Friday, May 28, 2010

Now Available on DVD: Haunted (2002)

Haunted was a UPN series that aired in 2002 and starred Matthew Fox before he became a star on Lost (2004 - 2010).

Here, Fox played Frank Taylor, a detective who could communicate with the dead. The supernatural program was canceled after seven hour-long episodes aired in prime time, but this new DVD release features all eleven episodes produced.

I watched the series when it originally aired eight years ago, (I used to have a lot more time, apparently...) and was moderately impressed. I'll be curious to see how Haunted holds up almost a decade later. I remember that back in the day, everybody was obsessed with comparing the show to The Sixth Sense (1999), so it didn't have a good chance to establish much of an identity. Today, that might not be an issue, and an objective retrospective seems in order...

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The David Lynch Dossier: Dream States and Underneaths

"Waking dreams are the ones that are important, the ones that come when I'm quietly sitting in a chair, gently letting my mind wander. When you sleep, you don't control your dreams. I like to dive into a dream world that I've made or discovered, a world I choose."

- David Lynch. Lynch on Lynch, Faber & Faber Ltd., 1997, page 15.

Every year on this blog, usually through the summer, I re-visit a handful of films by a director I find especially intriguing. Usually, these are artists who have had a considerable impact on the film industry, and especially genre-filmmaking.

In the past, we've seen Friedkin Fridays, re-examining William Friedkin's career, a re-assessment of latter-day John Carpenter films (1987 - 2001), and last year, I offered a detailed retrospective of the cinema of Brian De Palma. This year, our subject is David Lynch, another director with a singular sense of style and personality.

What interests me most about Lynch is the artist's unnerving and unerring capacity to express what I term "dream sense." Movie viewing has often been likened to dreaming with "eyes open," and human dreams convey a certain logic, flow, rhyme and reason. The Lynchian dream-sense, honed by the filmmaker's waking dreams, taps into this rich and subconscious language of phantasms.

Our dreams come in a variety of forms, and Lynch's films often mimic these shapes. Consider that dreams may be interpreted, in both myth and literature, as predictions or prophecies of the future (Dune [1984]), messages from Gods or otherworldly creatures (Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me [1992]), reflections of the repressed subconscious(Mulholland Drive [2001]) and even outlets for psychic guilt (Lost Highway [1997]). Lynch's films frequently deploy "the dream sense" to carry such thematic concepts; so much so that film criticism in regards to this artist becomes a study in symbols and oneirology.

And to what purpose does Lynch often apply his "dream sense" in his works? Well, that's the question of considerable interest here, one that we shall examine further. As many critics and scholars before have suggested over the decades, the director seems very concerned with the gulf between appearance and meaning; between surface and underneath. The Lynchian dream-sense is a way at getting at that gulf; of traversing it.

Mulholland Drive,
for instance, is a meditation on a society of lies and illusions in Hollywood, and "the dream sense" expresses this idea, revealing how even identity itself can't be taken for granted in a world of illusion. Likewise, in Blue Velvet's famous first shot, the director takes the viewer from the surface image of an apparently "normal" American suburb (white picket fences, green lawns) into the teeming, roiled underneath world, where insects teem and toil with seemingly unrestrained energy. Both worlds exist simultaneously, but the underneath is the world Lynch returns to again and again.

David Lynch's film career has spanned the years 1977 - 2006, and during that time he has been nominated for "Best Director" by the Academy Awards three times (for The Elephant Man, Blue Velvet and Mulholland Drive). But that doesn't make his work, necessarily, mainstream.

On the contrary, the artist has excelled at transforming the conventions and tropes of many genres (sci-fi epics, soap operas, film noirs) on their head, thereby investing them with new life and new meaning. There's nothing conventional at all about Lynch, and his films reflect that.

I recently watched Dune on Blu-Ray for the first time and it was a revelation. All previous prints of the film looked muddy -- as though the film stock itself had been processed through the sands of Arrakis. This new edition of the film, however, reveals the depth and breadth of Lynch's original vision; one that showcases the history, architecture and "underneaths" of no less than five galactic cultures. It's an amazing work of art, and I'll be reviewing it here, as soon as I get over my bloomin' deadline.

So that's the terrain. If you wish to join the upcoming conversation, catch up on your Lynch over the holiday weekend, especially Dune, Lost Highway, Mulholland Drive and Blue Velvet. It's a strange world...

Sunday, May 23, 2010


Hello, Readers,

Thanks for your continued patience as I put the finishing touches on my latest manuscript. My deadline is now imminent (the countdown has begun...), so I hope to be posting regularly here again in just days. Still upcoming: a cult movie review of Dune (1984) and more.

Thanks for sticking around. And to quote someone famous: "I'll be back." Soon.