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

Categories: Q&A

Um, right now I'm having a delicious cup of Kopi Luwak.

No. Will you be drinking espressos, or will you be drinking house roast?

Probably the house roast. I live in Miami, Florida, and I usually get Cuban coffee if I'm in the mood for espresso...

Uh huh..

I will definitely try the David Lynch Espresso as I work on this review. You say you drink it all day long. So it's true, you drink over 12 cups a day.

I think so, yeah.

Do you ever take a break and not drink coffee for a day or so?

No, um, I never had to do that.

I asked your receptionist about the coffee in your office, because most offices have this septic tank of stale-bitter coffee which sits there all day, and it's not really good. I asked her about it.

And what did she say?

She said that you could answer that.

(Laughs) Oh, OK. Well, I just got these two new machines, and they are so beautiful! And everybody that works here, you know, drinks the espressos and they make house roast. They make cappucinos. I have cappucinos all day long.

Do you make those yourself?

I make some of them myself and sometimes other people make them for me.

Now, you are a practitioner of Transcendental Meditation...


Apparently you are also quite a coffee enthusiast. I was wondering if there is a relationship between the two. Like, do you drink coffee before you meditate? Before and after? Does the coffee ever make you feel like jumping out of meditation and writing down ideas? Do you have enough discipline to...

That's already a whole bunch of questions, OK?

I'm sorry.

Transcendental Meditation is a mental technique to allow any human being to dive within and experience unbounded awareness. The deepest level of life, eternal level of life, pure consciousness. And you come out of meditation feeling so refreshed, and every time a person truly transcends, they infuse some of that all positive quality of consciousness. That field within is: unbounded intelligence, creativity, happiness, love, energy, and peace. You come out of meditation so refreshed, filled with energy, and ready to rock! And I drink a cup of coffee before I meditate in the morning, and I drink coffee all day long. Now a lot of people get their fix from meditation. I just love coffee, so I keep drinking it. But meditation is what really changes things for the good. Coffee is like some frosting on the cake.

So if...

And then you asked about ideas. Sorry to interrupt. You know, when John Lennon was with Maharishi in India, he told Maharishi, "I keep getting these ideas during meditation and I don't want to forget them, so what should I do?" And Maharishi told him, "Listen, just come gently out, write the ideas down, and then go back in." And so you get down deep in there and you get ideas. If you do get ideas; you don't always get ideas, and you don't meditate to get ideas. Mostly the ideas come after meditation, but if you are down there and if you do get ideas, it's a strange thing. Because when you come back out of meditation, sometimes you forget those things. So, if I got a great idea deep in meditation, I would come out, write that thing down, and then go back to meditating.

Does the coffee have any effect on the meditation?

No. Well, it has an effect on your physical being and body. But meditation is a completely different thing. It's... it's so beautiful. And some people enjoy coffee, and some people enjoy different things. And you don't have to give up anything to meditate. You just add meditation to your life and go about your business.

So this is another question, and please cut me off if I start going off on a tangent again...


These ideas, they seem to be the dominating thoughts of your mind, and they transform into physical reality and objects. Your films, paintings, photographs, music, television, furniture, stage productions... For me personally, and people that I know, they have had a therapeutic effect on multitudes of people. And, I mean, in high school, I had really bad acne and I wrote this poem called, "I Am a Teenage Elephant Man." I had a drug problem later on in life, and I always could relate to that character behind the dumpster in Mulholland Drive.

I have seen that movie many times in the theater, and that character who pops out from behind the dumpster is such a jarring character. In 2009, I was driving under the influence, and I hit a pedestrian with my car, and there was blood all over the windshield, and, um, I've been drinking a lot of coffee since then. I don't drink alcohol or do any drugs anymore...

[laughter] Uh huh.

Your films have had a subconscious healing effect in the sense that sometimes life doesn't seem to have a linear narrative. It doesn't make sense right away. And this question might seem a little off, but have you ever considered opening -- I read that you aren't going to make anymore films because cinemas are kind of disappearing -- have you ever considered opening a David Lynch Coffee Shop, because it would probably put Starbucks out of business.

No, I haven't thought of that, but you know, you asked some good questions. You should find a legitimate teacher of Transcendental Meditation and start meditating. And you will see what it does for a human being. This thing of transcending means experiencing that field that is always and has forever been there. It is the self. This is that field. So you get that technique and then meditate regularly every day and then give me a call and tell me how you feel. I guarantee that you will tell me, "I am so happy and thankful to have this technique."

And I never said I wasn't going to make films anymore. I did say that I wasn't going to shoot on celluloid, but now, I even love celluloid again. It is a strange world. I think celluloid is so incredibly beautiful, and I love the digital cameras as well. So I think you should use what is right for the project. But like you said, the film industry has changed so much. I build films to go on the big screen, and the kind of films I make probably wouldn't get that many screens.

So, you know, things are always changing. Maybe the art houses will come back. We'll see what happens, but it's a great big beautiful world, and I just don't have the time to set up a coffee shop. [laughter]

But I got a great line of coffee. It tastes really good. It's smooth and not bitter. It is all organic. Fairly traded, and these beans have such a smell -- unbelievable -- and the taste: "boom!" Sends you right to heaven.

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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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