Tag Archives: Boxing Helena

Interview and damn fine coffee with David Lynch, part one

26 Jan

With an exhibition of David Lynch’s photos now at London’s Photographers’ Gallery, and a special anniversary edition of Twin Peaks featuring additional material (possibly newly shot) planned for Blu-ray, this seems a good time to put together the best of a 1997 Time Out interview I did with the great man:

“Oh, my,” says David Lynch, as he walks into the Paris hotel suite. “Look at you all lollygagging around.”

Several things are strange about this:

1. The word “lollygagging”. Who says that? It sounds straight out of the ‘50s. That’s why Mel Brooks once described Lynch as “Jimmy Stewart from Mars”.

2. Who “we all” are. Sprawled on a big hotel bed alongside me are David Lynch’s then 14-year-old son Austin, and either Adam Buxton or Joe Cornish of the “Adam and Joe” comedy duo (the second of whom would go on to make urban sci-fi comedy Attack The Block) and his film PR girlfriend, all watching Adam and Joe’s Toytrainspotting spoof.

3. It’s freakin’ David Lynch!!

His debut feature, Eraserhead, is so called because the hero gets decapitated and his head made into pencils. His only stab at a blockbuster, Dune, features a bloated, pus-boiled pervert, Baron Harkonnen, killing the terrified boy he is molesting at the moment of orgasm by pulling out the plug surgically fitted to his heart. [This is not, as I recall, in the original book]. Blue Velvet starts with a severed ear and gets much worse; Twin Peaks turns supernatural evil, serial-killing and incest into prime-time soap; in Wild At Heart Lynch cut graphic scenes of torture only after a hundred people had walked out of a test screening.

Lynch doesn’t need the torture, frankly. He is best at using the unseen and understated, a heightened banality coupled with an extraordinary use of sound, to create a terror of the unknown. His films inhabit a dreamscape where you cannot be sure what is reality and what is fantasy (never better than in Mulholland Drive and Inland Empire), with backwards-talking midgets and red-curtained purgatories accessorised as standard.

We meet just before Lost Highway is released, in 1997. This is one of his most impenetrable films: not so much a “whodunnit” as a “whatthefuckwasallthatabout?”, it still gives the impression that behind the string of striking images there might just possibly be a narrative thread. I think I get pretty close to finding out what that is.

But Lynch is, frankly, a tough interview. He doesn’t like to talk about his private life, which is fair enough. But nor does he like to talk about or explain his work. What does that leave? Diet tips, maybe?

Yep, that’s exactly where we begin. Lynch once called sugar “granulated happiness”. So as Lynch pours me a cup of some Damn Fine Coffee, I ask, so, David, find any good doughnuts in Paris?

“I’m off the doughnuts,” he says; he’s 22 pounds lighter than he was. “I’m off bread and potatoes. On a diet, yeah. Of protein, vegetables, fruit, many good things. But you can’t combine it with things that trigger your insulin level to go up. When your insulin level goes up, it forms a hand, and the hand grabs the fat, and puts it in your body.” Miming this, he makes it so sinister that I haven’t eaten a doughnut since.

We move on to kids. Lynch’s daughter Jennifer wrote and directed her own film, Boxing Helena, aged just 19.  It’s about a woman whose limbs are cut off one by one by her adoring but possessive boyfriend in order to keep her by his side. Sherilyn Fenn played the lead after Kim Basinger walked off the project, for which Basinger was successfully sued for millions. Money well spent, imo. The film was so panned that Jennifer didn’t direct another for 25 years.

Jennifer was quoted as saying that even her dad found the film offensive, which takes some doing. I ask Lynch about this, and he denies it: “But it should perhaps have been a small film that found its way. The way it turned out, it just set her up for a fall.”

Lynch’s first film, Eraserhead, made over a seven-year period, was about a father terrorised by a mutant baby that cries like a bleating sheep. It was directly inspired by his becoming a father to Jennifer. So… um… how did she react to that?

“Jennifer was eight when it was finished,” says Lynch, unperturbed. “She saw it. She was right there. Yeah, I think she got it…”

Read part two of the interview, in which I play a game of “hot or cold” with David Lynch to explain Lost Highway.

New films: Sly, Denzel, Bill, and l’il Lynch & Cronenberg

3 Feb
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Denzel Washington in Flight: the thinking man’s drinker

Note: this is the first in a weekly fix of new-release round-ups, saving you time and money. In future, I will post it on Fridays (as well as other blogs here and there).

Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be. When people used to smile wistfully and say, “They don’t make ‘em like that anymore”, they meant screwball comedies, or heart-warming romances for the whole family. But now, fortysomething film fans might be thinking that about Bullet to the Head.

Stallone is on a mission to bring back the ‘80s, thankfully minus the haircuts. After two Execrables (sorry, Expendables), this is another testosterone-fuelled, muscle-packed, tattoo-laden fightfest, with a Ronseal slogan for a title.

The good news is that Bullet to the Head is directed by Walter Hill. He has always taken violence to mythic extremes: The Warriors (1979) was stuffed with classical allusions from Xenophon. If action’s what you want, Hill delivers it a little more satisfyingly than most.

With Arnie back in The Last Stand, and Terminator 5, Triplets and The Legend of Conan in the pipeline, it’s as though the last quarter-century never happened.

Another week, another Oscar contender. Flight features a subtle, career-best performance from Denzel Washington as a brilliant pilot who rescues his plane from a fireball, but is subsequently found to be alcoholic. Is he a national hero, or a menace?

There’s a classic piece of acting advice, which most ignore. It’s not to play drunk. Drunk people pretend to be sober – most actors are sober people pretending to be drunk, and it shows. [Actresses also take note: people given terrible news usually try to contain their grief, not let it out.] Anyway, Denzel nails his character. The opening flight scenes are as thrilling as you would expect from director Robert Zemeckis, too.

It’s always a pleasure to watch Bill Murray, in those rare moments he isn’t turning up unannounced at student parties or rescuing random people in unexpected ways (see the cult of www.billmurraystory.com). But his charming performance as President ‘FDR’ Roosevelt, being courted for the war effort by King George VI, isn’t enough to lift Hyde Park on Hudson. Plus… no werewolves! What’s that all about? FDR: American Badass gave us Nazi werewolves, so we’re definitely short-changed here.

Finally, welcome please the Next Generation in cult film-making:

Chained is directed by Jennifer Lynch, daughter of David. Astonishing they let her near a movie camera again after Boxing Helena (1993), the heart-warming story of a man who loves a woman too much – so much he cuts off her arms and legs and keeps her in a box. Chained is about a serial-killing New York cabbie called, yes Twin Peaks fans, Bob. Ah well. What kind of films do you expect from someone who grew up knowing Eraserhead was inspired by her birth?

Antiviral is the low-budget but beautifully shot debut of 32-year-old Brandon Cronenberg, son of David. The premise is intriguing: a clinic harvests viruses from sick celebrities to sell to rabid fans, so they can catch the same illness. Far-fetched? Maybe not. Is it really that far from the Britney Spears fans who were encouraged by internet pranksters to Go Bald for Britney after spreading rumours that she had cancer, or the Beliebers who were made to Cut4Bieber when he was pictured smoking a joint?

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