Eraserhead (R)

2 Star

Eraserhead’s been on my Netflix instant queue for six years.

It looks scary and it’s by the writer/director of Mulholland Drive (a film I enjoy; check out my review) and Blue Velvet (a film I’m still ‘back and forth’ on.)

It was playing at midnight at the TCM Film Festival in Los Angeles, so I was pretty excited to watch it on the big screen.

The man introducing the film was Patton Oswalt, so amongst a number of funny things, he also shared the following.

Mel Brooks used the resources of his own production company, Brooksfilms, to give David Lynch his first chance at a mainstream directing job with The Elephant Man. Patton reiterates that Stuart Cornfeld convinced him to do so by dragging Brooks to a midnight screening of Eraserhead.

Since I was young, I’ve had the utmost admiration for Mel Brooks.

And let me tell you something sister, E-Head’s unsettling.

I hate this movie.

Slimy slithering intestines don’t flutter my fancy.

Did that sentence make you feel gross? It should; hopefully it scares you away completely.

Because that’s all this movie does; it seeks to disturb the viewer.

So in that department: Mission Accomplished, Mr. Lynch.

This is by far his worst.

It’s smart; don’t get me wrong. But originality only goes so far with me. When the ride gets painful, stars begin falling off. It’s not fun, enjoyable nor educational.

Some consider it thought provoking. I don’t.

To be more specific, Eraserhead is about the fears of fatherhood. Despite the cover, it doesn’t disturb in a manner akin to horror flicks.

It’s about depravity and inhabits it’s own dark shred of sadness that doesn’t require a specific genre. Let’s call it what it is: A student film.

There’s a lot I don’t like.

In particular, I really hate the fetus-stomping blonde (or Lady in Radiator, played by Laurel Near) with the fatty cheeks. It’s never fun when she shows up; out of tune and singing the saddest song ever.

Any scene involving the deformed baby, its grotesque skin disease or the anxiety-inducing wail of sorrow; I’d happily discharge from my brain.

It’s the single cringe-worthiest hundred minutes of my life. And I’ve seen a couple movies that’ll convert an entire nunnery.

Jack Nance as Henry Spencer is very good.

The Girl Across the Hall (played by Judith Anna Roberts) is also solid. She dons a low cut dress and walks with a sinewy strut that’ll entrance.

But all the acting is good, I suppose. Allen Joseph as Mr. X is an oddball who offers the only chuckle.

Lynch apparently likes featuring scenes of a spotlight on an empty stage. The same idea shows up in Mulholland Drive. I don’t know what the hell to do with it.

More often I wonder whether it’s worth the ponder.

Towards the beginning, Henry traverses squat mounds of ashy dust while a train whistle blares in the background. Considering the subject material, I wonder if it’s in reference to Ernest Hemingway’s Hills Like White Elephants. That short story’s about debating abortion and a couple torn up by unexpected pregnancy.

And it’s Hemingway; it’s wildly unpleasant. But much more enjoyable than Eraserhead.

Okay, I’ll slow down with the pessimism for a moment.

To be honest with you I could hate on this movie a lot more than I’m going to. It has redeeming qualities but they bring the rating up to a whopping one star. I’m not mad about it; it’s just not what I go to a movie for.

These moments of redemption are few and far between. There’s a lot of intricate camera angles involving shadows and how they fall on the characters.

Even the majority of the smart stuff leaves a bad taste in my mouth! Like the leafless twig thrust into a pile of soil upon the nightstand. Dirt granules certainly spill onto his mattress on occasion.

There are two particularly noteworthy scenes. They’re both gross and unsettling, but somehow they shine amidst the pit of yuck.

When Henry’s in bed with a woman, they’re wrapped up in the sheets like a spider, and her teeth are chattering like she’s freezing. The spindly way she’s twisting, contorting and toiling amidst the covers is creepy and discomforting.

The other scene involves Henry making love to a woman, and their infidelity descending into milky white tub water situated in the center of the bed. It’s a beautiful shot and really a thought-provoking scene with a fascinating dynamic.

But even then, it’s still pretty unsettling.

Ugh! There’s so much filth in Henry’s room. The sound effects and score are constantly ghoulish, grotesque, creaky, whistley, shadowy, lurid, crackly, scratchy and overall irksome.

It’s an Odyssey through disgust, silt and darkness. And it’s the rockiest ride amidst a meteor shower.

Do yourself a favor and skip Eraserhead, and check out Mulholland Drive or Blue Velvet instead. Only the biggest of Lynch’s fans will like this. It’s ‘un-good.’

By the way, I don’t know what he saw in it, but I still highly admire Mel Brooks.

Looks like it’s time to catch The Elephant Man.

Mulholland Drive (R)

8 Stars

This blue box has no bow.

Yes, my Proverbial Audience, if you watch Mulholland Drive, expect no packaged narratives.

It’s been about an hour, and the thought wheels are still rolling on this one, which is always a good sign.

There’s only one question to ask.

Are you willing to take the half hour afterward to find out what you saw?

If the answer’s no, rethink this one.

That being said, there are probably fans out there who’ve never looked into interpretations of the plot. I couldn’t live with myself, but there must be.

I’m alluding to the disjointed narrative woven through David Lynch’s writing and directing. His use of different shooting styles and camera angles is pretty amazing.

For some reason it has a very 90’s feel to it, despite its theatrical release in 2001.

The film runs a little too long and is thoroughly confusing. It’s not ‘intentional obfuscation for the sole purpose of confusing the audience.’ That’s misleading, and I don’t think it happens all that often.

For years, I would have argued the pointlessness in the ending of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. I still contend that it’s an overall bore, and the dull slog is not worth the thoughtful and rather brilliant implications of the ending. It’s perplexing as all get out, but now that I’ve read about what Stanley was going for, I can appreciate the virtue of his intent.

Although I’m not a big fan of Blue Velvet, I appreciate what Lynch tries to do in his movies.

Even after understanding the common interpretations of the plot, there still remains a feeling like something’s missing. It’s very similar to how I felt after Blue Velvet, but my preference lies with Mulholland Drive.

MD was originally conceived as a television show, and this is where much of the plot falls apart. Lynch had to compact a narrative intended for an entire season into a feature film. Many question whether the final film can be classified as a complete narrative.

I wish I could answer that question. I’m not sure and have done too much research already. Perhaps I’ll get back on that some day.

I had to have the answer, and felt satisfied by it. I’m not necessarily ecstatic about the explanation but it works, and it’s fine; an original idea at the very least. I found the plot development compelling regardless.

Hey, I got a thing for elaborate high-stakes storytelling. I find it thought provoking and puzzling. I enjoy the whirlwind of disjointed moments, the coil and release of the tension spring.

I adore the chase for comprehension, the errant cuts, the inexplicable in the real, the terror and indecision. Keeping the viewer on the edge of their seat certainly counts for something.

Mulholland, I find, is reminiscent of Robert Altman’s Short Cuts from 1993. Except not nearly as boring.

It gives off a bit of a Pulp Fiction vibe (particularly in terms of the disjointed narrative).

I’m also reminded of Sharon Stone’s character in Basic Instinct with Laura Harring’s role as Rita. They’re both portraits of the typical femme fatale who sexually prey on their victims.

Naomi Watts is great in MD; she’s playing a difficult role here and executes it convincingly. Really, I mean, this is some tough stuff!

Overall, I enjoy Mulholland Drive. It’s ghostly, ethereal and compelling. The material’s gritty and tense, but befuddling.

Despite the incomplete narrative, Lynch offers his audience a thought provoking experience unlike any other.

Nonetheless, the story is mysterious and enticing, and if you like movies it’s worth a shot.

I’m finishing this review the following morning, and still thinking about it.

What does that say about the film as a whole?