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David Lynch

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Storytelling with intuitive, artistic logic

David Lynch’s films reveal a fascination with the suburban experience in America. The primary setting for this is ’50s America, the era Lynch grew up in. On the surface are the essential elements of the American Dream. The richly colored, aspirational and sometimes naïve characters are subject to events driven by the forces of the unconscious, forces of the underworld hidden under a lucid, neo-noir veneer. The stories combine the mundane and rational with the forces of the supernatural, as found in magic realism. There is something of the surrealist ethos here also.

The point is, there are mysterious forces of life just underneath the surface, forces of nature, decay, birth, and in modern life, there are also unnatural forces, such as those created by the machines of industrialization – “the clunk of machinery, the power of pistons, shadows of oil drills pumping, screaming woodmills and smoke billowing factories” as Lynch expresses it.

Bob's Big Boy in Los Angeles, California

For seven years, David had the same thing for lunch — a chocolate milkshake and coffee — every day at Bob’s Big Boy in Los Angeles, California.

David Lynch has a fascination with these processes and the forces outside our control. This is revealed in his paintings as well as his films. If you put the two together, you have in many of his films an intuitive plot driven by artistic logic rather than surface plot logic. Plot logic can be very demanding, in the sense that it needs to be logical. It gives you the motivation of each character; you know why something has happened; there’s a resolution to the story.

There is another kind of logic, one with gaps, spaces and silences; the images and sounds are primary; they evoke rather than explain. This is, I believe, key to understanding Lynch’s films. They are not trying to resolve plot logic in the usual way. They are exploratory, mysterious and strike one as modern Grimm’s fairytales. In a Grimm fairy tale, the story logic can be pretty weird, strange things happen. They are evocative of deeper mysteries and unresolved tensions between different aspects of life. They are conceived and flow from a different cognitive process, one that is inspired by the logic of dreams, by intuition and an artistic feel for what is right, what makes sense. It is similar to the way we understand an abstract painting as making sense.

A very important element here is the mystery of it all. And mystery can be found in the mundane. In a coffee shop full of ordinary characters there is an ocean of mystery under the surface, sometimes full of celestial beauty, sometimes full of the grotesque and monsters created by dark compulsions.

Here's David chillin' with some people

David in Fairfield, Iowa

The juxtaposition of these elements, along with a plot driven by dream logic, produces compelling, unsettling and revelatory films. It’s not as if one walks away with an understanding of the story so much as an unshakable recall of powerful moments of satori, revelation and insight.

The idea that you can tell a story in an hour and a half and everything makes sense the entire time, is a fiction. Real stories are like magical realism – they are rational in part, always incomplete, only make sense to a certain degree, and barely manage to float on the ocean of mystery.

What we often experience in life is confusion about what is going on, the meaning of it all. Why did that perfectly sweet individual that I am dating do the crazy thing that just happened? And why did it coincide with going to the supermarket and somebody buying me a pet panda bear? There is a god of mystery isn’t there?

In David Lynch’s films, what we understand on the surface are just shining fragments floating on the great ocean of mystery. It’s better to drift in the current rather than try to swim.

–Stuart Tanner, faculty of the David Lynch MA in Film

In Hollywood, more often than not, they're making more kind of traditional films, stories that are understood by people. And the entire story is understood. And they become worried if even for one small moment something happens that is not understood by everyone. But what's so fantastic is to get down into areas where things are abstract and where things are felt, or understood in an intuitive way that, you can't, you know, put a microphone to somebody at the theatre and say 'Did you understand that?' but they come out with a strange, fantastic feeling and they can carry that, and it opens some little door or something that's magical and that's the power that film has." - David Lynch

David Lynch

David Lynch’s Film Life

After a childhood spent moving around the United States with his family, Lynch began to study painting at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and branched off into film. His first motion picture, Eraserhead (1977) was a pure act of courage, filmed at night in some abandoned stables on a shoestring budget, and Lynch calls it his most spiritual film. It wasn’t a mainstream success, but it’s one of Stanley Kubrick’s all-time favorite films and speaks to Lynch’s tenacity and gift of bringing his beloved ideas to fruition. The Elephant Man (1980) followed, and earned eight Academy Award nominations, bringing Lynch critical and commercial success.

His next two films Dune (1984) and Blue Velvet (1986) were as different from each other as oil and water. Dune for him was a failure, but mainly because he didn’t stick to his guns, do it how he wanted it. If a film sucks, it should suck because “you made it suck on your own,” Lynch says, not because someone else fiddles with it. Blue Velvet, one of Lynch’s most personal works, created controversy with its violence and dark themes. Woody Allen said it was his favorite movie of that year. The film introduced Lynch into the mainstream, and now his name was known in households across America and overseas. The surreal television series, Twin Peaks (1990), extended this celebrity status, taking him deeper into hearts and minds.

David Lynch Films

“Films such as Eraserhead, Blue Velvet, Lost Highway or Mulholland Drive come fuelled by a fearful fascination with the unknown, with what lies beneath, with a peculiarly American strain of darkness. As a child, he says, he was intrigued by the black pitch that oozed out of the cherry trees and wondered what went on behind the white picket fences. His sister, he adds, was frightened of peas. ‘And I can understand that, because a pea is a complex thing. It has this hard shell, but then it’s soft inside. It’s the dual nature that made it unsettling for her.’” Xan Brooks, The Guardian

Blue Velvet

“That’s about it, as far as conventional mystery plotting goes: the solution, such as it is, is more or less nailed down in the first third of the picture. As Blue Velvet moves forward, though, deeper into the nighttime murk and daylit unease of Lumberton, it becomes clear (if anything is) that the movie’s detective-story trappings were always just a means to an end — the director’s scheme to lure a couple of appealing, normal young folks like Sandy and Jeffrey into the sick, strange world of the man called Frank. Mr. Lynch’s idea, that is to say, is not to make new connections, as detectives do, but to sever as many of the old ones as possible.”Terrence Rafferty, The New York Times

The Straight Story

“And so it goes for 73-year-old Alvin Straight. Looking up into the night, he remembers the estranged older brother he hasn’t spoken to for 10 years. ‘I want to sit with him and look up at the stars, like we used to, so long ago,’ he’ll tell a stranger later in the film. When he hears his brother has had a stroke, Alvin realises their journey through time is nearly over. He can barely walk. His eyesight’s too bad to drive a car. But he must make peace, must make the 270-mile trip from Iowa to his brother’s house in Mount Zion, Wisconsin. Alvin hits the road, heading down the two-lane blacktop on the trip of a lifetime. At 10mph. On his lawnmower. ‘There are a lot of weird people out there,’ somebody warns him, as he chugs across America. And Lynch – crunching gears after sex, psychosis and ultraviolence in Wild at Heart and Lost Highway – understands there’s nothing weirder or more wondrous than ordinary folk.”Jonathan Crocker, The Guardian


“Lynch started off as an artist, and when you remember this, his films make much more sense – if that is the word. One of the things you notice, secondarily, about Eraserhead is how little dialogue there is in it, which means that every line has an intensity and a purpose that would have been absent from a more wordy film. The point is that Lynch prefers the image to the word. His favourite directors, he has said, are Tati, Herzog and Kubrick, all of whom can be said to use silences of varying lengths to great effect.”Nicholas Lezard, The Guardian

To give a sense of place, to me, is a thrilling thing. And a sense of place is made up of details. And so the details are incredibly important. If they’re wrong, then it throws you out of the mood. And so the sound and music and color and shape and texture, if all those things are correct and a woman looks a certain way with a certain kind of light and says the right word, you’re gone, you’re in heaven. But it’s all the little details.” – David Lynch

Major Films

  • Eraserhead: 1971-1979
  • The Elephant Man and mainstream acclaim: 1980-1982
  • Dune and Blue Velvet: 1983-1986
  • Twin Peaks, Wild at Heart, and Fire Walk with Me: 1987-1996
  • Lost Highway, The Straight Story, and Mulholland Drive: 1997-2001
  • Internet work and Inland Empire: 2002-present

Other Film Work

  • Numerous short films, TV commercials (for brands such as Gucci and Dior), and music videos

Awards and Nominations

Academy Awards

  • 1980: Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay (The Elephant Man, nominated)
  • 1987: Best Director (Blue Velvet, nominated)
  • 2002: Best Director (Mulholland Dr., nominated)

BAFTA Awards

  • 1981: Best Direction (The Elephant Man, nominated)
  • 1981: Best Screenplay (The Elephant Man, nominated)

Cannes Film Festival

  • 1990: Golden Palm (Wild at Heart, won)
  • 1992: Golden Palm (Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, nominated)
  • 1999: Golden Palm (The Straight Story, nominated)
  • 2001: Best Director (Mulholland Dr., won tied with Joel Coen for The Man Who Wasn’t There)
  • 2001: Golden Palm (Mulholland Dr., nominated)

DGA Award

  • 1981: Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures (The Elephant Man, nominated)

Emmy Awards

  • 1990: Outstanding Achievement in Main Title Theme Music (Twin Peaks, nominated)
  • 1990: Outstanding Achievement in Music and Lyrics (Twin Peaks for the song “Into the Night“, nominated)
  • 1990: Outstanding Directing in a Drama Series (Twin Peaks for the pilot episode, nominated)
  • 1990: Outstanding Writing in a Drama Series (Twin Peaks for the pilot episode, nominated)
  • 1990: Outstanding Drama Series (Twin Peaks)

Golden Globes

  • 1980: Best Director (The Elephant Man, nominated)
  • 1987: Best Screenplay (Blue Velvet, nominated)
  • 2002: Best Director (Mulholland Dr., nominated)
  • 2002: Best Screenplay (Mulholland Dr., nominated)

Independent Spirit Awards

  • 1987: Best Director (Blue Velvet, nominated)
  • 1987: Best Screenplay (Blue Velvet, nominated)
  • 2000: Best Director (The Straight Story, nominated)
  • 2007: Special Distinction Award (Shared with Laura Dern for their collaborative work, won)

Saturn Awards

  • 1993: Best Writing (Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, nominated)
  • 1993: Life Career Award (won)
  • 2002: Best Director (Mulholland Dr., nominated)

Venice Film Festival

  • 2006: Future Film Festival Digital Award (Inland Empire won)
  • 2006: Career Golden Lion (won)

WGA Award

  • 1981: Best Drama Adapted from Another Medium (The Elephant Man, nominated)
  • 1987: Best Original Screenplay (Blue Velvet, nominated)

Source: Wikipedia

Other Faces of David Lynch

The Artist

Lynch is a painter, sculpture, mixed media artist, photographer. While studying painting as a student at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, he started to wonder if film could be a way to create a moving painting with sound. Lynch has the ability to bring together the whole artistic sphere of sound, image, and movement in his films, which makes them not simply films, but lasting works of of art.

The Cartoonist

Lynch’s comic strip The Angriest Dog in the World, first published in the LA Reader, ran from 1983 until 1992.

The Musician

Sound is a critical element in all Lynch’s films, and he often allows a piece of music to dictate the direction of a scene. Lynch has also composed music for Blue Velvet, Wild at Heart and Inland Empire. He has released and collaborated on a range of albums. His most recent album, The Big Dream, creates an atmosphere of hypnotic, electronic textures.

The Writer

Lynch was the writer for more than two dozen feature films, short films, and TV episodes.

Lynch’s book, Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness, and Creativty, was published by Tarcher/Penguin in 2006.

Transcendental Meditation®

Lynch’s journey as a screenplay writer and movie director took a new form in 2005 when he launched the David Lynch Foundation for Consciousness-Based℠ Education and Peace, dedicated to directing the course of the world, rewriting the script of how life goes for thousands of ordinary people. The Foundation was launched to share Transcendental Meditation technique with some of the world’s most stressed populations.

In 2009, Lynch organized a benefit concert for the David Lynch Foundation at Radio City Music Hall in New York which featured Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Sheryl Crow, Eddie Vedder, Moby, and Ben Harper among others. By 2011 the David Lynch Foundation had provided scholarships for 150,000 students as part of the Quiet Time Program in 130 schools around the globe. In recent years the David Lynch Foundation has expanded its projects to include work with veterans of war, the incarcerated, Native Americans with diabetes, and the homeless.

Lynch’s 2012 documentary, Meditation Creativity Peace, follows him on a 16-country tour speaking to college students and the public about meditation, his films and world peace.

At the Bonaroo Music Festival in 2013, the David Lynch Foundation announced the launch of DLF Live, which will produce concerts, film festivals, standup comedy shows, film competitions, conferences and art events to support the work of the David Lynch Foundation.