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Here’s a creative caveat for you. If you didn’t like the Emerald City meets road movie of Wild at Heart, you really won’t like this eccentric look at crime and personal punishment. The story starts with a man haunted by videotaped visions of his home life. After a horrific crime, our lead suddenly transforms into a teenage mechanic in love with a murderous mobster’s moll. Huh? And then Robert Blake shows up in Kabuki makeup to speak spurious omens. In the end, it all becomes a wild ride, a circular schism where the beginning is actually the end, and visa versa. Cool, complex, and aesthetically satisfying.
Lynch literally rewrote the hour long TV drama landscape with the landmark mystery about the seedy underbelly of a small town in the Pacific Northwest. When the show stopped being “fun”, the director and his partner, Mark Frost, decided to deconstruct the entire Peaks purpose with this controversial “prequel”. Featuring a performance by Sheryl Lee that deserved serious Oscar consideration (she was definitely better than a mute Holly Hunter) and enough oddball backstory to make fans livid, the opening shot of a television being smashed should have signaled viewers where Lynch intended to go. As difficult as it is direct, it stands as a masterpiece of media misdirection.
Here’s the genius of David Lynch in a nutshell. ABC loved Twin Peaks, just not how it ended. So they contacted the filmmaker about another attempt at the TV serial. Lynch mulled things over, and then came up with this unusual look at the dog-eat-dog dynamic of Hollywood. The network bailed, and Lynch reconfigured the footage into a feature film. The result? What many consider to be the Best Movie of the 2000s… and it deserves every accolade. It’s a stunning achievement, brilliantly shot and acted, avoiding easy explanation but offering a wealth of wonders once allowed to flow and ferment. A true work of art.
As a young student, Lynch used a residency at AFI to create his first fully realized film. He had been making shorts for years, but this would be the moment where he would take his artist approach and work it into a single storyline. What he came up with touches on biology, paternity, love, lust, and the life changing challenges of children. It’s all wrapped up in a dour industrial backdrop where monochrome factories seem to dictate our fate. Sure, some of it doesn’t make a lick of sense, but that’s who Lynch operates. It’s more about what a sequence makes you feel than trying to find the hidden meaning.
Talk about a divisive title. The late Gene Siskel adored it. His pal and critic partner, Roger Ebert, hated it. Together, they started a discussion firestorm that has barely let down some three decades later. Lynch used his commercial clout post-Elephant Man to make the movie he always wanted, a simply story of the sour Hell buried beneath suburbia. As with any specific statement, Lynch overloads his narrative with everything he ever wanted to do, including musical obscurities (Roy Orbison) and blood-soaked violence. Offering a career rebirth for Dennis Hooper and Dean Stockwell, as well as a boost for the unknown Kyle MacLachlan and Laura Dern, it remains a stunning cinematic masterwork.