David Lynch at AFI: Thoughts on 3-D, dreams and magical sounds


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About four decades ago, an unknown named David Lynch received a grant from the American Film Institute. The rest, as they say, is history.

Lynch, who began ‘Eraserhead’ while at AFI and followed it with films including ‘Blue Velvet,’ ‘Mulholland Drive’ and ‘Inland Empire,’ returned to his roots this weekend at AFI Fest 2010 in Hollywood. Serving as the festival’s first-ever guest artistic director, he selected a special sidebar of movies for the event. On Saturday, Lynch’s ‘Eraserhead’ was presented in a double bill with one of his sidebar selections, Billy Wilder’s ‘Sunset Boulevard,’ at the Egyptian Theatre. Lynch himself appeared at intermission for a brief discussion of the craft of filmmaking.


Lynch taped a brief introduction to ‘Eraserhead,’ looming over the audience from the screen. ‘I dream of dark and troubling things,’ he said. ‘Enjoy the film.’

Following the thundering climax of ‘Eraserhead,’ still an overwhelming experience that defies logic and description and seems to articulate much of Lynch’s subsequent artistic vision, Bob Gazzale, president and chief executive of AFI, introduced Lynch and noted that the filmmaker had written, produced, directed, designed, edited, created the special effects and sound effects for and written the music to ‘Eraserhead.’

After listing a series of images from Lynch’s work –- including the severed ear of ‘Blue Velvet,’ the body wrapped in plastic of ‘Twin Peaks,’ and ‘the entire film you just saw’ –- Gazzale introduced Lynch and the audience gave him a standing ovation as he took to the podium. Gazzale asked Lynch a series of questions submitted by fans via Twitter. The first regarded the most beautiful sound Lynch had ever heard. Wind and silence, he said.

Another question was from someone with the Twitter handle ‘galaxia punk’ –- ‘my neighbors,’ joked Lynch in his famous deadpan -– asking if a dream had ever provided inspiration.

‘Nighttime dreams,’ Lynch responded, ‘I say have never really given me ideas, specific ideas, but I love this thing of dream logic, the way dreams go. I always say cinema can say that dream logic, the language of cinema is so beautiful.’

Lynch did say that near the end of writing ‘Blue Velvet,’ he was waiting in an office and was suddenly struck by the recollection of a dream from the night before. Asking a receptionist for paper and pencil, he quickly wrote down some ideas that allowed him to finish the script.

Another fan queried him about his thoughts on the recent wave of 3-D filmmaking.

‘I say beautiful,’ he said. ‘Every medium, I say, is infinitely deep, and every medium talks to us. I don’t know that much about 3-D film, but I think through experimentation we’ll start getting a dialogue with this. It’s its own sort of form. I think a lot of the people that are doing 3-D are doing it because they want to get people back in the theaters. And so that’s maybe not the best reason to go into 3-D, but it might be the biggest reason right now.”

‘Eraserhead’ in 3-D, anyone?

-- Mark Olsen


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