. Probably from lack of use. This was by far the smallest crowd at any of the screenings. Just before the lights dimmed, I counted about 25 people in attendance. A few more came in after the film started, but I'm going to say it was less than 35 people.

I've always liked SS very much. I think Richard Farnsworth gives the performance of a lifetime. Even if Lynch doesn't seem to have much about the movie as a director, this is clearly a world he enjoys being in. The film is breathtakingly shot - it could be a propaganda video for America's heartland. Plus it is filled with Lynchian touches - long lingering shots on industrial machinery, quirky small town residents, long shots the road from the POV of a vehicle. Plus, the "grabber" scene in the hardware store may be the funniest scene in any Lynch movie. It certainly stands up against some of the funniest stuff from Twin Peaks. (Awww geez, Alvin!)

It was the perfect ending to this series. I am so grateful to the Philadelphia Film Society, PAFA and all their partners for this incredible opportunity to see these films on the big screen. Thanks for reading along with me. There are a few more events coming up in conjunction with Lynch's art show that are still coming up that I'll cover here or over on the Twin Peaks board as appropriate. I urge anybody who can to come to Philadelphia before the PAFA exhibit closes and check out all of the amazing Lynch related events that are going on in this amazing city.

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