As American As Apple Pie

David Lynch fans are in for a treat this month at PFA.


Lynch's surrealistic black-and-white flick, "Eraserhead," features Henry (John Nance), whose baby is a howling mutant.

Courtesy BAMPFA

A hot summer day can make your head swim. The films of David Lynch have the same disorienting effect. And that’s true even if you’re sitting in an air-conditioned theater. The Montana-born writer-director, who turned 70 in January, sets his twisting tales in recognizable, familiar places that turn out to be dens of iniquity and betrayal. In his funhouse version of America, security is an illusion and life is a dream from which you can’t awaken. Originally tabbed as a surrealist filmmaker, Lynch is perhaps better appreciated as the first director to evoke the bizarreness that increasingly defines the good old U.S.A.

New York film writer and curator Dennis Lim’s recent critical biography, David Lynch: The Man from Another Place, provides the inspiration as well as the title for a weekend immersion into the filmmaker’s singular genius at the Pacific Film Archive. Lim jets in to introduce all five programs, beginning with Mulholland Drive (Aug. 19), the marvelous LA-set shifting-identity mystery that introduced Naomi Watts to American audiences. Three decades after the release of Blue Velvet (Aug. 20), the movie doesn’t seem shocking and subversive so much as horribly funny and profound. As for Eraserhead (Aug. 20), it’s hard to name a more uncompromising feature debut in the history of American cinema. (Especially because it hasn’t “mellowed” with age and remains as disturbing as ever.) The weekend wraps with a survey of Lynch’s wide-ranging, multi-platform oeuvre hosted by Lim and dubbed A Shadow History of the Lynchian: Oddities and Marginalia (Aug. 21) followed by Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, the 1992 film that revisited the world and characters of the landmark television show. Because a Lynch film simultaneously invites and frustrates interpretation, the first imperative is to experience it. That said, it is not an experience from which many people emerge unchanged. The head, it swims.


David Lynch: The Man from Another Place, Aug. 19-21, Pacific Film Archive, 2155 Center St., Berkeley; 510-642-0808,

This report appears in the August edition of our sister publication, The East Bay Monthly.

2016-08-15 08:00 AM

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