A short dose of David Lynch

IN SHORT: DAVID LYNCH screens Thursday at 10PM on Sundance Channel.

David Lynch’s short films offer us a quick injection of what we might expect from his work… a little bit of mutable reality, a flexible trip through time and space, a taste of wry dead-pan comedy, and of course some grotesque body parts and fluids to both entrance us and make us squirm.

His earliest short, SIX FIGURES GETTING SICK (SIX TIMES), was made in 1965 while studying at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art and came out of Lynch’s desire to see his paintings move.  What struck me about this short film and several of the others was David Lynch’s early interest in bodily processes (and bodily liquids) and how he projects that on the landscapes of his film in a variety of ways. For example…

… in GRANDMOTHER, a precursor to ERASERHEAD, we are introduced to our main characters (a couple and their son) as they are birthed out of animated canals and on to the leafy earth.  They boy, after suffering neglect from his parents, collects dirt and dutifully waters a strange looking growing structure that eventually releases his Grandmother as if a baby from a womb.  It’s the most grotesque, slimy and fascinating appearance of a fairy godmother-like figure that I’ve ever seen.

THE COWBOY AND THE FRENCHMAN was made for French television in 1988. With Harry Dean Stanton as a cowboy who finds a French guy trespassing on his property, it uses cultural differences as the source of its wry minimalist approach to comedy. This dead pan approach to humor, that feels inspired by the silent era, often punctuates his later films but rarely do we get an entire 30 minutes of it. My favorite part is the singing ladies who are superimposed upon the sky, a country version of the “lady in the radiator” from ERASERHEAD.

Lynch’s short films AMPUTEE and LUMIERE (AKA PREMONITION FOLLOWING AN EVIL DEED) are both very short so rather than risk giving those away, I thought I’d add a bonus short to the bunch that is not part of the Sundance lineup… ALPHABET. Made in 1968, it combines animation and live action and is a loosely narrative nightmare about learning our ABC’s. I love its haunting soundtrack (and obsession with bodily parts and processes)…