His credits include his debut feature, Eraserhead, the television show Twin Peaks and its disappointing film follow-up, Mulholland Drive, and his magnum opus, Inland Empire, starring the ever-reliable and wonderfully gifted Laura Dern.
Lynch is not a filmmaker who fits into any particular category he is certainly not Academy material, probably for no other reason than his pictures do not have commercial value.
Lynch is a surrealist and surrealists are people who are frequently misunderstood or not understood at all. His films are difficult to penetrate. His pictures are not the type one can watch on any mood. It’s a little like watching 2001: you need to be in a relaxed, inquisitive mood. Be prepared to wonder and raise your eyebrows a couple of times. Lynch is underappreciated for obvious reasons (either people are either far too uninterested in good filmmaking or are generally wary of his idea of storytelling).
But here is a filmmaker pushing boundaries, not unlike Kubrick, Dali and Bunuel. Here is an artist telling stories of the absurd, stories of magic and realism. Here is a great filmmaker, albeit a complicated one. And here are 5 reasons laid out at WhatCulture, on why David Lynch is one of the most important directors working today.
1. The Dark Side of Hollywood
Another man Lynch is a film-descendent of is Billy Wilder, not a surrealist but a very influential director nonetheless. His film Sunset Boulevard is a Lynch favourite and we can see that in two of his films in-particular, Mulholland Drive and Inland Empire. They are both named after Los Angeles locations, and both feature heavily the dark side of Hollywood, which Sunset Boulevard does with a masterful effect.
Sunset is by far the greatest Hollywood film about Hollywood and Lynch has tried and succeeded to make his two most recent features appear not only as homages to Wilder and other filmmakers, but as great standalone films. What more can we appreciate than a film that tells the truth about the Hollywood we viewers rarely see?
2. Visual Style
Films that unnecessarily use special effects are by my own definition, bad films. Special effects can also fall into the category of editing, with pointless use of lens flare or something inane like that. Lynch however, whilst a sometimes-user of Adobe editing add-ons, makes it work to engross them in his films.
Without the use of effects in Inland Empire or Mulholland Drive, the scenes in which they are used would have been lesser scenes compared to the others. He also employs various visuals whilst filming, such as props and character make-up, in particular the surreal hairstyle worn by his star in Eraserhead, or the gas-mask by his villain in Blue Velvet.
3. Mastery of Surrealism
When making a surrealist film, the director always runs the risk of straying too far into the unimaginable. Lynch runs the risk of going too far with his film, in that it becomes so surreal that it is quite simply, unwatchable. Lynch knows all the tricks of surrealist filmmaking, a true student of Bunuel. He knows when to cut and where the draw the line between surreal and idiotic.
It’s simple: no-one is making films like David Lynch. Or perhaps for the sake of variety I will say, no-one is making films like David Lynch as-well as David Lynch. Lynch is writing films with such intricate detail that the only living filmmaker that could rank alongside him for his inventions is Paul Thomas Anderson.
He frequently uses the “woman in trouble” theme for his mysteries, such as in Inland Empire. But perhaps his greatest display of screenwriting talent stems from Blue Velvet, one of the finest mystery films of all time which also boasts great dialogue.
5. Character Creation
Like with great literature, what truly motivates a viewer into loving a film is a great character. No-one can deny the interest filmgoers have had in Jack Nance’s character of Henry Spencer, or in the characters played by Naomi Watts and Laura Harring in Mulholland Drive.
Even in surrealist pictures we are digging into our characters, we want to know them and what they do and why they do whatever they do. Lynch invents characters that are incredibly flawed, wonderfully strange and immensely disturbed. He writes human characters.
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