Monday, November 10, 2014

Book Review: Lynch on Lynch

Back in the day I used to do some writing for the website Suite101. That place is long gone now but my writing remains.

I mostly did book and film reviews and I'm still proud of a couple of them. Let's take a look:

Lynch on Lynch - David Lynch Discusses Himself

Chris Rodley's collection of interviews with acclaimed director David Lynch is a fascinating peek inside the mind one of cinema's most important filmmakers.

There is no filmmaker working today quite as distinctive as David Lynch. He has created some of the strangest, scariest and most beautiful movies in modern cinema, resulting in a legion of fans dedicated to understanding his work. Analyzing Lynch is no small task, so the best idea is to let him do it himself. Lynch on Lynch, edited by Chris Rodley, is a book-length interview with Lynch that covers the filmmaker's entire career in a candid and sincere fashion.

Rodley structures the book chronologically, following the path of Lynch’s filmography. After two short introductions (one by Rodley for the book’s original printing, another one for this revised edition), the book begins with a section covering Lynch's childhood. From there each subsequent chapter revolves around a film from his career. The book ends with an index listing Lynch's films, shorts, and commercials, along with credits and technical information. Rodley's format for each chapter is a short introduction, followed by a question and answer session focusing on the chapter’s film. For example, the chapter on "Eraserhead" talks about Lynch’s life prior to "Eraserhead," the film’s production, and ending with its release and reaction. Lynch is very open and willing to talk about everything regarding his life and films.

But What Does It Mean?

Well, almost everything. Lynch has always been cagey about deeply analyzing the themes and meanings of his movies, and those looking for interpretations will be very disappointed. Rodley offers some thoughts on the films, but his attempts to probe Lynch into going beneath the films’ surfaces prove fruitless. Lynch usually offers a small, “I don’t want to influence anyone’s opinion,” response, but every once in a while he will completely clam up. When Rodley asks Lynch how he created the hideous baby prop in "Eraserhead," Lynch steadfastly refuses to answer. There’s nothing whimsical or funny about his refusal, as he genuinely seems to believe that revealing how he created the baby will ruin people’s belief in movie.

But even this caginess is fascinating, and the lack of interpretation should not be a problem for most people, as what Lynch does say is informative and enlightening. Throughout the book Lynch reveals his thoughts on growing up, philosophies on life and art, and copious amounts of production information. Lynch’s interpretation of life is one of optimism and wonder, as he really does see the world far differently than the rest of us. In fact, reading Lynch’s own beliefs does in a roundabout way help readers better understand his movies. His belief in the power of dreams in particular will undoubtedly assist readers in further analyzing "Mulholland Drive" and "Eraserhead."
Lynch Unfiltered

The best section of the book is on "Twin Peaks," Lynch’s genre-defying and deeply influential TV show. Reading Lynch’s thoughts on television and the production process are fascinating, and the reader can feel his sadness as the show evolves from a huge TV sensation to a hated feature-film adaptation. Indeed, Lynch’s discussion of the "Twin Peaks" movie, "Fire Walk With Me," is some of the best as he’s so forthright on what he tried to do on an emotional level. His disappointment with the film’s negative reaction is heartbreaking.

Especially amusing throughout the book is the back and forth between Rodley and Lynch. Rodley tries his best to draw out as much possible information from Lynch, but Lynch is a crafty one. He has fun dodging Rodley’s more probing queries into the films’ meanings, and seems to delight in surprising Rodley with his real thoughts and beliefs. Those expecting Lynch’s love of coffee, pie, and Americana to be ironic posing will be surprised to see he’s completely sincere in his appreciation. Mel Brooks describes Lynch in the book as “Jimmy Stewart from Mars,” and a more apt comparison is hard to find.

A book like this is hard to critique in some ways as it’s simply a collection of interviews. Thankfully, Chris Rodley has made this critic’s job much easier by producing a volume of fascinating insights from David Lynch. The sheer amount of information revealed is astonishing, and Lynch’s beliefs on a whole range of subjects are illuminating and helpful to any Lynch scholar. While David Lynch may never reveal all of his secrets, this book is the best look into his mind anyone could ever want. His world is both frightening and wonderful and no book on him has done a better job examining it.

No comments:

Post a Comment