hey counterpaul -
When things seem important in a mysterious way and when folks with badges and "shiny metal objects on (their) chest(s)" start inspecting cryptic documents and throwing around coordinates and whatnot, our senses get prickly and we sit up and start looking really closely at everything for important clues. It isn't the clues themselves that interest Lynch, it's that special kind of attention.
I pretty much agree with this and also what you said about seeing Lynch's films from the point of view of surrealism rather than a code to be cracked. For me the ep 8 golden orb/ giant / woodsmen / (pink) rough sea ( cosmic consciousness getting choppy) / high tower / single window in massive blank wall imagery also fits in with this. They are not literal - they are signs. That doesn't mean they are metaphors or clues. They are signs that stand for themselves, there as a sort of shorthand visual handwriting - the simplest way of saying ' FBI agent' isn't to present a complex character with a failed marriage and emotional backstory and a complex set of ethical quandaries and a fractious relationship with his superiors, it is to present a fine upstanding guy with a clear moral code, a firm chin, and a nice b/w suit. It's all very literal - if you got the moonight, hey! you get the moonlight sonata aswell.
Lynch's paintings are like this, he doesn't spend hours painting a hyperrealist guy, and naturalistic rendering of flames in a fireplace, you just get the a few elements, simplified to their essence: fire! man! flame! open door! - and the rest of it is all texture and rendering. The relationships are not stated. This also chimes with why in TP and his other films he is not interested atall in a character's psychology or motivations. He is doing something else.
As you say, that 'something else' comes from surrealism. I found myself thinking about Bunuel, reading your recent post I quoted from. He uses police and priests and people in suits and bourgeois intellectuals in much the same way that Lynch uses UFO's or FBI or Police Badge or large box of files - they are unknoweables, a mystery, of course everyone wants to 'solve' a mystery ( your ' special kind of attention') but the real point of it is simply that it is - mysterious and beyond our grasp or comprehension. As incidentally, he often portrays women, as seen from the male perspective. Whereas his portrayal of female friendship isn't like that atall. It is all about complicity.
I also found myself thinking ( reading yr post ) of the way he shoehorns bits of other films in, his own or other people's, and makes so many glaring genre quotes, could make a whole list of those from this series. Again these seem to me to be like ' signs'/ - elements in a pattern - pieces of a puzzle that is just meant to be put together, rather than ' solved'. He uses music like this too - his use of music ( or sound) isn't ' background' - it's representational. Get the picture?
Lastly, your post got me thinking about when he started off making movies in the mid 70's, and what was going on around him at the time. The ' industrial urban soundtrack' is something alot of underground musicians were trying to do in the mid- late 70's. His use of it in eraserhead stripped it back to its simplest form - ditch the music, don't dress it up - just present the weird clanking sounds and hum and crackle for what they are. At the same time, as part of this kind of dystopian urban subculture, there were alot of crazy conspiracy writings and comics, robert anton wilson for instance, alot of people liked this stuff.
Anyway the one i am really thinking about here, from about 1979 onwards, was the ' Church of the SubGenius' - a weird fake cult - abit like a counterculture version of Alfred Jarry's pataphysics - who worshipped a mysterious and unknowable authority figure called.... J. R. "Bob" Dobbs....aka....BOB! I have always seen ( rightly or wrongly) seen the TP BOB to be a sly nod to this, and all the UFO FBI procedural tea-leaf studying gubbins to be a nod in the directions of things like Pataphysics and Subgenius - Lynch's roots, as much as cheesy fifties music and twangy guitars are.
It's all a collage, really ( albeit one on a massive scale with a $100 million budget).
have enjoyed reading your posts, thanks.
ps - i have just gone back and read a few more of your posts. I was pretty interested in what you had to say about time/pacing/ the rythmn of the thing, playing as larger part as the imagery or the sound. There are alot of places where Lynch doesn't really use ' scenes ' so much as ' tableau ' - you are in a place for a certain amount of time, often from a fixed viewpoint ( the camera doesn't move, it just turns from left to right or focusses in or out), long enough to ' feel it' or ' get it' or soak up the ambience, or take in the details - and then fade to black, fade up and you are in another time/place. The so-called boring bits ( like the spades being painted, which i really liked for the mechanical heath robinson detail, and the fact that it stayed with it and showed you a thing being MADE in real time) or the floor-sweeping scene, are as you said, breathing spots. Time is concertina, it has to breath out as well as in, and sometimes you have to pause for breath before the next long haul. Before the atom bomb you get one of the shortest scenes of the entire series - badcoop waking up from the dead. I haven't timed it, but it is no longer than it need be, i would guess 15 seconds max. And then you get 15 minutes of freeform plunge. I like the way that the ' 18 hour film' structure gives the space for these tight/ loose contrasts. Which are everywhere really. Another example in ep 8 was the simple layering/ fading old school FX of the woodsman scene ( again this was allowed to go on long enough to become a 'piece' rather than a ' scene - as with the convenience store tableau) contrasted against the ultra-modern super-naturalistic digital rendering of the atom bomb or the insect. And the b/w vs colour . The whole episode seemed to be constructed around a sort of yin-yang idea - also, of course, echoed in the so-called ' creation myth ' laura/bob archetype good and evil thing that so many people found over-expository. Personally, i thought it was just another visual rhyme , another example of turning the contrast knob up to max. I didn't take it literally, anyway.
Like you I am a professional editor for the last 25 years ( of sound rather than film) so it has been very interesting to read comments on this series from a perspective similar to my own. In the real world ( cough ) i on't know anyone who watches this series. It has been the first TV programme I have seen that has made me think enough about how it is made, put together, structured, and so on, that I have wanted to write about it or read what other people have to say about it in any detail. Your posts have focussed my attention on some aspects i hadn't thought about. Your idea of ' inside-out' character, and this being character driven from the point of view of how people PERCEIVE rather than their motivations, is not something I had considered. I had my own ideas about this which were a little different - more to do with the actual scenes or separate units themselves becoming the character - the glass box, the red room, the pink sea, the casino, the b/w movie theatre, the falling through space, are just as much characters as the actual people. The characters become the images and vice versa - i have not thought this one through. If you start a separate thread about this i will read it with interest. For now: thanks again for your words.