The style of LH compared to FWWM, and other assorted things

Discussion of Lost Highway

Moderators: Annie, BookhouseBoyBob, Ross, Jerry Horne, Brad D

User avatar
David Locke
Posts: 300
Joined: Fri Jul 09, 2010 4:24 pm

The style of LH compared to FWWM, and other assorted things

Postby David Locke » Thu Sep 10, 2015 12:41 am

Just came back from a 35mm showing of Lost Highway at my local arthouse and it was incredible of course. I'd seen it in 35 before but had virtually no memory of it, so this was wonderful. Similar to Blue Velvet and Mulholland, which I've also had the luck to see on 35mm, the sound is maybe the most impressive part of the experience. Incredibly visceral and jolting at certain moments. That sudden, loud breath that Fred takes and that cuts us out of "Song to the Siren" in the first sex scene... moments like that. Another such cutting use of sound is the crashing-dishes match cut near the end of MD.

Also, visually the film is incredibly dark -- the Universal R1 DVD, excellent otherwise, doesn't even quite cover just how murky and dark it gets in those hallways of the Madison house. The DVD also doesn't seem to capture the kind of dark orange-ish hue that appears throughout the film, instead it looks more of a lighter yellow-y hue on the DVD. (BTW, the R2 or other releases of LH which don't have the dark palette of the R1 Universal disc are flat-out wrong; the film simply is not nearly so bright-looking as that at all! It's very, very dark-looking). Visually, the most striking scene, and one of my favorites in all Lynch, is the final sex scene between Pete and Alice scored to "Song to the Siren" and lit by blindingly white light (ostensibly the car headlights); not only is this scene absolutely gorgeous in every way, but also, seen in the cinema, it's so incredibly bright that it illuminates the whole theater for a minute and thus creates a kind of weird meta-effect where you're suddenly ultra-aware of yourself and everyone else in the theater, watching this movie.

Anyway, I got to thinking about LH and its place in Lynch's filmography. For me it's a solid third place, behind BV and his masterpiece IMO, Fire Walk With Me (I'd love to see THAT in 35mm!) But I wonder if the reason why it's third and not first (as it used to be), or why even a somewhat more flawed film like Mulholland trumps it in certain respects, is that LH is in fact a very cold film. That is, it lacks the compassion and warmth and humanity of FWWM in particular but also BV and MD. LH is more of a masterful technical exercise -- it's emotional, for sure, it's just emotional in a more cooled-down way than the hysterical melodramatic tragedy of FWWM or the Freudian psychodrama of BV or the crushingly sad crushed dream of MD.

LH also seems to have a certain more meta or postmodernist quality to it, at least compared to the aforementioned works (plus Eraserhead and Straight Story, for example). It may well be the Barry Gifford connection, as both LH and Wild at Heart have a certain detachment from the characters and a certain winking comment on their own genre/form... this is a big part of why I can't get on board with WAH like I can the aforementioned films. But whereas WAH is over-the-top, zany, comedic, cheesy, absurd, romantic/happy... LH is cool, modernist (in look if not always tone), seductive, noir (easily Lynch's most noir effort), dark, deranged, angry even. So basically I prefer the latter aesthetic to the former. And aesthetics, let's face it, are a big part of why LH is so effective. It's all about mood and color and composition and framing and lighting and sound... even more so than usual with Lynch perhaps.

The Fred/Renee section of the film actually strikes me as owing a lot to Antonioni, with the way the alienated characters are framed and the way they leisurely say their banal lines as if drugged or asleep or bored, the whole film seeming to emanate a kind of pure disenchantment and alienation from one's life and surroundings. Surely nothing in FWWM is quite so carefully composed as LH, particularly the opening 40-minute masterpiece... yet the visceral psychedelic-kinetic montage of FWWM is a perfectly-calibrated shock to the senses that matches its content swimmingly and jolts its way into your brain like waves of TV static interspersed with Satanic night-jazz -- this, I think, is more effective. Whereas LH can be pinned down fairly easy, stylistically -- the noir shading, the modernist chic, the alienated negative space -- FWWM is far more unusual and haunting, and indeed striking and powerful on a very primal level, I think.

Which is simply to say that LH is a great film -- a masterpiece, actually -- but FWWM is a greater one. And that maybe Roger Ebert had something -- at least had a certain essence of the film if not the whole thing -- dead-on when he wrote that watching LH is like kissing a mirror... you like what you see but it's cold and not very rewarding. To me it's like a thrilling psychological simulation-test where you can be a deranged schizo jealous sax-man for 2 hours, with all the accompanying paranormal and extra-dimensional accoutrements (I find the film even more fascinating when you take the Mystery Man and all his ontological trickery as being actually real and not illusory or part of a dream)... But FWWM is not just a ride or simulation: it feels like the experience itself, because of the fractured and nightmarish constellation of formal elements. No longer simply "imagining" what it'd be like for the character; rather, all but going through that living Hell yourself. Perhaps the all-out barrage of sensory phenomena and disturbing images that FWWM assembles for us in a passionate frenzy is what makes it ultimately even more effective and convincing as pure cinematic subjective-psychotic experience than LH, which is maybe too laconic for its own good.

But what do you think of all this nonsense? Since Lynch's cinema (esp. in LH and FWWM) is all about subjectivity of experience, which of the two more powerfully achieves some semblance of this? And with 18 years gone since LH's release -- a pretty long time, really -- can we start talking now about its critical or cultural legacy? E.g. will LH be fondly remembered as a cult classic that's one of Lynch's best? Or is it forever in the shadow of MD -- a film that takes a very similar narrative/stylistic framework and makes it both more palatable and more emotionally resonant?
User avatar
LostInTheMovies
Posts: 1557
Joined: Tue May 20, 2014 12:48 pm

Re: The style of LH compared to FWWM, and other assorted thi

Postby LostInTheMovies » Thu Sep 10, 2015 1:17 am

Wow, great post. I agree with pretty much everything you say and felt like you conveyed the texture and feel of the film extremely well. I think Lost Hughway is definitely a "cold" film in a sense and yet in a way it feels less cold to me than Lynch's early work, even Blue Velvet (which may be partly to do with me: somehow that film has never quite 100% clicked with me the way it seemingly does for most Lynch fans). Character-wise it's certainly a more distanced film than Blue Velvet or Elephant Man (the Antonioni comparison is really apt) but stylistically/viscerally it feels closer to FWWM and MD to me. Even though it's more formally controlled and distinctive than those movies, that control is in service of a jittery intensity in the first part and swooning romanticism in the second half that feel more immersive to me than anything Lynch did before Wild at Heart. In Eraserhead, for example, even as I'm hypnotized by what's onscreen I am also very aware of its artifice: it is like an incredible art object I am admiring/contemplating, whereas during my best screenings of Lost Highway I'm crawling around in its world. That's a sensation I get with all of Lynch's later films and none of his early ones. I'm not sure I'm doing a good job pinpointing WHY that is though. It's not because of character empathy (unlike FWWM and MD) but more because of the sounds and visual textures (and the music, unusually eclectic for Lynch but all of a piece) and the anything-could-happen sense of storytelling. There's a feeling of limitlessness which he first started to play with in Wild at Heart (before then he was a very termitic, focused sort of director).

Anyway, good timing because I've been thinking about this film a lot lately, particularly the "Song of the Siren" sequence which is not only a gorgeous stirring moment in its own right but also kind of the perfect illustration of a certain feeling Lynch can evoke in his viewers, admirers and detractors alike (which really reared its ugly head during the Twin Peaks backlash) of being toyed with, teased, seduced, and then swiftly abandoned/ridiculed in one's desire to understand. I have often felt that Inland Empire was hissing at me, "You'll never have me!"

I've written about Lost Highway a few times but I think the review that best captures my sensation of watching it is probably the first because I wrote it immediately after my initial viewing: http://thedancingimage.blogspot.com/2008/09/lost-highway.html
User avatar
David Locke
Posts: 300
Joined: Fri Jul 09, 2010 4:24 pm

Re: The style of LH compared to FWWM, and other assorted thi

Postby David Locke » Fri Sep 18, 2015 11:55 pm

LostInTheMovies wrote:Wow, great post. I agree with pretty much everything you say and felt like you conveyed the texture and feel of the film extremely well. I think Lost Hughway is definitely a "cold" film in a sense and yet in a way it feels less cold to me than Lynch's early work, even Blue Velvet (which may be partly to do with me: somehow that film has never quite 100% clicked with me the way it seemingly does for most Lynch fans). Character-wise it's certainly a more distanced film than Blue Velvet or Elephant Man (the Antonioni comparison is really apt) but stylistically/viscerally it feels closer to FWWM and MD to me. Even though it's more formally controlled and distinctive than those movies, that control is in service of a jittery intensity in the first part and swooning romanticism in the second half that feel more immersive to me than anything Lynch did before Wild at Heart. In Eraserhead, for example, even as I'm hypnotized by what's onscreen I am also very aware of its artifice: it is like an incredible art object I am admiring/contemplating, whereas during my best screenings of Lost Highway I'm crawling around in its world. That's a sensation I get with all of Lynch's later films and none of his early ones. I'm not sure I'm doing a good job pinpointing WHY that is though. It's not because of character empathy (unlike FWWM and MD) but more because of the sounds and visual textures (and the music, unusually eclectic for Lynch but all of a piece) and the anything-could-happen sense of storytelling. There's a feeling of limitlessness which he first started to play with in Wild at Heart (before then he was a very termitic, focused sort of director).

Anyway, good timing because I've been thinking about this film a lot lately, particularly the "Song of the Siren" sequence which is not only a gorgeous stirring moment in its own right but also kind of the perfect illustration of a certain feeling Lynch can evoke in his viewers, admirers and detractors alike (which really reared its ugly head during the Twin Peaks backlash) of being toyed with, teased, seduced, and then swiftly abandoned/ridiculed in one's desire to understand. I have often felt that Inland Empire was hissing at me, "You'll never have me!"

I've written about Lost Highway a few times but I think the review that best captures my sensation of watching it is probably the first because I wrote it immediately after my initial viewing: http://thedancingimage.blogspot.com/2008/09/lost-highway.html

Ha, I actually remember reading your blog review of Lost Highway way back in summer 2009 when I first watched the film and was scouring the net for interpretations and such. I love reading reviews like that, ones that respond the first viewing -- especially with Lynch films -- just as I love showing LH to friends who've never seen it before; their response is so amusing and I also can kinda vicariously experience it for the first time again. Almost.

Anyway, great post as usual, not sure why it took me so long to respond. I like your description of Eraserhead as being an art object which one is very aware of as such while viewing, more admiring its crisp, uncanny compositions than being deeply immersed in the proceedings as with the post-WAH films. Maybe that's why Eraserhead, though a fine film, has yet to really connect with me on the same level as FWWM, LH, MD, etc. Another reason surely is that, despite being beautifully crafted, it's a very "ugly" film, a very depressing and dehumanizing experience in a way, which I find hard to get through. By contrast, even the relentless FWWM or the very dark LH both are filled with moments of beauty, many many such moments. I suppose I value beauty in my art, require at least a little of it to balance out the ugliness, and so that's why I don't place Eraserhead on the level of his best work and also find WAH to be pretty flawed.

Speaking of WAH, I just watched it -- FINALLY -- for the second time this week. It had been five years since that first viewing, and as I recall it was not even in the correct 'Scope aspect ratio, but rather chopped into 1.85:1 as many 'Scope movies put up by the Starz network on Netflix at that time were. So this time I was definitely appreciating the aesthetics of the thing -- it has a lushness to it, not quite on the Sirkian level of BV but somewhat similar in its melodramatic operatic gusto. Just look at that gorgeous opening credits sequence, for one. (Random thought: interesting how many Lynch films place the opening credits over an abstract, monochromatic texture of some sort, whether WAH's fire, BV's titular fabric, FWWM's television static, or even Straight Story's stars). Oh yeah -- I also actually quite liked the film this time around. It may still be very very flawed -- it's kind of a big structural mess with the most needlessly digressive Lynch narrative, packed full of flashbacks and visions and memories and various images. Also, all the business with the various generic or generically weird/Lynchian crime bosses/drug lords, none of whom make much of an impression besides Bobby Peru and the mother-daughter duo played by Zabriskie and Rossellini, is pretty dumb and inferior to the main strength of the film which is definitely the Cage-Dern scenes. These scenes are sincere and passionate and funny and romantic and absurd, and by and large they work, and provide the best scenes of the film, like Cage's impromptu Elvis crooning in the middle of the Powermad concert, or especially the car-crash aftermath with Sherilynn Fenn. It's been said many times, but it's no mistake that the most humanist and compassionate scene of the film is also it's finest and most powerful and poignant. Although the balls-out stylistic excess and cranked-to-11 violence and overall tone of the film has its certain appeal (and is probably what makes the film's fans love it so), to me it's really scenes like Cage and Dern driving through a quiet night with Chris Isaak playing on the soundtrack, both taking on a melancholy disposition as they then encounter Fenn dying on the road... it's scenes like this that make me wish the whole film had that kind of contemplative, laid-back, sensual and melancholy noir quality. But it doesn't and it remains a very problematic film especially in its depiction of violence -- very different from the compassionate Lynch of FWWM just two years later.

I think that WAH is in some ways the companion-picture in Lynch's filmography to LH -- obviously there's the Gifford connection, but both are also road movies of a sort, and both are the most "excessive" films of Lynch's career in terms of graphic violence/sex, and also probably the most Tarantino-esque, and the most "hip" or "of their time," with WAH exuding a very 1990 vibe and LH being drenched in the mid-late 90s, thanks mostly to the soundtrack. And yet, naturally, I think LH is the far better picture. Probably because I find its noir atmosphere more menacing and interesting than the scattershot and more conventional melodrama/road-movie of WAH.

After watching LH and WAH, I then watched FWWM shortly after for maybe the 7th or 8th time in full. (I've watched the Deer Meadow portion probably twice that number of times; but even so, 7 viewings is a LOT and I was surprised to see just how mysterious, how "fresh" or new, so much of the Laura Palmer section seemed to me on this viewing). And I found it fascinating, again, to compare it to the other two films, with all three fresh in my mind's eye. I won't go on much further as this is already a very indulgent and digressive post (worse than the structure of WAH! ;)) but as I was watching FWWM I was thinking that perhaps the reason why it's so definitely his best film, and just so deep and incredible generally, is that it contains what has to be the most fleshed-out and interesting protagonist of a Lynch film. Even disregarding the characterization she gets by proxy in the series, Laura as seen in FWWM is such a conflicted, complex and multi-layered soul. There's nothing inherently wrong at all with the more simple characterizations of people like Jeffrey Beaumont or Fred Madison or Lula and Sailor, but FWWM is especially potent because Laura feels so much more human and real than any other character we've seen Lynch follow to date -- with the only one, I'd say, that comes close being Diane Selwyn, but even she is cloaked in dream-language and a whole different persona for over half of the film. Anyway, I'm just always at such a loss to describe the impact on me of FWWM -- this time around, as with every time, I was particularly impressed by the two-films-in-one aspect we get with the Deer Meadow prologue vs. Laura's story (maybe even almost three counting the Philadelphia scenes as separate?) What I adore about this is it shouldn't work but it does, oh boy does it; and it feels organic and seamless. But I also love how different the tones are between the two sections, and yet how perfectly they fit together. It's a really inventive thing, this two-films-in-one structure, and I think even though FWWM is Lynch's most literal-minded, straightforward conception of it, its use of this device is still more effective than the Fred/Pete or Betty/Diane dualism of LH and MD (I won't even broach IE as it seems like that film is, what, twenty-five films in one? at least...)

I'll end this rambling with just one more thought I had, one which I feel I may have subconsciously stolen from something you wrote but I'm not sure: After this last re-watch of WAH, with its density of narrative that digresses and digresses and digresses further, showing us seemingly unrelated or tangential-at-best characters and situations and memories in vivid detail, I realized that FWWM is not all THAT different in structure from this complex Chinese-box narrative digression-machine, and would have been perhaps VERY similar to WAH's structure if those Missing Pieces scenes of the various townsfolk were edited in. As much as I love so many of those scenes, I think that'd be a mistake and one of the reasons why is it'd make the film more like WAH, more of a painting with a million things going on at once (and thus degrading the power of the main story), instead of the stark simple painting it is, with Deer Meadow receding into background and Laura Palmer in the foreground, impossible to ignore.
User avatar
LostInTheMovies
Posts: 1557
Joined: Tue May 20, 2014 12:48 pm

Re: The style of LH compared to FWWM, and other assorted thi

Postby LostInTheMovies » Sat Sep 19, 2015 1:41 am

Loved reading this - more "indulgent and digressing" posts, please! Totally agreed about WAH-FWWM link. Only time I mentioned this was in comments to Sparkwood & 21 and Obnoxious & Anonymous podcasts I think so unless you listen to those we're just thinking alike.

I'm of the opinion that with FWWM Lynch set out to make Wild at Heart and ended up with something like Mulholland Drive instead. That's an over-simplification of course but if you squint you can still see that wacky, late 80s Lynch sensibility at work: the stuttering mechanic at Mo's Motors (and slow old man at the crosswalk), maybe even the shirtless cowboy in the background of the Pink Room. It's sort of a subtext of the recent Laura post I put up that Lynch's work really shifts based on his collaborators. I think working with Engels, there's a kind of outlandish, almost clownish chutzpah going on, whereas Sheryl Lee and probably Mary Sweeney brought him more down to earth into treating Laura's story as a psychologically realistic, deeply compassionate character study. In both cases he's reacting to the disappointment of the show but different aspects: with Engels he's unleashing the they-wouldn't-let-me-loose-on-TV-fuck-'em cool/macho swagger of someone who is at heart a capital-A artist and avant-garde experimenter whose fun flirtation with doodling inside TV conventions went sour eventually. I think Deer Meadow and the Jeffries episode is probably the best manifestation of this attitude, the side that was probably resentful of Frost's more disciplined, cerebral manner (if I want to get borderline pop psychology) and wanted to cut loose.

But with that out of his system (both in the sense of it coming first in the movie and bearing the most imprint of the early part of the process - and I guess being largely shot before the other stuff too) I think he gets into the deeper, more soulful frustration with his TV experience. The sadness that lingered after removing Laura from the story (which is probably what he means when repeatedly claiming her killer shouldn't have been revealed - that's the only way I can make sense if it anyway) and the realization that somehow he had stopped short in his exploration. It's funny to look at the legacy of Blue Velvet because while its most startling and noteworthy element at the time was its raw violence and sexuality it seems like for several years Lynch coasted on other aspects of the movie: its sunny demeanor, arch sense of irony, and cool touch of stylish glamor. The Lynch of the 80s and early 90s, from his chic ads to his cheerful Cowboy and the Frenchman sketch to his zeitgeist-y "cool" road movie WAH to the alluring, atmospheric mood pieces that were the Twin Peaks pilot & episode 2, hell to the mixture of goofy and glamorous aborted projects he worked on with Frost (and eventually the zany On the Air which almost seems out of time in '92 vs., say, '88)...all of this speaks of an artist thriving on a brand that packages his unique qualities for mass consumption by removing some ingredients without losing the flavor. But something about Laura Palmer connected with him and pulled him back in that direction and this time he went much further than he had in Blue Velvet (a process that I would argue begins at least with the season 2 premiere, and perhaps not coincidentally aligns with his fall from favor). And if in writing FWWM he still hadn't totally committed or given in, the experience of working with Sheryl Lee seems to have finally opened him up to it.

It's worth noting that even when the film premiered, Lynch was still trying to play the game of "crazy spooky but fun uncle Lynch, your favorite Time magazine-approved surrealist" even though he'd made a film that didn't match this mood at all. In Cannes he held gala events with Julee Cruise and (!) Michael J. Anderson performing, still trying to ride that wave when he'd probably just have been better off 'fessing up and acknowledging FWWM as a dark, disturbing exploration of trauma. Not that it would have made a hit either way but maybe it would have defused some of the criticism, which seemed to be reviewing the critics's own hostility to Lynch, Twin Peaks, and the Lynch schtick rather than the film itself. As it was - at least near as I can tell - Sheryl Lee was the only one to reference incest overtly, at the fan festival of all places (it's kind of touching how earnestly she addressed the movie this way, as if completely oblivious to New Line's marketing strategy - teen slasher flick meets nostalgia for recent cult TV show, apparently - and also maybe explains why she hasn't had more success in the industry despite her obvious talent). And then there's Sweeney, whom I've already discussed in another thread and is probably worthy of another post and I've already rambled too long and it's late so...yeah.

But the making of Fire Walk With Me, a story largely untold which will probably remain untold sadly, fascinates me more than that of any other movie. It's like Lynch was automatic writing and didn't realize what he'd done until it was too late. I think the movie means the world to him and I also sometimes wonder if he thinks making it was a mistake. Mark Kermode asked Lynch if he was as heartbroken as Angelo Badalamenti said he was and Lynch laughed and denied it but it's hard to believe that. Anecdotal evidence from other friends and collaborators suggests otherwise and just look how much he aged in the mid-90s (as someone once pointed out to me on Twitter). He seldom discusses FWWM and seems content to play into the media narrative of its irrelevance although he defends it if asked directly. But what's been burning away inside all these years? How will the new series grapple with and reflect arguably the most important and misunderstood and personal work of his career? Sometimes I have my doubts but in moments of lucidity I really think these new episodes are going to have deep roots in Fire Walk With Me, and force a mass audience and media that haven't paid this much attention to him in decades to finally confront the side of his world that they successfully subdued and then ignored/rejected when they could no longer subdue it 25 years ago. This time, the platform, prestige, and approach ensures that they can't look away - he's got them trapped right where he wants them. I don't know how this will play out, but I suspect it will.
User avatar
David Locke
Posts: 300
Joined: Fri Jul 09, 2010 4:24 pm

Re: The style of LH compared to FWWM, and other assorted thi

Postby David Locke » Fri Sep 25, 2015 9:31 pm

Well said. A lot of great artworks come about due to an unrepeatable, almost magical convergence of circumstances both intentional and wholly accidental, and I think this certainly describes FWWM to a T. This kind of "happy accident" way of filmmaking is the norm for Lynch, but never has it yielded such strong and game-changing results as with FWWM. What's interesting too, though, is that even as the film bears traces of WAH's wackier aesthetic, all of its humor and various goofiness is still a shade or two darker and more acerbic than the style of comedy in that previous film. The Deer Meadow prologue has a kind of foreboding and seriousness to it that's rarely found in WAH, for one. There was a certain digressive, goofy and almost light-hearted comic spirit to much of Lynch's various 88-91 works, but perhaps the cancellation of the show (and its marginalization of Laura from mid-S2 on) was kind of the dividing line where Lynch became more bitter and more angry and more given to just making whatever kind of art he damn felt like. Obviously this is very evident in Episode 29 and I think the feeling is just as present, if less pained, in FWWM.

It's like how the scenes filmed for the feature-film of MD evince a sorrow and anger and darkness re: Hollywood which isn't nearly as evident in just the original pilot. In both cases you have Lynch using his feelings about being spurned by network execs and/or audiences to create something more volatile than it would've been otherwise.

I've always thought that there was something terribly odd and rather disingenuous about the way Lynch was branded an icon of "cool weirdness" in 1990. Maybe it's not a surprise at all that his lightest, most euphoric yet in a way some of his most disposable work (like WAH) was made in this climate of mainstream acceptance. Those bromides about an artist who is safe and comfortable producing inferior work aren't always true, but I think they may apply to Lynch at least to the extent that he actually seems to do his best work when under enormous pressure, when widely hated, when angry. Anyway, FWWM also had something of an advantage in that it was not a wholly new work, as LH or BV et al were, but rather a passion project which got out of his control but which he could then direct as he really saw it all along. A familiarity with the material, and a love of it, definitely helps and it probably accounts for the depth of feeling we get with FWWM. And yeah, I can't imagine any director doing anything but focusing completely on Sheryl Lee when they see what Lynch saw on set while directing the film... however exactly that performance came about, whether it was collaborative to a lesser or greater degree, it is simply phenomenal. It's like a channeling of some unspeakable force. Like you say of Lynch's process directing the film, Lee's performance feels entirely unguarded, non-cerebral, purely instinctual, emotive, unconscious.

I love your last paragraph because it's precisely that, the prospect of an almost FWWM-the-series, which gets me most excited for these new episodes. I see no reason to think that they won't be similar to that film in spirit and experimental/balls-out tendency. Then again, there is the matter of Frost being here this time to balance it all out; as great as the first season of Peaks is, FWWM is just much more interesting and thrilling to me. I don't want a copy or anything but I want a kind of mixture that feels new, something old and something new, just like how Deer Meadow feels both completely like TP and completely different and new.

BTW, I've been reading Nochimson's David Lynch Swerves book (I remember you interviewed her not long ago for your blog), and it's pretty interesting. I definitely am not on board with all that she says, but there's a lot of great stuff in there. I haven't read the IE chapter yet but I thought the one on MD was the best, and maybe the only analysis I've read that made a compelling counter-argument against the dream theory that fits so well. Regardless, it certainly does seem that since FWWM Lynch has been interested in bending time and physical reality as we know it, not just for the sake of it but because he's genuinely interested in the concept. (One of the intriguing things about the Deer Meadow sequence is the constant emphasis on time, from visuals of clocks and watches to Sam Stanley's endless guesstimating about how "it's really early... it's really late... it's either really early or really late!" to Carl's strict sleep schedule, etc.)

EDIT: Ah, I feel like I had something more insightful to say re: FWWM and the points you made, but alas it's slipped my mind. I continually find myself unable to put into words just 'why' I love the film so much. It's strange, but outside of the incredible emotional impact of Lee's performance and the Laura Palmer story, I think that the draw for me is simply the atmosphere of it. It seems like a strange thing to say about a deadly serious and tragic film about the systematic incest/sexual abuse and murder of a young woman, but what sticks out in my head and keeps me up at night thinking about the film is the mood of it, which is at once scary and oddly seductive. It's perfected by Badalamenti's score (his best, I think), so I can just listen to "Moving Through Time" and no matter where I am immediately feel like I'm in the middle of FWWM-world. Then there are just certain shots that are beautiful and atmospheric in a way I can't verbalize well. A more minor example would be the (I think) second time we see the exterior of the Deer Meadow station, covered in mid-afternoon shadow, and this time it's preceded by an exceptionally evocative shot of those douglas fir branches swaying in the wind... FWWM just gets such great mileage out of little moments of pure cinema, and I love it.
Last edited by David Locke on Fri Sep 25, 2015 11:19 pm, edited 2 times in total.
User avatar
LostInTheMovies
Posts: 1557
Joined: Tue May 20, 2014 12:48 pm

Re: The style of LH compared to FWWM, and other assorted thi

Postby LostInTheMovies » Fri Sep 25, 2015 11:10 pm

Another great post. Agreed again with pretty much all of this. And yes, FWWM stands out in a way because Lynch had lived the with the material for so long and had evolved along with his own life and career. Twin Peaks' biggest difference from similarly long-term projects like Eraserhead, Mulholland Drive, and Inland Empire was that evolved in public so we can actually see the beginning and end of the process. And that must have added to the roller coaster experience of any such creative endeavor. I wonder of the souring/darkening process began as soon as Lynch realized he was going to have to reveal the killer, because I see the roots of everything you mention as early as episode 8.

As for Swerves, the Inland Empire section is my favorite of the book. It is such a lucid, perceptive take on what's going on in that seemingly very complex movie. The Mulholland Drive section is harder for me to take although I find myself frequently reflecting back in her analysis and mulling it over. I feel like much of what she's saying is true but I also feel like Lynch DID heavily tip his hand toward the dream reading (something he may have later regretted). Most importantly, the end of the film just feels inherently more "real" to me, something she has argued against. In a way I wish I could veer more toward her or other views, because at a certain point MD ossified a bit for me - it's still one ofmy absolute all-time favorite films but it doesn't have that sense of openness for me that FWWM and certainly Inland Empire still retain. I hate to say it, but it feels a little bit like a puzzle that has been solved. You can see why Lynch really hates digging too deeply into these things, or "explaining" them.
User avatar
David Locke
Posts: 300
Joined: Fri Jul 09, 2010 4:24 pm

Re: The style of LH compared to FWWM, and other assorted thi

Postby David Locke » Fri Sep 25, 2015 11:48 pm

I never considered that before, but it would make a lot of sense if some of the more alienating gestures of Episode 8 (the protracted opening of course, but also the graphic ending which far surpassed any hint of the murder we'd seen to that point) were a result of Lynch feeling increasingly frustrated by the pressure to compromise his "baby" and reveal the killer. What's remarkable and what Lynch should be applauded for, though, is that when it came time to do the deed in Episode 14, he not only did it competently but delivered one of the most astonishing pieces of cinema ever. So that souring somehow wasn't enough to stunt his artistic brilliance, even when it must've been at fever pitch.

You know, I have a weird relationship with MD. What started out as an intriguing but beguiling/weird piece of work (back when I wasn't familiar with Lynch), soon enough became my favorite film ever pretty much -- where it remained for a year or two until I began to be seduced by the razor-sharp form of LH, which I felt did basically the shame thematic dance anyway; and then MD fell further out of favor with me for a couple years when I started seeing it as this misshapen piece of flawed greatness which is forever doomed by its failed-pilot origins and the odd aesthetic ways in which that rears its head (e.g. unusual lack of headroom in the pilot-shot footage due to the 1.33 TV image being cropped to 1.85 widescreen, or just the structural whiplash of the way the narrative zig-zags between Adam and Betty/Rita and the hitman et al, which feels more like a TV show than a film). But recently I've come back around on the film -- finding it very powerful after another viewing last year, and planning on seeing if it goes up even further back to "masterpiece" status after I watch the new Criterion release next month (or maybe the old DVD if I can't wait).

And yet the dream interpretation fitting like a glove isn't something that's ever particularly troubled me... I guess because there's just so much to love about the film, so much STUFF in it, and above all such a sense of MYSTERY, that I can somehow forget the dream interpretation and that what I'm watching is the product of Diane Selwyn's subconscious, etc. just because that "dream" is so layered, so suggestive of possibilities and worlds within worlds, that it doesn't even matter if it can be reduced to such a simple reading. Just the way that different scenes and moments reflect others -- and the way that the "reality" section both reflects the dream and is also in a way just as mysterious and surreal as it -- is sufficient for me to be interested. I still feel like it's a messy film structurally, in a mostly undesirable way that BV, FWWM, LH and TSS most definitely are not, yet within that messiness is a plenitude of possibilities and implications and connections and all sorts of uncanny business. Outside of IE, it's got to be his most byzantine film, while still having a very clear and devastating emotional through-line which is nearly as powerful as that of FWWM.

I dunno: I've been reading about it recently, like in the Nochimson, and now I'm dying to see it again and get lost in its world (for probably the 20th time, which maybe shows how much mystery it still has in it). But yes: it does mostly lack that extreme "openness" of FWWM, where even in the comparatively conventional catharsis at the end where Laura gets her angel, there are still countless questions that can be asked, and there is still something very off-center and unusual about the way even a simple symbol like "angel" is represented (not to mention Leland and the two Mikes in the RR, or Judy...) Of course, the TP mythos is so convoluted and mysterious by design that it's not likely to ever be "solved," nor is it intended to be, and that's part of the fun, part of what makes the film endure -- by pitting classical tragedy side-by-side with occult surrealism. Maybe one could say that's Lynch's signature mode, or something.

EDIT: This doesn't have to do with any of the above, but it popped into my head. You wrote in your first post upthread that however "cold" LH may be it still feels less so than Lynch's early/pre-WAH works. I think this is precisely true, and the main reason is that from Eraserhead to BV, Lynch's films emanate a fear of Eros, of sex. It's typically conflated with violence, unwanted mutant babies, or other grotesque things. Contrast this with the countless sex scenes in WAH between Lula and Sailor, which are genuinely passionate and romantic and warm; the sensuality of Laura Palmer and all the other women of TP; the romanticism and graphic nudity/sex scenes of MD; and, perhaps Lynch's most sensual scenes actually, with the introduction of Alice Wakefield in LH and the ensuing lustful motel-sessions between her and Pete, scored to the equally sensual "Hollywood Sunset" by Barry Adamson. It seems like the Lynch of the early films was focused on the grotesque, the alien, industrial machinery, adolescent angst and Freudian guilt-tripping; while the Lynch of WAH onward is actively interested in human relationships, especially sexual ones, and interested in exploring them from a non-guilty and newly immersive perspective.
User avatar
LostInTheMovies
Posts: 1557
Joined: Tue May 20, 2014 12:48 pm

Re: The style of LH compared to FWWM, and other assorted thi

Postby LostInTheMovies » Sat Sep 26, 2015 12:26 pm

Absolutely on your last point; I think among the many other contrasts that can be made between first and second stage Lynch is that the first feels Freudian/masculine/secular while the second feels Jungian/feminine/spiritual (not that those two groupings of three necessarily go hand-in-hand but they seem to in these cases).

I didn't realize that MD was shot in 1.33; in fact I always wondered how Lynch got away with shooting for 1.85 on a 1999 TV pilot. So I presume the pilot VHS the went around was in 1.33 then? Weird. That makes me want to see it more than if it was just a slightly rearranged version of the film's first 2/3. For whatever reason (and there are quite a few) the second part of the movie feels so much more cinematic to me. I'm amazed I didn't pick up on this quality more the first few time I saw it, perhaps because the shift in narrative and tone distracted me from the shift in style.
User avatar
David Locke
Posts: 300
Joined: Fri Jul 09, 2010 4:24 pm

Re: The style of LH compared to FWWM, and other assorted thi

Postby David Locke » Mon Sep 28, 2015 11:17 pm

Yeah, the pilot footage is full-frame 1.33. I've seen bits and pieces of that and it's just kind of hum-drum and somehow depressing; impossible to separate from the film, which is such a different beast. The pilot also kind of dilutes the experience of the film, so I try to avoid being too familiar with it.

I watched the first half of MD tonight and unsurprisingly I'm finding it nearly as good as I used to think it was. It's mainly the first hour where the problems lie for me -- e.g. the editing back and forth between the hitman, Adam, Betty, etc. which seems kind of haphazard or just messy, messier than Lynch usually is and not messy in the "good" Lynchian way. But still, all these scenes range from very good to outstanding, so it's hard to complain. Like I said earlier, there's just so much STUFF in this film.

And then there is that ending, the footage shot for the feature film. I totally agree with you on how cinematic this is, and how markedly different it looks and feels from the pilot footage. The pilot stuff is soft-focus, warmly-lit, lots of close-ups. The feature stuff is both visually colder and warmer, in the sense that it's both more distanced/detached than the pilot footage but also with much more lush/saturated colors, and a generally lusher and more cinematic texture to it. It also uses medium and wide shots much more than the pilot footage, and there's a general sharpness to the images that contrasts with that fuzzy/soft-focus dreaminess of, well, the dream part. Of course this is all very thematically apt and it works on many levels, so I don't mind the change. But it is a little jarring, and interesting, to notice how different the image becomes in just one edit -- from Betty and Rita standing in front of the bathroom mirror after the latter's new "makeover," to both in bed at night right before the love scene (another thing is that the actresses look noticeably older/different, and Watts's hair doesn't quite seem to match perfectly, but these are minor quibbles at best).

Actually the last 20~ minutes of MD, shot for the feature, is easily some of the most beautiful cinema of recent years. The lushness of the images and the vividness of the color, plus the alluring and suggestive use of dissolves, focus-"whacking" tricks/use of bokeh, and startling smash-cuts, all combine to create one sexy aesthetic. It's the natural progression from LH, a more feminine and even more immersive kind of style. Which just makes the cheap digital of IE even sadder to me, regardless of that film's other merits (I've watched 40 minutes of it recently and found a lot that still bothered me; I'll need to watch it all again after MD). I feel like Lynch without celluloid is like seeing the Wizard behind the curtain; that air of pure mystery and dread and other-worldliness dissipates, leaving an oddly banal aftertaste.
User avatar
LostInTheMovies
Posts: 1557
Joined: Tue May 20, 2014 12:48 pm

Re: The style of LH compared to FWWM, and other assorted thi

Postby LostInTheMovies » Tue Sep 29, 2015 2:15 pm

Many, many people feel similarly about Inland Empire's look and yet for me there's something kind of magical about that grungey, home-video aesthetic. Something very punkish as if by paring his style down to the bare minimum we are actually seeing the raw spiritual undercurrent of all his works in its true form, undisguised and un-refracted by any sense of glamor. It's like a dream experienced rather than a dream remembered.

As if, in The Wizard of Oz, instead of pulling back the curtain and finding an ordinary man behind the big conventionally scary green mask, they found some strange and bizarre creature whose disguise as a growling ogre only made him *easier* to digest. If that makes sense!
User avatar
David Locke
Posts: 300
Joined: Fri Jul 09, 2010 4:24 pm

Re: The style of LH compared to FWWM, and other assorted thi

Postby David Locke » Tue Sep 29, 2015 9:41 pm

LostInTheMovies wrote:Many, many people feel similarly about Inland Empire's look and yet for me there's something kind of magical about that grungey, home-video aesthetic. Something very punkish as if by paring his style down to the bare minimum we are actually seeing the raw spiritual undercurrent of all his works in its true form, undisguised and un-refracted by any sense of glamor. It's like a dream experienced rather than a dream remembered.

As if, in The Wizard of Oz, instead of pulling back the curtain and finding an ordinary man behind the big conventionally scary green mask, they found some strange and bizarre creature whose disguise as a growling ogre only made him *easier* to digest. If that makes sense!

It's weird: I actually completely agree with you. I both admire the visual schema of IE on a certain level and yet personally dislike much of it; a question of objective vs subjective, maybe. Subjectively, I just can't get on board with the plainer stuff like the post-talk-show green room scene where Devon's agent/friends talk about Nikki ("You gotta admit, though... she's got a great ass!")... it's just these kind of stock-standard close-ups or medium shots of people standing against a wall or sitting on a couch, with virtually nothing to distinguish it from something one might've shot on their camcorder in 2003 at a family picnic, or something. And yet there are moments where Lynch gets astonishing affects which he could not get from film: like that weird shot in one of the first few scenes where the Polish guy's face veeeery slowly comes into focus, just being a smudgy blur at the beginning.

I really need to re-watch the whole thing; I can't believe I've seen it at least three times in full and yet the last one was back in like December 2010! But whenever I think about re-watching it, or start to, I just get seduced by the thought of putting on the celluloid lushness of FWWM or LH or whatever instead... And this is coming from the guy whose favorite film of the 2000's is Miami Vice! I certainly do love raw/grainy/handheld/less-than-pristine-looking digital video when in the right hands. Sigh. It's always frustrating to have conflicting feelings about a film by a director you normally love.
User avatar
p-air
Posts: 56
Joined: Wed Jan 28, 2015 4:36 am
Location: Philadelphia

Re: The style of LH compared to FWWM, and other assorted thi

Postby p-air » Sat Oct 03, 2015 7:23 am

Great discussion guys. About this (here you’re describing Mulholland Drive):

David Locke wrote:I still feel like it's a messy film structurally, in a mostly undesirable way that BV, FWWM, LH and TSS most definitely are not...


I found this especially interesting because for me it’s always been Lost Highway which felt like the messy one, in precisely the way you described Mulholland Drive. In particular, Lost Highway's recurring use of “modern” music (from the time) takes me out of Lynch’s world in a way which sort of reverberates through the whole film and sets the whole thing off-kilter for me. I’ve also just never quite “gotten” LH in terms of meaning. With Mulholland Drive, I’d seen and analyzed that one multiple times over before ever really hearing the whole backstory of how it was produced (some details I’m really just learning now on this thread) and taken all the unusual stylistic and tonal shifts within MH to have been directly driven by the dream narrative, in a way which I’d long internalized. I also don’t have the eye for the technical inconsistencies other viewers have pointed out.

I agree that Lost Highway is David Lynch’s most “noir” film and that is saying a lot !!

Twin Peaks 29 + Fire Walk With Me most definitely represents an artistic juncture for David Lynch where everything gets permanently fractured or “split in half”. It’s almost as though the moment evil-Cooper scrambled through those red curtains (or maybe the moment Leland looked in that mirror) there was no going back. Lynch’s characterizations from that point on have been increasingly fractured. Inland Empire for me represents the culmination of that journey. I’m probably one of the few who find that film intensely satisfying and so at this point all I’m really waiting for is an encore.
User avatar
LostInTheMovies
Posts: 1557
Joined: Tue May 20, 2014 12:48 pm

Re: The style of LH compared to FWWM, and other assorted thi

Postby LostInTheMovies » Sat Oct 03, 2015 7:36 am

p-air wrote:I found this especially interesting because for me it’s always been Lost Highway which felt like the messy one, in precisely the way you described Mulholland Drive.


What's so interesting about that is that Lost Highway seems to be the ONLY film that Lynch has written completely ahead of time since Wild at Heart (at least I think he wrote Wild at Heart completely ahead of time). Arguably since FWWM - but some crucial, crucial details of FWWM weren't in the script and the whole structure is radically different with all those extraneous scenes. Either way LH seems to have been pre-planned to an extent unusual for late-stage Lynch. As far as I know...I've never read the LH script so maybe it does differ substantially from the finished film in ways I'm not aware of.

With Mulholland Drive, I’d seen and analyzed that one multiple times over before ever really hearing the whole backstory of how it was produced (some details I’m really just learning now on this thread) and taken all the unusual stylistic and tonal shifts within MH to have been directly driven by the dream narrative, in a way which I’d long internalized.


I felt the same way for a long time - even after I'd viewed it once or twice, and I actually heard that it was supposed to be a TV pilot first, the difference between the first and second part just seemed entirely down to the dream reading for me. Yet for whatever reason, over time, the two sections have seen more starkly opposed to me to the point of distracting me a bit now. Maybe when I watch the blu I'll fall entirely under its spell again (the last time I watched it, I sunk more deeply into the world than I had in a while). It's one of those films - like Star Wars, The Wizard of Oz, The Godfather, or Citizen Kane - that I watched repeatedly to the point where it began to seem a bit too familiar and some of the magic faded. But usually I'm able to return to those works after a break and recapture the old feeling, at least to a certain extent.

Twin Peaks 29 + Fire Walk With Me most definitely represents an artistic juncture for David Lynch where everything gets permanently fractured or “split in half”. It’s almost as though the moment evil-Cooper scrambled through those red curtains (or maybe the moment Leland looked in that mirror) there was no going back. Lynch’s characterizations from that point on have been increasingly fractured.


Totally agreed. What a good thing ABC and/or Frost forced him to reveal the killer! :twisted: Seriously though, there's the Lynch of the mystery and the Lynch of the revelation and while the first (Twin Peaks season 1 & first part of season 2; first part of Mulholland Drive; maybe first part of FWWM and some of the dream stuff later) is the most seductive, magical aspect of his artistic personality I think the Lynch of the second (killer's reveal in ep. 14; second part of MD; the Laura storyline in FWWM) is the most powerful, and maybe the most lasting. The Lynch mood of enchanting, longing, almost frustrating uncertainty fades for me after repeat viewings (boy, I can't wait to recapture it in the new Twin Peaks) but the intense emotions of his "reveals" never fades and only grows stronger with repeats and reflections.

Inland Empire for me represents the culmination of that journey. I’m probably one of the few who find that film intensely satisfying and so at this point all I’m really waiting for is an encore.


Yes, while I would love to see a new Lynch feature film on selfish grounds - I've never seen a Lynch film on its first theatrical run (kicking myself for missing MD & IE, both of which I was aware of & intrigued by when they were released) - part of me also feels Inland Empire is the necessary conclusion to his big-screen career. It makes his body of work perfectly symmetrical: 10 films, with IE echoing yet reversing Eraserhead in many significant ways). And it feels like such a conclusive statement from him.

Return to “LOST HIGHWAY”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest