Which do you prefer: Early Lynch or Later Lynch?

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Early Lynch or Later Lynch?

Early works: Eraserhead, The Elephant Man, Dune, Blue Velvet, Wild at Heart
3
11%
Later works: Fire Walk With Me, Lost Highway, The Straight Story, Mulholland Drive, Inland Empire
24
89%
 
Total votes: 27
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David Locke
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Which do you prefer: Early Lynch or Later Lynch?

Postby David Locke » Sun May 03, 2015 4:24 pm

A Lynch retrospective at my local arthouse -- which divided Lynch's career into two parts just as I have -- made me ponder how different these different halves of his filmography are. I know some may quibble with where I draw the line, but I think it makes sense: while Wild at Heart has some transitional aspects and a less detached, more passionately emotional POV to it, it still has that more classical wide-angle lens, long-take, Fred Elmes-shot style, and more conventional moral demarcations which put it firmly in the early Lynch category; and (as LostInTheMovies has eloquently argued) I think that Fire Walk With Me very clearly announces a new direction for Lynch with its female protagonist, fractured narrative/aesthetic design, highly visceral approach which zooms in on pain instead of viewing it from a distance, and its overall more challenging nature which can defy easy interpretation.

I myself without question prefer the later works; the only early one that I place among Lynch's very best is Blue Velvet (which is, indeed, only second to FWWM in my book). Those later ones just have more mystery, more passion, a greater emotional wallop, and on the whole a more lush, involving and interesting approach to their material. There is also something rather unpleasantly abrasive about early works like Wild at Heart and Eraserhead, whereas I love the way the later films manage to balance ugliness with incredible beauty and poignancy. I'm also a big detractor of The Elephant Man, but that's another thread; I find The Straight Story its welcome corrective, a family-friendly and sentimental film that never collapses into schmaltz and Spielbergian emotional manipulation. In a way, Elephant Man is Lynch's least characteristic picture in how it so bluntly reaches for our sympathy; whereas films like FWWM and Mulholland Drive are easily granted it without even so much as asking, just by the pure virtue of their sincerity and pathos.

The early films tend to be more distanced in style, less visceral (though WaH does start to change this just a bit). But even a highly aestheticized, "cold" film like Lost Highway puts the viewer into the proceedings in a disarmingly direct and visceral way that more staid films like Dune and Elephant Man and even Eraserhead couldn't. Part of this is to do with the sound design, but then Lynch was always great at that -- I think a lot of it has to do with Lynch's maturity and progress as a filmmaker, in increasingly being able to put us inside the mind of his characters, which is a skill he perhaps hadn't quite yet mastered in the 70s and 80s. This is part of why I prefer the last five works to the first five, but there are many other reasons.
Kmkmiller
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Re: Which do you prefer: Early Lynch or Later Lynch?

Postby Kmkmiller » Sun May 03, 2015 10:56 pm

Oi. What a choice??

2nd half Lynch is more ripe for Lynch fan theorists like myself. It's a more unified vision that reveals repetition of certain motifs. love that.

So say I absolutely had to choose, I guess second half. That said ... if you played the stranded on an island game and you can only bring three, ELEPHANT MAN and ERASERHEAD would be two of them.
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Re: Which do you prefer: Early Lynch or Later Lynch?

Postby Mark B » Tue May 05, 2015 8:26 am

Difficult one as unintentionally means that TP falls into the first half! Otherwise the second half for me. Not only does it contain FWWM and MD, but it also contains the two ends of the Lynch spectrum: IE (my favourite) and Straight Story. Personally, it feels like the first half he's creating films with themes he's interested in, whereas it feels like he believes in the worlds that he creates in the second half.
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Re: Which do you prefer: Early Lynch or Later Lynch?

Postby LostInTheMovies » Tue May 05, 2015 6:15 pm

David Locke wrote:A Lynch retrospective at my local arthouse -- which divided Lynch's career into two parts just as I have -- made me ponder how different these different halves of his filmography are. I know some may quibble with where I draw the line, but I think it makes sense: while Wild at Heart has some transitional aspects and a less detached, more passionately emotional POV to it, it still has that more classical wide-angle lens, long-take, Fred Elmes-shot style, and more conventional moral demarcations which put it firmly in the early Lynch category; and (as LostInTheMovies has eloquently argued) I think that Fire Walk With Me very clearly announces a new direction for Lynch with its female protagonist, fractured narrative/aesthetic design, highly visceral approach which zooms in on pain instead of viewing it from a distance, and its overall more challenging nature which can defy easy interpretation.

I myself without question prefer the later works; the only early one that I place among Lynch's very best is Blue Velvet (which is, indeed, only second to FWWM in my book). Those later ones just have more mystery, more passion, a greater emotional wallop, and on the whole a more lush, involving and interesting approach to their material. There is also something rather unpleasantly abrasive about early works like Wild at Heart and Eraserhead, whereas I love the way the later films manage to balance ugliness with incredible beauty and poignancy. I'm also a big detractor of The Elephant Man, but that's another thread; I find The Straight Story its welcome corrective, a family-friendly and sentimental film that never collapses into schmaltz and Spielbergian emotional manipulation. In a way, Elephant Man is Lynch's least characteristic picture in how it so bluntly reaches for our sympathy; whereas films like FWWM and Mulholland Drive are easily granted it without even so much as asking, just by the pure virtue of their sincerity and pathos.

The early films tend to be more distanced in style, less visceral (though WaH does start to change this just a bit). But even a highly aestheticized, "cold" film like Lost Highway puts the viewer into the proceedings in a disarmingly direct and visceral way that more staid films like Dune and Elephant Man and even Eraserhead couldn't. Part of this is to do with the sound design, but then Lynch was always great at that -- I think a lot of it has to do with Lynch's maturity and progress as a filmmaker, in increasingly being able to put us inside the mind of his characters, which is a skill he perhaps hadn't quite yet mastered in the 70s and 80s. This is part of why I prefer the last five works to the first five, but there are many other reasons.


Totally agree with this division although (as mentioned above) I see Wild at Heart as very transitional. On balance, I'd place it with the early films due to theme, character, and narrative structure (although in each of those areas it is starting to edge toward the second stage). However, I think stylistically it belongs with the later films because it is so raw, visceral, and impressionistic; the reserved classicism of Eraserhead through Blue Velvet (and even through the Twin Peaks pilot) seems to have been summarily dispatched.

Tonally, Wild at Heart's wacky absurdism and arch sense of cool make it difficult to place in the first or second stage. But then I think "tone" might one area where Lynch's work can't really be divided in two. Lynch's first three films have a drier, more somber tone (although Eraserhead definitely has some warped humor), Blue Velvet infuses a lighter, more playful touch (which The Cowboy and the Frenchman, Wild at Heart, ep. 2 of Twin Peaks, and maybe the Deer Meadow sequence of FWWM continue) and from then on the tone gets more serious again but not in the severe way of the first three films.

Otherwise, yeah, Lynch's work pretty neatly splits in symmetrical halves.
Last edited by LostInTheMovies on Tue May 05, 2015 6:23 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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LostInTheMovies
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Re: Which do you prefer: Early Lynch or Later Lynch?

Postby LostInTheMovies » Tue May 05, 2015 6:15 pm

Mark B wrote:Difficult one as unintentionally means that TP falls into the first half! Otherwise the second half for me. Not only does it contain FWWM and MD, but it also contains the two ends of the Lynch spectrum: IE (my favourite) and Straight Story. Personally, it feels like the first half he's creating films with themes he's interested in, whereas it feels like he believes in the worlds that he creates in the second half.


I actually would argue that Twin Peaks straddles the divide (I also think Wild at Heart, while edging slightly more toward the first stage, and FWWM, while edging way more toward the second, are both transitional films).

I think the pilot is very much in the spirit of Lynch's early works and the finale feels more akin to his later works.

If I had to pick a single point that could serve as a fulcrum in his filmography it would be the murder of Maddy in episode 14.
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Gabriel
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Re: Which do you prefer: Early Lynch or Later Lynch?

Postby Gabriel » Thu May 07, 2015 8:13 am

I can't answer this poll, because I'm a mid-period fan. For me, Lynch was absolutely on fire in the period from Blue Velvet to FWWM and I've found his work to be patchy since then, from the David Lynch (trademark)* film Lost Highway, to the mature and beautiful (The Straight Story) to disappointing self-indulgence (Mulholland Dr) to disappearing up his own anus (Inland Empire!)

The last time Lynch's work excited me was with FWWM. That was the era when I discovered his work and each film delivered something new. His early work is more like his later work: patchy, self indulgent, sometimes mature and beautiful, but there's a lot of cack where he's still finding his feet!

If the new Twin Peaks happens, I wonder whether we'll have another new incarnation or whether it will hew closer to some of his earlier work.

* I did write (TM) but then thought it might seem like I was talking about transcendental meditation!
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Re: Which do you prefer: Early Lynch or Later Lynch?

Postby Ajax Rules » Mon Dec 07, 2015 7:55 am

My favorite films:

1. Mulholland Drive (the only film that I've seen, by Lynch or anyone else, that is pure perfection in my opinion. Absolutely flawless. Every second has relevance, excitement, substance, tension).
2. Inland Empire: in some ways even more challenging than Mulholland Drive. But one or two scenes that are a bit pretentious and off. And it could have been 20 minutes shorter.
3. Lost Highway: brilliant movie, although I don't really care for the characters/actors.
4. Fire Walk with me. Thematically brilliant, although it feels a bit sloppy in terms of production to me.
5. Blue Velvet: a good movie, but clearly my least favorite of the ones I like.
6. The elephant man: I've seen it only twice. I kinda liked it. But I only learned later that it was a Lynch movie. I didn't recognize it as such when I watched it.
7. The straight story. Lynch seems to think this is his most experimental film, but I don't see it. It's an okay watch for me. But I don't care for it as I do for the typical Lynch movies.
8. Eraserhead. It seems strange, but I never could bring myself to watch this movie (although four of his films are in my overall top 10). I watched some scenes, but I was never triggered to watch it properly.
9. Wild at heart. I hear many Lynch films consider this his best film. But for me, it's a complete BORE.
10. Dune. I started watching it once, but I couldn't bring myself to watch beyond the first hour.

So for me, it's defenitely the second half of his work. The early Lynch would not even be one of my favorite directors, whereas the later Lynch is by far my number one favorite director.
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Re: Which do you prefer: Early Lynch or Later Lynch?

Postby Metamorphia » Mon Dec 07, 2015 12:41 pm

Unquestionably later.
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Re: Which do you prefer: Early Lynch or Later Lynch?

Postby Dining With Diane » Sun Mar 20, 2016 9:26 am

It looks like Twin Peaks is the border between Early Lynch and Later Lynch.

Early Lynch has more linear narratives (except eraserhead) and more literary adaptations. Later Lynch is more nonlinear, more original content, and a G-rated disney movie to keep viewers guessing. I'm going with Twin peaks and Later Lynch.
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David Locke
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Re: Which do you prefer: Early Lynch or Later Lynch?

Postby David Locke » Sun Mar 20, 2016 9:30 pm

Yeah, it does seem that Peaks -- series and especially film -- was the turning point in Lynch's career. As others have written, Lynch's direction of Episode 14 with Maddie's murder and Episode 29, his most experimental work since Eraserhead, had a huge influence on the course that his work took after that. Actually, even a film like Eraserhead for all its experimental nature is quite a bit more deliberately planned, more classical in construction than the intuitive process that guided works like FWWM, MD and especially IE.

I somewhat agree with LITM's placement of WAH as the transitional work between early and late Lynch, but I also think it's almost more of an anomaly in his career -- considering how much lighter in tone, narratively messy/digressive, and lacking in mysteries it is. It also, despite some flashbacks and attempts at fleshing out character backstory, doesn't really examine the interior life of the character(s) like every other Lynch feature does; only Dune and The Elephant Man are less immersed in the subjective experiences of their protagonists. (Maybe this is why those two are my least favorite Lynch films?)

Another interesting distinction that can be made between the two periods is that the first five films are Expressionist works while the last five are essentially Impressionist/surrealist in nature. Of course this isn't a perfect demarcation (there's something very Expressionist about the lighting and set design of LH, for example), but it seems clear that films like Eraserhead, Blue Velvet, Dune and The Elephant Man project the interior or subjective reality of their protagonists onto their external mise-en-scene, creating a noticeably anti-realistic, warped visual look to nearly everything -- by contrast, films like FWWM, TSS, MD and IE show us a more ostensibly realistic surface which is then surrealistically altered in subtle and surprising ways. In other words, if the early films owe to Expressionists like Murnau, the later ones are more indebted to Bunuel and Kubrick.

There's also something very industrial or "steampunk" about early Lynch -- an obsession with factories, toxic smoke, machines, all sorts of old-fashioned and odd relics of the early industrial era. Later Lynch is more interested in objects which produce emotional affects: flashing blue lights, fire, red curtains, vaporous smoke, dark roads, etc.
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Jo. Dunfer
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Re: Which do you prefer: Early Lynch or Later Lynch?

Postby Jo. Dunfer » Mon Mar 21, 2016 9:45 pm

No preference - two of my favorite DL films are his first and his last! Since I experienced them in order as they released (for the most part), my thoughts about them are intertwined with 'the time' in which they were made - which I think makes it impossible for me to divide them into two categories - they are either one category, or more than two (possibly upwards of 6).


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LostInTheMovies
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Re: Which do you prefer: Early Lynch or Later Lynch?

Postby LostInTheMovies » Sun Mar 27, 2016 11:04 am

David Locke wrote:Yeah, it does seem that Peaks -- series and especially film -- was the turning point in Lynch's career. As others have written, Lynch's direction of Episode 14 with Maddie's murder and Episode 29, his most experimental work since Eraserhead, had a huge influence on the course that his work took after that. Actually, even a film like Eraserhead for all its experimental nature is quite a bit more deliberately planned, more classical in construction than the intuitive process that guided works like FWWM, MD and especially IE.

I somewhat agree with LITM's placement of WAH as the transitional work between early and late Lynch, but I also think it's almost more of an anomaly in his career -- considering how much lighter in tone, narratively messy/digressive, and lacking in mysteries it is. It also, despite some flashbacks and attempts at fleshing out character backstory, doesn't really examine the interior life of the character(s) like every other Lynch feature does; only Dune and The Elephant Man are less immersed in the subjective experiences of their protagonists. (Maybe this is why those two are my least favorite Lynch films?)

Another interesting distinction that can be made between the two periods is that the first five films are Expressionist works while the last five are essentially Impressionist/surrealist in nature. Of course this isn't a perfect demarcation (there's something very Expressionist about the lighting and set design of LH, for example), but it seems clear that films like Eraserhead, Blue Velvet, Dune and The Elephant Man project the interior or subjective reality of their protagonists onto their external mise-en-scene, creating a noticeably anti-realistic, warped visual look to nearly everything -- by contrast, films like FWWM, TSS, MD and IE show us a more ostensibly realistic surface which is then surrealistically altered in subtle and surprising ways. In other words, if the early films owe to Expressionists like Murnau, the later ones are more indebted to Bunuel and Kubrick.

There's also something very industrial or "steampunk" about early Lynch -- an obsession with factories, toxic smoke, machines, all sorts of old-fashioned and odd relics of the early industrial era. Later Lynch is more interested in objects which produce emotional affects: flashing blue lights, fire, red curtains, vaporous smoke, dark roads, etc.


Great post! Personally I tend to see the early period as more Bunuelian (although it's hard to argue with your logic here). I would (and will, in fact - stay tuned) ally his later work more with Maya Deren. Perhaps because I tend to see Bunuel's work as a bit drier, more cerebral, certainly less spiritual (I know Lynch called Eraserhead his most spiritual work, but that doesn't totally come across for me on a intuitive level and I think Blue Velvet may be his most deeply secular film).

My favorite analogy to make - maybe it's ready been made on this thread! - is that early Lynch is Freudian, late Lynch is Jungian.

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