Saturday, March 17, 2007

Lynching and Spectacle


(Notice Sailor and Lula in the middle)

Re: Reckless Eyeballing

The black man is righteously put to death before white onlookers after falsely accusing the white man of recklessly eyeballing the white woman and for this transgression attempting to murder him on her orders. The sexually incontinent white woman and the murderous, sexually predatory black man are in league against the innocent, unjustly maligned white man and his good white woman.

Re: New York

Rats take over NY. They slip in first through the unguardedness of the upright citizens, commencing with the negligence-for-convenience of the white man in the anonymous street crowd, conscious and ashamed of his littering, a dry relatively harmless paper, then spreads to the oblivious littering of the white mother too absorbed in mother love in bucolic central park to notice, the same paper; their unwatchfulness opens the floodgates for the brazen littering of the be-suited black man throwing heaven knows what over his shoulder, who seems to trigger the wet organic filth of the sexual young crowd upon whose splash and ooze the rats feed, reproduce...







Re: Smoke and Fire


The film runs backwards to give Amos and Andy a comically unnaural, ghostly air that amuses and charms. "They're so weird!" How did they come to be ghostly and weird? What history unravels and erases itself? Run forward the sequence is: Amos and Andy are confronted by us (with the camera) through a blaze, recalling a torch. They put their hands up defensively. Two gushes of liquid are released from above their heads, seeming to match them, one column of gush for each. They look up, but the camera does not. The camera declines to look up to discover whatever it is that hangs from the trees above, releasing these gushes. Amos and Andy go down on their knees in the mud and make strange motions, then rise again and back away. Again they look up, but we do not. We never look up. Amos backs into the building, lights flash revealing a hook and winch; he emerges with his familiar hat. Again something - lumps, fleshy, smoking, on fire - drops down from the night sky above their heads, and again the camera declines to look up. They back away and the camera inspects the burning pile of flesh. It's only fish. Only fish aflame falling from the Southern night sky at the feet of ghostly, amusing Amos and Andy. Ooo neat. Mysterious and weird.


Re: The "Weird"

59 comments:

  1. dejan4:02 AM

    The sexually incontinent white woman and the murderous, sexually predatory black man are in league against the innocent, unjustly maligned white man and his good white woman.

    That white man (sailor) is not ''innocent''. He is driven by a murderous impulse, which he demonstrates in the selfsame scene you displayed. And how do you explain in this film that the culprit of eeevil is the deranged Southern mother (witch) and not the various colorful blacks and Latins? It doesn't fit into your theory that Lynch is a racist. You also tendentiously don't mention that the corruption of the young couple's innocence is portrayed with a lot of sarcasm, so that they are shown to be stupid and naive American fools. Their naivette and innocence cause murder and mayhem all around them. In fact IO was reminded of the movie TEAM AMERICA, the scene where cocky young soldiers discuss their love life and while they're doing it, they're dropping bombs on Iraq. So in an ironic twist it seems like they perceive the whole world as a playground for their soapy problems.

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  2. sailor is innocent of that of which he is accused. (he refused sex, he is charged with demanding sex)

    "the deranged Southern mother (witch) and not the various colorful blacks and Latins"

    traditionally, the story is that the white woman's sexual incontinence and/or lies forces the white man to kill the black man (see To Kill A Mockingbird)

    " stupid and naive American fools. "

    Well yes, indeed, the bumpkin, the badass bumpkin, like George Bush and Forrest Gump. White Americans are naive; around them there is violence and scheming.

    "Their naivette and innocence cause murder and mayhem all around them"

    yes it is always the naïveté and innocence of America that causes the murder and mayhem (in vietnam, in iraq)...as you say.

    America is too innocent, that's the problem. It is perpetually traumatically losing and regaining that innocence.

    "the various colorful blacks and Latins"

    hired murderers and drooling rapists with scary teeth, manipulated by sexually incontinent white woman and lusting after the innocent and naive white woman.

    "So in an ironic twist it seems like they perceive the whole world as a playground for their soapy problems. "

    there's no irony: that's the liberal propaganda straight no chaser - youthful America is always screwing up by being too innocent and well meaning. People can thus easily take advantage of them.

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  3. this hideous violent murder of a black man 'somewhere between north and south carolina', watched by all white onlookers, is passed by as "incidental", a pre-history to the story that counts (sailor and lula's escape from the miscegenating sexualy aggressive bad witch with the help of the pure white good witch). It signifies only as something experienced by sailor and lula and as a vehicle for the staging of an oedipus allegory which overwhelms even its bizarrely bright, colourful gore. The brutalised and murdered man is merely a prop; the gore shocks us but its of no consequence in itself. He is portrayed as being 'in reality' the figure of the white man's imagination - he rakes lula with a predatory gaze and then pulls a knife on sailor at the direction of marietta; he is the deadly dark emissary of the mother's unbridled sexuality.

    I don't know that Lynch is 'a racist' but he is certainly putting a lot of racism up on the screen, its floating around in there somewhere in his head.

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  4. i mean you can say marietta is neither a sexually incontinent white southern mother, nor THE sexually incontinent white southern mother, but The Image of the sexually incontinent white southern mother, but all the same the hero of the movie, with whom we are in sympathy, is a naive white man whom we are introduced to as he brutally lynches a black man in a narrative stacked to justify it a) as self defense on the diegetic plane and b) as necessary 'primal scene' and plot generator, on none of which levels is the brutally, graphically murdered man of any importance except as a prop, visual delight/disgust, and 'metaphor' in the spectacle.

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  5. the sarcasm is not surprising. this was made in 1990! how ancient and corny is the paradigm lynch is reviving! he has to even teach his viewers about it while he treats it with 'sarcasm'. The whole operation involves restoring The Wizard of Oz to a place it had not occupied for thirty years only to then undertake the operation of 'subverting' that place. It is pseudo-sarcasm, psuedo-irony, the treating as serious, for the purpose of send up or fun-making, of that which is not serious and can no longer be taken seriously, one can only pretend to take it seriously to then pretend to make fun of it.

    all this being the way this content (watch it with the sound off, it's like the They Live sunglasses) is presented for the voyeur's pleasure, packed in Scripture to allow the voyeur to feel the experience of thrills and shock is edifying.

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  6. an ironic tone is by 1990 not subversive but a shield, a tactic of disavowal. I saw this movie in the theatre, in midtown manhattan; the audience was not into it; on the way out people exiting talked to people on line to buy tickets. A woman about 20 behind me when asked 'how was it?' said in an ever so faintly sarcastic product spokeswoman tone "good and good for you" really indistinguishable from the spokesperson tone without the sarcasm. That summed it up exactly - when she said that, everyone walking out laughed.

    But this kind of thing is not something one can really prove; i think Lynch reads very differently to americans than to everyone else. Perhaps the portrayal of americans as hayseed idiots bungling their way into situations where they have to kill people of color is gratifying to non americans, but to americans who are inundated with the message that we are Perpetual Innocents, with an illiterate cowboy/actor president/archetype (after reagan, bush I, who actually has a refined new england accent, adopted a texas accent in the middle of his first presidential campaign, saying wunnit instead of wasn't, out of the blue), this story of white male american innocent brutality trigged by sexually aggressive mothers who betray the white father with dark others and criminal sexually predatory men of colour, just is familiar and grating.

    We'll have to disagree I think on whether the tone of irony absolves-erases-undercuts-subverts-overwhelms or merely offers a flimsy excuse for the enunciation of this content. Clearly it is possible to recieve this stuff differently, to interpret it differently, to be differently affected by it, and this multiplicity of reception is really the point I mean to make. Given this undeniable multiplicity, the possibilities of political subversiveness in films, at least in films of this sort, is low.

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  7. and on top of all this of course, masterng it, is the kewl indie filmmaker posture itself, infused with the arty urban elite's just general revulsion and contempt for everyone outside itself (this is also the tone of the coen bros films); the film is not made for 2000 screens across the middle of the country (for we know, as the famed variety headline went, that "hix nix stix pix"). It is made for arthouses and city audiences, for whom the entire experience is coaxed with disgust and a self-congratulatory affirmation of distance which allows for the guiltness enjoyment of this edifying spectacle.

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  8. lynch was really part of the reaganite backlash and reaction. Just as with the subversive barbie collecting, the use of barbie ironically and subversively, sponsored by the toymaker, which was a way to save barbie, because barie died in the 70S; girls lost interest and in fact thought barbie was repulsive and corny and reactionary or at least believed that barbie appeared so; so barbie was 'ironized' to be made kewl again. lynch did the same for the dead and buried myth of white picket fence segregated america; he brought it back to throw nerfballs at it, the nerfballs the excuse for bringing it back, for insisting, no, this is not dead, it is still the baseline, the paradigm, every expression lust acknowledge, refer to, conjure it, place itself against it. This was exactly the Reagan era aesthetic across the board. and it led to specularisation, because this myth was rescuciated, as was barbie, not as a referntial thing but openly as an image, a commodity image. the end of this line is tarantino, which is movies about movies, characters about characters, in infinite lopps of spectacular self referentiality, also licensing enunciations (racist, misogynist) which became impossible if presented as referntial enunciations - it is not possible for a 16 year old girl to say she likes barbie, but she can say, heee heee, in quotes, she "likes barbie" - but are acceptable as self conscious echoes or quotes. The spectacle became the disinfectant, the vehicle in which the backlash and the reaction stated itself, with its tone of sarcasm and irony as universal alibi, and its loop which ensured the exclusion of reality entirely (nothing can refer to reality, films natural objects of interest are film images, other films, the spectacle). So we see and refuse to see at once. We see images clearly of people, of rape, of murder, of settings, of charachters arranged in plots, and yet we somehow do not see them at all. We see them as mere random signs, of no importance in themselves, standing in for metaphysical concepts (psychoanalysis as metaphysics, film theory as metaphysics, genre as scripture whose gnostic secrets are to be teased out). And with our cooperation, then, we are again inundated with codes and meanings we rejected.

    my brother and I when we were little were introduced to films at home - we had a three qurter inch tapemachine and my dad got tapes of theatrically released films - with hippie liberal stuff like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and Little Big Man. Now later one can see all the cultural appropriation, the sentimentalising, the bad things in LBM.and there are plenty of bad things; I am not saying this was radical cinema. But this was our introduction to american history. The tribe of the Human Beings of course we easily identified as ourselves, our family, the typical family, and the soldiers and the christian settler were the enemy. So by the time we got to elementary school lessons on Manifest Destiny and thanksgiving, we were already sure that wasn't what happened at all; we were already inclined to believe there had been genocide, the slaughter of nice people, nice familiar interesting people. We shouldn't underestimate what that meant, that this was mainstream culture, which was not the cause of this basic idea and consciousness but which reflected a certain set of achievements by people, was in fact the result of the forcing, in the 50s 60s and 70s, on mainstream american culture of the voices and reality of more than just the (white, male) ruling class and the commodity vendors. These successes precipitated crisis; the commodity had to be refreshed with magic; the idea of the nation refreshed with myth; the teetering concepts of masculinity and femininity, of race, of sexuality, had to be shored up and armoured against this challenge whose successes had begun even to be reflected in mainstream corporate entertainment product. Lynch was very much in tune with that 80s reaganite reaction - restating, reimaging, rebranding, re-glamorousing, re-naturalising, reviving all this rejected and outmoded corny shit under the guise of 'subverting' it with 'irony'.

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  9. i think of comparing lynch to sam fuller, to shock corridor, a film actually made during the period which lynch rewrites as a straw man time of naiveté and innocence. shock corridor is full of "wierdness" of course, but it is conscious of the roots, social and political, of violence and horror. in it one black man of the psychoward runs around with a pillowcase on his head and says 'oh, they all riiiight as enta tain uhs..." About all this - the film itself, the content of the film - Lynch's films are in denial, and worse; they aim to erase and slap up the cardboard nostaglia of reaganism in its place, invented as it is 'subverted' and really sustained by an injection of stylised bmovie violence and innocent brutality and naughtiness of so politically and socially blind a nature as to be more than acceptable.

    here are some interesting comments pro and con (i especially like several con).

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  10. Chuckie K6:51 PM

    I’m glad I finally figured the sense of Qlipoth. I’ll have to go into this question backwards. I can’t address the issue of racism in Lynch’s films directly, because I haven’t seen one since Eraserhead. I saw Eraserhead and said, never again, no more Lynch. My reasoning will sound quaint. As interpretation goes, it doesn’t even rise to the vulgar. My take on the movie was that it was ‘anti-people,’ as a dear, now departed friend, with whom I shared political perspectives and attitudes toward popular art, put it.

    During Lynch’s Blue Velvet, Twin Peaks heyday, I was living down in the City of Exquisite Sensibilities, and the Ex-Sen-ers loved Lynch. Precisely for the ‘weirdness’, for the cinematic referentiality. Their infatuation displayed what I always found the most indicative trait of their own naïve and superficial tastes – the utter insensitivity to content. (Not to digress, but the lack of attention to content and disregard for it also characterizes their other favorite spiritualizer of reaction, Joseph Campbell.) Just like the voluminous self-performances in the positive views on Lynch at that last link.

    Lynch’s deep, manifest contempt for people, his imputation of an innate will to violence and power of destruction (the translation of litter into plague!) does not justify itself. It takes itself for granted. I find that posture of self-evidence the most deeply conservative and repugnant aspect of his movies. Worse yet that it escapes the notice of theoretically and rhetorically skilled critics, let alone the exquisite, but less sophisticated wannabes. From this perspective, racism would be completely consonant with his bestial (Hobbes? Social-Darwin? Just how backwards? I’m missing a nuance here) preconceptions and with his ideologically conventional, even stereotypical narrative formulations. In fact, it would be more surprising if it were absent. The exquisite sensibility thrives on self-flattery, and that subjective self-cultivation seems to flourish through the channels of moral voyeurism and ironic genericity. I suppose we could argue that the subject producing/produced by Lynch’s vision is the sublimation of self-disgusted monstrosity into self-congratulatory ‘aesthetic’ elevation. Or to try one of those tricky pomo-isms, a(l)ttitude.

    Or in the short version, I don’t like him either.

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  11. dejan2:21 AM

    America is too innocent, that's the problem. It is perpetually traumatically losing and regaining that innocence.

    But this is the bipolar Calvinist psychosis I was talking about par excellance. This is the whole point. There is always something over-the-top about the goodness of Lynch's white characters, which posits their goodness on the other extreme end of the same manic-depressive spectrum, on the opposite end of which is ''true'' malevolence. This just came fully to expression in Mulholland Drive where he used the Moebius strip to structure the entire film.

    And if we replace the word ''innocent'' with ''decultured'' than you could interpret white Americans as being ignorant in an existential way; without any roots and living int heir isolated pristine white houses, they don't even grasp that goodness is not so easily distinguishable from evil.

    Anycase I don't yet see convincing evidence for your thesis about Lynch's racism. You are going to have to try HARDER.

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  12. dejan2:27 AM

    as necessary 'primal scene' and plot generator, on none of which levels is the brutally, graphically murdered man of any importance except as a prop, visual delight/disgust, and 'metaphor' in the spectacle.

    it was a strategy borrowed from FRENCH FILM to shock - you know how French provocateurs like Francois Ozon work. In this context I find it cheap. But on the other hand, it was also a gratuitous statement against ''good taste'', one of the tenements of mainstream cinema and of the white suprematist culture. So it might have a stylistic function... that exaggeration usually plays in any satire, including this kinky one. Also, as a signifier of the wild Nietzschean dark passions underlying the whole story, the violence makes sense.

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  13. dejan2:33 AM

    with an illiterate cowboy/actor president/archetype (after reagan, bush I, who actually has a refined new england accent, adopted a texas accent in the middle of his first presidential campaign, saying wunnit instead of wasn't, out of the blue), this story of white male american innocent brutality trigged by sexually aggressive mothers who betray the white father with dark others and criminal sexually predatory men of colour, just is familiar and grating.

    yes I think this cultural perspective is important. And from his beginnings Lynch always seemed to me a director of European sensibility,which easily explains why he is championed, sponsored and awarded by France - instead of his homeland. Clearly the image of America he is showing is received as criticism in Europe, which I remember from reading French and Serbian reviews in that time.

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  14. dejan2:37 AM

    he is the deadly dark emissary of the mother's unbridled sexuality.

    well isn;'t that what black people are in the white woman's racist sexual fantasy? unbridled sexuality with a big dick and a large libido, good only for satisfying HER frustrated desire. doesn't this show you that these monstrous latin characters actually represent the white racist's imagination?

    or are you saying that Sailor should have been shown as some kind of a warrior against racism...Alphonse van Worden? I don't quite understand what your alternative would be for making such a critical representation or statement about racism.

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  15. dejan2:42 AM

    and this multiplicity of reception is really the point I mean to make. Given this undeniable multiplicity, the possibilities of political subversiveness in films, at least in films of this sort, is low.

    but isn't the multiplicity of perspectives also a guarantee for any subversion to begin, seeing as to the fact that a propagandistic hollywood film wants to enforce an uniform interpretation (that is why films are subjected to marketing research in the first place - such research assumes general attitudes, strategically creating precisely the attitudes it wants to ''find'' in the audience)?

    but anyway it isn't the story or the content that I would deem especially subversive, rather the Brechtian/disruptive effect - in this example, gratuitous violence.
    Or the way the film progresses in dreamlike mode, full of surprises, instead of offering solid ground by way of a predictable Three Act structure etc....

    lynch's images have a certain feral intensity, as the marvellous scene in wild at heart where sailor and lula bump into a car crash victim, which hit me like a hammer when i first saw it and still hits me.

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  16. dejan2:47 AM

    really sustained by an injection of stylised bmovie violence and innocent brutality and naughtiness of so politically and socially blind a nature as to be more than acceptable.

    no film is ever politically and socially blind. culture and politics are inextricably linked, just as science and politics don't exist separately.

    the psychoalysis in lynch's movies is political. i just quoted an example - the oedipal triangle you mention is representative of the white woman's racism to black people.

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  17. dejan3:08 AM

    from your email:

    what disturbs me is this allegorising which completely vacates the content as if the characters, scenes, images were simply code pieces for "double" and "drive" whose actual details and depictions are both meaningless/random and simply ineluctably given, thus uninterpretable: 'well the double here is a bleached blonde beauty but the movie would be exactly the same if the double were Quasimodo or a telephone". naturally the straight story has no "wierdness" - its full of healthy rural white folks, whose environment is undistubred by ethnic racial otherness, by cities, etc, and the object of desire/double is really the biological brother, not a slippery sexy brunette disguised as a blonde.


    I don't know how you got this from the text, but what I was trying to address is that in MH and in Prestige things go haywire
    at the point where the DUPLICATE is born (i emphasize duplicate, not double, because when Rita puts on Betty's blonde wig,
    she becomes her narcissistic clone/twin sister). Similarly in Prestige it is the machine that generates duplicates which has to be
    removed from sight so that society can continue to function. This would suggest two things: either this surgical incision, this Gothic
    Splitting, which separates the Real from the Imaginary (in Lacanian language) is necessary, so trespassers will pay with their lives for
    ignoring it; or the entire civilization is based on exclusion - anything lesbian, non-reproductive, anything different has to be removed
    so that Sylvia North/Laura Palmer can have her happy ending. How you read it depends on your other theoretical views, but it certainly isn't
    simple, or one-sided, or rather, it is two-sided while being one-sided.

    Given Lynch's interest in transcendental meditation, his affinity with Buddhism that is, I would think he is meditating on
    the violent splitting in the Christian mind, which is the basis of the white suprematist culture. I think this is where all the Jewish references
    (Adam Kesher) and the ''Biblical'' triangle which takes place in the Garden of Eden (the pool party) comes from.

    Vacating the characters from content is hardly anything new- -FASSBINDER DID IT ! Douglas Sirk did it before him. It's just
    a method different from the classic/modernist identification, where you would offer the audience a positive model to cheer, or a negative
    one to condemn.

    You continuously seem to ''avoid'' the structural perspective for some reason, if you didn't it would be obvious
    that it doesn't matter whether a blonde or a brunette occupies a certain structural position in the story. And why would content analysis
    be superior do you think to a structural one; and further, why don't you accept the existence of BOTH levels (so that my structural
    and your situationist reading both can be applied). The advantage of modern non-linear methods of reading is indeed that they
    accept multiple perspectives!!!

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  18. dejan3:15 AM

    Lynch’s deep, manifest contempt for people, his imputation of an innate will to violence and power of destruction (the translation of litter into plague!) does not justify itself. It takes itself for granted.

    Chuckie, both the content of your statement and its indignated tone, which is much less convincing than Colonel's malevolent humor, suggests to me that you speak from the perspective of Marxist humanism (people are good at heart), while I endorse the psychoanalytic perspective of the split subject (people are divided and driven by passions). The reason I don't accept Marxist humanism is the same reason Lynch makes ''good people'' in his film so ridiculous, emptying them out of content as Colonel says,... but in actuality showing them for what they really are, that is to say, shells without content. From the psychoanalytic perspective, there IS no content: identity is an illusion. Another reason for my negative view is that Marxism humanism was deployed by Walt Disney in order to stupidify and colonize half the planet. The Marxist humanist belief in man's goodness is the driving force of Disneyland.

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  19. here

    "Lynch’s admiration for President Reagan and support for Natural Law Party presidential

    candidate John Hagelin add to the incongruities. Seeking a rationale for all this, L.A. Weekly's John Powers described Lynch as a man of aesthetic politics, by which I take him to mean that Lynch is passionate about art for its own sake, valuing form regardless of content (as opposed to

    "activist artists" who believe that art must serve political ends). For Lynch, art precedes politics,

    rather than vice versa, and artists need no political justification for their works of self-expression. In a clear echo of Ayn Rand’s Howard Roarke (the protagonist of her novel The Fountainhead), Powers quotes Lynch as follows: “People should be able to build what they want to build, when they want to build it, how they want to build it.” Extending this aesthetic idea into the political realm, Lynch remarked, “This country’s in pretty bad shape when human scum can walk across your lawn, and they put you in jail if you shoot ’em.”"

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  20. dejan4:05 AM

    But although Lynch may appreciate Rand and Reagan for defending a creator’s right to his property and the fruits of his labor,

    would you notice the ALTHOUGH: although he appreciates Rand and Reagan for defending enterprenurial capitalism...

    Lynch’s own art avoids both the Apollonian romanticism of Rand and the straightforward moral narratives of, say, John Wayne. Despite his passion for Eisenhower-era pop culture, Lynch’s work is distinguished by unsettling juxtapositions of disturbing images with profoundly sweet moments—setting the grotesque against the poignant, and sordidness against innocence, with the latter emerging surprisingly uncorrupted.

    ...what he offers in his films is never just innocent naivette, but one that necessarily comes with its perverted Doppelganger

    (P.S. I think we are going back to that argument by the way: is Heidegger to be dismissed as a philosopher because he was a Nazi?)

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  21. dejan4:10 AM

    I am aware of Lynch's opinion that art comes before politics, but apart from the fact that this is a political statement in itself, I don't think that his saying it changes the fact that there's no art without politics *no l'art pur l'art. Especially not in these times, when politics is in the hands of media moguls! But I think if he said it before, he must have changed his mind in Mulholland, because that film is all about politics (the politics of cinematic production)!

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  22. dejan4:38 AM

    in fact I think Adam Kesher is a parody of that innocent racist Lynch - convinced in his sollipsistic arrogance that he is making an independent film, and that he won't be corrupted by Hollywood's power; getting pulverized by a working class non-intellectual and spooked by a redneck cowboy; finally, stealing Rita from Betty not because he loves Rita, but because he loves power and status and privilege.

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  23. "well isn;'t that what black people are in the white woman's racist sexual fantasy?"

    sez who? the Ku Klux Klan and David Lynch's movie. What's subversive about the Klu Klux Klansman's fantasies? It's as reactionary as you can get.

    about Heidegger - no one denies he's a famous philosopher; that does mean he wasn't a nazi too. No one denies Lynch is a famous filmmaker. It's not impossible for people to make racist films just because they're famous. I was surpsied actually to discover how extreme right wing he is; i would have thought it was deeper buried, but it's not because he tried to put razor wire around propety in the hollywood hills to keep out "human scum" whom he believes should be executed for trespassing that i view his films as i do. I just learned that.

    what do french film's shock have to do with the content of these images? I missed a step in the logic there.

    i thought 'young republican postmodernism' was pretty apt, as was 'perfectly in tune with the Reagan/Bush pejoracracy' and 'anti-people'. Sounds just right to me.

    if you say that no film is socially or politically blind, then how can lynch's films be politically subversive by virtue of either a) making the paterfamilias of the small down demonically possessed and evil - you said this was subversive becuse all other films don't do it and b) treating The Wizard of Oz subversively and ironically? If TWOZ is not politically and socially blind, what does this subversion actually consist of or accomplish?

    here's what the ayn rand libertarians see in Lynch:


    Blue Velvet was Lynch’s first crime thriller/mystery, a genre to which he would return periodically from then on, working both within and against the conventions of the form. The film introduced what was to become a recurring Lynch character type: the innocent who is attracted to mysterious strangers and willingly seduced by the corruption hidden within a Rockwellian Americana. This unseen world may be in the secret lives of one’s neighbors (Blue Velvet, Twin Peaks), or literally another dimension (Lost Highway, Mulholland Drive). The innocent’s naive adventure turns sordid, bizarre, and deadly.

    But whereas “exposing the sleaze” of small-town America is a favorite theme of sophisticates, Lynch confounds expectations by reaffirming American innocence even as he discomforts conservatives (and feminists) with his clinical probing of violence and sleaze. To some extent, and especially in his art, Lynch himself is the very sort of innocent he portrays in his films: the Boy Scout who remains true to his pledge despite occasional instances of poking at dead cats or fumbling through Playboy.

    Blue Velvet opens on a town called Lumberton, a place so idyllic it seems parodic: bright flowers along a white picket fence, a radio jingle playing in the background, a smiling fireman waving to the camera from a shiny red fire truck. The time period is indeterminate. Some cars and clothes appear to come from the 1980s, yet the fashions, music, and town malt shop suggest various times from the 1940s through the 1960s. (Lynch detests 1970s design; he told Powers, “The cars were pitiful. I mean pitiful. It made you ashamed.”) Film critic J. G. Ballard describes the visual style of Blue Velvet as a clash between the paintings of Norman Rockwell and those of Edward Hopper.

    As in many of Lynch’s tales (such as Twin Peaks, The Straight Story, and Mulholland Drive), this paradise is marred by an unexpected tragedy: a father’s heart attack draws his son, college freshman Jeffrey (Kyle MacLachlan), home to help at the family hardware store. Finding a severed human ear in an empty field, Jeffrey plays amateur sleuth and discovers a vile criminal underworld operating beneath the town’s placid surface. Simultaneously fascinated and repulsed by these lowlifes, Jeffrey feels conflicted desires that pull him between two women: a suicidal nightclub singer, the brunette Dorothy (Isabella Rossellini), and an all-American girl-next-door, the blond Sandy (Laura Dern). Dorothy excites Jeffrey by raping him at knifepoint and then demanding that he beat her, whereas Sandy touches his heart by relating to him her dream of “the robins of love” while (again, almost parodically) pastoral music plays from a church outside their parked car.

    Jeffrey ultimately triumphs over his brush with crime and vice, and he proceeds unjaded into the arms of Sandy. They delight in a robin chirping upon their white picket fence—oblivious to the fact that it is mechanical. This scene, however, is far from parody; like the church scene, it is openly sentimental and affectionate. But just as one must suspend disbelief to enjoy a fictional film, one must suspend cynicism to appreciate Lynch. Only by becoming, for the moment, as pure as Sandy, can one appreciate her (or John Merrick, or Henry’s deformed baby in Eraserhead). Wood quotes Lynch on this aspect of his work: “There’s an autobiographical level to [Blue Velvet]. Kyle is dressed like me . . . lumber and lumberjacks, all this kinda thing, that’s America to me—like the picket fences and the roses in the opening shot. It’s so burned in, that image, and it makes me feel so happy.”

    This yearning for hope and innocence—and the ability to find it after many travails and much exposure to corruption—is a major theme of Lynch’s work. In Twin Peaks, FBI agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) finds it in the love of Annie (Heather Graham), friendship with the Bookhouse Boys, and things as simple and American as Douglas firs and cherry pie. Wild at Heart’s bad girl, Lula (Laura Dern), who aches to travel “over the rainbow” into Oz, finally finds happiness and a family with the ex-con Sailor (Nicolas Cage), after he has a dream vision of “the good witch.” Like Blue Velvet, Twin Peaks and Wild at Heart are crime thrillers that push the envelopes of violence and sexuality (for example, Lula partially enjoys her near rape, as Jeffrey did before her in Blue Velvet), yet hope and innocence emerge intact after all the madness and horror.

    The popular backlash against Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (a prequel to the television series) may partially be attributed to that movie’s surface inversion of the Lynch formula: in Fire Walk With Me, evil does in fact crush hope—at least in this earthly realm. It does, however, offer some hope, but the hope lies not in this world but in the next, where Lynch suggests that true justice will prevail. Like Lula, Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) is an innocent who aches to escape into a fantasy (specifically, a picture on her wall). Unlike Lula, however, Laura succumbs to drugs and promiscuity, as a clear result of the pain caused by years of sexual abuse. Ultimately, Laura is murdered by her incestuous father, Leland (Ray Wise). The film is arguably quite sophisticated in its spiritual implications: Leland’s unspeakable behavior toward his daughter is explained as the direct product of demonic possession (which was set up quite well in the TV series, for those on the lookout for it), and Laura literally ascends to heaven at the end. Some critics who defended the film as the most raw and honest American film on the subject of incest, however, were put off by an ending that they considered too hopeful and indeed rather corny—and, what is worse, explicitly religious. Most fans of the series, on the other hand, probably considered Lynch’s happy ending insufficient to offset the depressing events that led up to it.

    Lynch’s work became even darker thereafter (with the exception of The Straight Story), a trend reputedly inspired, in part, by the greater difficulties he was facing in getting his films made. In Lost Highway, a jazz saxophone player (Bill Pullman) abruptly morphs into another person’s rather grim life midway through the film, for no given reason, and is thereafter trapped in a quantum prison, forever to repeat his doomed fate on some sort of metaphysical Mobius strip. The film failed at the box office, although it is interesting if for no other reason than Robert Blake’s eerie and sinister portrayal of a demon.

    After Lost Highway’s highly puzzling plot, Lynch reportedly turned to The Straight Story to show that he was capable of linear, G-rated fare. L.A. Weekly critic Manohla Dargis was not impressed: “The Straight Story mined too much of what’s boring about [Lynch’s] worldview, all that hokum and gee-whiz blather, instead of the freakish and the unbearably true.” Yet despite the cavils of critics pining for unadulterated sleaze, The Straight Story is not atypical of Lynch’s work. It is based on the true story of an aged farmer, Alvin Straight (Richard Farnsworth), who wants to visit his ailing but estranged brother, perhaps for the last time, and whose only means of transport over several hundred miles through the Midwest is a riding lawnmower. The film was Lynch’s first non-crime thriller since Dune, and an entirely new type of story for him, yet his hand is evident. There is, for example, his fascination with the context of place, indicated by the lingering closeups of corn fields and highways. There are (mildly) quirky characters and incidents. Innocent characters carry dark secrets (in one scene, Alvin and another military vet discuss their painful memories of World War II). And, of course, there is Lynch’s evident love for Middle America. The Straight Story is a masterpiece—and one of a typically Lynchian kind.

    Mulholland Drive, his most recent film, brings us full circle, for here Lynch returns to his earlier habit of striking a clear balance between a fondness for innocence and a fascination with corruption. As with Blue Velvet, Mulholland Drive requires a suspension of cynicism for full appreciation. Another starry-eyed innocent, Betty (Naomi Watts), expects to parley her win in a small-town jitterbug contest into Hollywood stardom. Lynch depicts Los Angeles through her rose-colored point of view: smogless skies, cheery cabbies, corny dialogue with her aunt and uncle who depart with giddily optimistic smiles. Betty even beams ecstatically upon seeing the words LOS ANGELES over the airport escalator. This moment evoked much hilarity at a screening I attended, but although the film, like Twin Peaks, is darkly comedic, it is not satirical. Betty is naive, but she is not ridiculous. Lynch never mocks his characters, in fact, however naive, quirky, or sordid any of them might be. Although Lynch reportedly laughed on the Blue Velvet set at the sexual perversity of Hopper’s character, Lynch explained his reaction rather interestingly: “Frank [played by Hopper] is totally in love. He just doesn’t know how to show it. He may have gotten into some strange things, but he’s still motivated by positive things.”

    As in Lost Highway, Mulholland Drive’s characters inexplicably morph into new identities midway through the film. (The film’s first hour was produced as an ABC TV pilot, then, after its rejection, Lynch re-envisioned it and completed the story as a feature film, with funding from Canal Plus.) It has been called a parable of Hollywood, its players the victims of unseen forces, where actors are hired and projects abruptly canceled for no discernible reason. Betty is the archetypal aspiring actress destroyed by Tinseltown. Like many a Lynch protagonist, Betty encounters a mystery, plays Nancy Drew, and enters a previously unseen world of corruption. But whereas other Lynch characters survive the violence and cruelty of criminal gangs, none survive Hollywood.

    None, save David Lynch. Despite having expressed bitterness over having no ownership or control over most of his Hollywood product (to date he has failed in his attempts to reedit or re-release Fire Walk With Me with over an hour’s worth of previously deleted scenes), his consistently avid following overseas has provided a safety net for him whenever Hollywood loses interest. (Fire Walk With Me was a hit in Japan, and French money help finance Lost Highway, Straight Story, and Mulholland Drive.) That overseas following, and the respect of the independent film community (which honored Straight Story with an Independent Spirit Award for lead actor Richard Farnsworth), has enabled Lynch to continue crafting his uniquely American vision without compromise, despite the hurdles Hollywood throws his way. It is his way of remaining, like so many of his characters, innocent amid corruption.


    as for 'trying harder' I'm not trying to convince you to view these films as i do; I'm not prosecuting them before you the jury. It's a "close reading". I'm not the only person who sees the films this way.

    what do you make of the weirdified amos and andy on their knees in the mud at night, as wet stuff and burning flesh falls from an unseen plane above their heads?

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  24. there are a number of distortions in this article:

    Blue Velvet opens on a town called Lumberton, a place so idyllic it seems parodic

    It doesn't ''seem parodic'', it IS parodic

    while (again, almost parodically) pastoral music plays from a church outside their parked car.

    it doesn't play almost parodically, it plays parodically


    that push the envelopes of violence and sexuality (for example, Lula partially enjoys her near rape, as Jeffrey did before her in Blue Velvet), yet hope and innocence emerge intact after all the madness and horror.

    this is not true; the closing of wild at heart is ambiguous. it can also be surmised that sailor was clubbed to death by the street gang, so that his reuniting with the family in the end is a parody. it plays out like a campy musical, with him running across the roofs of the cars to embrace lula and sing ''love me tender'' to her. It looks like CAMP, frankly; it's over-the-top Norman Rockwell. Also the cutesy-wootsie wizard of oz witch is clearly a campy apparition (she smiles too much; she issues nebulous platitudes - ''if you're truly wild at heart, you will believe in love...'')

    And what about the representation of sex in wild at heart? For a movie seemingly about wild erotic passions, the sex scenes are unusually repetitive and parodic (the actors obsessively repeat platitudes such as ''you have made me hotter than georgia asphalt''). you see a repetitive shot of hands holding each other under neon lights as lula climaxes melodramatically - clearly the ideal of American individuality and freedom (accomplished REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE style through free sexuality) is being ridiculed here.

    were put off by an ending that they considered too hopeful and indeed rather corny—and, what is worse, explicitly religious.

    similarly here laura palmer doesn't end up in heaven. it looks more like a purgatory, or jean paul sartre's existential room. what you see is laura crying over the image of a praying angel (who previously saved her friend from certain demise in the handsof her crazy dad). the way i saw it, she was crying for her missed opportunities, for the wrong choices she made. this is not a clear-cut and unambiguous image of HEAVEN at all.

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  25. what do french film's shock have to do with the content of these images? I missed a step in the logic there.

    a surefire method of getting attention as a young avant garde director is to SHOCK the audience, and in this sense I see that scene as pretty cheap. french filmmakers are usually shocking - witness the recent trend of shocking psychodramas featuring women who like to cut themselves.

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  26. as for 'trying harder' I'm not trying to convince you to view these films as i do; I'm not prosecuting them before you the jury. It's a "close reading". I'm not the only person who sees the films this way.

    speaking of courts, is the indictment against dr. zizek ready?

    neither am I trying to defend lynch or his subversiveness. i am trying to think this through, because i think the issue has far-reaching implications for our current lives and our future. i like lynch a lot, but he is not my childhood hero, or an indisputable authority. i did hear what you informed me about his sympathies for reagan, and i do partially endorse your reading of his movies as racist. i'm just unwilling to see that as especially important, since already LIVING in Europe or in the States implies a degree of compliance with racism. Our respective civilizations are steeped in it, namely. I also think it is not cancelling out the possible subversive value of Lynch's output - this is why I mention Heidegger; you don't need information about his Nazism in order to appreciate his philosophy.

    Just like your bringing into view Hegel's racism didn't manage to convince me that Hegel did not have anything of value to say!

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  27. He may have gotten into some strange things, but he’s still motivated by positive things.”

    Here Lynch himself explains that the innocence is the flip side of corruption, and vice versa.

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  28. "there are a number of distortions in this article:"

    how can you explain these distortions? Is it parodic, or almost parodic? What does it mean to say a film IS this or that mood and tone? If it IS parodic, by which i assume you mean it is lynch's intention that the film is parodic (which he denies, incidentally), and the audience sees it as almost parodic, then it is just not any good.

    I would imagine that really this viewer did not have his own ultra right wing libertarian ideas about purity, corruption, innocence, all-Americanness and 'middle america' upset at all, but confirmed, because clearly, indisputably, the film is entirely available for and amenable to that interpretation and reception. He thinks "that is America" and so does, by his own admission, Lynch. ("that's america, white picket fences, and it makes me so happy") To make this interpretation vanish you would have to exterminate that part of the audience which percieves it this way.

    to say 'maybe sailor was killed' makes no sense as it insists on a kind of diegtic plane which has purportedly been 'subverted'. 'sailor' is an image and his image coninues to appear in a chronological sequence - with a grotesquely enlarged erect nose - after he calls the gang of ethnic others 'faggots' and gets beaten up.

    "And what about the representation of sex in wild at heart? "

    they are puritanical, as in all lynch films. boring, garishly photographed like a comic book, with moments that are just repugnant pseudo kinky (rape by an ethnic other with vile teeth named "Peru").

    "a surefire method of getting attention as a young avant garde director is to SHOCK the audience, and in this sense I see that scene as pretty cheap. "

    yes but how does this erase or negative the content of what is chosen to shock ? I mean if you want to shock an audience, why do you have to show a lynching justified natrratively as self defense committed by the film's male lead? I mean what does 'shock' in the abstract explain about this sequence and why does it forbid interpretation of the enunciated content of what is purportedly used for this purpose? If it is just random 'shock' than it's not very interesting as 'ahhhht' is it? Just smacking someone in the face or spitting at someone on the street is shocking. But is it art?

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  29. After reading Heideggers philosophy, his Nazism comes as no surprise, and after seeing Lynch's movies, his attempt to surround his three house compound with child and dog endagering razor wire come as no surprise. I am not saying someone who falls for something as crude, simpleminded, foolish and irrational as Nazism or american wild west libertarianism necessarily has nothing to say of value, but neither is this a guarantee of wisdom, honesty and unselfishness or much of a recommendation for that person's acuity with regard to matters like art, technology, psychology, politics, being, death etc. Someone without basic arithmatic would not make a great bookkeeper, and someone without even a basically accurate grasp of human affairs is probably not going to make much of a sage. I'm not rhat impressed with grown men who fall for the dumbest, most idiotic politics just out of cowardice, egotism and a susceptibility to being 'racially' flattered. To put this as malevolently as I can, I don't say being a mindbogglingly imbecile meanie about the most important things, like whether its okay to shoot the 'human scum' who wander about your homeland, means a man must be an idiot about everything, but it does not incline me to take up the posture of pupil to be educated by them.

    I am swamped with eeeeevil work right now unfortunately but Z's prosecution will eventually commence! Meanwhile the accused is out on parole.

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  30. (i notice you don't want to take a crack at sanitising that just too damn emphatic Voodoo Bokor/Zombie Amos and Andy cigarette ad.)

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  31. (i notice you don't want to take a crack at sanitising that just too damn emphatic Voodoo Bokor/Zombie Amos and Andy cigarette ad.)

    no I was just too busy responding to other points, but did take due note of this and will address shortly

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  32. Chuckie K12:59 PM

    I was thinking about the rats. Your interpretations reads the sequence litter > rats as causal. How about an non-sequential identity, litterers = rats? Seems in keeping with Lynch's general attitude toward the mass us.

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  33. Chuckie K1:03 PM

    this morning, I also realized Calvin belonged in my fumbling, confused groping for antecedents. Of course, Dejan, you're right there.
    But then I realized that I would then have to suggest that the antecedents for Lynch were Calvin and Hobbes.

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  34. "Calvin and Hobbes"

    absolutely. too. funny.

    "litterers=rats"

    yes, the visual quote may be from that nazi film. and also because they are a little bit cute; more interesting than those time travelling vomiting teens and the faceless cabbie whom we are supposed to want to shoot for polluting the homeland; the suggestion is the rats may not only attack us but fascinate and seduce us into their cute little bestial ways.

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  35. dejan2:44 PM

    how can you explain these distortions? Is it parodic, or almost parodic?

    it is CAMP: it simultaneously celebrates and ridicules its subject. like queer humor nowadays.

    upset at all, but confirmed, because clearly, indisputably, the film is entirely available for and amenable

    the reviewer, working for a libertarian thintank, WANTED to interpret it as straight instead of camp
    ; that confirms his idea that lynch is a straight reaganite (but i think it's not that simple; i see lynch dealing with his reaganite demons)and by extension that his doubleness has no subversive function, rather, that it's a closeted endorsement of racism, et cetera.

    'sailor' is an image and his image coninues to appear in a chronological sequence - with a grotesquely enlarged erect nose -

    continuity is not the only parameter. what about context? the heightened sentiment, the codes of the musical genre, the fairy appearing out of the blue, sailor's cartoony reaction, etc.

    yes but how does this erase or negative the content of what is chosen to shock ?

    it doesn't; the gratuitous and exaggerated violence emphasizes the fact that sailor IS guilty; that he is NOT acting out of self-defence; that he is NOT nice. the surplus jouissance of his violent act uncovers its evil intent. he enjoyed flooring the niggah. this is only confirmed when in the toilet he almost succumbs to marietta's malevolent charms (i love that actress by the way, dianne ladd)and ultimately in the way he succumbs to toothless Bobi Perus', his Doppelganer's, seduction...same way Lula is tempted to succumb to his rape

    the nietzschean force behind this film is FIRE: the will to evil. You heard the Wagner in the soundtrack? and everybody falls prey to it. everybody has it , structurally speaking. nobody is innocent in this film.

    harry dean stanton dies because he wants to be good in a homo homini lupus est world

    YOU are the who in your well-meaning humane Marxism imagines pure goodness, but pure goodness doesn't exist in Lynch's universe ...separately from eeeevil

    this is why this whole discussion of innocence isn't really goin' anywhere...there is no claim to innocence, and it is never restored unambiguously, as the libertarian claims

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  36. dejan2:46 PM

    need a few clarifications:

    (a) i don;'t know much about American libertines; in Holland you have the racist variety and those who are just afraid of the state in general; these are not necessarily racist and (b) how do you read the narrative of Popeye in the cartoon?

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  37. dejan3:06 PM

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aestheticization_of_violence

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  38. dejan3:11 PM

    chuckie (is that from child's play BTW?) - if you're going to use qualifiers like Hobbesian and Calvinist, and expect me to accept your reading of them, then I would like you to explain your terms first and then also state your own allegiances: Debordian? Stalinist? Maoist? Leninist? I'm sure both Hobbes and Calvin had some interesting ideas... and Im sure other thinkers had the same ideas even tho they're not called Hobbesian

    Colonel, did you notice in the posted scene from Wild at Heart how Sailor begins to show his teeth like a coyote even before he is provoked into striking - and how the axis of the camera esablihse a visual parallel btween him and Marietta,who is also gashing her teeth like a mad wolf?

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  39. the reviewer, working for a libertarian thintank, WANTED to interpret it as straight instead of camp"

    why would a libertarian thinktank reviewer want to promote left wing subversive films?



    "; that confirms his idea that lynch is a straight reaganite"

    why would he want to make a subversive leftist filmmaker seem like a reaganite? why, if he really thinks the films are subversive and against everything he believes, would he even promote them at all?



    "(
    continuity is not the only parameter. what about context? the heightened sentiment, the codes of the musical genre, the fairy appearing out of the blue, sailor's cartoony reaction, etc."


    but the whole film looks like a comic book. and aren't there other such intrusions? (i forget now)




    "it doesn't; the gratuitous and exaggerated violence emphasizes the fact that sailor IS guilty; that he is NOT acting out of self-defence; that he is NOT nice. the surplus jouissance of his violent act uncovers its evil intent. he enjoyed flooring the niggah."


    as does lynch, the one who actually fantasised and staged it, and as many people in the audience enjoyed watching. and he IS acting in self-defense - BRL comes up, accuses him of trying to rape marietta and says he's been paid to kill him, and flashes a knife. he IS an assailant, he DOES fondle and ogle Lula, and everyone watches without intervening; the man behind diane ladd smiles. Sailor does not just attack and kill this man out of the blue. the snarling is a response to BRL's ogling and fondling of Lula.



    "this is only confirmed when in the toilet he almost succumbs to marietta's malevolent charms (i love that actress by the way, dianne ladd)and ultimately in the way he succumbs to toothless Bobi Perus', his Doppelganer's, seduction...same way Lula is tempted to succumb to his rape "


    yes yes yes they are not angels, but it is ALWAYS lily white people succumbing to the OBVIOUS evils of dark (with small people around to be "wierd"). always, movie after movie, the same story, over and over. why do not innocent dark people get seduced by the obvious evils of blonde "all americanness" with metal teeth? Isn't this exactly what racism IS? what this ideology IS? The young white american is normative, the Type of Beauty and Innicnce; that this isn't the wholestory is depicted as always involving the 'sinking' or 'stumbling' into a dark underworld of people who are NOT all blonde white "all americans"; the very SIGHT of a small person is construed as weird and SINISTER, an Omen!

    WHAT IS SINISTER ABOUT A SMALL PERSON, FOR PITY'S SAKE?!!!!

    (did you see 'living in oblivion?' where the day player 'dwarf' on the indie movie throws a tantrum about this?)

    the dark other is "wierd", the young white beauty's flaw is to be susceptible to seduction by that DARK VIOLENT OTHER who is weird and twisted and violent to the core. Why does a man named Peru have scary teeth instead of Sailor or Lula?

    It's NEVER the other way around.

    WE ("america", the audience) are Lula, betty, jeffrey not "Peru". Peru, Dorothy, Rita/Camilla is a THING, a Force, Spiritual Weather which seduces and corrupts. OF COURSE "WE" are vulnerable to this seduction. Of course "WE" are not all pure and perfect, but "THEY" ARE CORRUPTION ITSELF; They rape; they attack, they seduce, they abuse, they deceive. Bobby Ray Lemon IS A DARK FORCE. JOSIE is an "inscrutable Oriental Presence". Salor and Lula, Betty/ Diane, Jeffery, Cooper are protagonists.




    "the nietzschean force behind this film is FIRE: the will to evil.""

    this is hardly subversive; it is what's kind of extra super reactionary aristocratic about Nieztsche. (this domenico losurdo book on nietsche btw is very good but not out in english yet)


    "You heard the Wagner in the soundtrack? and everybody falls prey to it. everybody has it"

    No, Horrible proto Aryan icky folks have Wagner! You can't blame everybody for that disgustingness! to say 'the world is violent because there is evil in us all' is a) a stupid banality and b) hideous fundie american pseudo-christianity; it is precisely to deny the social and political, the actual reality of human affairs and the causes of violence in the world and in american society. Men weren't mynched because they had evil inside them; that's the exuse the lyncher likes to give for his lynching; it is the excuse Lynch gives for his lynching - bobby ray lemon is evil; sailor has violence lurking within brought out by the approach of this dark evil sexually predatory force. That's NOT the truth, that's just the ideology.





    , "structurally speaking. nobody is innocent in this film."

    but some people are the sites of manichean struggles who live and prevail, the aryan couple, and indeed the end is seen from the POV of their son 'pace' (time); and others are dark forces.






    "YOU are the who in your well-meaning humane Marxism imagines pure goodness, but pure goodness doesn't exist in Lynch's universe ...separately from eeeevil"

    it is not a question of pure goodness in whiteness and pure evil in blackness; race was never constructed like that, not even by Nazis. Racism in america, mlike everywhere else (SZ never said western europeans or slovenians were angelic and pure!) is far far far more complicated - its expressions are complicated but nonetheless legible, as in David Lynch films.

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  40. dejan4:25 PM

    why would a libertarian thinktank reviewer want to promote left wing subversive films?

    because he sees reagan behind every tree, as most ideologues do


    why do not innocent dark people get seduced by the obvious evils of blonde "all americanness" with metal teeth? Isn't this exactly what racism IS? what this ideology IS?

    because that would NOT overturn the ideology, it would merely replace one protagonist with another. why do you imply that black people are angellic? or spanish people? or serbs? people are people. the problem is the ideology/structure of power. i don't believe tjhe Empire of the blacks would be any better than the Puritan Empire.


    the very SIGHT of a small person is construed as weird and SINISTER, an Omen!

    as i said before, i agree with this point. i disagree with lynch's associating weirdness with small people. but i see him doing that for bratty avantgarde reasons, not because he's racist.
    he's doing it because Fellini did it.

    it is precisely to deny the social and political, the actual reality of human affairs and the causes of violence in the world and in american society

    and what are the causes of violence in the world and in american society? if you're going to say the white supremacist ruling elite, i will say yes, but i won't believe you that the black suprematist ruling elite would be better

    it is not common for them to be overtly racist anymore; they speak in code.

    well i didn't know this, but if it's true, then i certainly am not going to pay to see lynch's movies anymore

    Men weren't mynched because they had evil inside them;

    this movie is not about lynching. that's what came out of your wordplay.

    (SZ never said western europeans or slovenians were angelic and pure!)

    SZ has nothing to do with Lynch. Lynch is not and was not involved in politics, except through his transcendental meditation project. And SZ's reading of Lynch is ''dialectic'' which I don't agree with at all.

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  41. "because he sees reagan behind every tree, as most ideologues do"

    no the right spent a lot of time denouncing hollywood. the whole 'family values' disourse was launched as an attack on a sitcom, Murphy Brown, whose protagonist was a single career woman having a baby.

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  42. "because that would NOT overturn the ideology, it would merely replace one protagonist with another. "

    I don't get this. How does the innocent white person seduced by the metal toothed peru 'overturn the ideology'? What ideology is it overturning? Why would the story of everyone is evil everywhere not work if the seducible innocent was named peru and laura dern had metal teeth?

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  43. and if these films are all overtunring the ideology, how many have to be made before thr ideology is actually officially overturned?

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  44. dejan4:42 PM

    I don't get this. How does the innocent white person seduced by the metal toothed peru 'overturn the ideology'

    now you're doing rhetorics. I did not say the job of this film was to overturn ideology. It takes more than film to do that. Its job may have been to subvert official codes of representation. And I guess you're right, maybe it would have been done better by a role reversal - black people as the Puritans, white people as the Evil Other. But still, it's just a role reversal on the same structure of power. Ain't no difference between a racist black and a racist white.

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  45. dejan4:46 PM

    to say 'the world is violent because there is evil in us all' is a) a stupid banality and b) hideous fundie american pseudo-christianity;

    that isn't really what i meant to say. more like, the world is ruled by a terrible coincidence... and the good is not easy to separate from the evil. the most typical scene in wild at heart is the poignant and horrible death of the car crash victim (sherylin fenn). comes out of the blue, has no meaning. violence does not come about BECAUSE of the fire,you still need a human agent, but fire makes it possible.

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  46. dejan4:52 PM

    it's a world ''beyond good and evil''...a world of necessity

    now lynch did move away from this nietzschean vision, typical for young artists in their initial phases...(like that time i read the steppenwolf in highschool and felt really despondent about how the world is irreparably baaad)

    now he seems to me much more buddhist and christian-mystical

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  47. warszawa4:56 PM

    Surely the ideology is, precisely, that everyone is evil everywhere? Surely this is what Lynch's films constantly assert and purport to demonstrate? That inside every Sunny Smiling Singing Sailor is a headsmashing psychopath, that inside every Laura Dern is a helpless airhead in need of a headsmashing fascist to protect her? Because after all, they're both surrounded by big and small Others that are the embodiment of pure Evil; as indeed - when you get right down to it - are they themselves. There's no escaping it.

    In short: you can't be too careful nowadays.

    I'm wondering precisely what's "subversive" about any of this.

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  48. dejan4:59 PM

    I'm wondering precisely what's "subversive" about any of this.

    ''wild at heart'' isn't subversive. it's not even a very good film altogether. when we started this discussion we were talking about mulholland drive.

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  49. surely you've misread me dejan; I believe I clearly implied midgets, rats and people with metal teeth were angels and advocated a midget rat and metal tooth person supremacist empire. Surely. Your confusion is nonetheless understandable, as due to very swift reading. but you see when you implied that what was necessary was the extermination of midgets, rats, and people with metal teeth, I tailored my pitch for the supremacist empire of the angels in answer.

    the movie opens with a lynching. .

    I'm sorry - I looked up the Natural Law Party; they were part of the reform party only breifly, which was populist initially then becamle libertarian, but they left when it went Buchananite extremist. So Lynch was not involved with the extremist looneys directly, just the new agey libertarians who advocate mediation and the abolition of tax on the rich for the 'cure of all social ills'

    His comments about shooting human scum on the lawn though were made after some publicised incidents and are classically american libertarian stuff, much more that than transcendental meditationist. maybe he was joking; razor wire is dangeorus in residential neighborhoods though, and this is why it is banned.

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  50. I don't think a movie should be made with the roles reversed; that wouldn't be better; because there is nothing good there to salvage; there is nothing good, true or interesting in this story, as i see it. I thought you werr saying the reason the innocents seduced are always white was because this overturns the ideology while if they were not always white it would not. I misunderstood what you meant by 'because this would not overturn the ideology(. I was not SUGGESTING this would be better,n I was ASKING WHY THE INNOCENTS CORRUPTED ARE ALWAYS WHITE AND THE CORRUPTORS oTHER. Would it be 'better' the other way? No, btu who cares? We"re talking about an existing set of films, about what they signify, not what other fimls which don't exist could signify if they were a littmle the same and a little different; that's not about anything. What if the mvoiue was made exatcly as is but laura dern was played by a chimp with a paper bag over its head in two scenes? such questions do not tell us much about this film, what it signifies, as is.

    as for the difference between the white supremacist empire and the black one, it's all the difference in the world, it is the difference between reality and unreality. In the US, the context for these films, the historical reality from which they draw their effects and images, racism is anti black, not anti white. This simple is. What the situation might be on mars does not tell us anything about these films.

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  51. "most typical scene in wild at heart is the poignant and horrible death of the car crash victim (sherylin fenn). comes out of the blue, has no meaning."

    now i saw this as having meaning and being typically lynchian exploitative stuff. Lynch likes beautiful white women's bodies, dead with a little garnish of blood. She dies very decoratively, and is the object of a sick joke saying "get me my lipstick, it's in my purse" as a cue for the lipstick/blood to ooze out over her lips and redden them, which is a motif in the film. And it is true that Lynch has a 'signature' image of a dead starlet, the blood on whose pristine lovely dead body ius a kind of lipstick, a cosmetic adornment enhancing her beauty from lynch's pov. She also says, in her last moments, 'my mother is going to kill me'. She is a decorative prop, a recogniseable example of lynch's taste for the image of women who look like her, dead, with a little smattering of blood.

    the scene struck me as anything but sad, but just contrived, stilted and obviously to be relished in an 'ironic' way.

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  52. reading back i see i read over some of your comments too swiftly and there is as a result some crosspurposes...

    to clarify what i think of these films, and i see them as a body of work considered together:

    1. I don't believe 'people have a will to evil' or if they do, that that's very interesting or explains or reveals anything. If everyone indeed has a 'will to evil' then evil is just synonmous with human will, which says nothing much.

    2. I already knew movies were images so don't feel I have been done a service by Mulholland Drive via a vis that.

    3. The films nostalgically set up as the idea of America and Innocence an image that is hackneyed and then pretend to discredit it. but it had no credit in this genre of movie until these films resuscitated it from the dead. Despite 'the dark underbelly',; these images of love and happiness and innocence hold in his films the monopoly place, the monopoly on signifying purity and innocence (even if tainted). In other words the films praise an completely reactionary and indeed obsolete-in-mainstream ideal White America with faint damnation.

    4. If the point of these stories is that our world is violent because none of us are innocent and evil, they nonetheless create a racial paradigm in which the white beauties possess a certain kind of original innocence which is corrupted by the dark wierd or deformed others who possess no such original innocence, no such duality. They may be sexy and interesting but they have no innocence; they embody corruption. A stream of non white characters, some garishly painted white or posing as white, are the common villains and abusers. If Lula's 'evil' is that she might enjoy having sex with a nonwhite man, as her mother does, that is hardly meaningless textually, nor is such an "evil desire" for the dark mishappen other comparable to the evil of a rapist, a murderer, a torturer, a demon, which the dark others are and embody. That this pattern is repeated film after film re-enforces its meaning in each film.

    5. This focus on the will to evil, which in non white people manifests as rape, murder, betrayal, etc, and in white people as attraction to those non white people implyin a desire to be violated and made impure by proximity to them, is a way of showing and accounting for violence and torture untruthfully - that is, with little attention to the social and political relations which are the basis of the realities from which these images draw their inspiration. A generic 'will to evil' is not very convincing it seems to me; a garishly "weird" criminal 'underworld' is a distraction from a perfectly ordinary, often sexually unadventurous, criminal system and overworld. One of the comments in that link said Lynch was an establishment artist, who tells americans what they want to hear, that the 'dark side' of American life is the result of sexual perversion and twisted weird ambition, and not greed and racism. The work occludes then truths of violence and exploitation which the audience does not want to confront, and instead offers thrills with thrilling, simplified and titillatingly psood explanations (mass psychoanalysis, film theory, etc). The parody is impotent because it parodies whaty was never meant to be serious. You cannot by definition satirise the Wizard of Oz, which is already satire. You cannot parody the sacchrine cuteness of the Good Witch, already excessive on that score. You can't in 1990 actually send up Elvis. He sent himself up years before.

    I don't know that the new stuff I know about Lynch's personal politics is important, though as I said it doesn't surprise me that he believes in the existence of 'human scum' and likes the idea of killing them for walking on his grass. The movies speak for themselves, with a similar contempt for and relish of images of human pain as decorative art. It doesn't surprise me that he is nostalgic for the fifties because the cars were prettier than ijn the 70s. I suppose he miught even imagine it was a comfrot to goodman, cheney and schwerner to be dragged out of a really well designed byoot of a car to be tortured, mutilated and lynched. His films suggest this to me.

    The racism is only part of the generall misanthropy, as chuckie said, the anti-people quality. Everyone is appalling, but each in ways determined by and expressed by race. But all of humanity is basically disgusting; what comes out of this is a hierarchy in terms ofstyle. Laura Dern is disgusting, but still a lot prettier than Peru, and these cues of body beautiful are in the end how the whole order of humanity is arranghed - who are the protagonists and subjects, who are the objects and forces, is determined by it. Eeerie music and a cockeyed camera follows anyone who greatly departs from the Style Ideal. Of course in the later films the degradation of this Ideal is the narrative. It is percieved as tragic, as painful, for this Ideal to be degraded, which comes about, as I said before, through contact with a contaminating/seductive/destructive other.

    All this to me doesn't add up to any kind of insight or truthfulness. The meta level does not seem to me in itself to be very interesting, to express much more than postmodern clichés about art and images and yet fail to question much less repudiate these Style Values and codes on which all that illusionist manipulation rests. The discovery that tv plots are contrived and genre is an eminence grise is not especially insightful, and the interest of the t show which discovers this will depend on its articulation in detail. Larry Sanders seems rather brighter on that score than TP or MD, acknowledging at least tv office politics. Lynch's work just seems to set faintly mythic scenarios - campbell was a good comparison - in quasi naturalistic garb to disavow the referentiality of its actual content and the manipulation and reactionary quality of its ideology.

    Surrealism is not at all historically unfriendly to reactionary ideas. The 'dream logic' is always the watertight alibi for any kind of content. It's extreme 'freedom' (from referentiality and grammar) is a kind of illusion itself, but one that always denies itself in the end when it comes to responsible for enunciation and articulation. The dreamer need not disavow his dream because as a dreamer he's not held responsible for it anyway. But this does not make the dream meaningless and uninterpretable.

    Are Sailor and Lula 'naive and innocent, their naiveté creating mayhem around them'? Or is Sailor's "will to evil" what creates the mayhem? You've taken both these positions in this thread; they can overlap ("naivété" and "the will to evil" perhaps are synonmous; Sailor's "innocence" and Sailor's "guilt" synonmous. We azre in the post language world of totalitarian images with Lynch perhaps; Sailor is Sailor, period: DO NOT INTERPRET, DO NOT RESIST, JUST SUBMIT TO IT, it is self-evident and self-evidently 'truth' because 'it appears'). But I think its obvious that many different readers find affirmation of their own views and sentiments in Lynch, as in the best television commercial spots. I think in that vigarette ad it is possible to see: the history of racism, slavery and lynching, depicted surreally, and the denial, repression and occlusion of that history simultaneously. Certainly one wonders what amos and andy are doing anywhere in visual art that is not overtly anti-racist. That's deader and burieder than barbie and elvis. Most people will be seeing Amos and Andy for the first time in that ad, as zombies/obeah-men, laughable and weird, the very sight of them disconcerting and pleasureable for being so "alien". The artist evidently misses Amos and Andy. He is nostalgic for them. How to interpret this resurrection of amos and andy as zombies in a surreal situation like this is somewhat open.

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  53. dejan3:20 AM

    Are Sailor and Lula 'naive and innocent, their naiveté creating mayhem around them'

    What I meant is the ''will to evil'' hiding BEHIND the facade of innocence, is what causes murder and mayhem around Sailor (and Lula). Their Unconscious, namely. This is supported in comic fashion by Nicholas Cage's excellent performance: the contortions and disfigurations in his grimacing (the snarling), evoking Will Coyote while also establishing a visual parallel with Bobi Peru and Marietta. Laura Dern is also good at this sort of physical humor, she can transform within seconds from cuteness to grand guignol. This body language in acting terms is the Unconscious - the hidden message.

    I still can't grasp what you're trying to tell me. As an American director working in the studio system, how the heck could you make a film in which blacks are Puritans and Whites the evil other? Who would finance such a film? If you have a white Puritan audience, how do you enable identification if not by showing them a world they know? You have to work within the system to accomplish any kind of critique, or subversion. You're imagining some ideal society (like Yugoslav socialism in a short period before Tito's death) where the state would actually pay you to critisize its politics. The point still sounds Situationist, which as I said is nothing BAD; it just isn't realistic.

    Your point about TV stereotypes is odd. As a film-maker who has worked for TV (even socialist TV) I know very well film is all about stereotypes. If it's not, it's not readable (to a wide audience). It is to Lynch's credit that he has managed to infuse these stereotypes with a new meaning. I agree with you that his interventions aren't really radical or especially original, esp. in view of what you told me about the white Puritans, but you have to remember he's working in AMERICA, and not in Russia.

    (Maybe useful to compare him to other controversial makers who consider themselves subversive? Because I really don't see an equivalent in America - except maybe John Waters.)

    I agree that an overemphasis on the psychoanalytic reading is not indicated here. One must also consider social and material factors (which you have done). And what I learned is to curb my enthusiasm about Lynch as a figure of limitless value. However I think his limitations are primarily due to his being AMERICAN, while his talent remains incredible in my eyes. The pure hypnotic intensity of his vision, and this I mean in the Deleuzian sense of ''intensity'', is already enough as a reference.

    There is another level which I haven't mentioned: Lynch's movies have a privileged space in my head because they are Oedipal, and I am as well. I have always remained and still am in the world of kinky mommies and ambiguous daddies. These images work on me viscerally, because of that (and because I think many people have Oedipal fixations as well, they work on them, too). I think this sort of private affection might be clouding my judgment.

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  54. dejan3:24 AM

    Are Sailor and Lula 'naive and innocent, their naiveté creating mayhem around them'

    What I meant is the ''will to evil'' hiding BEHIND the facade of innocence, is what causes murder and mayhem around Sailor (and Lula). Their Unconscious, namely. This is supported in comic fashion by Nicholas Cage's excellent performance: the contortions and disfigurations in his grimacing (the snarling), evoking Will Coyote while also establishing a visual parallel with Bobi Peru and Marietta. Laura Dern is also good at this sort of physical humor, she can transform within seconds from cuteness to grand guignol. This body language in acting terms is the Unconscious - the hidden message.

    I still can't grasp what you're trying to tell me. As an American director working in the studio system, how the heck could you make a film in which blacks are Puritans and Whites the evil other? Who would finance such a film? If you have a white Puritan audience, how do you enable identification if not by showing them a world they know? You have to work within the system to accomplish any kind of critique, or subversion. You're imagining some ideal society (like Yugoslav socialism in a short period before Tito's death) where the state would actually pay you to critisize its politics. The point still sounds Situationist, which as I said is nothing BAD; it just isn't realistic.

    Your point about TV stereotypes is odd. As a film-maker who has worked for TV (even socialist TV) I know very well film is all about stereotypes. If it's not, it's not readable (to a wide audience). It is to Lynch's credit that he has managed to infuse these stereotypes with a new meaning. I agree with you that his interventions aren't really radical or especially original, esp. in view of what you told me about the white Puritans, but you have to remember he's working in AMERICA, and not in Russia.

    (Maybe useful to compare him to other controversial makers who consider themselves subversive? Because I really don't see an equivalent in America - except maybe John Waters.)

    I agree that an overemphasis on the psychoanalytic reading is not indicated here. One must also consider social and material factors (which you have done). And what I learned is to curb my enthusiasm about Lynch as a figure of pure talent and value. However I think his limitations are primarily due to his being AMERICAN, while his talent is neverthelss enormous.

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  55. dejan4:56 AM

    We azre in the post language world of totalitarian images with Lynch perhaps; Sailor is Sailor, period: DO NOT INTERPRET, DO NOT RESIST, JUST SUBMIT TO IT, it is self-evident and self-evidently 'truth' because 'it appears').

    I think on this I agree - we are today in a world of totalitarian images. I just read an interesting post on k-punk's site where he explains how the i-pods have made music a part of inescapable background, removing the disruptive function of music which it used to have before the hypermediated world came into being. I think the same has happened with film. All these movies from the 80s and the 90s have become a huge self-referrential library and our memory is now based in films, rather than reality. I'm worried about the totalizing quality of this. I don't know how you can interrupt it, and whether Lynch showed us an idea, I just know you can't interrupt it from some outside point. You have to be inside.

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  56. dejan4:57 AM

    We azre in the post language world of totalitarian images with Lynch perhaps; Sailor is Sailor, period: DO NOT INTERPRET, DO NOT RESIST, JUST SUBMIT TO IT, it is self-evident and self-evidently 'truth' because 'it appears').

    I think on this I agree - we are today in a world of totalitarian images. I just read an interesting post on k-punk's site where he explains how the i-pods have made music a part of inescapable background, removing the disruptive function of music which it used to have before the hypermediated world came into being. I think the same has happened with film. All these movies from the 80s and the 90s have become a huge self-referrential library and our memory is now based in films, rather than reality. I'm worried about the totalizing quality of this. I don't know how you can interrupt it, and whether Lynch showed us an idea, I just know you can't interrupt it from some outside point. You have to be inside.

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  57. Anonymous10:39 AM

    All of the chabert/dejan dialogues have been very sharp and fine thus far. There are some misunderstandings I've had (and some which will remain, of course), but I hope you can forgive me, chabert, for some of the things I got wrong, and I just put this here hoping you would try to check your gmails. Take care.

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  58. Everyone here had far too much time on their hands.

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