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In dreams

January 13, 2010

So my one a day run lasted not very many days until work descended. But it was fun work – on Sunday a fun thing for Total Film online, and on Monday playing the excellent, Lynch and Fincher-influenced Heavy Rain.
And after Heavy Rain I’m in the mood for some Lynch, so how about two of my favourite scenes of his. They’re from his two best films, Blue Velvet and Mulholland Dr (yes they are), and they’re connected in terms of ideas.

Lynch’s films often include scenes featuring sites of performance – mini-theatrical stages, spotlights, curtains. He seems fascinated by the aesthetics of stage, the craft of wood and material to manufacture a space for experience and expression. Think the Radiator Lady in Eraserhead, Merrick’s humiliation in Elephant Man, Julee Cruise’s incredible moment in Twin Peaks. And also think of Dean Stockwell miming to Roy Orbison in the glow of a lamp-lit microphone in Blue Velvet.
The scene is electric: Stockwell’s louche lounge act – frills, collar and pale, pale skin – and Hopper’s barely-suppressed malice, eased temporarily by miming, mantra-like, along with the mime. The fixation on performance (or, here, lack of it) recurs later, when Hopper watches Isabella Rossellini sing Blue Velvet onstage while rubbing a square of actual blue velvet cut from her gown – the performance reduced to a physical object (which ties in to what I was saying before about audiences reconceiving their relationship with films and by extension music in the wake of videos). Then there’s Mulholland Dr.

The Club Silencio sequence in Mulholland Dr is a contorted remake of the Stockwell scene. Again there’s Roy Orbison – the song is Crying, this time, only now it’s sung (or rather acted) by Rebekah Del Rio in Spanish translation. Again the scene is about mime, and as a consequence about authenticity and emotional investment in performance. I remember the first time I watched the film, in Sheffield in 2001, I felt distressed and almost cheated when Del Rio collapses. The combination of image and sound is so compelling and emotional it’s hard not to feel duped when the illusion is broken, even though the creepy dude with the moustache is telling you throughout that there is no band. I don’t attach any specific meaning to the scene (I think the great joy of Mulholland Dr is that is teases tangible meaning without ever surrendering it), although it’s probably significant that the revelation of Del Rio’s performance is the point at which the Hollywood Cinderella narrative that the film has followed unravels and twists into something darker.

One last thing – after Twin Peaks Lynch did a TV series called Hotel Room for HBO. The show itself isn’t brilliant – each of the three existing episodes features a standalone drama in a hotel suite. But I’ve always thought the show’s introductory credit sequence, narrated by Lynch, is fantastic. He sets up the hotel room as one of these sites of performance, a space for things to unfold and for stories to be told. It’s really effective. Shame the stories themselves didn’t quite deliver. Ach – the youtube link’s been deleted, so you’ll have to make do with the word themselves. Imagine Lynch saying this to images of Manhattan building works from the 1930s:

“For a millennium the space for the hotel room existed – undefined. Mankind captured it and gave it shape and passed through. And sometimes when passing through, brushing up against the secret names of truth.”EDIT: Youtube link is currently back up.


One Comment leave one →
  1. January 13, 2010 6:49 pm

    Does the strange rabbit soap opera count as one of those sites too? It's one of my favourite things in Inland Empire, which is a film of quite good bits and not-very-compelling connective tissue.

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