The Eye of the Duck


I’ve just written a feature script with Alex Livingston(e), a very talented guy, who pointed out to me that you can see the eye of a duck in David Lynch’s BLUE VELVET. (above)

And this was significant since Lynch has a whole theory about the eye of the duck, which he explains below.

The clip I really wanted to show was Mark Cousins’ Scene by Scene interview, where he brings up the duck-eye theory again and gets a typically detailed elucidation of it, and we learn that movies are like ducks and each movie has a scene which is equivalent to the eye of the duck. Mark asks Lynch what the eye of the duck scene is in his latest movie, THE STRAIGHT STORY. Micro-pause. “I haven’t thought about it.”

Brilliant comic timing, but unplanned. The difference between being a comedian and simply being comic, and aware of it. At a certain point, Lynch realized that he could be a comedy character. I don’t think I understood this slightly performative, yet sincere, aspect of Lynch in the first few times I saw him speak, but looking back on them, it was always there.

Of course his recent ice-bucket challenge displays this brazenly.

7 Responses to “The Eye of the Duck”

  1. I posed that same question to Serge Bromberg in a discussion of Le Canard, the bestial pornographic film falsely attributed to Bernard Natan. “All you can think of while watching it is WHY?” he said.
    “Why a duck.” I said.
    “Groucho Marx.”
    “Chico Marx.”
    “Groucho Marx Animal Crackers Robert Florey 1930.”
    “All correct – I think – but Groucho says Viaduct, Chico says I don’t know, Groucho says you don’t know what, Chico says I don’t know why a duck.”
    Serge: “…Possibly.”

  2. I think the “certain point” might be to his deaf agent cameos in Twin Peaks. From that appearance, when he shouts, he’s on.

  3. Lord love a viaduct. But why a fence?

  4. I remember as a film student, trying to work out the “eye of the duck” scene in all the other David Lynch films. With “Blue Velvet” it’s the ‘In Dreams’ scene, with “Elephant Man” it’s (probably) the ending.

    I reckon with Eraserhead it’s the “In Heaven everything is fine” song or the titular dream “Counter Paul!”
    With Dune I think it’s that scene where we first meet the evil Harkonens sitting in that big green porcelain room, and it’s all quiet and still, with a weird bubbling sound.

    It could just be because I like those scenes

  5. I like those scenes. Going by the visual logic, the eye scene should not only be of central import, but kind of fast and intense. But “fast” is a word Lynch uses to describe areas of paintings, so it has nothing to do with pace. I agree about “In Dreams” which comes during Jeffrey’s long night of the soul, and the titular scene in Eraserhead probably needs to be considered as key in order to make sense of the title, if for no other reason.

    Dune being so mutilated, it could be that the eye of the duck scene isn’t even in it, but Paul’s dream is one candidate. The Harkonens is just the BEST scene.

    MC asked if the bar scene in Straight Story might be the duck-eye moment, but Lynch said No, it was just an attempt to capture the idea of delaying gratification when you’re near the end of a journey.

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