Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Fitting in at Film School: Lost Highway

David Lynch. Enough said. He's a film school god. I understand why, I like him a lot too, but some people are over the top. No, he's not the greatest director of all time. No, he doesn't get his ideas from God. Yes, he was an Eagle Scout. We had a David Lynch authorship class at Columbia and that shit filled up faster than...well I can't really think of a good enough simile for it. His work is great though. For those who aren't familiar with David Lynch, he's an interesting fellow. Most of his films are dark, intriguing, confusing, beautiful, sexy, etc. Lost Highway, one of his first, is no exception.

The Summary: Wow. A summary for a David Lynch film is hard. But I'll give it a try. Fred Madison (Bill Pullman) is a new wave jazz saxaphone player married to a pseudo-gothic Renee (Patricia Arquette). When the two start receiving incredibly creepy videos of someone stalking them, Fred becomes worried for the safety of Renee. He starts becoming paranoid, especially after he encounters a stranger who is able to be at a party with Fred and at his home at the same time. Another videotape is sent to Fred's house, this time showing him killing Renee. Fred is arrested for the murder of Renee, though he denies that he did it. He remembers nothing of the murder, but flashbacks of the incident start to sway his thoughts of innocence. While he is in jail he starts having headaches, which seem more like hallucinations. One such hallucination causes him to have a seizure and pass out.
When we enter his jail cell again, Fred is gone and replaced by Pete Dayton, a young mechanic. The police are baffled as to how he got there. Pete returns home with his family (his dad is Gary Busey, how awesome is that!?), while the confused police follow him 24/7. Pete returns to his job as an auto mechanic for Richard Pryor (also awesome) and an old client, Mr. Eddy, returns for his services. Mr. Eddy's a big-time gangster with big-time connections and a big-time hottie girlfriend Alice, who basically looks like Renee but blonde. The two hit it off, begin a relationship much like Fred and Renee had, and Lynch gets crazy.

I don't want to give away the end of it, but trust me, you need to be awake for it. I will admit, Lynch's films are something you can't just jump into on a Saturday night after you've been at the bar drinking. His films need time. You need to be fully conscious and ready to be immersed into his world. It requires diligence to watch some of his films, which might explain why some people don't like them. But they should be watched. Lynch manages to bring back film noir and experimental techniques to commercial filmmaking. Noir is back in a huge way, partially due to Lynch. His lighting, his stories, even Patricia Arquette are all reflections of the noir style. And he does it well. It's not a nod to noir, it is noir. His storytelling also brings experimental filmmaking to a mass audience. Experimental film is great, but has a limited audience. No ordinary person is going to watch a fly crawl over a human body for twenty minutes. But they will watch the absurb events in a Lynch film. He makes his technique accessible to the general public without losing them. Sure, you'll be confused. I would be afraid if you weren't. But it's the fact that he can bring real art to a theatrical release film that is impressive. Every shot is composed beautifully. If you want to make films but preserve your artistic integrity, work like David Lynch. If you don't care and want to whore yourself out to the studio, work like Michael Bay.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Fitting in at Film School

Film school seems fun. And it is for the most part. You're making your own films from start to finish. You watch films in class instead of sitting through boring lecture about plants or something. But being in the critical studies program is a little different. For one being in it means you don't really aspire to make films as a main career. Which, you know, kind of guarantees you a steadier job in some respects. But it also means you have to know your shit. You need to watch a shit load of movies. Like, Martin Scorsese watches a movie a night! How the hell does he find time to do that? I try to watch at least two a week. But then again, I am no Scorsese.

When I came into Columbia, I had seen a lot more modern films. I knew I had to step my game up once other students started asking me about films. It's strange, and I admit to doing this, but people judge you based on the movies you watch. Like, the more old-school film buffs will be like, "Oh you mean you haven't seen Godard's first film Operation 'Beton'? Wow...that's interesting." And they have to say the foreign title. Because saying the English title would be a crime. Or there are the experimental buffs who scoff at you if you haven't seen Dog Star Man. It's just this weird thing that we do.

I realize the importance in watching the masters, and I do that. But I want to totally own these pretentious film kids. I want to know exactly how may Renoir films have Jean Gabin in them. Not only do I think it's important for my future career, but it's also important for my street cred. So I'm going to start this series of posts called "Fitting in at Film School," so that all prospective film students don't have to go through the same ridicule I had to. Based on what the asshole kids at Columbia have said in class or to me directly, I have made up a list of films to watch. And the usual suspects are on there: David Lynch, Ingmar Bergman, Stanley Kubrick, anything super-experimental. Anything in the Criterion Collection is on the list, with a few exceptions (Wes Anderson, what?). Basically, if it was foreign, surrealistic, art house, all that jazz, it's on there. Anything made by an auteur is on there. So hopefully this series will help some kids out, and at the same time help me school some dicks. I'll show them...

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

So remember that time I said I was going to post every week? That seems to not be happening. Boo on that. I'm going to work on that. Consider it my new life goal. Well, saying it's a life goal is a bit extreme. More like month goal. So, expect more posts.