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David Lynch: 10 reasons to worship the Twin Peaks surrealist

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Throughout February, the British Film Institute is paying tribute to one of cinema's great auteurs with a season of David Lynch movies. From his startling debut Eraserhead to the bunny-infested mania of Inland Empire, his mesmerising imagery and intriguing narratives ensure that his works are all worth experiencing on the big screen. Even his messy adaptation of Dune!

David Lynch and a friend
leaving Chateau Marmont
Los Angeles, California

© WENN / Samuele Vannoni/WENN.com


As we're dealing with a man who frequently navigates around conventions and rarely tells 'straight stories', simply listing a formulaic Top 10 of his best films/scenes is not, well, Lynchian enough. So here are a few highly subjective and damn fine reasons to worship at the altar of this truly unique artist...

1. His inspired ideas...

Ladies in radiators, fishes in percolators, backwards-speaking dwarves and mysterious blue boxes that change everything when unlocked - these are just a few of the brilliant ideas conjured up by David Lynch over his career. Then there's Wild At Heart - Lynch's powerful tale of a Bristol-based vet moving to South Africa to run a game park with his family.

OK, that above reference to the ITV family drama is not true, but in Lynch's world an idea that causes sudden subversion is often key to pulling the proverbial rug from beneath the audience's feet. Just witness the character changes in Lost Highway, Mulholland Drive and Inland Empire - where a person becomes someone else entirely.


2. The Subversion of Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me

If ever a movie is ripe for critical reevaluation, it's Fire Walk With Me. Although it seriously p*ssed off the show's fans and film critics alike upon its release in 1992 - and was booed at a Cannes Film Festival screening - the cinematic prequel to the recently-cancelled TV series was an emotionally and physically brutal depiction of the last days of Laura Palmer's turbulent life.

David Lynch could have easily given viewers what they think they wanted, namely familiar retreads of classic Twin Peaks scenarios and cosy coffee and cherry pie-guzzling sequences at the Double R Diner intertwined with amusing interludes from the wonderful supporting characters. But he didn't. Instead he took the bold move to follow his vision, rather than allow commercial imperatives to dictate his decisions (as they arguably did with Dune).

Distanced from the legacy of the TV series, Fire Walk With Me is breathtakingly brilliant and immensely powerful - particularly in the frenzied build-up to the transcendental ending. It's Lynch's unsung masterpiece... and it's little wonder there is an ongoing fight by fans to see the extensive deleted scenes.


3. Rabbits!

Adopting a distinctly different approach to the furry animals than Elmer Fudd, David Lynch created a surreal online 'sitcom' featuring three humanoid bunnies voiced by Mulholland Drive stars Naomi Watts, Laura Elena Harring and Scott Coffey. It borders on being analytically impenetrable, featuring random bursts of applause and laughter juxtaposed with a very sombre tone, but the Lynchian atmospherics ensure a very disconcerting but enthralling experience. The rabbits also hopped their way into Inland Empire!


4. Dreaming of Duran Duran

Naming Isabella Rossellini's Wild At Heart character Perdita DURANgo must have been Lynch's prophetic subconscious at work, as two decades later the filmmaker gravitated his extraordinary visions towards the English 'Ordinary World' pop legends. In addition to remixing/'Lynchifying' Duran Duran's recent single 'Girl Panic!', he also hooked up with the band to helm a concert last year that was streamed live over the web. Being Lynch, it was far from a conventional endeavour - and a clip from the start of the dazzling gig can be seen below. Curiously, the performance of 'All You Need Is Now' ends in a smoke infusion that evokes the foggy demise of Naomi Watts' Mulholland Drive character!

As Lynch told Uncut magazine recently: "I did a live film with Duran Duran for their American Express 'Unstaged' thing, and, in preparation, I started listening to their music to see if images came. I wasn't over the moon about their music when I first heard it, if I'm honest. But, the more I listened to it, the more I loved it. It's truly magical. I just think that if people listen to Duran Duran two or three times, you'll fall in love with the songs. I dream about them at night! Seriously."

Just imagine what those dreams must be like. Simon Le Bon holding a log and wearing an oxygen mask while attempting to belt out 'Hungry Like The Wolf' in reverse to a crowd of startled rabbits and dancing dwarves?



5. The Mulholland Drive epiphany...
Music is vital to the sensations felt while watching Lynch's movies, with his frequent collaborations with genial composer Angelo Badalamenti enhancing the atmospherics and heightening the ethereal qualities absorbed by our senses. Pompous descriptions can't do it justice, though. Perhaps a simple 'wow' is a more apt way of putting things.

Within the context of Mulholland Drive, many viewers experience a euphoric epiphany during the mimed theatre performance of 'Llorando' (interestingly pronounced 'DURANdo'!) that echoes the feelings of distressed damsels Betty and Rita. It's still stunning when witnessed in isolation, as Rebekah Del Rio's version of Roy Orbison's 'Crying' is simply beautiful - and much better than the rendition given by Raquel's speech-impaired associate on Only Fools and Horses. Silencio!



6. Full of beans!
"Black as midnight on a moonless night," is how Twin Peaks' Dale Cooper described his ideal cup of Joe. The FBI Agent's penchant for the damn fine beverage mirrors Lynch's own obsession. Not only did he direct several coffee commercials using characters from the show, but he also launched his own 'David Lynch Signature Cup' brand of organic coffee several years ago.

Fittingly, he used a line delivered by Justin Theroux in Inland Empire to market the product: "It's all in the beans... and I'm just full of beans!" Well, hopefully these 'inner beans' and their caffeine kicks will find a way of motivating Mr Lynch to make more movies in the very near future.



7. Gordon Cole!
It's not just behind the camera that the great man has made his mark. In both the TV and movie incarnations of Twin Peaks, Lynch displayed a brilliant flair for comic timing with his portrayal of the shouting/near-deaf FBI boss Gordon Cole.

His appearances were frequently hilarious, and on one particular occasion surprisingly moving. This occurred with his attempts to woo waitress Shelley Johnson at the diner, which you can read more about here.



8. The Weather Reports
Move over Michael Fish or Anchorman's Steve Carell! In a bizarre but welcome move, David Lynch used to upload daily weather reports onto his official website. There is something so appealing about the guy's jovial delivery that he could announce that Hurricane Bob was imminently nearing your home and you would still be beaming.



9. Versatility
David Lynch is frequently pigeonholed as merely being a purveyor of surreal and bizarre worlds, but he is more than capable of tackling conventional narratives too. This is epitomised by his handling of the tragic true tale of the severely disfigured Joseph Merrick in the 1980 film The Elephant Man.

Superbly shot in black-and-white and boasting a moving central portrayal by John Hurt, the film deservedly scooped eight Oscar nominations (including 'Best Picture'). 19 years later, Lynch tackled another adaptation of a real narrative with The Straight Story, which was a radical departure from his previous movie Lost Highway - although both featured the director's trademark road motif!



10. David Lynch knows how movies should be watched...
As well as being firmly against his DVDs having chapters and commentaries that seek to explain ambiguities, David Lynch also has some passionate feelings on how a movie should be watched. If you thought his coffee was strong...


The British Film Institute's David Lynch season runs until February 29 at the BFI Southbank.

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