David Lynch: "I Never Said I Wasn't Going to Make Films Anymore"

Categories: Interviews

Adam Bordow

I recently discovered that filmmaker and musician David Lynch markets his own line of coffee (espresso, house roast, and decaf), and somehow, I was on the phone with the American iconoclast a few days later.

The condition for this interview was simple yet challenging: I was allowed to ask him only coffee-related questions.

I called his office and the receptionist transferred me to his extension. He said hello, we started talking, and then my phone started acting crazy because my new digital recording app wasn't working correctly. I flipped out.

"Don't panic, Jason," he said in that fascinating voice. "Just hang up, fix it, and call me back."

The next day, a big black box was delivered to my doorstep. Lifting the box, I could smell the coffee before I even opened it. I felt like a little kid on Christmas morning. Inside the box were nearly three pounds of whole-bean David Lynch Signature Cup Organic Coffee for me to "review." I immediately began grinding the beans, drinking cup after cup and writing profusely. But there was a problem along the way: This David Lynch Signature Cup coffee was turning me into a self-indulgent megalomaniac.

"David Lynch will find my writing so brilliant," I thought while brewing another pot around 3 in the morning, "that his next project will be a network television reality show called... HANDELSMAN!"

This was certainly the conjecture from that part of my mind where the delusions of grandeur live. The high-octane David Lynch caffeine surged through my veins as I typed away on the keyboard and the sun rose. I forgot to mention that by this time, I had listened to my interview with David Lynch at least 100 times.

But I digress. While writing the first few drafts and drinking quarts of his coffee, I became more psychotic. The "coffee review" was becoming a nonsensical screenplay for the Handelsman reality show featuring Jim Carrey and Lil Wayne. I had no choice but to call up my business coach, New York City media-mogul Norm Bronstein (real name withheld for legal purposes). I needed his guidance.

"David Lynch will never release another film again," he said, "There is a law in Hollywood called the 'three strikes, you're out' law. David Lynch has struck out. His last movie, Inland Empire, was a complete failure. He is finished making weird movies about his weird hair." Norm laughed at his own joke and continued: "He is now a full-time devotee of Transcendental Meditation, which is a cult. And from what you're telling me about his coffee, he sounds like a modern-day Juan Valdez!" Norm laughed hysterically, and I became even more befuddled.

My David Lynch coffee review was rejected by every publication I sent it to. So I did what any self-respecting contemporary writer would do: I put it up on my own website! I had to forward a link to one of David Lynch's assistants.

"Sounds like you and David had a good talk," he replied after reading the piece. "People often try to project David's style when working with him or writing about him, but it rarely hits the mark."

David Lynch: Hello?

New Times: Thank you so much. I fixed my phone. We have everything in order now.

That is great.

Thank you so much. My David Lynch Coffee is still in transit. As I anticipate its arrival, how would you prepare me for that first cup of David Lynch Signature Cup Organic Coffee? Is there something exceptional about your coffee that expands the imagination?

Well, you know, coffee has been used to give people pleasure and kind of, you know, electrify them a little bit. I always say there is an idea in every bag of David Lynch Signature Cup Coffee. The main thing about coffee is the flavor. And this David Lynch Signature Cup Coffee is great. It has beautiful flavor and... I drink it all day long. I drink espresso, but it comes in house blend and decaf house blend. So, I don't know what you drink.

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Inland Empire possibly the best movie ever made


"INLAND EMPIRE was a complete failure" ??? I beg to differ. True, David Lynch made and marketed the film on his own terms, without big studio help and interference, and as a result it was seen by relatively few people. But artistically INLAND EMPIRE may very well be the purest distillation of Lynch's art EVER. And fortunately a LOT more people have seen it on DVD than could have possibly see it in the theater.

The first time I watched INLAND EMPIRE, there would be times during the nearly 3-hour running time that I would have to get up to go pee or grab a beer or something. So I would stop the film ... and find myself unwilling to move. Instead I would gaze up at the mysterious TV lamp casting its glow on the wall, the ominous folding doors concealing the den next to the living room ... and suddenly my comfortable home environment felt vaguely threatening.

Last night I began watching INLAND EMPIRE again, getting about halfway through the film before it was time to go to bed. Having plunged through it once already, I found myself free to simply watch rather than analyze, to simply listen to the exquisitely written dialogue rather than trying to puzzle out every nuance. And I found the film moving along a lot more quickly than the first time around.

And make no mistake: INLAND EMPIRE is a lot to digest. I'm still working on it. But after two days and some additional viewing, I find myself appreciating the film much, MUCH more. The first time I watched it, I thought to myself, "There is a story here, but it is told in extremely unconventional terms." And now I think there are several stories here that exist in a kind of orbital resonance and sharing themes of loss, guilt, and regret.

Oddly enough, spinning like a neutron star (or perhaps an old acetate record) at the core of this film is a Polish gypsy folk tale cum movie script so cursed that it has the ability to suck its actors and characters into other realities and identities, shuffling them around mercilessly, and in the process causing us, as members of the audience, to question our own grip on what is real and what is fiction.

There is the story of Nikki Grace, a veteran Hollywood actress with a chance to reclaim the limelight with the role of a lifetime. She ultimately falls victim to the aforementioned curse, losing both her identify and her marital fidelity. But how real is Nikki herself? She might in fact be nothing more than a DREAM of stardom, a fantasy concocted by a doomed Hollywood prostitute. In this regard INLAND EMPIRE shares some of the themes previously explored in David Lynch's previous film, "Mulholland Drive."

(Bill Macy, in a VERY brief appearance as a television announcer, utters what could possibly be the most telling line in the film, saying that Hollywood is "where DREAMS become STARS, and STARS become DREAMS!")

There are other stories at work here: The prostitution ring in Hollywood may parallel a similar racket in Poland. We are teased with scenes from a Polish film that ultimately went uncompleted, the same film being remade with Nikki Grace (played brilliantly by Laura Dern) and Devon Burke (Justin Theroux). There are cryptic references throughout the film to something called "axonn.n" ... which, according to the first spoken words in INLAND EMPIRE, is the longest radio play in history. And then there are the rabbits (Trapped? Caged?) used as the films most surreal device.

But to hell with all that. Ultimately what's really most important about INLAND EMPIRE is the art of filmmaking. Cinema is most often used to tell stories in the simplest, most conventional terms, just as oil paint on canvas is most often used to portray people, landscapes, and bowls of fruit. But both painting and cinema can be used in far more adventurous and experimental ways, even if such efforts are not commercially viable. I doubt that Salvador Dali and Luis Bunuel made "Un Chien Andalou" in hopes that it would be a big box office smash; they were more interested in expanding the artistic potential of film, and if they challenged and confounded the viewer in the process, so much the better. And throughout the history of filmmaking there have been a great many other directors that have pushed the envelope of the medium in their own ways, whether through storytelling or visual imagery.

With INLAND EMPIRE, I think David Lynch has gone back to his roots, forsaking the interference of big studio executives and marketing his film on his terms. As everyone knows by know, he is notoriously reticent to discuss the film's "meaning." But if all he really wanted to do was blur the distinction between fantasy and reality, and in the process make his viewers become just a little unhinged ... well, I think he succeeded in spades. Few films that I can think of have crept into my mind so tenaciously. And when some reviewers dismiss INLAND EMPIRE as pretentious nonsense, all I can think of is the old curmudgeon who looks at a Jackson Pollock painting and sneers, "My four-year-old granddaughter could do better than that!"

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