Thursday, November 17, 2005


How much of the earth's
Crust has lived
The seed's violence!
The shock is metaphysical.
--George Oppen, Return

It's strange--given my adoration for* much of David Lynch's work--that I'd never seen Eraserhead. Perhaps it was because the VHS was out of print for so long, and the only easily obtainable rental copy was MovieTime's worn-out full screen version. When the DVD became available through Lynch's own site I'd already decided to stop buying DVDs, but now Netflix has delivered it and I'm likely to buy it anyway.

Somehow I'd had the idea that Eraserhead would be raw and amateurish--perhaps disturbing, but not so intellectually engaging as Lynch's later masterworks. Wrong. Eraserhead is as stark and technically masterful as anything by Fritz Lang, and present at an early stage in his artistic development are the obsessive symbols and themes which continue to fuel Lynch's bizarre oeuvre. Eraserhead is beautiful and awful.

The most appealing aspect of Lynch's work is that sense of dread intrigue behind the ordinary. Each moment--even those of tender compassion or sublime ridiculousness--thrums with an intensely sinister mysteriousness. I recall taking my wife to see Wild at Heart early in our courtship, and how we both loved the scene where Crispin Glover, a giant cockroach in his briefs, manipulates spastically a workman's glove with a yardstick. At that time I think Cha had seen four or five movies in the theater, most of them pap like E.T.; and yet she still agreed to marry me after Nick Cage bashed some guy's brains out whilst impersonating Elvis and Laura Dern talked frankly about cock.

The plot of Eraserhead? Some Andy Richter-lookin' dude with Bride of Frankenstein hair roams an industrial wasteland and has strange visions. His girlfriend gives birth to a hairless half-worm, half-saurian and things get a bit strange. I know, the plot sounds weird and gross, but Lynch is only exploring the same cultural perversities that Tim Burton would engage later for a more mainstream audience. Give it a chance, it's actually quite funny.

And to make your afternoon more fun, why not try a double billing of the damned:

Two great tastes that taste great together!

* A grammatical ambiguity--if "adoration of" (as in Adoration of the Magi**) is a possessive construction, then I believe "adoration for" works better here. What I'm pointing out is not Lynch's work's adoration, but my adoration...oh, whatever.

** Rogier van der Weyden kicks fucking ass***.

***Or is that fucking kicks ass?