Tag Archives: David Lynch

XL Popcorn – The Elephant Man

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 938/1009Title: The Elephant Man
Director: David Lynch
Year: 1980
Country: USA

Yesterday it was goodbye to Fritz Lang, today it’s the last of three David Lynch films on the 1001 list. I do question why Mulholland Drive was tossed off the list as part of the purges of 2000s films, but that’s a discussion for another time. In the three Lynch films that are actually part of the list, you see some very different styles. Blue Velvet as a sexual thriller is worlds away from this tragedy and whatever Eraserhead is.

However, despite The Elephant Man being one of Lynch’s straighter offerings – there were some things in here that were unmistakably him. The final narrative as we ascend into the stars, the fixation with the Victorian steam pipes and gas works and the fact that this was shot in black and white (as I learned when reading on Deep Endhe doesn’t always see the point in colour photography) are all things you see in a number of his projects. Shows that if he wanted to make something commercially minded and with artistic merit, he is more than capable – but sometimes it is more fun for him to put his art and vision first.

The Elephant Man is not a wholly historically accurate portrayal of the life of Joseph Merrick. For one thing, they refer to him by the incorrect name of John Merrick as is apparently incredibly common. The ending is also a truncation to maximize the tragic, but it is also done so poignantly and beautifully that it is excusable. After all, this is a man who suffered great injustice in terms of his physical destiny and in the way people treat him – not a historical figure whose shadow looms large in politics to this day.

I had been forewarned (and spoiled heavily) about the emotional impact this film had, including the ending. Not entirely sure it did any good other than have me left a minor mess rather than a puddle on the floor like when I first watched Coco and The Curse of the Golden Flower.

The Elephant Man is a brilliant film that, despite getting some major nominations at the Oscars, still feels under-loved. Maybe it is the difficult subject matter and the horrific make-up that John Hurt went though 9 hours daily to have applied and removed? If not, I am not sure why such a different take on a historical biography, that has John Hurt proving him to be one of the most flexible actors of his generation, is not more loved. Hell, I question it losing so may awards to Raging Bull. But that’s just me and I am so glad that I have finally seen this.


XL Popcorn – Eraserhead

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 784/1007Title: Eraserhead
Director: David Lynch
Year: 1977
Country: USA

Well I’m definitely making up for not covering 1001 films for nearly a whole month. Originally I was meant to watch this on Halloween, but I ended up doing my fourth re-watch of Over The Garden Wall and so here I am a week later having watching Eraserhead and wondering what on Earth I just watched. To be honest, I’m not sure anyone has quite worked it out.

Now, it’s not like this is my first time adventuring with David Lynch. Aside from Twin Peaks, I’ve seen Blue Velvet, Mulholland Drive, Fire Walk With Me and (thanks to the husband) Dune. This isn’t some sort of weird flex, but just to say that this isn’t the first time that I have seen his surreal side. I mean, that episode of Twin Peaks: The Return is one of the best of the decade and I’m not sure I still understand what more than 10% of it actually meant.

Eraserhead, whilst also being Lynch’s feature film directorial debut, is probably the longest stretch of time that I have spent in his surreal world. A world that is a nightmare of body horror, singing women who live in the radiator and whatever the Sam Hell prop they used to make the creepiest baby-proxy that I have ever seen. Seriously though, I expected grotesquery from Lynch, but that skinned rabbit puppet (or whatever that was) was something else.

Whilst there is a plot to this movie along the lines of ‘man has one night stand and then ends up looking after a grotesque skinless baby’, this is very much secondary to the atmosphere and mythos that Lynch sought to create. Creations that you see coming up thematically in his later works, right down to the carpet patterns on the floor and the general handmade look of some of the sequences.

Here’s the thing though, with this being his debut, I have seen him do this sort of surrealism in Twin Peaks: The Return and ultimately do it better. Also, since this is a standalone film, there’s little context to anything we’re seeing so it’s all about having to just go with the insanity. Something that, to be honest, I can find quite hard to do as I get a bit too hung up trying to make sense of things rather than going with the flow.

Eraserhead really is one of those films, however, that whilst it didn’t do too much for me, I can understand both how this could have been so influential and how this is film managed to successfully do what it set out to. It’s a brilliantly executed piece of surrealism, but it just turns out that this kind of surrealism just wasn’t made for me. Gonna be haunted by that baby though. That’s going to be in my nightmares tonight.