Lynch is still cool. Lynch has always been cool.
Like many an artsy college student in the early 1980’s, I first encountered David Lynch at the campus’ art house in the form of Eraserhead. Next, was The Elephant Man which I loved, Dune I missed (till recently), but then Blue Velvet came and really knocked my bobby socks off.
The release of Blue Velvet was a major cinematic event, and it garnered extreme reactions (Siskel & Ebert’s review is interesting). I remember seeing it with my husband (then boyfriend) at a mall cineplex in Richmond, VA. During the infamous Dorothy abuse scenes, a couple behind us had two completely different reactions: she started crying, he started laughing. I had a similar response while binge-watching Twin Peaks: The Return last weekend. The scene where a little boy is killed by a car in front of his horrified mother made me cry, but once the camera panned to the campy reactions of the bystanders I burst out laughing, then immediately felt ashamed.
Lynch’s work is capable of evoking extreme and opposite emotions in the same scene, often at the same moment. You never know what you’ll be getting, but you know you will be messed with. I pity any fan of the original Twin Peaks trying to make sense of the new Twin Peaks in terms of traditional narrative, but if you are familiar with his themes (for lack of a better word), it does begin to make sense on a symbolic level. Are there frustrating threads that go nowhere? Clues that don’t add up? Yes, but that’s part of the fun.
One reviewer that I follow on Youtube remarked that he thought the young teenage couple on their chaste first date featured in Episode 8 (epic, btw) might be a throw-back to Leland and Sarah Palmer, until he realized that Lynch would never be that literal. He wouldn’t be, but by making that connection the viewer is forming his own meaning in the way one does while looking at art or listening to music.
I suppose the mind will always try to make meaning out of something; and Lynch gives us just enough clues to hook us. I noticed that Naomi Watts wears the same pink cardigan she wore in Mulholland Drive and immediately started thinking, Does that mean something? Nothing definitive is my guess, but I may find meaning in it or make some connection to it.
Like every great artist, Lynch refuses to follow the rules, but he also gives a lot, and he rewards his dedicated fans with clues along the way. I will continue to watch and re-watch: confused, horrified, tickled, and endlessly fascinated.