The man turns 60 today, and it would be bullshit to not give this dude his due. Mr. Lynch, we’ve had some rough patches, you and I—forgive me for my years of insolence and naivete; for my insistent nose-wrinkling at the mention of your name as a clueless youngster; for my unforgivable lack of noticing Twin Peaks‘ charms upon its initial airing due to my age-challenged self, and my subsequent refual to watch Fire Walk With Me, a useless bias that persists to this day. Things took a slight change for me in late 1996, when I first read a Premiere article on the imminent threat of Lost Highway. After scoffing like a teenager at a family picnic, I read the detailed synopsis and thought, “Well, that sounds kinda…interesting.”
As a result, I wouldn’t say the love affair began, but my dread and fascination with Lost Highway, which I still didn’t see during its initial theatrical run, dovetailed with my beginning to watch movies a little differently. The one-two punch of Straight Story and Mulholland Drive helped hearken in a new era of film watching for me, one in which perception grew lucid, and generic definitions fell away like paper balloons. Those two films—two of the greatest of all American films—informed each other beautifully, almost spiritually. The humanistic core that I perceived as missing in favor of mannered tchotchkes in Blue Velvet and Eraserhead was perhaps there all along, just waiting to burrow out. Alvin Straight’s John Deere lawn mower headed straight for Los Angeles; for Mulholland Drive‘s heart was, surprisingly, on its sleeve. Lynch’s oddness suddenly seemed like a heightened clarity. And then, I “got” it. The crystallizing power of Mulholland Drive is somewhat difficult to define, so let me be as evasive and effusive as the movie itself, and say that for me, movies were never the same again. In the moments after Mulholland Drive ended, I literally walked into a wall. By accident. Then upon exiting the small Times Square screening room, I found myself inundated with neon…and people. I cowered, because I was both ennobled and terrified by what I had seen and didn’t know yet how to contextualize it with the world I was living in. I ran to a payphone (pre-cell phone days for me) and called a friend. Just to hear a voice.
Inland Empire is soon to come, and I’ve remained relatively unknowledgeable of this latest Lynch flick, shot on DV it seems. Perhaps it’s too much to ask that it will do for digital what Drive did for celluloid, but I’ll be waiting to see what new ways of seeing will emerge as a result of it.
Have a great birthday, my man, and celebrate the big 6-0 in style. Wish I could buy you an espresso. (I know where you can get the best…)