I wish I could somehow recline in the mind of David Lynch for just a few hours, no perversion included. Simply a desire to figure out how the one-of-a-kind filmmaker’s brain ticks, where the insane ideas pour from, why he’s so adept at constructing cinematic puzzles that have no easy-does-it solution. There’s a distinct power at play in any film that forces its viewers to revisit the picture in its entirety in order for them to discern just what the fudge is exactly going down, and that’s a magnetism that doesn’t need to be rewarding to earn its rightful place. I’ve watched Lynch’s spell-binding Mulholland Drive at least ten times at this stage of my life, and I still can’t decide on a straight-and-narrow synopsis. Every fresh watch pokes holes through my then-existing analysis. But, the thing is, I love that ongoing thought process. Coin it as being a tad masochistic; fine by me.
Far too few celluloid experiences pack the discomfort and open-mouth gapes that accompany Lynch’s first work, 1977’s black-and-white Eraserhead, which I caught earlier on the Sundance channel. Guess is, the fifth time I’ve seen the film. The aftermath is always the same—-brain sodomy. Essentially, this one’s about a nearly-mute weirdo, Harry Spencer (the by-God’s-own-hands unsettling Jack Nance), who sports a pre-Christopher “Kid” Reid pencil-top hairdo and is deathly afraid of becoming a father, and the neurosis he undergoes when his girlfriend gives birth to a disfigured baby. Only, you don’t get your standard daydreams filled with dinnertable scenes starring multiple rugrats; Lynch’s treats feature little alien-like creatures convulsing, or spewing blood, or living in heaters, not to mention, as a sweet bonus, bearded ladies singing showtunes.
Reports state that Lynch made the film using a slim $10,000 grant he received from the storied AFI Conservatory and IOUs he grabbed from friends and odd-job employers. Shows the then-31-year-old wannabe-director’s determination and honed vision. Something tells me, though, that Eraserhead wouldn’t be any less abstract if he’d been given a grant 20 times that amount; like all of his films, Lynch’s debut remains such a singular vision 23 years after its premiere, you can only enjoy it in guiltless bafflement. And that, folks, is precisely the skill that I’d love tap into somehow, some damn way; the ability to create give-me-your-undivided-attention fiction, stories and live-action deals brimming with all-my-own imagination. Of course, no one will ever manage to replicate a David Lynch film, but that’s not even my point; I’m itching to learn how he so brilliantly digs into his own unique sensibilities and translates them into works that equally polarize and astonish.
Eraserhead is by no means a masterpiece, or even one of my all-time favorite movies. It’s up there amongst the strangest and most invigorating, however; one of many offbeat films I re-check often, when I’m searching for inspiration.
Fatherhood is nowhere in sight, so I can’t sympathize with poor Harry Spencer; I am paranoid as hell in other areas, though, namely within a professional pit of quicksand I can’t seem to crawl out of. Could bearded songbirds and mini-ETs get their metaphors on over that? Should they even, for that matter? Not at all. I need to visualize my own what-the-fuck imagery, just as David Lynch did back in 1977.