NOW YOU TELL US: David Lynch Was Here…Again

This is what we get for not monitoring Drew Lazor’s Meal Ticket blog on an hourly basis. Just found out David Lynch was here, like, two days ago. And now it’s too late to catch him with that special butterfly net we keep handy for just such an occasion and then put him in a jar on the shelf with all the others. Wait…perhaps we’ve said too much. Move along, nothing to see here.

RELATED: A series of short-term jobs followed, leading Lynch (at age 20) to enroll at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in January, 1966. The Philadelphia house into which Lynch and his friend Jack Fisk moved was “kitty-cornered from the morgue and next door to Pop’s Diner. And that has influenced more things.” Lynch calls that period “one of the best times of my life — and one of the worst times, too. The area had the greatest mood, an unbelievable mood. It was an industrial part of the city, with the strangest characters, the darkest nights. Factories, smoke, railroads, diners, true factory people — you could see strange stories in their faces. You could see plastic curtains and windows held together with Band-Aids, things stuffed into holes in the windows. Associations like smiling bags of death that they brought the bodies in with. We’d always go through the morgue garage enroute to the hamburger restaurant. I only lived at night then.” Their home was a gutted building. “You could see where it was separated from the building next to it. It was a horrible place, but it was a great feeling.” Lynch remained in Philadelphia for over four years, from 1966 to 1970. In 1967, he married a fellow art student, and in 1968, their daughter was born. “We were living in a house with 12 rooms, three stories. The bedroom alone was 25 by 25 feet, giant, high ceilings. And this huge place cost $3,500. That’s all! A whole huge house and only $600 down. So you know what kind of neighborhood it was in. A kid was shot to death a half-block from our front door, and the chalk marks around where he’d lain stayed on the sidewalk for five days. The house was broken into twice; two windows were shot out. I saw horrible things pretty much every day.” He shakes his head. “I thought I’d never get out of there, ever. I thought that was it. There was tremendous fear in Phila- delphia, fear I didn’t realize I was living with until I eventually moved to California and the fear left.” That, Lynch says, was the genesis of “Eraserhead.” MORE

DAN BUSKIRK: Fear permeates “Eraserhead,” but only recently has the film’s second half haunted me. A couple of years back my wife and I had a child, and during those newborn months, when I hadn’t slept in days and the baby was inconsolable, I’d think of Henry’s hangdog expression as he sat in that barren apartment with his slimy reptilian baby wailing away. By Lynch’s second year in Philly, he himself was married to fellow student Peggy Lentz (apparently residing on the 2400 block of Aspen, in the Art Museum neighborhood) and they had a child, Jennifer, in April of ’68. (Jennifer Lynch would later direct the amputation thriller “Boxing Helena” and write The Secret Diary Of Laura Palmer) The fear of fatherhood, poverty and the scary vulnerability of infants seeps through every sweaty frame of the film’s second half. When I revisited “Eraserhead” recently, it was the humor of Henry’s situation that revealed itself. The exaggeration of the circumstances, the irrationality of the fears, the comedy in the empty rhythms of the film’s many awkward semi-silences — these elements build like an elaborate setup to a silent film gag, all perfectly underscored by factories hissing and droning and Fats Waller’s organ-playing riffs muffled through the brick. “Eraserhead” still offers the excitement of seeing one of film’s great talents discovering his themes. It still bubbles over with profound imagery, and it still sounds like no other film. And at least for me, it offers a skewed joyfulness, with a chance to see former private terrors transformed into relieved laughs. After, all in Heaven, everything is fine. MORE


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