The Naked Lynch

David Lynch has generally presented himself as a kind of naif, and “no cinephile”, working more from inspiration than influence. While this is largely true, and offers a useful explanation of how his films end up in the strange and wonderful places they do, I’ve noticed over the years a few moments that definitely betray the influence of specific other movies, some of which are equally revealing of Lynch’s approach…

YOJIMBO — WILD AT HEART. The dog with the human arm in his mouth,whom I’ve named “Murdo“, trots out of Kurosawa’s evocation of a no-horse town in 19th century Japan, and into a Texas bank. Actually, since the arm is found in the bank, perhaps we need to posit the existence of a time-traveling hound who scoops up a banker’s forelimb and absconds back to Edo period Japan.

Could happen.

Complicating the matter is Murdo’s appearance in both THE NEW YORK RIPPER and the TV show Lost

EXPERIMENT IN TERROR — WILD AT HEART — TWIN PEAKS. This Blake Edwards thriller (!) is graced  by a wonderfully scary performance by Ross Martin, who has one intense scene intimidating a teenage Stephanie Powers which seems like an unmistakable influence on the “fuck me” scene between Willem Dafoe and Laura Dern in WAH. But the IMDb mentions other salient connections between this film and Twin Peaks which I somehow missed on my first viewing years ago — the score by Henry Mancini obviously strongly influenced the roadhouse theme in TP, and there’s an actual Twin Peaks road sign at the start of the movie. Furthermore, Martin’s psychopath character is actually called Lynch!

THE RAPTURE — LOST HIGHWAY. Robert Blake’s first, memorably unsettling appearance in LH sees him amble up to Bill Pullman at a party, dressed in black and with an air of Uncle Fester about him, and engage our hero in a strange conversation, during which the party music and background noise fade slowly to silence. Then he ambles off again and the normal sound resumes. In Michael Tolkin’s THE RAPTURE, Patrick Bauchau does exactly the same, only with different dialogue. His Uncle Festerishness is produced not by a close-shaved head and eyebrows, but by a priestly cowl, but his effect on the party atmos is identical. Everything that is said in the scene is quite different, but the general shape is the same. Of course, Lynch’s version is both scarier and funnier than Tolkin’s.

Incidentally, I once asked Lynch about The Mystery Man. He declined to say whether the MM, who turns up with a video camera late in the movie, was the one sending video tapes to Bill Pullman’s house. But he did say, helpfully, “He’s someone we’ve all met.”

This example feels like Lynch might have switched on his TV a few minutes into THE RAPTURE, caught this scene, become fascinated, and decided to use a variation of it in a movie somewhere, perhaps even switching the TV off and never learning the movie’s name… not wanting to spoil the intriguing little scene with context and explanation…

KISS ME DEADLY — LOST HIGHWAY. LH being a “twenty-first century noir,” movie references are perhaps more prevalent than in other Lynch films. The exploding shack which appears, destroying itself in reverse (creating itself) amid a retracting fireball during the striking sequence where Bill Pullman transforms into Baltazar Getty, seems to evoke the exploding house at the climax of Aldrich’s 1958 ne plus ultra of noir. In fact, Lynch’s decision to film the shack exploding was one of his last-minute on-set inspirations. Filming the climactic  reverse transformation later in the movie, which takes place in front of the shack, he suddenly flashed on the image of the building exploding. “So I asked the special effects guy what kind of really high-powered explosives he had. And he said that he had a lot, but that he could get more.”

THE KILLERS — OUT OF THE PAST — LOST HIGHWAY. LH repeats the noir plot device that when a man wants to disappear, he becomes a garage mechanic in a small town. Both Burt Lancaster, an ex-boxer, and Robert Mitchum, a former PI, manage this surprising career change. (A garage also features in BLUE VELVET, and both this film and LOST HIGHWAY feature disabled African-Americans among their staff. Not sure what we can make of that except that Lynch likes what he likes.)

THE WIZARD OF OZ — WILD AT HEART. This is really too obvious to need elucidating, and besides, the OZ references doubtless originate in Barry Gifford’s source novel. In fact, the Gifford-related movies tend to have more intertextual stuff than the others, however –

GILDA — MUHOLLAND DR. Not only does the amnesiac Rita derive her name from a poster for this movie, but the audition scene where Naomi Watts plays a scene of hatred as if it were a love scene is a clear paraphrase of a similar scene between Glenn Ford and Rita Hyaworth in the classic noir. SUNSET BLVD also seems to inform this film, but in a more diffuse way that’s hard to pinpoint through direct comparisons.

And now a weird one –

TALES OF HOFFMANN / KILL BABY KILL –Twin Peaks (last episode). In the spooky finale of his hit TV show, Lynch redeems the series from its second-season slump with a prolonged sequence set in the Red Room, or Black  Lodge. At the climax of this, the good Kyle MacLachlan is chase by a bad Kyle MacLachlan down a repeating series of red-curtained rooms and corridors. This seems to relate both to the chase through a single, endlessly looped room in Powell & Pressburger’s filmed opera-ballet exercise in pure cinema, but also to a chase through repeating rooms in Mario Bava’s delirious low-budget psychedelic period horror movie (which also inspired Fellini’s TOBY DAMMIT). The malevolent doppelganger also reminds me of the last episode of The Prisoner and the revelation of Number 1.

The one-armed man in Twin Peaks was originally written in as a throwaway nod to The Fugitive, but when Lynch realized what a great actor Al Strobel was, he enlarged the role greatly and made it (somehow) central to the series’ mythology.

Anyhow, these little references and influences point to a slightly different picture of Lynch than the usual one, although these examples are all from post-BLUE VELVET movies — I don’t think the earlier Lynch films reference cinema nearly so much. I suspect his childhood and personal fantasies supplied all the initial impetus he needed, and then the longer he’s worked in film the more movie quotations have seeped into his work in an osmotic fashion. The point is not to denounce him as a thieving swine, but merely to point out the more complicated relationship his cinema has with other movies.

Please jump in with any other examples you may have spotted!

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64 Responses to “The Naked Lynch”

  1. Lynch has claimed Jacques Tati as an influence especially on his attention to sound in ERASHERHEAD.

    Kiss Me Deadly, why didn’t I see that before…an authentically American yet utterly surreal masterpiece.

  2. Fascinating stuff, David, and there were a few things in there that I (a longterm Lynch-watcher) hadn’t spotted…. I think you give Barry Gifford both too much and too little credit here, though. The ‘Mystery Man’ scene in Lost Highway originated in a Gifford dream, as did the envelope with the increasingly intrusive videotapes (that’s not to say the dream couldn’t have been sparked by a viewing of the rather extraordinary The Rapture, however). And I don’t think there are any Oz references in the Sailor and Lula books, Gifford’s references tend to be more towards the noir/western end of the spectrum…. There are, however, a fascinating web of references in Gifford’s books both pre- and post- his Lynch-work to Lynch’s own films, which he initially seems to have hated, then grown to love. The most remarkable is a passage in one of the late Sailor-Lula books where Lula accidentally wanders into a multiplex screening of Blue Velvet and is hideously disturbed by it, and in Gifford’s ‘The Devil Thumbs a Ride’ he reviews the film as follows: “The whole thing is sick in a way that the world could easily do without…. real phlegm noir.” I wonder if they’ve ever discussed that review?

  3. I think the debt that Mulholland Drive has to Bergman’s Persona is pretty well known. I think that with this shot Lynch is possibly acknowledging that debt.

    http://www.mulholland-drive.net/screencaps/md_bed.jpga

    It’s not a million miles away from this shot:

    http://theseventhart.files.wordpress.com/2009/05/persona_1.jpg

  4. Sorry – the first link should have been

    http://www.mulholland-drive.net/screencaps/md_bed.jpg

  5. Interesting — a few films I should check out, for sure.
    I agree that Sunset Blvd is a huge influence on Mulholland Dr, but that’s not the first time he’s referenced it — I’m pretty sure that his character in Twin Peaks, Gordon Cole, gets his name from the Gordon Cole in Sunset Blvd who wants to hire Norma Desmond’s car.

    I’m sure there are other Sunset Blvd/Lynch links, too…

  6. Great stuff! Kiss Me Deadly seems like a key influence for Lynch. In addition to the obvious exploding house (and of course the yellow line shot from the front of a speeding car), I’ve always thought that Betty’s husky, whispery audition scene in Mulholland Dr. suggested the scene where Hammer and Velma clench together in Kiss Me Deadly. And Richard Pryor in Lost Highway plays an eccentric, noisy garage owner. And there are a pair of suited sleuths following one of the protagonists everywhere (and the same thing reappears in Mulholland Dr.). I think Lynch subtly quotes that movie a lot.

    Of course, Mulholland Dr. also directly references both Persona and Vertigo.

  7. I’ve thought for a while that Welles’ TOUCH OF EVIL was a distinct influence on both BLUE VELVET and WILD AT HEART.

  8. Lynch in general strikes me as a hugely derivative film-make – whether he admits to it or not. His films – like those of Spielberg and Soderbergh, to name the two most egregious examples – seem like the work of a director who knows a great deal about movies but little (if anything at all)about life.

    So it may reassure Lynch when other film-makers steal from him as much as (if not more than) he’s stolen from them. A case in point is Michael Haneke’s ghastly HIDDEN (an overpraised bore of a movie, if ever there was one) in which anything even remotely interesting has been plundered from Lynch’s LOST HIGHWAY.

  9. I think it’s nonsense to call Lynch derivative – while it’s easy (as we’re doing here) to spot his references, it’s impossible to find anything in the history of cinema that produces exactly the effect that he has effortlessly created (sometimes, granted, better than at other times) since the first time he exposed a piece of film. He made films that made us look at other, older films and call them Lynchian (and not only films – there’s a sequence in an episode of the old Addams Family tv show where Lurch and Cousin Itt converse for quite a long time in backwards-speak which is difficult to watch, through our post-Twin-Peaks eyes, as anything except pure Lynch). He created his own forebears, like the character from Borges (can’t remember which Borges story I’m referencing but it will come to me – eventually!).

  10. In total agreement with Paul here. So while I can’t think of any specific echoes, the creepy hospitality displayed in really baroque noirs such as Sunset Boulevard, The Third Man or Welles’ Trial definitely cast these films as forebears. The central fear in Eraserhead – the fear of being a guest – is Lynch’s bread and butter really, the simple noir fear of a foreign smiling and being asked to take a seat.
    Oh and what’s that film with the leaping brains?

  11. Lynch’s quotations and influences are oten similar in manner to Raul Ruiz.

    LOVE Cache! Not a naosecond of boredom.

  12. I didn’t like Haneke’s films until Cache which is a really great film. As David E. says, not one boring frame anywhere in its body. Quite surprised to see him at the Golden Globes yesterday.

  13. Leaping brains = Fiend without a Face.

  14. Somebody should use leaping brains in the title of something. Cabinet of Leaping Brains. The Leaping Brains of Pitz Palu. God’s Little Leaping Brains.

  15. THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    The first time I saw Kiss Me Deadly, in a film house in Toronto, it had this world ending finale. My wife and I have the VHS and DVD of the film, we have seen it on TCM and in a theatre with the regular ending. As a result, we thought that maybe early senility or dual hallucination had misguided us. But thanks to you, I feel vindicated. Can’t wait for my wife to come home so that I can tell her the news…WE ARE SANE AFTER ALL!

  16. That finale is the only one I’ve known — until recently. Though Durgnat spoke of Mike and Velma on the beach watching the house explode. This ending (where you don’t know if they get out alive or not) is better.

    Once on 42nd street it was double-featured with Lord Love a Duck

  17. Been watching Inland Empire lately so when I’m not at work and my head is clear, I’ll think whether I noticed any influences in that one. One thing I can tell you, in the hours and hours of cast and crew interviews I watched related to IE, not once did anyone make a comparison except to other Lynch movies.

  18. In the UK the “happy ending” of Kiss Me Deadly was seen on TV I think way earlier than any discussions of it I’ve read: maybe even in the eighties? It’s a fascinating example of print damage enhancing a film (although I’m glad we have the restored ending — all DVDs should feature both versions!)

    I wonder if the monkey in Inland Empire relates to the chimp in Sunset Blvd? It certainly relates to the monkey in Fire Walk with Me.

    I don’t think Lynch is at all derivative even if he borrows: except that in weak moments maybe he borrows too much from himself. But there’s that potential in any director with very strong personal terrain. As for not knowing much about life, I think if that’s true it connects directly to his ability to evoke a sense of mystery.

  19. I didn’t enjoy Funny Games so very very much that I’ve been hugely resistant to watching Cache or The White Ribbon despite the raves. Did think it was odd that so few critics mentioned the fairly massive plot point he borrowed from Lost Highway though.

  20. Inland Empire is a fascinating film and as disturbing as anything Lynch has done. However, I did find the ending strongly reminiscent of O Lucky Man. Both feature a musical celebration in which the main character is shown to have achieved some kind of Zen-like enlightment/release from karma. I know Lynch is an advocate of TM. Is that sufficient explanation, or not?

  21. There’s certainly some resemblance, although perhaps Eight and a Half is the common factor — Lynch is a huge Fellini fan, and the Anderson does seem partially indebted to that final dance. Maybe if Anderson’s master shot had come out (he fell out with DP Miroslav Ondricek after something went wrong with the exposure) maybe the resemblance would have been either stronger or weaker.

  22. Doesn’t Kenneth Anger cast a large influence over Lynch’s work? Like Mulholland Drive perhaps?

  23. To some degree. I’m sure Lynch is aware of it, but I don’t see a direct Anger connection.

    Cache and The White Ribbon are quite different from one another. The former is a cyptogram. The latter is a more straightforward study of people, place and time. In both (and this is a constant with hanecke) a “solution” to the mystery is never discovered — or ever really desired.

  24. Which Funny Games did you see, BTW?

  25. The first.

    It’s been pointed out to me (by an anonymous and anomalous source) that Lost Highway originated with the videotape idea, which came to Lynch during Fire Walk with Me. That was the starting point, and he then called Gifford in to flesh it out.

    See THE COMPLETE LYNCH. pg 207

    Gifford reports the phone call he received: “Barry, we have to write a movie.”
    “That sounds great, but I’m busy with something else…”
    “NO, Barry. We have to write a movie, and we have to write it RIGHT NOW.”

  26. Haneke says he remaid Funny Games in english because he always saw it as an American film. The remake stars Tim Roth, Naomi Watts and as the two nice young men in white — Michael Pitt and Brady Corbett. It was a huge flop stateside for obvious reasons. Torture porn audiences don’t like being made fun of.

  27. Weirdly, the people I know who liked the original are exactly those who like violent thrillers, and see it as a kind of endurance test. So I always felt the concept was doomed to failure — artistic rather than commercial failure.

  28. What other violent thrillers come equipped with a rewind mechanism?

  29. Oh, it has distinctive qualities. But nothing that could overcome the hectoring tone. Haneke wants me to have a bad time for my own good and I don’t feel like paying for that. Or doing it at all, really.

    I’ve heard suggestions that Cache might be actually enjoyable but I’m still reluctant.

  30. Haneke is enjoyable but not from the standard position of the enjoyable. he has no intention of makign things easy on you — even in The White Ribbon whose tone is reserved and whose violence is exceptionally muted.

    Rivette hates him, and I know why. But I still like him.

  31. ExperimentoFilm Says:

    I think McBride’s BREATHLESS is quite Lynchian in places but, again, only in terms of his post-DUNE output.

  32. His whole female switcheroo motif is from countless frightening 50′s films: Les Diaboliques paired with Mulholand Drive is quite pronounced. But also, films like Bergman’s The Silence, Hitch’s Vertigo – the double woman films he’s completely conscious of.

  33. If the only Haneke you’ve seen is Funny Games (either one) then you should really give him another shot with a film that’s not so, well, obnoxious. I see the point of Funny Games, but it is after all just a hectoring and kind of nasty formal exercise. Haneke’s more recent work is much more complex and substantial, with Cache quite possibly his best so far.

  34. Funny Games made me so angry, made me feel so patronised, that it took a lot to make me see another Haneke (The Piano Teacher, which was…. well, it wasn’t patronising. It wasn’t very enjoyable either. It was memorable). It’s a profoundly dim (in the sense of unintelligent) movie, I think, and its critique of movie violence is so bizarrely simplistic that it seems to have done a double-blind on critics, who assume that he can’t be saying what he seems to be saying, so he must be operating on some super-sensitive dog-whistle level of artistic credibilty, rather than just doing a number on Beavis and Butthead fans. I would credit Mike Judge with a great deal more understanding of modern American culture than Haneke has ever managed to display.

  35. So VHS is dead, but after all these years, its appearance in movies suddenly its absence leaves a powerful footprint. I think we’ll feel a nostalgic sting when we watch the tapes (as objects; their transmissions) in VIDEODROME, LOST HIGHWAY, CACHE…even (if you have the stomach )TRASH HUMPERS. The whirring gears, the tracking lines, etc. Whoda thunk?

  36. I was just coming around to the idea when he remade Funny Games and I found it much harder to believe he’d moved on. I did watch part of The Piano Teacher and then decided I could live without it. Old Happy Haneke may not be for me.

    The McBride movie does seem like it might have some point of connection. Although I know Tarantino’s a fan, I haven’t heard Lynch ever mention it. Hitchcock does seem like an overt influence, even on Blue Velvet.

    Oh, and Guy’s connection of Wild at Heart with Touch of Evil makes a lot of sense with the creepy motel and Texan Gothic.

  37. Tapes are kind of nice objects. They have moving parts and stuff. I just got a shattered tape of the 60s Hands of Orlac in the post, which still plays despite missing chunks of plastic. I quite like repairing them too. Had to fix several from the Lindsay Anderson Archive.

  38. ExperimentoFilm Says:

    I also imagine Dreyer’s VAMPYR as an influence on ERASERHEAD and LOST HIGHWAY.

  39. Loved Piano Teacher. Hated Hidden, That’s useful isn’t it. But I particularly hated the fixed camera, and had guessed about half an hour in that it was God sending the tapes in or whatever the twist was. Clearly, given the love shown here it must have worked on some level, but not for me, nope and I saw Lemming at the same time, loved it, and use it as a stick to beat Cache: a dream-logic thriller that actually thrilled.
    But I look forward to White Ribbon.
    Also this might interest some like me who’ve seen neither “Funny Games”:
    http://videogum.com/archives/the_hunt_for_the_worst_movie_of_all_time/the_hunt_for_the_worst_movie_o_76_098831.html

  40. I think Bergman’s THE SILENCE with its empty musty corridors, dwarfs, animalistic sex, and protracted … silences … was a major influence on ERASERHEAD and most Lynch films thereafter – his HOTEL ROOM pilot being one of the most obvious descendants. (Yes, I know there are no dwarfs in ERASERHEAD, but TWIN PEAKS makes up for it.) Two other films that seem to have influenced ERASERHEAD are Kubrick’s 2001 and Polanski’s REPULSION – compare the baby in ERASERHEAD to the skinned rabbit in REPULSION.

    TWIN PEAKS is a veritable anthology of references to film noir. Laura Palmer and her look-alike cousin Madeleine hark back to Preminger’s LAURA and VERTIGO’s Madeleine – so much so that when I first watched Lynch’s series I expected Laura Palmer’s purported death to be either some kind of mistake (as in the Preminger) or some kind of intentional hoax (like the death of Kim Novak’s “Madeleine” in VERTIGO). The casting of Richard Beymer and Russ Tamblyn together was surely a nod to WEST SIDE STORY’s musical noir, just as the casting of Jane Greer in Season Two was surely a nod to OUT OF THE PAST. The casting of Hank Worden as an incredibly aged bellhop was simultaneously a nod to THE SEARCHERS’ Mose Harper (giving the actor his signature line from THE SEARCHERS: “Thank you, kindly”) and to the incredibly aged bellhop from Bergman’s THE SILENCE (again).

  41. Haneke is interesting to me because he is optimistic in his quest to carve out an alternative cinema in the mainstream. He isn’t a film-maker interested in the Euro arthouse ghetto at all. He wants to make films for the general audience. So you get Cache which while being new and bold is also a lot more accessible than David Lynch’s films. He strikes me as the second coming of Stanley Kubrick in a lot of ways. And the divisiveness he’s sparked is quite similar to the attention Kubrick sparked in his lifetime. Outright ardour and dislike on both sides of the street. With Kubrick I’ve felt one way or another through a lot of his films and am still uncertain as to what to make of him. But with time passed, you tend to mourn his passing because he was someone who was creating genuine cinematic experiences rather than what James Cameron gets rewarded for and he did it out in the open.

    I have only seen Kiss Me, Deadly with the “restored” ending. I saw the more famous version on the clip in Scorsese’s documenary of American cinema and was curious why this additional scene isn’t there. But it doesn’t make too much of a difference since the Aldrich is a film where we aren’t invited to identify with the characters so we can’t bring ourselves to feel happier than thou when they survive or feel too bad that the roof got blown up with them in it.

  42. I was definitely thinking of the motel scene, with Dennis Weaver’s jittery, spastic motel clerk and Janet Leigh being menaced by the gang of Mexican greasers (including Mercedes McCambridge’s greaser bulldyke, inspired bit of casting there), a definite parallel to Dern being menaced by Dafoe in WAH).

  43. Mancini’s score for the unrestored Touch of Evil could have been an influence on the way Lynch uses Badalamenti – his scores (esp. for Twin Peaks) often have the feel of being composed almost as library music, measured out by the yard to fit the duration of certain scenes, rather than underscore. That weird disjunction is also there in Touch of Evil (as well as, of course, a lot of great junk cinema of the fifties and sixties).

  44. Twin Peaks, I suspect, really did use the score as stock music: “Here comes the love theme!” It was nice.

    The Mancini connection is certainly firmed up by Experiment in Terror, which is pure Badalamenti avant la lettre.

    The new Pynchon book has a scene where the protag strolls thru Venice California and there are different tunes wafting from radios in every window: a cute reference to a cut of Touch of Evil which did not yet exist at the time the story takes place.

  45. I don’t remember examples, but I remember reading in Sight and Sound years ago about experimental films that directly influenced Lynch.

  46. He presented a BBC documentary back in the 80s where he seemed genuinely well informed and enthusiastic about all manner of stuff. And as an art student I expect he had encountered Man Ray and others who worked in moving image. Don’t know of any direct Kenneth Anger influence (Scorsese certainly pays homage to KA for his use of music) but it seems probable.

    He talks briefly but eagerly about Bergman in Lynch on Lynch, giving the impression that the Swede is a lesser influence than Fellini but still important to him. And it’s impossible to imagine him not loving The Silence: hotel, dwarfs, female masturbation, check, check, check…

  47. david wingrove Says:

    There are few things I enjoy more than gratuitously trashing Michael Haneke…gets a reaction every time. Alas, my favourite sport may soon be as dead as fox hunting – as I did really admire THE WHITE RIBBON!

  48. Haneke’s very easy to dislike, but not at all easy to dismiss.

  49. I’m in the happy position of really having only seen Funny Games, which I find incredibly easy to dismiss. It’s totally successful on its own terms: it makes violence grueling and unpleasant and makes you think about the difference between movie and real violence. The trouble is, that point is so obvious as to be not worth making. I KNOW they’re different things. But movie violence, by virtue of its not being real, is a totally different thing anyway, so it has every right to be different. Haneke seems to think that because mainstream movies don’t appear to think about their treatment of violence, nobody who watches them has considered the issues. in fact, there’s a ready understanding among even the most lamebrained audiences that movie violence is pretty close to morally neutral even in the worst cases, because IT’S NOT REAL.

    As Cronenberg says, the censorious tend to do something normally only done by psychotics: confuse fiction and reality.

  50. I went to a seminar on movie violence once. The guys who made the odious Man Bites Dog were in the hot seat, getting grilled by the ‘depictions of violence are as bad as acts of violence’ crowd. My sole contribution was to quote Godard – “That’s not blood, that’s the colour red.” There was a very brief silence then everybody went back to denouncing imaginary acts of violence all over again. I think they must be the people who like Funny Games.

  51. People who denounce imaginary acts of violence don’t like Funny Games either.

    Hanke’s crime is his insistence on spoiling the illusion of the “real” at the most dramatic moment.

    I don’t see this as censorious.

  52. Well, he wants to deprive the viewer of the vicarious pleasure of watching violence — so all the violence except the shooting which gets rewound is offscreen. This doesn’t make much difference in itself, but I would agree he does subtract pleasure from the use of violence. And lots of filmmakers have tried and failed to do that (usually by making the violence more explicit) so it’s some kind of achievement. But to what end?

    (Nearly ALL Happy Haneke’s filmmaking strategies seem to involve subtracting some pleasurable element of narrative filmmaking — vicarious pleasure, narrative resolution…)

    Haneke isn’t so much censorious as finger-wagging — he wants to scold us for enjoying violent films. But “violent films” is really a misnomer — there are no violent films, only films which depict violence. No film was ever violent to a human being or animal, they’re pretty passive objects really.

  53. Diarmid says: “I’m sure there are other Sunset Blvd/Lynch links, too…”

    Indeed, there are. Lynch’s character on TWIN PEAKS, Gordon Cole, gets his name from a studio employee in Wilder’s film.

    Lynch once listed the film as one of his favorites in THE PREMIERE GUIDE TO MOVIES ON VIDEO (1991). Save for one, the others have all been alluded to here as likely influences (8 1/2, PERSONA). That one is Kubrick’s LOLITA.

    I once asked him how strongly other films influence his work. He admitted he supposes stuff he has seen seeps into his films. But he doesn’t consider himself a cinephile or even an avid moviewatcher.

  54. I think that’s fair. And he’s still deeply immersed in other art forms, which feed his creative process, so is arguably more richly stimulated than somebody like DePalma who does nothing but watch movies and screw women. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

    Lolita makes sense — don’t know of any direct links but tonally it fits with his sense of using humour for discomfort.

  55. david wingrove Says:

    The teenage sexpot Audrey Horne in TWIN PEAKS (played by Sherilyn Fenn – anybody remember her?) is like a slightly older version of Lolita. Especially in one cliff-hanger ending where she almost (unwittingly) beds down with her dad.

    Oh, and the mother played by Diane Ladd in WILD AT HEART is like Charlotte Haze on steroids. Plus the whole wide-eyed fascination with American trash culture, which is common to both Nabokov and Lynch.

    The difference is that Nabokov (or even Kubrick) appears to have some sort of moral or ethical perspective on what he’s doing, while David Lynch seems to have none.

  56. I think he does, but it gets abandoned in a lot of Wild at Heart. I think his previous and subsequent work is a lot more consistent in terms of its moral framework. Wild at Heart is too in love with the sick joke and freak-show aspects to maintain a coherent moral perspective. It’s the only one I have a problem with, although I love some of it.

  57. Code Unknown is probably my favourite Haneke, a kind of ur-text that seems to contain all of the various plot strands that have been more fully explored and played out in both previous films (the structure of 71 Fragments of a Chronology of Chance; the bourgeoise kidnapped and tortured scene Binoche plays in the film within a film similar to Funny Games; children on the edge of adulthood and the violence that that causes them to do to their elders, and their elders to inflict on them by their semi-concious resentments) and come to fruition in later films (race, language, class, immigration and assimilation and the way that the characters (and our) different reactions to people become interestingly dependent on how different mixtures of the same factors are displayed and are perceived; and the legacy of war, which of course becomes important in Cache and obliquely referenced in the aftermath of Time of the Wolf (which reminds me a bit of Bergman’s Shame) and the prefiguring through the historical setting of White Ribbon).

    Though I also agree with Haneke’s comments about it being important not to reduce White Ribbon to just an ironic take on the ‘Hitler’s Youth’ generation. I found Time of the Wolf’s (relatively) ending involving the boy of the family taking the moral weight of the film onto his shoulders a relatively happy one, and so see White Ribbon as Haneke taking that brief respite offered by the earlier film back into murky, morally complex waters.

  58. Even from a distance I couldn’t take seriously the idea of Hitler’s generation as a Village of the Damned mob of evil children, so I’m glad it has greater resonance than that.

  59. There’s of course The Shining and Twin Peaks. The creepy bartender vs. the giant, and the creepy Jack Nicholson vs. Leland Palmer, also the horror inside a family, crazy father etc. The room where they sleep in that hotel reminds me of Twin Peaks also, the color of the walls, the lighting, maybe.

    Maya Deren’s Meshes of the Afternoon vs. Lost Highway, the house looks the same (it was Lynch’s house, so I’m told), the loopy narrative, the murder mystery. Might be that Lynch hasn’t seen this, but there’s lots of similarities.

    Lynch has told that he likes Bergman, Kubrick, Fellini, Wilder, and some Hitchcock. Maybe there’s a hint of the Death character from the Seventh Seal in the pale, eyebrowless Mystery Man. There’s also this weird, menacing pale person in Fanny & Alexander (lives in the theater, if I remember correctly), that seems a bit lynchian to me.

    The grey dress Naomi Watts is wearing in one of the scenes vs. Kim Novak’s grey dress in Vertigo. The fact that car accident leads the protagonist to a random house and so the mystery/story begins, both in Sunset Blvd and Mulholland Dr. and of course the Hollywood critcism, crazy actresses etc.

  60. Excellent! The supernatural mystery of the Overlook Hotel seems very Twin Peaks. By the end of season 2 it seemed like the Great Northern Hotel was haunted.

    And of course there’s Rebel Without a Cause, whose 50s ambience is all over his work, and probably influenced the casting of Dennis Hopper in BV and certainly Natasha Gregson Wagner in Lost Highway.

  61. Well, as long as we’re talking 50s ambience, one should also include A PLACE IN THE SUN. There are no direct links to Lynch’s work that I’m aware of. There is, however, a darkness-in-the-sunshine quality that pervades the film. It strikes a similar tone as BLUE VELVET and TWIN PEAKS. And I believe George Stevens was personally influential to Lynch during his formative years at AFI, if I’m not mistaken.

  62. I’m not sure if that was Stevens or George Stevens Jnr. Further research required.

  63. I enjoyed this, but I still believe Lynch is not consciously sitting down to rip other films off – unlike so many of today’s directors. It’s a tribute to his talents that we search for meaning in the past, but it always puzzles me why it is so hard for people to accept that he is working from his subconscious imagination and his own life experiences – and not referring to other films for his ideas… Having said that, I’ve always seen similarities with SPIDER BABY & BLUE VELVET ? Or is that just me?

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