Next Door to Darkness," a select retrospective of David Lynch's films at the Berkeley Art Museum Pacific Film Archive, continues this week and next with some of the most notorious titles of the notorious filmmaker's career. With Lost Highway (1997) on Friday, February 7, we get dropped into the deep end immediately.
Lynch is not a traditional storyteller. Outside of the masterpiece Blue Velvet and one or two others (The Elephant Man comes to mind), his most interesting movies take place in a shadowy, elliptical dream world, a time-shifting place of menace such as the one inhabited by Lost Highway's rotating cast of haunted petty criminals (Bill Pullman, Balthazar Getty, Robert Loggia) and honey-trap femmes (two women with the same face, Patricia Arquette). Keep a lookout for Richard Pryor's cameo as an auto mechanic. The scenario, co-written by Lynch with Berkeley author Barry Gifford, is intended to leave us stranded.
We could say the same for Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992), the pilot for Lynch's cult-hit network TV series, with its lumber trucks and deadpan reaction shots in the service of a neo-noir murder story set in one of the filmmaker's favorite locales: a deceptively friendly-looking small town teeming with goons and demons lurking just below the surface. It screens Saturday, February 8,
With his '90s projects, Lynch was warming up for even stranger trips. On an ascending scale of discomfiting obscurity, the Los Angeles pastiche Mulholland Drive (2001) -- with its Tinseltown archetypal characters, now mind-fogged -- leads inexorably to the dizzying labyrinth of 2006's Inland Empire, a kingdom of miniature nightmares. Mulholland shows February 15; Inland Empire, it turns out, did not make the cut for BAMPFA this time around. Someday, somewhere, a complete retro-examination of Lynch's oeuvre — including his endless supply of music vids and eerie shorts — will lay it all out. And we'll still come away slightly perplexed.
Gifford, whose novel Wild at Heart was adapted by Lynch in 1990, appears in person at BAMPFA to introduce that film (February 14), as well as this week's screening of Lost Highway. Pleasant dreams, film fans. Bampfa.org