Reviewed by Dan Czajkowski
David Lynch's bucolic The Straight Story left fans and critics across the nation wondering what had become of the controversial creator of Twin Peaks. The recent intrigue surrounding Mulholland Drive gave hope that Lynch would once again haunt our weekly network programming with his dark and uncanny brand of storytelling. just as the negative reception of Fire Walk with Me raised questions about the best medium for Lynch's vision, Mulholland Drive's translation into film now promises to elicit an equivalent number of theories vying to define the director.
Lynch on Lynch provides a well-thought-out series of terms and concepts in which to frame this discussion, exploring trends in Lynch's repertoire common to both media. Rodley's rather wide-ranging interviews with the director are commendable for their attempt to provide some continuity between film and television through a well-defined set of concepts and filmic techniques. Even when Lynch can't, or won't, supply a definitive answer to a Rodley's question, the interview has brought the reader's attention to a productive set of inquiries surrounding the director's techniques, public reception, and influence on TV and film audiences.
Rodley begins the book by offering David Lynch as quintessentially "American," and he makes this particular line of questioning work for him throughout the book While a quick look at Lynch's most recent film, The Straight Story, may corroborate that impression in a topical sort of way (a family drama in America's heartland), Rodley does a lot more with the notion: he develops the concept of the 'American" director through a discussion of specific techniques in Lynch's films, including film location, use of narrative, and how Lynch's films stand in contrast to European filmic influences.
Perhaps the most consistent and successful fine of questioning involves Lynch's use of sound. Rodley lays the groundwork for this aspect of Lynch's work quite early, beginning, oddly enough, with his interest in painting (and a interesting parallel to the painter Francis Bacon). Lynch's painting integrates words as figures and textures, alienating sound from its natural, everyday context. This assertion allows Rodley to make some headway in his characterization of Lynch as a purveyor of the "uncanny" (as a general indication of Lynch's relation to narrative in film). By tracing the use of sound throughout the lesser known The Grandmother and cult classics like Eraserhead, Rodley draws some strong connections using sound as its center.
Of course, a particularly poignant topic of conversation oven the recent Mulholland Drive intrigue, is Lynch's television work which Rodley explores thoroughly in the form of Twin Peaks. Rodley broaches the conversation by focusing on Lynch's use of sound in Twin Peaks, dovetailing nicely with previous discussions on film. In Rodley's words, Lynch's work in television allowed him to "indulge in his affection for speech rhythms and the particular qualities of the performers' voices." This notion is all the more interesting when trying to address the apparent chasm between early works such as Eraserhead and the seemingly uncharacteristic The Straight Story.
As with each chapter, Rodley introduces his discussions with an opening critical frame, and then proceeds to more pointed questions. Although Rodley is quite adept at pushing Lynch beyond generalizations, he can't be blamed for the director's occasional refusal to respond. Trying to ascertain Lynch's sense of his impact on television, Rodley suggests that Twin Peaks "helped to create an appetite" for the X-Files, Wild Palms, and similarly "dark" material. Lynch's response? "Maybe so."
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