“David Lynch: The Man from Another Place” (New Harvest), from Film Society of Lincoln Center director of programming and former Village Voice film editor Dennis Lim, is—among its other merits—extraordinarily well-timed. With the filmmaker set to cut the “bullshit” in his forthcoming memoir, “Life and Work,” and moving forward with Showtime’s “Twin Peaks” revival (now slated to air in 2017), not to mention the recent release of Criterion’s seductive new edition of “Mulholland Dr.,” Lynch is enjoying a well-deserved moment of renewed attention.
Lim’s rich, allusive examination of Lynch’s oeuvre, which includes visual art, furniture, and coffee in addition to film and television, is an erudite companion to the work, though never snobbish or obscurantist. Here, in an except from the book published on Criterion’s website, he manages to place the famously difficult-to-parse “Mulholland Dr.” in context with both European auteurs and popular TV series such as “The X-Files” and “Lost”:
“The cult that emerged around ‘Mulholland Dr.’ bespoke a participatory engagement with fiction, a collective hunger—to solve, decode, demystify—that Lynch had tapped into with ‘Twin Peaks.’ Serial narratives grew ever more popular on television after ‘Twin Peaks,’ and viewers tended to be most fanatical when the intricate plots stemmed from larger underlying mysteries, as with the conspiratorial intrigue of ‘The X-Files’ (1993–2002) or the shaggy-dog mythology of ‘Lost’ (2004–2010). Fractured, elliptical stories were not new to cinema—they were in fact the stock in trade of modernist giants like Alain Resnais and Michelangelo Antonioni—but ‘Mulholland Dr.’ coincided with a mounting appetite for narrative complexity. Audiences were by then accustomed to the shifting time signatures of Quentin Tarantino’s movies, or to the gentler fissures in the films of the Polish director Krzysztof Kieślowski, who explored the cosmic patterns of interlocking lives in ‘The Double Life of Véronique’ (1991) and the ‘Three Colors’ trilogy (1993–1994). The rug-pulling trickery of hits like ‘The Usual Suspects’ (1995) and ‘The Sixth Sense’ (1999) popularized the notion of narrative as a game; Christopher Nolan’s reverse-chronology ‘Memento,’ another amnesia neonoir, was released several months before ‘Mulholland Dr.,’ and temporal loops were becoming an increasingly common device, in such films as ‘Donnie Darko’ (2001), ‘Primer’ (2004), and ‘Déjà Vu’ (2006).”
Chuck Bowen, The House Next Door:
“‘Man from Another Place’ is driven by a premise that Lim wisely never quite directly voices: that Lynch takes the content of all his art at face value. It startled this critic and Lynch acolyte to learn that the filmmaker identifies as a Republican (though he voted for President Obama in 2012). How can the creator of one of the most searing and analyzed Reagan-era texts, ‘Blue Velvet,’ vote Republican? There isn’t a pat answer, but, reading Lim’s writing, one suspects that it’s because Lynch conceives of his scenes of small-town American values without the irony that many audiences and critics have assumed to be inherent.”
“[U]nsatisfying… Overall, Lim’s analysis is legible for the nonspecialist and insightful in drawing connections between Lynch’s life and work… [but] [i]n writing for a general audience, Lim has demystified a figure who, for
that audience, is iconic precisely for his mysteriousness.”
“The book serves as an excellent primer for those unfamiliar with and curious about Lynch, as well as a pithy and insightful resource for confirmed fans wishing to deepen their appreciation and understanding of his work. A streamlined and breezily engaging—but impressively rigorous—evaluation of a unique film talent; essential reading for fans of Lynch and the immersive, elusive worlds he creates.”