Saturday, November 15, 2008

Some Remarks On . . .
The David Lynch Liquidation Sale

Watching David Lynch stuff a pair of women's panties into his mouth got me to thinking.

Okay, maybe I should back up for a second.

Yesterday, someone forwarded to me via email a demented YouTube video from about five years ago wherein the aforementioned auteur consumes the aforementioned article of ladies lingerie. God knows I would not have sought it out voluntarily. But it was sent to me with the query, "Is David Lynch a good director?" . . . as if the measure of Lynch as a film artist could ever be drawn from another instance of his growing penchant for half-witted exhibitionism . . . and since I'm such a sucker for the role of Sage Cinephile, I figured I'd at least take a gander at the thing and see what it was that inspired the question before launching into performance mode.

Now, before anyone asks why I was posed such a seemingly elementary question, I should probably point out here that no one I know outside the confines of the internet has a fleeting interest in cinema beyond its diversionary function. It means nothing, less than nothing, to anyone I'm even casually acquainted with; and speaking about it with so much as a particle of enthusiasm . . . as I sometimes do when I'm unable to govern the impulse properly . . . gets you either amused chuckles or uncomprehending stares (take your pick). For all the social good it does, you might as well tell people you've been moonlighting as a part-time carnival geek.

At any rate, I suspect (actually, I know) that the individual who bid me to disclose myself on the subject of David Lynch yesterday was just looking for some cheap amusement on an otherwise slow Friday. Fine by me, captain. So before winding myself up I watched the video I was so graciously sent.

It's not a new production. In fact, I understand that what I saw is someone else's remix (always a bad thing) of a piece that debuted on the Premium section of Lynch's website. Watching it, all I could think was that David Lynch is a filmmaker of true and immense gift who puts an awful lot of effort into acting strange; far more than the task would require if it ever came to him naturally.

From what I can piece together through the remix madness (no, I'm not linking to it here; go run a Google search and it'll come back a hundred-fold), it goes like this: He's sitting in front of a red velvet curtain left over from Twin Peaks, looking for all the world as though he just woke up after eight hours slumber on a park bench, togged out in that trademark black suitjacket and white shirt buttoned up to the adam's apple (an exceptionally hip clothing selection . . . for 1985). There's a girl sitting next to him who I think is supposed to be a fan (probably an actress or somebody who works in his office). He announces that the little lady is going to remove her panties, hand them off to him; whereupon, with nothing up his sleeves, he will stuff them into his mouth. Swell. She gets to her feet, removes her garment (off camera; which is not the only clue that she wasn't actually wearing them), he exclaims with what was once called boyish enthusiasm that they're still warm!! (hubba hubba), stuffs them into his yap, chews them audibly ("num . . num . . num"), and . . .

You know, there's really something wrong with this guy. David Lynch, I mean. A few years back, when he put out a series of ringtones (ringtones?!?!) on that website of his . . . the one where he sells hats and t-shirts and mugs like some paranoid major market disc-jockey who thinks it's all going to vanish into thin air tomorrow, so why not cash in now (what kind of waterhead, I ask you, spends ten bucks on a Dumbland coffee mug?) . . . I remember being somewhat unconvinced that this is the sort of thing a filmmaker of his caliber ought to be spending his time on. After all, it's not as if our cinemas are about to be crushed under the weight of all this great filmmaking we've been getting lately. We could use a little bit more, at least. I know that if I were advising Lynch I'd say, "Look, maybe you should forget about moving the merchandise for a while and . . . I dunno . . . make movies or something; since you seem to do that tolerably well. Granted it may not be as creatively fulfilling as taking twenties off your audience for hats with ERASERHEAD embroidered across the front, but I'm sure it has its rewards."

I won't even go into the TM pimping or dragging a cow hither and yon to promote Inland Empire, or the rest of that arrant foolishness he engages in routinely now, except to say that it's all in keeping with something like that video I bore witness to yesterday. In another forum where I was discussing this crackbrained stunt, someone who will almost certainly wish to go unidentified here wrote the following:

Watching the bonus material on the Inland Empire DVD I was
struck how Lynch's gimmicky celebrity weirdness, his marketed schtick,
might look contrived but he gives off the aura of someone who,
underneath all that, really is odd and maybe not all that likeable.
It's like the Lynchian strangeness we've come to know and love all
these decades is cover for some Lynchian strangeness we might not like
as much.

Maybe. Of course a comprehensive examination of that would require closer analysis of Lynch than cinephilic discourse could ever bear; and anyway, who in hell wants the thankless task of rooting around the interior of that skull? Personally I think this is simply the way David Lynch has chosen to market himself; literally going into a kind of creative liquidation as he enters the autumn (if not the twilight) of his years. I just wish he did it with a little more dignity. Jesus. I mean, if Carl Dreyer were still with us, you think he'd be spending his days working on a line of Ordet screensavers?

Yeah. I don't either.


Larry Aydlette said...

Tom, I love this piece! Write more!

Tom Sutpen said...

Uhhhhhh . . . thank you, Larry!

Flickhead said...

I second Larry.

Great stuff. Funny you should bring up Dreyer at the end -- midway through your article I thought about the very same thing.

Tom Sutpen said...

Thanks, Ray. I was saying yesterday to someone that what I find puzzling about this is that the only logical purpose it can have is to make Lynch look like an absolute idiot (and a mercenary one) in the eyes of the world. He has to know that this can only incinerate the credibility of his work and himself. I mean I sure as heck can't envision a scenario whereby his reputation is aided by all this nonsense, can you?

I don't care how many ex-wives the guy has (in the event that alimony figures into this somewhere), he should just make movies and get out of the souvenir racket. Stop the madness, already.

Flickhead said...

Going by The Elephant Man and The Straight Story, it's obvious Lynch could work for hire at any mainstream outfit. If he stuck to a script and made some blockbuster like Ratatouille, he'd reap far more attractive profits from those tchotchkas than anything connected to Dumbland.

Maybe he's not so bright, after all.

Chase said...

If any of his films other than the Elephant Man, or the Straight Story (neither of which were blockbusters by any stretch) can be used as evidence (even those two mentioned, of which TEM isn't even comparatively as clean as "the Pursuit of Happyness" or some Kevin Costner shitfest) Lynch does whatever he finds creatively interesting, and doesn't give two fucks what anyone else thinks about it. The documentary "Lynch One" was filmed behind the scenes to Inland Empire and half of things he creates in the process didn't have anything to do with the film itself, or any apparent audience other than himself.

Yes, the guy's weird. Maybe so weird no matter how much we enjoy his dreamy films we couldn't even be friends with him. But it's not that Lynch is trying, nor does he care to.

Dex said...

hi tom>>

i appreciate yr point that his hustling's somewhat crass, but you may also remember that hitchcock had teevee show he flogged, as well as sticking his name all over mystery books, board games, etc. welles, as i recall, also had a penchant for asinine public behavior.

more to the point, though, lynch makes his movies with very little funding from the studios, if at all - most of his scratch comes from the french. i know ringtones aren't very elegant, but how else is he supposed to raise capital?

Tom Sutpen said...

Chase and Dex:

I agree with you that there's a great deal of self-indulgence in David Lynch's work; in fact I would guess that it's been there from the start, long before any moviegoer got an inkling of what might be crawling around inside the guy's head. And he certainly isn't the first director to attempt to transform himself into a celebrity. And this shouldn't be counted as a mark against him. Virtually every good-to-great filmmaker in history (and Lynch is still in that category, far as I'm concerned, regardless of how much he's made a jackass of himself lately) seeks to feed their egos and/or gets off on some element of their work in a wholly private manner. It's not new and it's not particularly damning.

My point here isn't that Lynch is indulging himself impermissibly, it's the way he's been going about it. If he'd exhausted every avenue of subsidy, then I can see some logic in peddling himself in this manner. But absent some information that says otherwise, I'm not convinced he had no choice but to go this route.

Dex said...

fair point. thanks for clarifying.

Allison said...

Thanks for your entry. Upon seeing Inland Empire (unfortunately on the big screen), a whole career crashed right before my eyes. How terrible. There's nothing I can do. I ordered some of D.L.'s coffee for my dad though.

Chase said...

Tom -

I see what you mean. I would like to see more practical merch available and marketed (like a poster of him any of the more popular images of him smoking, I'd love something like THAT.) I think you'd agree he has every right to act like a jackass if he pleases, but making us pay for that, ehhhh. Maybe not.

I was wondering what you thought of the most recent item for sale that will help in building those transcendental meditation temples he is so adamant about building:

List $180, retail $130
Pretty steep price to pay for stuff most Lynch fans already own. Way to stick it to us David.

Drsjpdc said...

Tom, the clipping with the London Le photo w/ Ed Sullivan...can you let me know that publication that was in and the date? I would like to use it as a reference for the Article on Wikipedia on London I wrote.