By Sherrie Li
By Falling James
By Amanda Lewis
By Amy Nicholson
By Amy Nicholson
By Jennifer Swann
By Scott Foundas
By Sherrie Li
In these publicity-crazed days, more and more filmmakers can talk a great movie but can’t make a decent one. David Lynch is their antithesis: He makes brilliant films (e.g., Eraserhead), but can’t or won’t say much about them — at least consciously. He pleads inarticulateness, takes the Fifth, insists that he works intuitively and denies that he’s seen or read just about everything that you mention. And he does all of this with an affable awareness of just how he’s affecting you. Although he may seem like the Nerd Messiah — he listens to polkas, collects Woody Woodpecker icons, builds prosthetic fingers and talks like a Capote-ized James Stewart — David Lynch is an amazingly sharp guy.
His latest movie, Blue Velvet, entered my head like a nightmare. I knew I had to talk to its creator. Lynch agreed — he’s incredibly agreeable — and we met twice, first at a Westwood coffee shop, later at the De Laurentiis offices on Wilshire. Both times I felt like a high-school guy chasing his date around the back seat at a drive-in: I’d touch on something, he’d push me away, then we’d talk generally about life while the movie played, so to speak, in the background. At the time, I felt incredibly frustrated, but reading our talk later I realized that indirectly I had learned a lot about Lynch’s tastes, his weird belief-system (sort of New Agey Reaganism) and the forces at work in his dazzling movie.
POWERS:When people ask me whatBlue Velvetis about, I find it almost impossible to tell them. Can you?
LYNCH: No. If I could, I would. The one line I’ve come up with is: “It’s a mystery of love and darkness. It’s a film about things that are hidden.”
Did you ever read mysteries as a kid?
No, but I love a mystery better than anything, even when it’s not a murder mystery.
Like the darkness inBlue Velvet?.
Darkness is the mysterious thing to me. There can be plenty of mysteries in light too. But darkness is the sickness-and-evil side.
Let me press you on that. Do you think this darkness is something that’s inside people, or is it an external metaphysical force?
Well, in terms of metaphysical things, they say there’s just one force, and it comes out and it divides somewhere down the line, and it divides for a reason. So there’s opposites.
Oh. Who are “they,” by the way?
I don’t know. [Laughs.] The metaphysics people.
Let’s try this from another angle. As Jeffrey gets into the mystery, he gives a speech about the need to seize opportunities for knowledge. Do you believe that?
Oh yeah! [Laughs.] Everybody confronts them every minute. You can confront them numb and blind and deaf and they’ll still happen, but you may not reap any benefits from them. Now, Jeffrey’s getting in there. He’s discovering many things, and he’s gaining knowledge.
Knowledge of what?
A lot of things, some of them obvious. He’s gaining knowledge on the surface of a mystery that’s going on in town, and he’s gaining knowledge of some things that are inside him that he doesn’t realize. When you see certain things, it gives you knowledge of the state of human beings. Maybe you thought everything was pretty nice, then suddenly you say, “Things can’t be nearly so nice as I imagined or hoped for.”
That makes me think of your opening images of small-town America with the waving fireman and the red-white-and-blue flowers. It’s like skewed Norman Rockwell. Is that a parody or a political comment?
I don’t like to say exactly what it is for me, because it doesn’t matter. All the stuff is there, and it’s up to everybody to get hit by it at whatever angle it hits them.
Well, we’re living at a time when lots of people want a return to the old, small-town values. What’s Blue Velvet’s relationship to that?
It’s an American film.
That’s certainly cryptic enough.
[Laughs.] One thing that strikes me — and I don’t like to give my views on these subjects — but in a funny way, people are almost more uncomfortable with corny virtues than they are with the sickest violence. Do you understand what I’m talking about?
Yes, but I’d like you to elaborate.
I’m not going to elaborate, but it is strange to me.
Does love strike you as being a powerful force?
The strongest — the thing that makes the whole trip worthwhile.
Do you think love is something inside people, or is it some larger, transcendent force?
I don’t know what you’re trying to get me to . . . I think it’s a thing that exists and that you usually attach to another person, but it could be a more all-encompassing love for everything.
People don’t know how to takeBlue Velvet’s affirmative love theme. When Sandy tells her dream about the robins and the blinding light of love, she’s dead earnest, but at least half the viewers laugh. Do you want us to take this stuff seriously?
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