Is Lynch better with constraints? (Spoilers)

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AgentEcho
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Is Lynch better with constraints? (Spoilers)

Postby AgentEcho » Sat Aug 05, 2017 3:20 pm

I'm asking this question as someone who would normally vociferously answer "no" without a thought. I'm a strong advocate of creative freedom for filmmakers and think creatives should have final cut on most, if not all, film and television products.

But, this is an interesting discussion to have, and if I really dig into it I can't quite give this an easy answer. My favorite works of Lynch are Eraserhead, Mulholland Drive and the original run Twin Peaks including FWWM (I'm holding off on assessing the new Twin Peaks until it's finished but overall so far I don't think it's been as consistently excellent as what he directed in the original run).

With Eraserhead, perhaps there were no creative restraints but there were the classic budget and logistical restraints associated with independent filmmaking. It may not be useful for this discussion to mention that, given that has always kind of been a constraint for Lynch, but I think it can be argued that the production limitations of Eraserhead and the solutions Lynch had to devise had a significant impact on the film. Mulholland Drive of course started as a television show which was never picked up, and Lynch had to later figure out a way to complete it as a feature film, so it clearly is an example of Lynch having to flex his creativity in less than idealistic circumstances.

The original episodes of Twin Peaks provides some of the most telling fodder for this discussion though. While Lynch has always been glowing in expressing his love for the world of Twin Peaks and the characters, he's often commiserated about the restrictions of working for ABC. Particularly he has lamented that they were forced to reveal Laura's killer. So without constraint, episode 14 of Twin Peaks would likely not exist. This is arguably the greatest episode of the franchise and one of the finest pieces of filmmaking Lynch has ever created. Not only was Lynch forced to tell this story, but the climactic reveal scene, in which Lynch was forced to figure out ways to generate a harrowing effect within the content restraints of network television, is arguably one of the most harrowing murder scenes ever committed to film, and certainly television. I think that if Lynch had been able to make that scene as violent as he may have been inclined, it would not have the power it has. Certainly none of the violence in the new season has been as bone chilling as Maddie's murder.

As he's gotten older Lynch has gotten less and less willing to work with constraints, and as a result his cinematic work has become less frequent, to the point where we may be watching the final hours cinematic art David Lynch will ever make over the coming weeks. But I think a case could be made that if he was a bit more flexible he would still have been able to create incredible art.
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tresojos
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Re: Is Lynch better with constraints? (Spoilers)

Postby tresojos » Sat Aug 05, 2017 6:00 pm

i hate the new show, but no. it is what it is
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tamygdala
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Re: Is Lynch better with constraints? (Spoilers)

Postby tamygdala » Sat Aug 05, 2017 6:32 pm

Just a few examples of big-time film directors who had carte blanche on their next project after a huge success. Note - I like a lot of these films but generally I think it's always wise for filmmakers who have final cut to accept some constraints. My biggest complaint with a number of filmmakers who have achieved success is the longer running times of their successive films. There are a few rare exceptions (Woody Allen, Ingmar Bergman, among others). As for Lynch, I think the best example of compromise while retaining final cut is Blue Velvet. The only two stipulations put to Lynch by Dino De Laurentis was that Lynch cut his fee in half (absurd) and the film not be longer than 2 hours (right decision). I love the new Twin Peaks but see many, many flaws, namely the padded narrative. It's obvious the show could be tighter and in my opinion better if condensed to 12-15 hours.

Coppola
Apocalypse Now - One from the Heart

Cimino
Deer Hunter - Heaven's Gate

Scorsese
Taxi Driver - New York, New York

Spielberg
Jaws/Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind - 1941

Peter Jackson
Lord of the Rings trilogy - The Lovely Bones

Terry Gilliam
Brazil - Adventures of Baron Munchausen

William Friedkin
The Exorcist - Sorcerer

Peter Bogdanovich
Paper Moon - Daisy Miller

Robert Altman
M*A*S*H - Brewster McCloud
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Mr. Reindeer
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Re: Is Lynch better with constraints? (Spoilers)

Postby Mr. Reindeer » Sat Aug 05, 2017 7:33 pm

Every endeavor has constraints of one type or another. For instance, while Eraserhead had a limited budget, it conversely didn't have any deadline whatsoever, unlike most films which have to be delivered by a certain date. So in that respect it provided a type of freedom many filmmakers no doubt dream of. It's impossible to quantify how all the assets and drawbacks of each production balance out. Generally, however, I think the main constraint DKL has consistently had is enforced runtimes -- and I think as a rule, this has been a good thing (DKL felt the same way as of 1997, when he spoke to Chris Rodley about LH, saying that enforced runtimes forced him to be more objectively judicious about what was best for the film -- but he might well have changed his mind given what TP:TR looks like). While I love the deleted scenes from BV and FWWM, the final films are much tighter and stronger without the vast majority of them.

MD is kind of an interesting case, because the enforced runtime apparently worked against the quality of the piece in the original pilot edit, which ABC insisted be 88 minutes long. I haven't seen this cut, but DKL claimed it ruined the mood of the piece; the version we see onscreen in the film is DKL's intended edit before the butcher job ABC insisted on. Unlike many of his films, MD doesn't seem to have many deleted scenes from script to screen (in general, his writing for TV -- between TP and the MD pilot -- seems to have been much tighter than that for his films). I get what you're saying about circumstances forcing DKL to finish the film in an unorthodox manner, but honestly, I think MD is an example of DKL being given TREMENDOUS creative freedom. He made a pilot for ABC; they hated it and made him edit it down. Then the French came to the rescue and let him restore his original edit, and gave him carte blanche (and a bunch of money) to finish the thing in any way he saw fit. If anything, I think the ABC / MD pilot experience may have been the moment that soured DKL on enforced runtimes, as his works have become increasingly outsized since.

Runtimes aside, from what I've heard/read, the only times DKL has had any real creative accountability to studios/producers were Dune and, to a much lesser extent, the original TP. However, even in the case of TP, L/F have said that they had total control over content -- this was their initial condition upon signing with ABC. The only times they had to answer to ABC were in inevitable questions of censorship, the price of doing a network show, and arguably in ABC pressing the killer reveal. Even there, everything I've heard/read seems to indicate that ABC could beg and pressure them, but not force them to reveal the killer; if Mark hadn't ultimately sided with ABC (a decision he has since said he regrets), the execs may well have not even gotten their way there.

Anyway. To answer the question: as I said, I do think, generally, enforced runtimes have been good for DKL's films, even while I'm grateful that the deleted scenes have seen the light of day. But I also love IE (a film that many may consider bloated, but I think it's just right -- and the additional 75 minutes of deleted scenes were rightly excised, indicating to me that DKL is capable of judicious editing even when he's not answering to anyone). However, it does seem to me at this stage that TP:TR -- which I am enjoying immensely -- is a much less tightly-edited work than anything he has released before, luxuriating in pregnant pauses and lingering takes, and leisurely meandering and exploring corners of the world, similar in many ways to the way BV, FWWM and W@H would have if their deleted scenes had been left in. This is arguably detrimental to the overall work -- like you, I'm reserving judgment, but if nothing else, it makes it a more maddening and less accessible work for casual viewers. However, from where we stand right now, the pace has become an essential characteristic of the new show, and I wouldn't want it any other way. Get back to me in a little over four weeks (!!!); we can take stock and reevaluate once the dust has settled.
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Deep Thought
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Re: Is Lynch better with constraints? (Spoilers)

Postby Deep Thought » Sat Aug 05, 2017 8:16 pm

tamygdala wrote:Just a few examples of big-time film directors who had carte blanche on their next project after a huge success. Note - I like a lot of these films but generally I think it's always wise for filmmakers who have final cut to accept some constraints. My biggest complaint with a number of filmmakers who have achieved success is the longer running times of their successive films. There are a few rare exceptions (Woody Allen, Ingmar Bergman, among others). As for Lynch, I think the best example of compromise while retaining final cut is Blue Velvet. The only two stipulations put to Lynch by Dino De Laurentis was that Lynch cut his fee in half (absurd) and the film not be longer than 2 hours (right decision). I love the new Twin Peaks but see many, many flaws, namely the padded narrative. It's obvious the show could be tighter and in my opinion better if condensed to 12-15 hours.

Coppola
Apocalypse Now - One from the Heart

Cimino
Deer Hunter - Heaven's Gate

Scorsese
Taxi Driver - New York, New York

Spielberg
Jaws/Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind - 1941

Peter Jackson
Lord of the Rings trilogy - The Lovely Bones

Terry Gilliam
Brazil - Adventures of Baron Munchausen

William Friedkin
The Exorcist - Sorcerer

Peter Bogdanovich
Paper Moon - Daisy Miller

Robert Altman
M*A*S*H - Brewster McCloud


Great list, but Sorcerer is a great movie imo. The exception that proves the rule?
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David Locke
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Re: Is Lynch better with constraints? (Spoilers)

Postby David Locke » Sat Aug 05, 2017 9:43 pm

Deep Thought wrote:
tamygdala wrote:Just a few examples of big-time film directors who had carte blanche on their next project after a huge success. Note - I like a lot of these films but generally I think it's always wise for filmmakers who have final cut to accept some constraints. My biggest complaint with a number of filmmakers who have achieved success is the longer running times of their successive films. There are a few rare exceptions (Woody Allen, Ingmar Bergman, among others). As for Lynch, I think the best example of compromise while retaining final cut is Blue Velvet. The only two stipulations put to Lynch by Dino De Laurentis was that Lynch cut his fee in half (absurd) and the film not be longer than 2 hours (right decision). I love the new Twin Peaks but see many, many flaws, namely the padded narrative. It's obvious the show could be tighter and in my opinion better if condensed to 12-15 hours.

Coppola
Apocalypse Now - One from the Heart

Cimino
Deer Hunter - Heaven's Gate

Scorsese
Taxi Driver - New York, New York

Spielberg
Jaws/Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind - 1941

Peter Jackson
Lord of the Rings trilogy - The Lovely Bones

Terry Gilliam
Brazil - Adventures of Baron Munchausen

William Friedkin
The Exorcist - Sorcerer

Peter Bogdanovich
Paper Moon - Daisy Miller

Robert Altman
M*A*S*H - Brewster McCloud


Great list, but Sorcerer is a great movie imo. The exception that proves the rule?

I also actually think Heaven's Gate is much better and more interesting than The Deer Hunter, but that's not a high bar as I kinda hate TDH and HG is heavily, heavily flawed. But all of these films have the common thread of being financial disasters certainly.
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Re: Is Lynch better with constraints? (Spoilers)

Postby SpookyDollhouse » Sun Aug 06, 2017 3:08 pm

No.
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referendum
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Re: Is Lynch better with constraints? (Spoilers)

Postby referendum » Sun Aug 06, 2017 4:08 pm

no

better with a budget.
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Re: Is Lynch better with constraints? (Spoilers)

Postby Jasper » Sun Aug 06, 2017 4:15 pm

Lynch wrote the script with Frost, and they wrote it for cable TV. They intended for this to be something that would be picked up. As I understand it, it was read by Showtime execs, or at least by David Nevins. Writing with Frost and writing for a cable series are two constraints right off the bat. Lynch knows how it stings to put together a series and film a pilot, only to have it be rejected. Despite the high praise showered upon Mulholland Drive as a film, Lynch has indicated in recent years that he still harbors some hurt feelings about its rejection as a series. This must have been in his mind to some degree when writing The Return with Frost.
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Re: Is Lynch better with constraints? (Spoilers)

Postby SpookyDollhouse » Sun Aug 06, 2017 4:17 pm

referendum wrote:no

better with a budget.


budget isn't everything
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referendum
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Re: Is Lynch better with constraints? (Spoilers)

Postby referendum » Sun Aug 06, 2017 4:55 pm

SpookyDollhouse wrote:
referendum wrote:no

better with a budget.


budget isn't everything


it helps
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SpookyDollhouse
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Re: Is Lynch better with constraints? (Spoilers)

Postby SpookyDollhouse » Sun Aug 06, 2017 6:01 pm

referendum wrote:
SpookyDollhouse wrote:
referendum wrote:no

better with a budget.


budget isn't everything


it helps


budget isn't creativity
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FlyingSquirrel
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Re: Is Lynch better with constraints? (Spoilers)

Postby FlyingSquirrel » Sun Aug 06, 2017 7:42 pm

Hard to say. If by "constraints" we mean adherence to more conventional narrative structure and content, I think my honest answer is that I don't think it makes a whole lot of difference, at least not consistently.

(Disclaimer: I haven't seen Inland Empire or any of his short films.)

Probably the most conventional films he's made are The Straight Story, The Elephant Man, and Dune. I personally thought The Straight Story was fantastic and had enough of his trademark style (mostly used as comic relief) to be recognizably Lynchian. The Elephant Man I'd probably rate around an 8 or 9 out of 10. Dune I went into with almost zero expectations of anything good and found it somewhat underrated, though it certainly isn't one of my favorites of Lynch's catalog or of sci-fi in general.

In the "conventional structure, unconventional content" box I'd put most of Twin Peaks (FWWM included, though not The Return as of yet just because I'm reserving judgment), Blue Velvet, and Wild at Heart. Blue Velvet is perhaps still his most successful film in my mind, and Twin Peaks was my intro to Lynch and my personal favorite. Wild at Heart is actually probably my *least* favorite - I don't hate it, but neither the characters nor the story itself really captured my imagination. And the ending doesn't work for me as irony *or* as straightforward romanticism.

Of the most unconventional pieces, Mulholland Drive also qualifies as a Lynch classic in my book and Eraserhead is probably about equivalent to The Elephant Man, i.e. an 8 or 9 out of 10. Lost Highway is probably more like a 7 - it's one of his most disturbing works, but the Pete Dayton section feels a little pedestrian in places and some of the sex scenes did feel kind of gratuitous.

So like I said, I haven't found there to be a consistent difference. There's material ranging from okay to pretty good to excellent all across the spectrum of more or fewer constraints, at least in my view.
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Re: Is Lynch better with constraints? (Spoilers)

Postby Cipher » Mon Aug 07, 2017 2:24 am

I'm unprepared to say that The Return could have benefited from more constraints at this point, as its luxuriating in its own scenes, and the frustration that often accompanies it, is so obviously intentional. The only genuine misgivings I have at this point relate to character-writing, and are well-covered over in the gender thread. Everything atmospheric has been largely knocked out of the park, though there are times I can't decide if that's despite or because of the pacing (and really, it's probably a mix).

Is he a more capable artist with restraints? Hard to say. My two favorite works from him are Eraserhead and Inland Empire. He had nearly complete creative control on each, though, as others have noted, vastly more resources, not to mention reputation, were available to him by the time of Empire. And if anything, compared to the potentially perfect dose of spirituality that is Eraserhead, Empire, while phenomenally moving and, I think, perfectly paced, does falter once or twice for me along the lines of seeming self-indulgence. (In particular, I think the lumberjack during the credits sequence is a Lynchian indulgence that speaks to fascinations largely separate from the film's.)

There isn't much profound in saying that all artists benefit from creative spitballing, critique, and feedback. I think it'd be normal for later works to show some blemishes that could be tied to those elements diminishing. I also think it'd be totally fair to still be completely engrossed in the work as the product of an all-to-human, still-capable artist who has earned his or her audience's trust, and worked to toward the ability to present themselves fully and luxuriously in whatever form they please. Which is to say, in watching later Lynch works, there are times you may feel you're watching Lynch as much as the work itself, and frankly I think to some degree that's okay. It's never overpowered the whole.
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Re: Is Lynch better with constraints? (Spoilers)

Postby AgentEcho » Mon Aug 07, 2017 6:40 am

As a general principal, my answer is definitely "no", but I think it's worth reflecting on all sides of the topic. One thing I will say, is while I don't want Lynch having to deal with demands from people with strictly commercial interests, I would elaborate on my point that he would have been capable of creating interesting works if he'd been a bit more flexible with his demands over the past 15 years or so. For Twin Peaks he backed off his demand to shoot everything with SD video cameras. But at least publicly, that was something he'd insisted on for years. It's not difficult to understand why that would make it more challenging to get a new project financed. As a fan of Lynch I can't say that was a choice that I was enthusiastically supportive of, especially if it resulted in him creating less cinematic art.

Incidentally I sensed some meta commentary on dealing with people with commercial interests in Norma's conversation with her new love interest/business partner about her cherry pie recipe. Although the analogy falls apart if you try to compare cherry pie to Lynch's cinematic creations, though a lot of fans probably would have liked to see a version of The Return more analogous to Norma's cherry pies.

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