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David Lynch’s Best Forgotten Characters

February 14, 2012

When I saw that Time Out had done a list of the best 50 Lynch characters my reaction was something like, “Jesus, 50? That’s click-bait madness”. Then I took a look at the list and realised that not only were the 50 choices all excellent, but that there were plenty of other brilliant characters missing.

What it really brought home is how exceptionally good Lynch is at making even the smallest part memorable. He is a master of the odd behavioural tic, the unexpected casting, the bizarre frozen moment of heightened significance. And as a small tribute here are my favourite seven Lynch characters that embody that skill, and weren’t included in Time Out’s 50.

1. Guild Navigator – Dune, 1984

Dune is a brilliant mess of ideas Lynch clearly fell in love with and a commercial mode of filmmaking he couldn’t get a grip on. It’s a dichotomy that gave us the unspeakable. But it also gave us this – a giant spice-breathing space slug in a big jar capable of folding space with its mind.

2. Major Briggs – Twin Peaks, 1989

The big recurring cast of Twin Peaks presented Lynch with opportunities for all kinds of oddballism. My favourite – Major Garland Briggs, the father of petulant juvenile Bobby whose stiff bearing becomes rigid military poetry when he’s exposed to the euphoria of the White Lodge.

3. Piter De Vries – Dune, 1984

Lynch takes Frank Herbert’s notion of Mentats as human computers and makes them awesomely compelling mind-junkies by inventing a weird chant and giving them huge fucking eyebrows. “It is by will alone I set my mind in motion. It is by the juice of sapho that thoughts acquire speed. The lips acquire stains, the stains become a warning. It is by will alone I set my mind in motion.”

4. Agent Phillip Jeffries – Twin Peaks Fire Walk With Me, 1993

This is the best moment in Twin Peaks Fire Walk With Me. I have no explanation for it, except that David Bowie’s Phillip Jeffries seems to have been taken by the forces of the Black Lodge. But I love the stunt with the security camera – removing our faith in the recorded image at a stroke – and the spiralling urgency which Bowie’s appearance provokes.

5. Rebekah Del Rio – Mulholland Dr, 2001

Del Rio’s short appearance in the Club Silencio section of Mulholland Dr is one of the rare things I’m allowed to call ‘stunning’ without sounding like a hyberbolic dick. It’s crammed with ideas: she’s introduced as “La Llorona de Los Angeles,” a modern take on a Mexican folk tale of a ghostly weeping woman and the latest in a long line of women singing on stage in Lynch’s work (Lady In The Radiator, Isabella Rossellini, Julee Cruise). Her performance is an echo of Dean Stockwell’s sleazy torchlit strut in Blue Velvet – where he mimed to Roy Orbison’s In Dreams, she pours herself into a Spanish translation of Orbison’s Crying. And of course, she’s found to be miming too, the resounding emotional power of her voice mocking the audience’s investment as she collapses to the floor and underpinning the film’s fractured take on what is and isn’t real.

6. The Yellow Man – Blue Velvet, 1986

The weirdness of Blue Velvet’s small town suburbia reaches its apotheosis when Jeffrey discovers the still-warm murder scene inside Dorothy’s apartment, featuring Dorothy’s dead husband and, standing impossibly next to him, The Yellow Man. He’s neither alive nor obviously dead, lobotomised on the spot and – along with the whining, broken television – giving us the sense that Jeffrey is interrupting something active and ongoing.

7. Audrey Horne’s fucking shoes – Twin Peaks, 1989

Which speak entirely for themselves.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. andrew adams permalink
    February 16, 2012 8:43 pm

    Major Briggs is probably my favourite character in Twin Peaks, so that’s a good call.

    I think the Giant deserves a mention too, and the lady in the radiator from Eraserhead probably merits a place in her own right.

  2. March 12, 2012 5:16 am

    Nice inclusion of the shoes. Very nice. I’d put Mike from ‘Twin Peaks’ in there as well. He was missing for a long time in the series, until his out-of-nowhere relationship with Nadine, which led to one of the funniest scenes of the whole series, when Mike explains to Bobby why he is with Nadine. Great stuff.

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