See a Young David Lynch Talk ‘Eraserhead’ in 1979

Whether you’re a Lynchian scholar or the most casual of cinema-goers, it’s hard not to recognize the cult iconography of David Lynch’s Eraserhead. Jack Nance’s signature coiffure and Lynch’s anxiety-evoking sense of nightmarish intrigue have become the calling cards for the film, which launched the filmmaker into new territory. But when it comes to Eraserhead, a film that took Lynch half a decade to complete, there’s an entire history lurking beneath the lady in the radiator. As noted in a past Cinematic Panic:

At that point in his life, he was living in a dangerous neighborhood in Philadelphia—the city where he says he got his “first thrilling thought.” Perhaps that thrill arose from fear, as he dealt with numerous robberies and break-ins (and lived across the street from a morgue). Violence, hate, and filth were all around him and embedded those fears into his subconscious, sparking an artistic inclination towards the beauty in the morbid side of life. Speaking to his obsession with the morgue across the street, Lynch says, “The [body] bags had a big zipper, and they’d open the zipper and shoot water into the bags with big hoses. With the zipper open and the bags sagging on the pegs, it looked like these big smiles. I called them the smiling bags of death.”
Inspired by the troubling world around him, as well as his own fear of fatherhood, Lynch began writing Eraserhead, which was to be green-lit by AFI in 1971 but suffered financial troubles throughout. Lynch delivered newspapers during the film’s principal photography to bring in more money. There were long stretches of time when shooting had to stop for lack of income. But Lynch was determined to press on, even if it meant creating scenes out of miniature dioramas and filming them if need be. Having always been inspired by numerous artists who dealt with anxiety and the macabre side of life is a surreal way, he was influenced greatly by the work of artist Francis Bacon and writer Franz Kafka.
But with an incredible look behind the scenes posted earlier this week, we see a 33-year-old Lynch in an interview done for a class at UCLA in 1979.
Lynch had been with John Waters earlier on the day of the interview and almost got him to join us. David later provided me with a copy of his short film The Amputee, also shot by Elmes, which we screened following the interview on one TV set outside on the UCLA campus — a world premier. The interview ends on one of the great lines from David Lynch, who said he wasn’t interested in Hollywood stars at the time: “If you’re going into the netherworld, you don’t want to go in with Chuck Heston.”
Watch the interview HERE and read the rest of our Eraserhead Cinematic Panic HERE.

Examining the Alphabet of David Lynch

Let’s take a stroll through Michel Chion’s “Lynch-Kit”—which is featured in the 2nd edition of his book David Lynch. The “Kit” is an alphabetical list (originally in French), but what’s more, it’s an “attempt to reconstitute an impossible whole…inspired by Lynch’s themes, but is neither an inventory or an index, nor even a repertory.” Chion asserts that “a certain number of scenes and major signifiers were simply chosen from the filmmaker’s work and connected to one another.” With multiple visual, emotional, psychological, and physical terms for each letter of the alphabet, Chion’s collection is a vast array in great detail. Some allusions are more abstract and take a moment to thoroughly process, while others are direct and literal—yet all equally relevant. And as it’s an interesting “Kit” to devour, I wanted to share his connections, along with visual moments from Lynch’s works that illuminate Chion’s writing. In David Lynch, he theorizes just how each theme corresponds to Lynch’s films but for now, let’s just watch our way through his alphabet. Enjoy.

A for Alphabet

B for Body

C for Chair

C for Curtain

C for Curtain

D for Dream

 

D for Dream

D for Dog

E for Erasure

F for Fence

F for Floating

F for Floating

For for Forever

G for Group

H for Hut

I for Insect

K for Kit

L for Log

N for Night

O for Open Mouth

P for Power

R for Reaction

S for Smoke

S for Stage

S for Stage

T for Texture

V for Void

 W for Word

How To Enjoy A Bad Movie

This weekend, a few friends and I made the trek down to IFC Center to see the hotly anticipated, and at one point seemingly unreleaseable, Escape From Tomorrowa science-fictiony, black-and-white, neo-noir movie shot entirely guerilla-style in Disney theme parks without the litigious entertainment empire’s permission. We discovered what many had: that the feature did not entirely live up to its audacious concept.

“People throw the word ‘unfocused’ around a lot,” my wife remarked, “but man.” The group of us kept emailing the next day. “Wow,” we kept saying. Yes, Escape From Tomorrow might have been the indulgent result of watching too muchEraserhead and Pi during late-night bong sessions, but I couldn’t look away, and what I saw I’m still turning over in my mind. The first trick in these sort of situations (I found this worked well for Spring Breakers, too) is to stop worrying about what’s commonly called “plot.” If a director’s not really interested in narrative coherence, why bother seeking it out for yourself? You needn’t roll your eyes at mediocre acting, either—The Room may miss wide enough that you have to make fun of it, but usually there’s no need to MST3K the situation.

Just sit back and enjoy the ride. Because when you get right down to it, whack-job movies like Escape From Tomorrow are the reason movies even exist. The height of the medium isn’t some $300 million superhero flick with cutting-edge digital effects, it’s somebody with not a huge budget and an insane idea who takes huge risks and often fails, but spectacularly so. Do I mind that there was a 17-second “Intermission” about 75% of the way through the running time? Or that the film becomes a misguided La Jetée homage at the last possible minute? Or that the close-ups of the main character’s infected toe serve no real purpose? Of course not—as long as you can walk out calling something “visionary,” you probably got your money’s worth.

http://youtu.be/qHH5EZsLpFs

David Lynch’s ‘Industrial Symphony No.1’ Still Haunts

“It has something to do with, uh, a relationship ending,” said the ever-shadowy David Lynch on the interpretation of his 1989 musical performance Industrial Symphony No. 1: The Dream of the Broken Hearted. Originally conceived while studying at the Pennsylvania Acadamy of Fine Arts when Lynch was making series of complex mosaics in geometric shapes called “Industrial Symphonies,” years later he spun that original idea into a feverish amalgamation of sound effects and music onstage.

Premiering at BAM in November 0f 1989, the avant-garde musical play featured a cast of Laura Dern, Nicolas Cage, Julee Cruise, and Michael J. Anderson with music by Lynch’s musical companion—the man whose melodies have become synonymous with the Lynchian universe—Angelo Badalamenti. Cage plays the Heartbreaker to Dern’s Heartbroken Woman as Industrial Symphony No. 1 floats from their initial sever to a hallucinatory dream that the she has.
 
Unfolding like a nightmarish dream somewhere between the abandoned factories of Eraserhead and the Black and White Lodge of his future Twin Peaks, Cruise descends from the ceiling as lights flicker and flare like schizophrenic clues that we’re being transported somewhere beyond. As we noted in our Cinematic Panic article on Eraserhead, Lynch’s affinity for the stage has swelled throughout his films from the inside out:
The act of the performance also makes its way into the majority of his work, perhaps perfected in Mulholland Drive’s Club Silencio scene when Rebecca del Rio sings (or does not sing) a frighteningly beautiful a cappella version of Roy Orbison’s "Crying" that echoes the entire sentiment of the film. And just as the Lady in the Radiator sings "In Heaven Everything Is Fine," Dean Stockwell’s performance of "In Dreams" in Blue Velvet simultaneously takes us out of the world of the characters in the film and allows us to become more entrenched in their own psychological journey. The staged performance speaks to who we are inside the deepest caverns of our mind and who we are to the world, who we present and tell ourselves we are, and what’s really looming just beneath.
The song list for the show includes:
  • Up In Flames
  • I Float Alone
  • The Black Sea*
  • Into the Night
  • I’m Hurt Bad*
  • Pinky’s Bubble Egg (The Twins Spoke)
  • The Dream Conversation*
  • Rockin’ Back Inside My Heart
  • The Final Battle*
  • The World Spins
If you haven’t absorbed yourself into this yet, I’d suggest doing so right away below.
 

 

Sacred Bones Unearths Rare ‘Twin Peaks’ & ‘Eraserhead’ Soundtracks

“Music’s been real important to me since the time I was small….And it’s amazing how much we know that we don’t realize we know,” said David Lynch. “I’m not a trained musician, but when you get into it, you discover you really do have an understanding of the form and have incredibly strong feelings about how music should be made. I’m not saying l’m a skilled musician, but me and Angelo [Badalamenti] – who’s a great musician – have an instant dialogue.” And throughout his nightmarish dreamscape of an oueuvre, music has been an integral element to the psychologically penetrating and haunting power of his work. The droning hums or Eraserhead or the mysterious sounds lingering in the night between the trees of Twin Peaks are just as large of a character as any, and when it comes to the Lynchian universe, his sonic world has always been just as riveting as the tones and textures that come to life on the screen.

Last year, we were thrilled that Sacred Bones would be putting out a re-issued vinyl of Eraserhead’s dark and dizzying original soundtrack, but now we learn that the label will be putting the OST out on CD as well. With the vinyl no longer available, the CD—which has not been available in five years—contains only three songs, but does have a 10-minute dance mix done by Lynch. And in addition, the label has also un-earthed copies of the fascinating and rare soundtrack to Twin Peaks’ second season. Composed by Angelo Badalamenti, the chilling soundtrack as well as the Eraserhead album are now available for purchase, so I’d suggest you head over to Sacred Bones immediately and bask in all that Lynchian sound.

And for an added treat, watch this wonderful video of Badalamenti demonstrating his creative process working on Twin Peaks.

Related articles:

Cinematic Panic: Diving Into The Dark Unknown With David Lynch’s ‘Eraserhead’
David Lynch on His Favorite Films and Filmmakers
See a Young David Lynch Talk ‘Eraserhead’ in 1979

David Lynch Talks Cinema’s Current State and the Spiritual Experience of Film
Watch A Video Essay Connecting Lynch’s ‘Inland Empire’ & Kieślowski’s ‘The Double Life Of Veronique’

 

 

 

 

Cinematic Panic: Crawling Back Into the Dark Unknown With David Lynch’s ‘Eraserhead’

Today, iconic and beloved fimmaker, artist, and musician David Lynch will release his haunting and heartbreaking second album The Big Dream. And in honor of the release, we’ll be taking a different look back at his work throughout the week, admiring the bewildering talent and brillance of one of cinema’s most fascinating minds. So today, we’re giving you another look at our Cinematic panic article from back in December that dives into the film that pushed Lynch into cult icon and sparked his ever-evolving and wonderful career.

I’ve always had a very special relationship with David Lynch. He’s the man who sparked my cinematic interest and made realize that watching a film could be an experience—a physiological, visceral experience that takes you out of yourself and brings you into another world. The first time I saw one his films was during a particularly frigid winter, post-Christmas, post-first real heartbreak. I was a tear-stained mess of a person who hadn’t eaten or vacated her bathrobe in about two weeks. On a whim, I signed up for a class called "The Cinema of David Lynch," and having only watched Eraserhead on mute while some Radiohead album played an attic bedroom years before, I decided it might be best to watch one of his films in its entirety. I popped in Mulholland Drive and suddenly something started to change. As I sat in the dark on my couch, a strange thing took hold of me in a way I hadn’t experienced from a simple film viewing before, and I checked myself at the door and entered his nightmarish dreamscape never to return. The second the film ended, I called my mother downstairs and made her watch it with me again. Obviously, she didn’t share the same reaction, but this time I felt it even more. The next day I rented Blue Velvet, then Wild at Heart, then Lost Highway, and I spent the better part of the next month watching all of Twin Peaks.

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It’s been a long while since then but his films have become a part of me, his world a place I call home. Last year, I got the chance to meet David briefly and when I asked for a photo with him, his response was, "For a girl that looks like you, anything." My mind interpreted those words as Mulholland Drive‘s infamous "This is the girl." But the moment was brief and I went back to my reality not quite knowing if that was all just a dream. But for his dark and winding oeuvre, it’s his 1977 first feature Eraserhead that is pure Lynch at its core—stripped of any Hollywood glamor and star power, just a raw synthesized portal into the brain of one of cinema’s most beloved and enigmatic directors. 

The last time I saw Eraserhead I was sick to my stomach—not from the film, but from some stomach virus I acquired—but I still couldn’t refuse a midnight screening of the film (and the sickness might have made it even better). Sitting in the pitch-black tiny theatre at IFC Center, it was the first time I had seen the film on the big screen, and once again I checked myself at the door and entered David Lynch’s twisted world of wonder.

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When you think of the great directors of the 1970s, David Lynch doesn’t typically come to mind. But it was then that Lynch spent five years giving birth to the idea that became Eraserhead. At that point in his life, he was living in a dangerous neighborhood in Philadelphia—the city where he says he got his "first thrilling thought." Perhaps that thrill arose from fear, as he dealt with numerous robberies and break-ins (and lived across the street from a morgue). Violence, hate, and filth were all around him and embedded those fears into his subconscious, sparking an artistic inclanation towards the beauty in the morbid side of life. Speaking to his obsession with the morgue across the street, Lynch says, "The [body] bags had a big zipper, and they’d open the zipper and shoot water into the bags with big hoses. With the zipper open and the bags sagging on the pegs, it looked like these big smiles. I called them the smiling bags of death."
 
Inspired by the troubling world around him, as well as his own fear of fatherhood, Lynch began writing Eraserhead, which was to be green-lit by AFI in 1971 but suffered financial troubles throughout. Lynch delivered newspapers during the film’s principal photography to bring in more money. There were long stretches of time when shooting had to stop for lack of income. But Lynch was determined to press on, even if it meant creating scenes out of miniature dioramas and filming them if need be. Having always been inspired by numerous artists who dealt with anxiety and the macabre side of life is a surreal way, he was influenced greatly by the work of artist Francis Bacon and writer Franz Kafka.
 
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The script for the film was only 20 pages long, which is no surprise seeing as the majority of the film’s content lives in the textures, sounds, and images presented rather than the sparse dialogue. Starring Jack Nance, Lynch originally described the film as “a dream of dark and troubling things"—and that it is. The structure is simple and vaguely linear, with elements that dive into the subconscious and venture off into the surreal. It’s a claustrophobic film about a man named Henry Spencer (with a now infamous coiffure of hair) and set in an unknown post-apocalpytic industrial landscape—the stoic, solid, sterile machinery almost mocking of his crumbling life. Henry lives in a tiny dilapidated apartment in an old building alone but soon learns that his girlfriend Mary has given birth to what appears to be his offspring. He’s pressured into taking care of the child, which is more of a reptilian, alien creature than a baby and whose cry is akin to a piercing, strangled squawk. Mary is horrified at their child and leaves Henry to deal with the situation. His sense of anxiety grows even further into a nigthmare world full of guilt and sinful dillusion.
 
What Lynch does best is worming his way into the viewer’s psyche, penetrating all those things lying dormant in your subconscious: the things that frighten you or excite you or expose you the most. But rather than scare you (which is, by the way, why I don’t understand films like this being classified as "horror"), he wraps you in a sense of tranquility or a dream-like state, lying somewhere between the grotesque and the familiar. Eraserhead is film that is clearly the visual interpretation of Henry and Lynch’s shared subconscious boiling to the surface, allowing you to journey inside. Lynch will never analyze his films or explain their meaning, saying it’s how they "strike each person" that matters. He says, "it means other things to other people, and that’s great."
 
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Henry is an observer, just as we are observers watching the film, taking it in as he does. Through the twisted and distorted visuals of the film mixed with the twitching, doomed industrial sounds we hear, we are made to feel completely ill at ease—mimicking Henry’s anxiety as our own. The film is an abstract study that’s portrayed in verses rather than paragraphs of text, like the sketch of something yet to be unearthed. We search the film for clues to unlock its mysterious nature, but even as we study each moment with precision there will always be the feeling that what this world meant to Lynch will always be unknown. And as with most of his films, it’s so much more about the feelings evoked and psychological state it enduces than the trite satisfaction of being able to say, "Oh, I know what this is about!"
 
Probably the most famous scene of the film is the "Lady in the Radiator" scene, in which Henry falls asleep dreaming of a deformed woman with swollen cheeks on a stage singing "In Heaven Everything is Fine." "The Lady in the Radiator was not in the original script at all," says Lynch. "It was a very dark film until she came along." Dreams and how they compare to waking life is present in almost all of Lynch’s films, paralleling his obsession with the unconscious mind. The act of the performance also makes its way into the majority of his work, perhaps perfected in Mulholland Drive‘s Club Silencio scene when Rebecca del Rio sings (or does not sing) a frighteningly beautiful a cappella version of Roy Orbison’s "Crying" that echoes the entire sentiment of the film. And just as the Lady in the Radiator sings "In Heaven Everything Is Fine," Dean Stockwell’s performance of "In Dreams" in Blue Velvet simultaneously takes us out of the world of the characters in the film and allows us to become more entrenched in their own psychological journey. The staged performance speaks to who we are inside the deepest caverns of our mind and who we are to the world, who we present and tell ourselves we are, and what’s really looming just beneath.
 
What’s interesting about Eraserhead is how inherently and distinctively Lynchian it feels without the signature traits of David Lynch that people associate with him nowadays. Those who have a Netflix account and have watched various episodes of Twin Peaks will claim their love for David Lynch with proclamations about doughnuts and coffee and cherry pie, oh my. And yes, his fascination with food—especially of the saccharine variety—has a lot to do with his ideas about indulgence and sex and are central to his work, but Eraserhead is void of all that. It’s the bare-bones Lynchian aesthetic that established him as one of the most revolutionary independent filmmakers of all time. It has been almost seven years since his last film, Inland Empire (which got back to that very stripped, essential cinematic quality that was deeply imbedded in the frightening corners of the mind), and his interests appear to lie elsewhere these days. Who knows if he’ll ever make another film. But if he doesn’t, it’s at least safe to say that you could watch his films your entire life and still become excited and have questions, always stumbling through the woods into a red room of the mind.
 

Daft Punk + Lynchian Madness = The Weirdest Best Dance Party

Daft Punk’s "Get Lucky" is sitting high atop the Summer Jams of 2013 power ranking, with its irresistible bassline and breezy vocals bearing promises of getting lucky, and the release of the album behind it has kept the masked men on everyone’s minds. And with the ubiquity of "Get Lucky" inevitably comes every sort of iteration of YouTube mashup. The best one, though, which we’re not sure how we missed, comes from YouTube user jcs101010, who has skillfully juxtaposed the track with scenes of the works of David Lynch.  

The bulk of the footage comes from the episode of Twin Peaks where The Man From Another Place appears as a red-suited dwarf who tears up the dance floor, which naturally works well with Daft Punk’s Chic-evoking funk. But scenes from Lynch’s other works, including the iconic "bad coffee" moment from Mulholland Drive and plenty of nightmare fuel from Eraserhead also make appearances. It could probably have used more dancing or general movement to really work, but for fans of Twin Peaks and / or Daft Punk, it’s the perfect wonderfully weird dance party for your Friday afternoon. Have a good weekend, everyone! 

Jerry Goldsmith’s ‘Poltergeist’ Soundtrack Gets a Vinyl Reissue

Earlier this year, we were more than thrilled to receive a reissue of David Lynch’s dark and dizzying Eraserhead original soundtrack via Sacred Bones. And now, we’re pleased to see that Mondo, the Almo Drafthouse art boutique, will be putting out Jerry Goldsmith’s score for Poltergeist on limited edition vinyl. 

The Austin-based company will be releasing the score with two records—both black and a limited amount of clear vinyl—with artwork by Australian duo We Buy Your Kids. Available February 22nd via Mondo’s site, the we’ll receive five never available before tracks along with the horrifying tunes you know and love. Take a look at the track listing below, see the artwork, and listen to a taste of the original.

Poltergeist Soundtrack Tracklisting

1) The Star Spangled Banner

2) The Calling / The Neighborhood (Main Title)

3) The Tree (Outtake)

4) The Clown / They’re Here / Broken Glass / The Hole / TV People

5) Twisted Abduction

6) Contacting The Other Side

7) The Light

8) Night Visitor / No Complaints

9) It Knows What Scares You

10) Rebirth

11) Night Of The Beast

12) Escape From Suburbia

13) Carol Anne’s Theme (End Title)

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Uncovering Criterion Collection’s 2013 Teaser

Every year, the Criterion Collection gives us the pleasure of deciphering an illustrated teaser of their film slate coming in the new year. And as is tradition, they’ve released their 2013 clue-filled drawing—more sparse than last year but questionably more difficult to interpret. The folks over at Indiewire suggest, “the entire apartment building could be interpreted as one massive clue to Roman Polanski’s The Tenant,"—which would totally makes sense and be an exciting addition to the collection for sure.

Last year’s installement highlighted Maude’s bike in Harold and Maude, the marionettes of Being John Malkovich, a nod the Robert Downey Sr. retrospective, the orally enticing bits of Eating Raoul, and a menage et trois hint at Y Tu Mamá También—to name a few. And this year, although quite a few clues may be up for suggestion, some do appear quite obvious—such as the pink pearl tag as a clear reference to Eraserhead and the huge clock is an indication of the 1957 western 3:10 to Yuma.

CriterionCast has drawn up their own clue guesses, so even if you’ve never seen any of the films hinted at, you can make it your new resolution to get on that.

Criterion Cast Criterion Clue Guesses

A. Harold Lloyd – Safety Last
B. 3:10 To Yuma
C. Roman Polanski’s The Tenant
D. Robert Aldrich’s Autumn Leaves / Autumn Sonata
E. Chaplin’s The Circus / Fellini’s La Strada / Pierre Etaix
F. Repo Man?
G. Scanners
H. Gate Of Hell
I. The Devil’s Backbone / Lord Of The Flies
J. Babette’s Feast
K. Oshima’s Boy
L. David Lynch’s Eraserhead
M. The Professional / Le Samourai / Chaplin’s The Kid / Cage Aux Folles

 

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