David Lynch may well be the defining voice ofthe last generation’s filmmakers, which is a scary thought because he has a backhanded appreciation of what we would consider White America. I honestly think he’s a genius, one of the few polymorphic artists of our time. His artwork, whether it be film, sculpting, acting, painting, effects, or even music is just plain wierd, and just when I start to question whether’s it all atmosphere and smoke he hits me with something mesmerizing and moving. He glides through horror with a wicked comedic touch while making it appear avant garde and yet still maintains a populist artifact. Unless we’re considering his last two films. But even those have shades of the noir genre and Hollywood influence. A thinking man might argue Lynch is on the save wavelength as Brunuel, but he’s more in tune with nostalgia of classic Hollywood of the 50s and it’s naive innocence that Lynch both eviscerates and praises in his maligned classic Blue Velvet. Some people don’t get it, but honestly, you have just to accept that reality isn’t binary, and Lynch, who on the surface appears to be completely unconcerned with realism, instead speaks to the inherent contradictions that has haunted America since its inception.
The ghost of slavery still lingers in the supposed “I can’t see race anymore” culture of today. But racism has never been what Lynch has explicitly expressed. If anything his fetish is male violence on women, sometimes exploitatively so, and it’s this hostility, while not exclusive to males, which permeates that dialogue we have in America about any socially minded issues.
By the time Lynch made Inland Empire— he had mastered the concept of a cubism. Lynch chews up our contradictions and spits them out in ever increasing fractured images that we’re left only experience. Time runs in impossible to unravel directions all while purposely building a arc that will be pay in societal needed catharsis.
The true to way to understand what Lynch is doing is by first experiencing his art and just letting go of trying to figure it out, and like a great work of instrumental music, get swept up in the atmosphere. Don’t even think about it. Which is Roger Ebert recommends with his review Lynch’s masterpiece Mulholand Drive. But where Ebert commands us to stop there, I encourage to go further. Lynch absolutely requires repeat encounters with his work, because it’s only after we have embraced the nature of the fractured art that we can start to create a coherent meaning out of the seeming mess. He’s just that good.
That’s a lot of words to digest and I’ll tell you now, this is going to be a long essay. Because I’ve been brewing over this topic two years, and I’ve finally taken the plunge and committed to it. I’m going to examine every film in Lynch’s canon, and one by one, I’m going to paint a unifying theme and subtext that hovers just below the ever hard to scratch surface, culminating in his last film that can only be finished by his final redemption of female torture–which I will confidently declare is a sign of hope from this dark and menacing oeuvre that is sprinkled with both juvenile and black comedy, and yet still brooding and disheartening.
David Lynch has been charged with exploiting his actresses through his film, most notably a criticism made by my hero Ebert, and I’m hear to shout to the dead man’s angel that he was wrong. Lynch is a feminist through and through, and in his work has captured the essence of misogyny and pain that is to be a woman in America. That is his one saving grace. He gave Laura Dern and Naomi Watts a fucking musical number just to comfort us that it’s all over. It’s a swan song, and I hope he never makes another film again. Because there’s nothing left for him to say, and besides his attempt at going mainstream with Dune, has one of the most satisfying and absolutely demanding requirement that you watch all of his films, preferably in order, just to get a sense of this narrative. I’ve never encountered something like it, and honestly, I don’t know if I ever will again. I’m not sure if this maestro has done this by design, or if has been a crazy development, but it’s there. And I will let the world see it, because I’ve never read any other critic or scholar say this (not to say there hasn’t been someone who has, I just haven’t found it). This has taken me years to write, and I don’t think I’m wrong.