Thursday, August 23, 2007


LYNCH is a documentary about David Lynch, filmed during the making of his last movie INLAND EMPIRE. (And yes, both titles are spelt in all caps. In fact, some sources have it that LYNCH is officially called L Y N C H. From the onscreen title card, it's hard to tell.)

The film has had a lot of good reviews online from those who've seen it, most of whom would appear to be huge fans of David Lynch. It's more of a portrait than a conventional documentary. It consists, basically, of footage of Lynch at work, intercut with the occasional anecdote from his youth. The whole thing is edited in wildly non-linear fashion. The sound editing is fractured, non sequitur shots appear throughout, and some of Lynch's stories are accompanied by blurry black-and-white reconstructions. Lynch also testifies to the power of transcendental meditation, which has apparently made him very happy. Basically, it's a creditable attempt to take elements of Lynch's own style and apply them to documentary footage.

There's no real narrative. Lynch muses occasionally that he's making up INLAND EMPIRE as he goes along, which is apparently a first for him - shooting on digital video makes it possible to pursue his stream of subconsciousness to the last moment, whereas in the past he's always had a firm script before shooting. (The exception being Mulholland Drive, but that was an accident - a film salvaged after the fact from a failed TV pilot.) But this isn't presented as any kind of thread; it's just the way things are.

After the screening, the film's producer explained that the style was dictated, as much as anything, by the fact that Lynch was simply too damn busy to sit down and give them any formal interviews because he was spending all his time making INLAND EMPIRE. There will, apparently, be a more conventional follow-up in which Lynch will be interviewed properly, answering questions from his fans.

For some reason, the director's identity is being kept mysterious. He or she is credited simply as "blackANDwhite", and the official line is that it's somebody very close to Lynch. Widespread rumour has it that the director is Lynch himself, which the producers emphatically deny. (If the producers are telling the truth, the obvious choice would be Lynch's daughter Jennifer, the director of the widely-panned Boxing Helena, who is just about to return to cinema with a film called Surveillance.)

As a piece of editing, it's very impressive. It does have a certain musical rhythm and atmosphere to it. But this can't quite disguise the fact that nothing terribly interesting is happening. LYNCH is a film that will enthral hardcore David Lynch fans. Those with an active involvement in film-making will no doubt be fascinated to see the details of what he does on set.

But if you're not interested in that level of detail, the reality is that most of the film consists of Lynch doing pretty much what you'd expect - admittedly, in a very hands-on way. He helps to dress the set. He arranges furniture. He tells actors what to do. He wanders around disused factories and admires their aesthetic potential as sets. He... you know, he directs a film. If you're expecting him to come across as a crazed visionary, well, he doesn't. He comes across as perfectly normal, perhaps a little eccentric around the edges. His screenplays may be extremely weird, but he's totally practical when it comes to filming them.

All this means that unless you're a sufficiently devoted fan to find everything David Lynch does inherently fascinating, a lot of this is, quite honestly, a bit dull. It doesn't spoil the mystery of Lynch's films, because there's no real attempt to explain them. But ultimately, it doesn't reveal a great deal about Lynch, except perhaps that he's more mundane than you might have thought.