David Lynch, despite the reputation he earned with films like Blue Velvet and Mulholland Drive, lush tone poems of the unconscious, and of course, Eraserhead, a sui generis piece of work that is, more than anything he has ever done, unlike anything else ever made by anyone, a direct line to the unconscious, has always stayed true to his vision. Then he'll go make The Straight Story, a completely (ahem) straightforward tale, directed with the skill of a consummate Hollywood pro, not a self-conscious filmmaker unable to leave his comfort zone. And he has always dabbled in graphics, with short films, comic strips, and his 2002 web series, the short-lived Dumbland, which, if you continue on, you can check it out, along with some of the Eagle Scout's other graphic work.
Lynch started his career making experimental shorts in the late 60s, and The Alphabet is among his most famous. A disturbing (really, you don't say?) and dreamlike (no!) piece that features a mix of live action and animation that is quite sophisticated for student work (he was attending UCLA at the time.)
For those interested, here's a full collection of his early shorts, about an hour and a half of heart-warming family warmth, if that family was composed of terrifying psychological archetypes and the warmth was some kind of hellish fire.
From 1983 to 1992, his comic strip, The Angriest Dog in the World, ran in several independent newspapers across the country. It featured an unchanging four-panel drawing of a dog chained up in a yard, with the only variation being the inane dialogue in the speech bubble that issued from a window. Apparently, he came up with the strip in 1973 because --"I was curious about anger -- Like, once you're angry, you're really, really angry, no two ways about it. This dog is angry.” See for yourself!
Most people of a certain age or sensibility remember and/or cherish Lynch's first foray into television, the bizarrely popular (as in, it was bizarre that something so, well, Lynch-ian was popular, as well the fact that it was just really popular by any metric. Who Killed Laura Palmer? was Who Shot J.R.? for people who couldn't care less who shot J.R. (if you care --)
Less remembered is his 2002 foray into web animation, the series Dumbland, whose obscurity isn't that surprising considering the shorts were only available on his website, there were just eight of them, and they added up to a running time of about a half an hour, being vignettes in the life of a man unnamed on the show, though he is referred to as "Randy" on the website. Randy is a midde-aged, "white trash" man who lives with his nameless wife and son, and is basically a super unpleasant guy; well, everyone is super unpleasant. It's raw and ugly and weird. I know, right? What gives?
Dumbland definitely has a rage to rival the strip. I've always kind of had the sense (which I'm sure I am not the only one who has had this intimation) that underneath his Montana Eagle Scout "gee whiz" exterior, which suggests he is merely a cheerful conduit for all of the hellish psychic energy in the world, there was actually a guy who was kind of, um, angry. He got pretty worked up about the idea of watching films on smart phones. (Warning: curse words! from David Lynch! which are so much worse than regular curse words, because of that voice. Okay, good talk.)
So, without any more smart remarks from me, here it is: 33 minutes of a dumb, inarticulate, and violent family. (Oh, and did I mention they're all voiced by Lynch himself? So that's like, ten times less creepy.) Here's a link to a great essay about the show, where Lynch expounds on the animation methods he employed, his thoughts on animation in general, and other stuff. Okay, well I lied, those were some more smart remarks. Sorry. But here it is!
So, what's the verdict? Are you a fan of Lynch's work in animation and his sometimes angry side, or do you prefer the iconic American image of the twisted but wholesome Midwest boy, and the inimitable aesthetic he uses in his in films like Blue Velvet, Lost Highway, and Mulholland Drive? I know some people who think The Elephant Man is a near perfect film, and everything else was no good. So, opinions; we all have them. What are yours? Let us know, in the comments below!
[via Filmmaker Magazine]