Given the forests and terabytes which have been dedicated to this movie, it seems redundant to add much more. Mr C and I watched it at the Curzon Soho, prefaced by one of those unfortunate spoiler introductions which have you putting your fingers in your ears so that you don’t lose the surprise of what you’ve hoped you’ve forgotten. It’s another one of those films I saw on the floating island in York University’s man-made lake, thirty years ago. There was hype about it even then and the hype has only increased. I realised that I hadn’t seen it since, even though I’ve probably talked about it ad infinitum. So, a few notes and no more:
Hopper & Rossellini. The film rests on Hopper’s evil and Rossellini’s insanity. Hopper achieves something which even now seems shocking. His character seems unhinged and it feels as though the actor is as well. It’s grand guignol and a great, unnerving performance. Likewise, Rossellini gives film-star wattage to her damaged chanteuse. There’s no real character development, there’s no great logic to what’s happening, it’s not James Elroy, but the film succeeds in surfing mood and colour, with a frothy peak of violence, which gives this scarcely credible world enough substance to carry it off. In spite of:
Dern & MacLachlan. The love story between the two of them is pure pastiche. It ties into Lynch’s subversive vision, but it also tips the movie towards farce. Dern feels wasted in her girly role: she manages to suggest that she too has a darker side which the script has neglected to develop.
Drugs. One of these days, a la Said and colonialism, someone is going to write the study of the influence of the drugs trade on US culture. Although it’s underplayed, the foundation on which the film’s evil is based is the drugs trade, the pernicious root which facilitates the plot.
Dean Stockwell. This is one of the great cameos in one of the great Lynchian scenes, blending humour and horror and caricature. Lynch does great (bad) party scenes.
The finding of the severed ear is the American counterpoint to the cutting of the eye in Chien Andalou?