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The Saatchi Gallery Magazine ART&MUSIC

SUITA

Issue 14 » Summer 2011

David

Lynch

Wild at heart and weird on top

Dave Watkins

on what made Twin Peaks a killer serial

Peter Wix

casts an ear over David Lynch’s unique sonic realm

Cedar Lewisohn

discusses the pervasive DVD box set and its place in contemporary culture Plus: Steve Reich, Sarah Baker, Bill Fontana and more…

Suita Sofa photographed at VitraHaus, Vitra Campus 2010 Vitra 30 Clerkenwell Road, London EC1M 5PG, Phone: +44 20 7608 6200, E-Mail: info_uk@vitra.com

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Summer 2011 / ISSUE 14

Suita Sofa. Developed by Vitra in Switzerland. Design: Antonio Citterio

£2 .95


EWAN McGREGOR CHRISTOPHER PLUMMER MÉLANIE LAURENT

THIS IS WHAT LOVE FEELS LIKE.

★★★★ TimeOut New York

‘FUNNY AND TOUCHING’ Matthew Leyland, Total Film

★★★★

★★★★

‘DELIGHTFUL AND MOVING’

‘CHARMING AND UNEXPECTED’

Mark Adams, Sunday Mirror

Kate Muir, The Times

★★★★

‘GENUINE WARMTH AND REAL HEART’ RED magazine

1 year for £15 When you subscribe to David Lynch has been likened to a human percolator so it’s not surprising he’s created his very own brand of coffee the David Lynch Signature Cup. It’s organic, fairly traded and a “damn fine cup of coffee” is assured. Available exclusively in the UK from: www.davidlynchcoffee.co.uk This Summer, David Lynch Signature Cup UK in association with Art & Music have 5 bags of coffee beans to give away to first five subscribers

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Features 18  W-ear-d for Sound Peter Wix maps David Lynch’s unique empire of sound

Issue 14 » Summer 2011

26  It’s a Strange World We asked a selection of artists, musicians and writers to nominate their favourite David Lynch movie and explain how and why it made such a lasting impression upon them 38  Box Clever Cedar Lewisohn chairs a discussion about the relentless rise and cultural significance of the DVD box set Specials 12  Wild at Heart and weird on top We talk to David Lynch about soundtracks, painting, and the post-celluloid future 34  Welcome to Twin Peaks Dave Watkins looks back at the cult ’90s television series and celebrates its enduring appeal 36  Artist’s Project An exclusive Twin Peaks-themed artwork by Sarah Baker Regulars 8  News An exclusive interview with Bill Fontana about his SFMOMA exhibition Sonic Shadows

26 It’s a

StrangeWorld Cover image:

Mulholland Drive ©2001 Studiocanal Image All rights reserved This page: Blue Velvet ©1986 Studiocanal Image All rights reserved

10  Picture This A&M’s visual round up of upcoming exhibitions, gigs, events and books not to be missed 46  Lost & Found Katie English is poised at the Royal Ballet; Natasha Hoare checks out Bound, the inaugural show at All Visual Arts; and Gemma de Cruz enjoys Pioneers of the Downtown Scene at the Barbican. Plus, Katie Grocott and Angèle David-Guillou get approachably esoteric with Steve Reich and Iannis Xenakis 58  Continental Film Night Peter Wix’s customarily personal swing through movie land


THE FIRST DEMO BY THE BEATLES. THE FIRST REEL BY HITCHCOCK. THE FIRST SKETCHES BY HOCKNEY. THE FIRST SCULPTURE BY GORMLEY. THE FIRST PRINTS BY BAILEY. THE FIRST WALL BY BANKSY.

OwN A greAT. BeFOre THey’re FAmOUS. UNIqUE PIECES BY THE NEW GENERATION OF UK FASHION TALENT. ONLY AT yOUNgBrITISHDeSIgNerS.COm


Issue 14 » Summer 2011

The Wonderful Wizard of Odd Say what you like about filmmaker David Lynch – and there are thousands of column inches out there doing just that – whatever he makes, and wherever he ‘goes’ artistically, feverish debate will surely follow. Film students continue to pore over his enduringly enigmatic, neo-noir masterworks such as Blue Velvet, Twin Peaks, Lost Highway and Mullholland Drive, as they do with no other living director, hoping to divine what it is that makes these hauntingly surreal, modern American Gothic fairytales tick. Four times Oscar-nominated, but never an academy award winner (he’s been far more successful at Cannes), some mainstream US critics, perhaps sensitive to Lynch’s favourite subject – the insidious corruption and decay of Midwest normalcy (a milieu from which Lynch himself sprung) – have dismissed the director for being a purveyor of wilful weirdness; a misapprehension which perhaps serves only to reinforce Lynch’s point. Others speak of Lynch in the same breath as Stanley Kubrick, another director capable of bringing singular artistry to a number of distinct genres. Meanwhile, that esteemed bastion of European film criticism, France’s Cahiers du Cinéma reveres Lynch as a great American auteur, an accolade he shares with the likes of Orson Welles and Nicholas Ray. The ultimate proof of how pervasive the director’s vision has been is that the adjective ‘Lynchian’ is now firmly established in the popular lexicon, applicable to descriptions of everything from music and photographs to behavioural characteristics and dreams (Alfred Hitchcock had to wait until old age before film scholars first coined the term ‘Hitchcockian’).

These days Lynch, who began life as a painter, cutting his teeth at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in the mid-1960s before being seduced by the possibilities of the moving image, is the very definition of a Warholian polymath, as liable to be working on large format photography, electro-pop recordings or covering canvases with toxic materials as he is making ‘video portraits’ or labouring over a screenplay or storyboard. All of which makes him an ideal subject for A&M’s pluralist gaze. Thus, on page 12 we have an exclusive Q&A interview with the great man, while on page 18 our resident film buff Peter Wix examines the very particular role played by sound and music in Lynch’s oeuvre. On page 26 a selection of artists and musicians explain why they love their favourite Lynch movie so much. Elsewhere, we take a sartorial backward glance at Lynch’s work in television and report on a recent symposium chaired by artist and author Cedar Lewisohn about the inexorable rise of the DVD box set – of which the Twin Peaks TV series was a notable precursor. All in all, a damned fine magazine, we’re sure you’ll agree (or we’ll send BOB round). David Sheppard

The Saatchi Gallery Magazine Art & Music Art Editor: Gemma de Cruz Music Editor: David Sheppard Copy Editor: Katie Grocott Art Direction: Alfonso Iacurci Sales and Marketing: Deirdre McGinnis Thanks to: Richard Beymer, Paul Murdoch Special thanks to David Lynch and Anna Skarbek

The Saatchi Gallery Magazine Art & Music is published four times a year by Art & Music Publications 13A Claremont Square London N1 9LY t: 020 7502 0275 f: 020 7502 0275 e: info@artandmusicmagazine.com www.saatchigallery.com/artandmusic Printed in the UK by Wyndeham Plymouth

To request a Media Pack please email advertising@artandmusicmagazine.com We welcome your letters and emails about the magazine. Please write to the music/art editor at the above address, or send an email to editor@artandmusicmagazine.com The contents of this magazine are fully protected by copyright and may not be reproduced without permission. The views of the writers in Art & Music are not necessarily shared by the publishers.

UK subscriptions: £15 for four issues. To subscribe please email info@artandmusicmagazine.com or call 020 7502 0275 5


ised The Revolution in Heaven will not be Telev I first heard Gil Scott-Heron’s song ‘The Revolution Will No Be Televised’ on the grassroots independent media project www. indymedia.org when it was covering Prague’s ‘S26’ demonstration against the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in September 2000. I was there for the demo – an overwhelming experience that changed my life and worldview. It also sent shockwaves through governments and succeeded in focusing attention on issues such as the legitimacy of the IMF and the clash between World Trade Organization rules and UN environmental conventions. ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised’ became the soundtrack for this unexpected metamorphosis. Despite first being released in 1970 (on the album Small Talk at 125th and Lenox), in 2000 it resounded relevant and fresh amid the carnival-like tactics and beautiful chaos of the pink-and-silver bloc that disrupted and halted the IMF conference. There were cameras – our cameras – everywhere. This revolution was going to be televised, but with more than the one-sided, editorializing, clichéd mainstream media descriptions of ‘a hardcore of demonstrators’, etc. En route to the conference centre where the IMF was meeting, Prague’s tall, concrete Nusle Bridge was the scene of a long showdown between demonstrators and cops. The Italian Ya Basta group was at the front in home-made padding with plastic dustbin lid shields – a small army of Michelin people, taking the police blows and pepper spray. After many hours in solidarity linking arms and pushing forwards against the armoured personnel carriers of the Czech policie, we went to find food. We emerged an hour later onto Wenceslas Square to rejoin the crowds. Due to a planning error two unescorted buses carrying IMF delegates drove right into the middle of hundreds of milling protesters. At the sight of 6

the crowds the delegates stared out at us, frozen with terror, hanging tightly onto the yellow poles inside the bus, their complexions pale as the name-tags pinned to their neat, dark suits. The crowd, also frozen in stunned silence, stared right back, unsure how to react. Here were the deciders of policies that impacted on so many lives worldwide, against which the protest had been struggling, vulnerable and exposed in our midst, staring fearfully at us staring confused and unsure back at them. The atmosphere was filled with potential confrontation. No one knew what would come next. A young woman darted out to the front of the bus, took out a spray can and sprayed a big smiley across the windscreen in shaving cream. There were cheers and laughter. The silence and tension was broken. A small regiment of riot police ran single-file into the crowd, briskly escorting the delegates off of the buses to their nearby hotel, refusing to acknowledge the surrounding crowds; then vanished as fast as they had come. Later, listening to this story reported on Indymedia radio, I was amazed and inspired by the track that followed: ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised’. This song and the moment of confrontation between the IMF delegates and we, the people, are for me intertwined. The fear on the delegates’ faces and the fear that

as a member of a mob I could be called to act violently against defenceless people acts as a reminder that we are all human and vulnerable, and of how easy it is to abuse power at the moment we have power over another. The young woman with the can of shaving foam kept it real. Her gesture thawed the ice in which we were frozen at that tense moment. Hearing ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised’ on the streets of Prague completely changed the direction of my life and Gil ScottHeron’s words and music continue to be an inspiration. R.I.P.   Pennie Quinton

Gil Scott-Heron (1949-2011)


yamazaki 12 years

HakUSHU 12 years

HiBiki 17 years

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News

SD: What is the intention behind Sonic Shadows and will you describe the process by which the work has been realised?

SD: Do you think that the concept of buildings as musical instruments will take music and sound art into new, exciting territory?

BF: Sonic Shadows is a site-specific work designed for the atrium of the SFMOMA. I was asked by the museum to utilise not only the architecture and the acoustics of the space but also a variety of the sounds I could find in the buildings. What came to fascinate me was a part of the building that not many people saw or experienced or knew anything about which is the boiler room. I started investigating this space with accelerometers on pipes and machines. Accelerometers are really high-calibre microphones capable of picking up vibrations in buildings. I found a dozen different points where I could extract quite musical essences out of these machines and pipes. So I installed a network of twelve accelerometers in the boiler room. I also installed accelerometers on the bridge of the atrium. The end sound sculpture is a mix of these elements played back on a kind of hybrid combination of loudspeakers. There are two types of loudspeaker systems that together create quite an interesting effect. One type is not really a loudspeaker as such. It’s an ultrasonic Holosonics AS24 transducer that produces a very directional beam of ultrasonic frequencies that act as carrier of audible signal. But it is interesting because you can only hear it as a beam of ultrasonic frequencies as it either hits a wall and sort of unravels or if it hits somebody’s ear. And these four ultrasonic speakers are mounted on robotic arms that are scanning the curved walls surrounding the atrium bridge. The throw of these ultrasonic speakers is actually quite long. What happens in gallery spaces and other types of building is that you have these chance encounters for a moment.

BF: Yes I do because when I did the Sonic Shadows project I came to the realisation that it is possible to turn any building into a kind of musical instrument. The building itself will become a source and subject of a lot of interesting sonic material, not only the building but also the surroundings. I am interested in how music patterns exist all around us.

SONIC SHADOWS For the past thirty years American artist Bill Fontana has created installations throughout the world using sound as a sculptural medium to interact with and transform perceptions of visual and architectural spaces. He has installed public artworks at iconic locations in many of the world’s great cities, including London’s Big Ben, San Francisco’s Golden Gate and Paris’s Arc de Triomphe. His latest work, entitled Sonic Shadows, is an installation at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. The work transforms the museum’s dramatic circular skylight and fifth-floor steel truss pedestrian bridge into musical instruments. Commissioned as part of SFMOMA’s 75th anniversary celebration, Sonic Shadows is Fontana’s first truly kinetic and interactive sound sculpture. While Fontana’s previous works typically relocated environmental sounds to a remote location such as a museum, he is now exploring ambient and live sounds generated by specific spaces in response to the energy of weather, visitors, or a building’s infrastructure. The artist’s concept for Sonic Shadows grew out of these recent investigations into how architectural structures resonate. Fontana’s work employs eight Meyer Sound MM4XP miniature self-powered loudspeakers, working in conjunction with four moving ultrasonic Holosonics AS24 transducers, to reproduce sounds generated organically by vibrations inside the building. Simon Duff met up with Bill Fontana to find out more.

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SD: How did you get started in making sound art? BF: I started making sound pieces in New York in the late ’60s. At that time I was experimenting in painting, as well as being an academic and student of philosophy. In terms of music I took a class in experimental music composition and started doing a lot of work with found sounds. I decided at that time that this is the path that I would explore and was particularly interested in the idea of the act of listening. My first work followed the lines of musique concrète and I developed from there. SD: How can sonic art progress? BF: Well that is a very open-ended question. My advice to anybody wishing to go down this path is not to get blinded by science and not to get lost in toys. The most important tool you have is your ears and sensitivity.


SD: Will you tell me about the project you are doing with The Wellcome Trust in London in September?

Issue 14 » Summer 2011

BF: I have been invited by The Wellcome Trust and the London Borough of Camden to develop a project to go on the façade of the Wellcome Trust Foundation building in Euston Road. I am going to take the sound of the sea from a very interesting part of the Dorset coastline called Chesil Beach then install that sound in real time onto the façade of the building. On a couple of the windows there will be a video projection with images running from Chesil Beach. You have to understand that I have a history with Chesil Beach because in 1999 I was commissioned by the National Maritme Museum in Greenwich to study the sound of the sea around British coasts and I have a permanent piece installed at the Maritime Museum. So I traveled extensively around the British coast making recordings in many different locations. Chesil Beach was really special. Sonic Shadows is at SFMOMA until November 6 2011

Bill Fontana at work on the SFMOMA turret bridge, 2010; photo: Don Ross Bill Fontana, Sonic Shadows (installation view), 2010; commissioned by SFMOMA, courtesy the artist, support provided by Arup and Meyer Sound Laboratories, Inc.; © Bill Fontana

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Jake or Dinos Chapman 15 Jul - 17 Sep 2011 White Cube Mason’s Yard and Hoxton Square Photo: Johnnie Shand Kydd

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The Floating Cinema design by Studio Weave for Portavilion 2011 an UP Projects production 1July – 18 September 2011 www.upprojects.com

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The Hardy Tree by Iphgenia Baal Published June 2011

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Watch Me Move: The Animation Show 15 June 2011 - 11 September 2011 Barbican Art Gallery Photo: Dave Fleischer


Issue 14 Âť Summer 2011

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Art Profile

Wild at Heart and weird on top

We already know that David Lynch secretly loves Clueless and his recently-launched own brand of coffee makes a damned fine cup. It’s also evident that in his latest Interview Project, Lynch picks up the camera where Warhol's Screen Tests left off and created a reality road movie that would be at home in any art gallery. But how did David Lynch’s art school training manifest itself in his film making, and why has sound always been so pivotal? Here, we ask the man behind cult classics like Blue Velvet and Eraserhead a handful of questions that might shed some light on what kind of artistic sensibilities make him one of the most influential filmmakers of the modern age.

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Photograph © Adam Bordow

Issue 14 » Summer 2011

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Art Profile Man With Electrical Box, watercolor on paper. David Lynch, 2009

You are a man with many creative strings to your bow. Are the superficially diverse disciplines of painting, music, photography and filmmaking simply facets of the same artistic impulse for you, or do they feed different, distinct creative appetites? They are the same and they are different. I believe that ideas all come from the same place but there are ideas that want to be paintings, there are ideas that want to be music, and there are ideas that want to be living in cinema, so it goes like that. I always say there is a big thrill in catching an idea that we fall in love with. 14

As an art student at the Pennsylvania Academy did you harbour serious ambitions to be a painter, or was art school simply a crucible for working out various creative options? I only wanted to be a painter. You recently made a series of paintings using toxic materials, are these something you are still working with? I think you are referring to the fact that I like to paint outdoors. There are many reasons for this, and one of them is the reason you mention – the toxic materials. Another reason is the light and heat from the sun.

The artist Gregory Crewdson makes photographs that are often compared to your films, because they are separated from conventional narrative and timelines but hold together as convincing images, and also encourage a strong element of voyeurism. Artists like Crewdson, or Jeff Wall, compose single images in a similar way to how you might construct an entire film. Do you feel that specific scenes in your films can be viewed separately as individual, single ‘works’ or is it very important to you that they are part of the complete film? Number one, I believe you want

to see the film as a whole work but there could be many offshoots on the sidelines: still images from the film, music from the film, soundscapes from the film, props, sculpture from the film, things like this. Just like in life, it flows as a whole, but all the different elements that make up the whole are very interesting. Music (and sound design) has always figured prominently in your films. Did you take particular note of soundtracks as a young moviegoer? What music influenced you the most as you were growing up? I did not take notice of anything in particular. Everything seemed


Bloomberg Summer at the Roundhouse

RON ARAD’S

9-29 Aug 2011 0844 482 8008 www.roundhouse.org.uk An interactive 360° installation including work by HUSSEIN CHALAYAN / MAT COLLISHAW / ORI GERSHT GREENAWAY & GREENAWAY / DAVID SHRIGLEY CHRISTIAN MARCLAY and JAVIER MARISCAL


Art Profile

beautiful and magical – like in a good dream. I always loved music and was aware of sounds like everyone else. I played the trumpet until they made me march at football games, but I had no strong feelings about making music or sounds. I wanted to be a painter since one night when I was in the ninth grade. Do you make new sound versions of your films simply to take advantage of the latest sonic technology, or because you have revised your original understanding of how sound worked in these films? Is there something more you want the sound to ‘say’ in these cases? That’s a tricky question. From mono to stereo was a big, important jump and I really was in love with stereo. When 5.1 came out and 7.1, there was a danger that the sound would leave the screen and go off in strange places in the theater, taking the person out of the world of the film. I personally like most of the sound coming from the screen. I like the improvement of speakers and whole sound systems for theaters that have come along to make the experience of the new cinema worlds deeper and greater.

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Man Thinking of Woman, watercolor on paper. David Lynch, 2009

“I only wanted to be a painter”

You recently said that you were finished with celluloid. Why so? Celluloid is the stuff that used to run through cameras before digital came along. Celluloid is the stuff that tears, gets dirty, causes a person to make many, many trips to the laboratory, that requires heavy, heavy cameras and equipment, that’s what I am through with even though that celluloid had the possibility to give exquisite images. As I always say, digital is getting better by leaps and bounds each day. It is the future, and its here to stay. Unlike many movie directors, you’ve never dismissed television as an inherently ‘inferior’ medium – Twin Peaks was proof of that. Do you still have an interest in the small screen? I worked on a show for television exactly the same as I worked on scenes in film. The difference is that for television, the images are played back on a small screen with pretty bad speakers, pretty bad quality sound.

We know that Mulholland Drive began life as a putative TV series; what was your reaction when it was rejected when Twin Peaks was such a huge success? So many things are subjective. The person or persons who saw the first cut of the pilot for Mulholland Drive happened to dislike it – to dislike it very much. This to me was a kind of blessing and opened the window to Mulholland Drive becoming a closed ended feature film. Is it true that you’ve made or are making something about The Beatles’ ‘guru’ Maharishi Mahesh Yogi? Yes, it’s true; I’ve been meditating with Maharishi’s Transcendental Meditation since 1973. I’m going to be making a documentary on some of the knowledge that Maharishi brought out to the world. What can we expect from you next? Well, I have an album coming out this year on Sunday Best recordings. This album was made with my friend Big Dean Hurley.


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W-ear-d for Sou How telling it is that the seminal image driving David Lynch to create his formidable 1986 adventure into darkness, Blue Velvet, was that of a severed human ear! The ear is a hole into the brain, and the eyes two more through which the camera has turned us into willing voyeurs. But voyeurs don’t just peep. They listen, too, and Lynch’s work has constantly revealed how heedful he is of the brain’s auditory processing of what reaches our ears. The many ways in which he has made that process part of modern cinema can make us think other directors have been missing a trick, says Peter Wix.

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Issue 14 Âť Summer 2011


W-ear-d for Sound

Marrying sonic stimuli to visual images and sparking them together to create magic is no cheap trumpery with the tools of psychoacoustics. David Lynch is diligent and patient. His movies include a constant care plan under which he meticulously attends to all he can control – his casts, wardrobe, lighting, dialogue, props and, most importantly, our sense of perception as the collective retina and cochlea for his personal voyeurism. Any clumsiness in combining vision and sound would compromise artistic unity and risk taking the spectator out of the situation. And we must be there in the intimate spaces he wants us to occupy; close to the flame, near enough for innocent objects to become wondrous: in the velvety darkness of cars where only the faces of his characters are lit, but as brilliantly as in Rembrandt portraits; or disarticulated in a dystopic, industrial dreamscape that suffocates even memory and identity; or close enough to the freakish deformities of John Merrick, ‘Elephant Man’, to sense his inner beauty; and, the ultimate dare, near enough to feel the beat of the thunderous heart of deviant Frank Booth. This sometimes terrifying but always fun proximity is achieved by the assiduous use of a copious armoury of sonic resources. The amplified and perfectly recorded sound of a cigarette being lit and consumed by fire, used throughout Wild At Heart (1990) to comment on ardent states of emotion; the constant and disquieting variations of a tinnitus of foreground hum and haw and distant factory clanking in Eraserhead (1977); the tragically growing acuteness of the bronchial saga within Merrick’s chest that battles with his own often sweet voice and which eventually floods his lungs… What brings us so close to the rapist and comprehensively degenerate villain Frank Booth, in Blue Velvet, is an unusually complex and chillingly effective synergy of sound, dialogue and the very special recalling of the 1963 Roy Orbison song, In Dreams. 20

It is Dennis Hopper’s fine acting that immediately conveys the threat of his character when he first appears in the room of singer Dorothy Vallens, whose husband and child Frank has kidnapped. Frank’s use of a plastic face mask through which he snuffs what Hopper claimed would have been amyl nitrite provides Lynch with an opportunity to offer us the close-up sound of this action, the tubes heaving in the substance, the mouth and mucosal noises, the plastic rubbing against his jowl, and his distorted speech. Through this detail, Lynch can continually draw us as close as possible to Frank, right in to his very breath, making us captives before his maniacally glaring eyes. The especially suggestive and disconcerting sonority of our body interiors was understood by William Friedkin when he went to great lengths to record a powerfully exaggerated sound score for The Exorcist (1973). He had veteran Hollywood actress Mercedes McCambridge fill her throat with raw eggs, constant cigarette smoke, and booze to achieve the demon voice for the possessed child (Linda Blair), while the ghastly sound of her head turning through 360 degrees was produced by twisting a borrowed leather wallet, complete with plastic credit cards, in front of an open microphone. Exaggerated sound achieved through patient experiment, as used so well and contrasted with absolute silences in The Exorcist, is also one of David Lynch’s best-used techniques. The pornographer gangster Mr Eddy (Dick Laurent) in Lost Highway (1997) is introduced through his immensely pumped-up voice as he bellows for the mechanic, “PETE, PETE.” It recalls the fierce, anxious vocal tone Hopper employed to force out the vulgar and violent lines of dialogue which help give him such an aura of menace in Blue Velvet. Kyle Maclachlan, so brilliant as Jeffrey, the young snooper through whom we first see Frank, has commented that he often found Hopper’s


Issue 14 » Summer 2011

portrayal irresistibly comic on set. This liminal point between menace and comedy is something special, but for it to have maximum impact we need the extra information provided by the sound of Frank, the noises that push him into your face. You wouldn’t laugh at him, would you? We hear his desperate muffled cry of “Mommy” through that inhaling mask as, on all fours, he crawls like a baby towards Dorothy’s vagina, desperately dragging his tortured soul back towards the womb; and we go deeper still into his darkness as Lynch calls on our sense of touch by showing us Frank frenetically caressing and sucking an off-cut of blue velvet material. Later, when Frank drives Jeffery to the wasteland beating scene, we are invited to imagine how that piece of blue velvet feels as it is pushed into Jeffrey’s mouth. Even closer now, between the mask and Frank’s mouth, where the sound of his inhaling has drawn us, where he has roughly lipsticked his mouth with carmine, and we must imagine – through Jeffrey – being kissed by him, tasting his breath, feeling his muscles as he begins what portends to be a fatal humiliation ritual. All this takes place as we hear Roy Orbison’s ‘In Dreams’ for the second time in the film. Frank has ordered it to be played on the car’s cassette player. A hooker on top of the car brazenly bumps and grinds to the music. Both this song, and the Bobby Vinton hit, ‘Blue Velvet’, which gave the film its title even before the screenplay was written, are syrupy representations of a post-war US culture based on façade. Beyond what their beautiful melodies and elegant execution might mean to pop cognoscenti, these songs were associated with the white picket fences and untainted, peaceful neighbourhoods of bourgeois America that Lynch so classily lampoons at the start of the film. Since they are also examples

Photograph © Gregg Lopez

of the socially hygienic end of rock’n’roll, they would have had chutzpah value to play at cocktail evenings as credentials of hosts’ modernity and youthfulness. To have such useful social tools appropriated by an aberrant figure like Frank Booth challenges a traditional association and sets up an interesting juxtaposition that unsettles the mind: our bourgeois cultural trinkets in the hands of a killer and mindless torturer who has the power to change what the songs mean, to love them to death, to metaphorically fuck them (“I’ll fuck anything that moves”), and, of course, to make them dead to us. It is almost akin to the power of deviant sex to lure your daughter away from bourgeois normality, as Bob does to Laura Palmer in Twin Peaks. Having ‘In Dreams’ sung first by the eccentric and sinisterly camp drug dealer Ben (Dean Stockwell), his face lit unusually by the utility flashlight he uses as a microphone, was another masterstroke of decontextualisation. Ben, the ultimate façade and clearly quite absurd ‘host’, performs ‘In Dreams’ and releases the song from its traditional associations. Ben is a million miles closer to hell than most million-selling recording artists. The idea initially upset Orbison himself. This point in what has hitherto been a rather shocking film suddenly takes it into the magical territory of musicals. Ben is miming, and we are there in the intimacy of his bizarre audience of kinky thugs and obese sluts, privileged to be watching Frank react to the song (we saw him before, emotional but restricted by the more public setting of the nightclub where Dorothy sings ‘Blue Velvet’). ‘In Dreams’ really begins as a kind of lullaby in what one might imagine to be a child’s bedroom as “the Sandman tiptoes to my room every night”. Frank painfully engages with the lyrics, as we are given essential information about his messed-up mind and the childhood origins of that mess, a key pointer to the psychological motives behind the Dorothy Vallens crime he is committing. Further subverting any cultural fondness we nurture for ‘In Dreams’, Frank just calls the song “Candy Coloured Clown,” according to its opening line. Just as he calls Dorothy simply “Tits”, there is no formalising of identities for this guy. All the ways in which Lynch breaks the song away from its former cultural comfort zone exploit the essential mechanisms of surrealism. This unsettles our minds and unlocks the door to the unconscious, while it also provokes bourgeois normality and, through Frank’s fetishistic enthusiasm for the song, rescues Orbison’s work from the meaninglessness of the disposable pop market, placing it within the ceremonies of art – something Orbison was eventually able to appreciate. So much trouble from the use of one song, eh? And it works on yet another subconscious level, too, one that is crucial in David Lynch’s work. ‘In Dreams’ is not limited by a cyclical structure; just when most songs would come round from a chorus to a second verse, this soars and keeps climbing emotionally; a limitlessness that works perfectly as a recurrent theme in (the film) Blue Velvet and as a leitmotiv for the untameable Frank Booth. We don’t know how far Frank will go, how soon that flame will ignite and signal the roar of the beast, but we are excited by being moved around, prepared to accept any fairground ride Lynch offers us. He takes us up with so much of the music he uses, such as the Angelo Badalamenti/ Julee Cruise collaborations which punctuate Twin Peaks, creating a dreamy, floating sensation, something way above the ground, a place we can only get up to if we loosen the guy ropes on our understanding of ordinary reality; as Dorothy says when she is lifted into the ambulance at the end of her ordeal in Blue Velvet: “Help me, I’m falling.” Yes, he uses music to take us down, too, way down in the ground. 21


W-ear-d for Sound

Lynch is one of many sensible directors who claim that sound is fifty percent or more of a film but, unlike some filmmakers, he applies no hard and fast rules to the application of sound and music. Robert Bresson, the ascetic French director of Diary of Country Priest (1951) insisted on using only diegetic sound in film, i.e. no background music or noise that the film’s characters would not actually hear; nothing that is not part of the narrative space. Tarkovsky, the Russian director of atmospheric gems such as Ivan’s Childhood and Stalker, revelled in the use of sounds we can see, like dripping water, but did not use non-diegetic sound to create a separate narrative, establish a mood, juxtapose sound and image, or try to disorder our senses by creating dreamy moods for abstract reasons, as Lynch does. Lynch excels and delights in applying sound diegetically and nondiegetically, even subverting dialogue through distortion and reversal to make it mysterious to us as he did so famously in the Twin Peaks Red Room scenes, yet another effective technique to unsettle our imaginations. But don’t imagine that he sits down to apply film technique based on theory, assessing and balancing his tasks in an academic fashion. He just has a feeling about what will marry to the visual imagery and successfully generate the mood he is looking for. He has worked with Angelo Badalamenti on every movie since Blue Velvet, initially presenting this gifted musician with words to interpret until Badalamenti delivers

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the music that will exploit what the 20th century art dealer and historian Julien Levy called “the mechanism of inspiration”, a surrealist route to “intensifying experience”. Lynch, who is a proficient enough composer to create music and sound without help – in fact he is now making his own records – has an instinctive understanding of the process of sound perception in the brain, which is known as psychoacoustics. It is complex. The eye (like the camera) sees in the direction of our attention, but we are often not sure where a sound is coming from. In normal circumstances we are capable of hearing many sounds but choose to focus on only one or two, such as when we are walking in the street. Go walking with a birder, however, and perception becomes very different. Ornithologists hear a soundtrack the rest of us pay no attention to, but which is full of meaning for them. Birds and their songs, which feature much in Lynch’s films, provide constant urban and rural sound data that most of us are blissfully unaware of. And if our emotions are set on edge by what we are seeing or what is happening to us, we might not hear certain sounds at all, the gunshots of a firing squad, for example, in the midst of other more immediate dangers. Sound is subject to an exclusively mental process of selection. In Lost Highway (1997), for example, Fred Madison (Bill Pullman) is at a party; we hear groovy lounge music as loud as he does until he is shaken

Pierre Schaeffer, 01/07/1973, Ruszka Laszlo (photograph), Ina


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 “More than a musical. An ECSTATIC PHENOMENON”

 “A loud, brash, ENERGETIC SPECTACLE”

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W-ear-d for Sound

Image from L'Age d'Or: filmreference.com

by a very threatening meeting with Mystery Man (Robert Blake). The party music disappears and we are in silence. This sudden absence is quite unnatural but it would also be logical for Fred to blank out the party music if he were alarmed, instead concentrating on the sinister message Mystery Man is delivering in a curiously strong and low tone of voice at odds with his diminutive stature and clownish, flour-covered face. Excessive synchronism between visuals and sound can often seem less real. Here, Lynch wants us to hear Mystery Man’s sinister assertion that he is in two places at the same time. There is meaning in this. We too, are absorbed in dealing with all these unsettling contradictions. The party music is suddenly restored as Fred is left contemplating this disconcerting encounter and has to deal with other characters which trouble his mazy mind. Filmmakers have a special opportunity to control what we hear, as well as what we see, and through their use and editing of sound they effectively supplant our own selection process. There were no easy sound options available in the silent era before 1927 and the arrival of first ‘talkies’. When the change came, early sound film directors underused the added sensation of realism open to them by pompously and monotonously filming theatre plays. Spanish director Luis Buñuel, to whom David Lynch is often compared, responded with imagination when he was given the funding to deliver a surrealist sound film. This was the classic L’age D’or (1930) whose score combined improvised and random non-diegetic noises and sound 24

effects with music by Mozart, Mendelssohn, Beethoven, and Debussy. Buñuel even included, to dramatic and surrealistic effect, a recording of the intense Easter drums that played in the streets of Calanda, his birthplace. In his 1974 film The Phantom of Liberty, he would again use diverse sounds – bells, birdsong, clock ticks, thunder, police sirens, gun shots – to disturb our hold on reality and stir our subconscious. As experimental filmmaker and writer Breixo Viejo comments in his essay The Liberty of Imagination, “It is no coincidence that Buñuel’s personal library contained a copy of In Search of a Concrete Music by the composer Pierre Schaeffer, the creator of musique concrète, which involved manipulating, a posteriori, field recordings of ‘concrete’ noises through sound editing with the purpose of creating a complete musical piece.” Schaeffer, indeed, was a pioneer in the use of tape looping and electronic instruments, the kind of useful dabbler with whom David Lynch worked on many of his projects. With Alan Splet interpreting his ideas, Lynch constructed a score that would certainly prove to be fifty percent of the effect of Eraserhead, the 1977 movie that established Lynch as a kingpin of weirdness. No end of hissing, screaking, wowing, reverberating, and throbbing noises make up the soundtrack of this film but, importantly, they seem to be arranged with a rhythm, almost like a musical score, and one that mesmerises the listener and galvanises the effect of the nightmarish visuals. Associating ideas subconsciously, as in dreams, is a key to Lynch’s film experiences, and sound plays a huge role in this. Sometimes those effects work subtly upon us, as with the great wealth of romantic Badalamenti music in Twin Peaks, or the clever use of the police radios in the economic final scenes of Blue Velvet. However, when he needs to turn the heat up, Lynch can be unrelenting. Lost Highway features a constant sound barrage through room tone, subverted dialogue at key moments of passion or sexual fury, immense reverbs, searing sounds, savage free-jazz saxophone blended with ferocious wind noises, dogs barking, approaching avalanche rumble, speaker shake, all kinds of sonic resources to describe mental derangement, obsession, nausea, menace. The effort Lynch makes with sound is uncommon and very much part of the power his films have over us. Despite technology consistently enhancing the possibilities for sound in cinema, no commercially distributed director has made such constant and clever use of these options as he has. His careful attention to what we hear has given us so much more in terms of meaning and mood. We should keep in mind that severed ear at the start of Blue Velvet as a symbol of what is so often missing from our movie-watching experiences.


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It’s a Strange World — The Films of David Lynch

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Aimie Reeves on Blue Velvet (1986) I first saw Blue Velvet as a student at the Dalston Rio, which at that time was an appropriate setting for this film. I remember there being a lot of controversy around Blue Velvet but I had no idea what I was in for. The characters were so unlike anything else that I had seen. Dennis Hopper has said that ‘Frank’ was written for him, an alarming thought when you consider Frank at his most psychotic. Isabella Rossellini plays the beautiful ‘victim’ Dorothy while Laura Dern and Kyle MacLachlan excel as the ‘neat’ preppy American kids. Watching Blue Velvet confirmed my suspicions that certain things in my own life were not in fact normal or ordinary but strange and a little dark. For example, the windmills in my grandparents’ front garden that rotated constantly in sickening unison. The strangers I would pass in the street whose odd clothing and hairstyles freaked me out were reflected in Frank playing the ‘smartly dressed man’. Everything ordinary unravels under the scrutiny of Lynch’s lens, leaving you with the feeling that everyone in his world is weird as you question your own perception of normality. The film spurned several memorable lines (all from Frank, of course) that I use when the opportunity arises, like ‘let’s hit the fuckin’ road’, and ‘what’s your name, neighbour’, Lynch feeds humour through Frank’s stylised aggressive dialogue which allows us to watch him from behind a nervous snigger. The most disturbing part of Blue Velvet is the relationship between Frank and Dorothy. The ‘sex’ scene is constructed to make the viewer feel trapped and uncomfortable, emphasised by Jeffrey watching through a gap in the wardrobe, further twisted because it’s unclear at that point in the film if Dorothy is a victim or a participant. Frank makes your skin crawl

Issue 14 » Summer 2011

as he inhales from his mask and descends into drug psychosis in order to perform. The scene is repellent and arousing at the same time, Frank is abusing Dorothy and Jeffrey’s getting a thrill as he watches on. Shortly afterwards, Dorothy turns from victim to dominatrix and seduces Jeffrey before demanding “hit me, hit me, hit me” until he does. With no obvious hero or heroine we don’t have a clear line to identify with. Sweet, kind Jeffrey is as mentally caught between the angelic Sandy and troubled Dorothy, as Dorothy is physically caught between abusive Frank and her saviour Jeffrey. These conflicts collide when Sandy’s boyfriend Mike confronts Jeffrey at his house but backs off when he sees a naked, battered Dorothy standing on the lawn. Like everything else that’s happened, Jeffrey takes the situation in his stride but Mike and Sandy are out of their depth, not cut out for anything so hardcore. We never really know if Frank is simply an invention of Jeffrey’s imagination. Early on in the film Lynch makes a subtle nod to Hitchcock’s Norman Bates when Jeffrey is pictured in silhouette at the top of the stairs.  Then Sandy says to Jeffrey “I don’t know if you’re a detective or a pervert” just before he first ‘encounters’ Frank. Frank only appears when Jeffrey is present and during the ‘joy ride’ he turns to him and states “you’re like me.” Frank has plenty of opportunities to kill Jeffrey but he never does, which prompts you to ask if Frank is Jeffrey’s dark alter ego – a projection of the hidden deviant within his sugar-coated personality. In the final moments of Blue Velvet a solid red fire engine rolls through idyllic picket fence suburbia and the fireman waves from within. Bravery, trust and security – a mockery of course, as we remember the robin with a bug in its beak, struggling for freedom.

Blue Velvet ©1986 Studiocanal Image. All rights reserved

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It’s a Strange World – The Films of David Lynch

Glen Johnson on The Elephant Man (1980) Lynch’s first studio-backed movie, a biopic of the late 19th century’s most celebrated invalid, Joseph Carey Merrick, aka “The Elephant Man”, still stands as one of his finest, 30 odd years on. Shot amongst the soot-caked buildings and billowing chimneys of Merrick’s East End (he saw out his life at Whitechapel’s Royal London Hospital), the film deals with both the wretchedness and compassion we’re all too capable of and thus never fails to touch a nerve in anyone afflicted with a heart. Based on the memoirs of the saintly doctor Sir Frederick Treves, The Elephant Man charts Merrick’s life from pathetic freakshow exhibit (a victim of an incurable disfiguring illness, hence the “elephant”) to his salvation, his institutionalization (funded by readers of The Times, no less) and consequent, miraculous ascension to royal cause célèbre. So impressed had the film’s producer, Mel Brooks, been with Lynch’s previous movie, the fantastically unsettling Eraserhead, that he’d staked not only his own credibility but invested heavily in a director’s dream cast: John Hurt, Anthony Hopkins, Sir John Gielgud, Anne Bancroft... Hurt, buried beneath a mountain of prosthetics and makeup (made from actual casts of Merrick’s body) is superb as the tragic curiosity but it’s really Hopkins’ show, his Treves wracked by self-doubt as to whether he’s either helping or being just as exploitative as Merrick’s former employer, the showman Tom Norman. Shot in black and white, The Elephant Man is a film of industrial shadows, starched collars, gutters and bedpans – a world away from Lynch’s native Montana, which makes his rendition all the more laudable. There are grim parallels between the smoke-stacks, broken windows, hissing Victorian hospital outbuildings and the eerie, clunking underworld of Eraserhead, though this is arguably the last time Lynch inhabits the industrial nightmare. It’s all suburban white picket fences and cherry pie from here on in. The film’s closing scene, depicting Merrick’s preparations for what would be his eternal sleep, has been described as sentimental, set as it is to Samuel Barber’s doleful, cathartic Adagio For Strings. But it’s a cold heart that leaves the cinema feeling nothing for Merrick: accursed, outcast, incurable, though dignified throughout and truly appreciative of life. A critical and commercial success, The Elephant Man picked up 8 Academy Award nominations and deservedly launched Lynch onto a much bigger stage. On a personal note, I miss the postmodern surrealist horror of this earlier work. No-one does the nightmare half as well as Lynch; his often-perverse imagination for capturing the claustrophobia and revulsion of our deepest fears is inimitable. 28

Gemma de Cruz on Lost Highway (1997) If Twin Peaks is all about the ‘shadow self’ within its characters, then Lost Highway is surely the dark side of Twin Peaks, an ‘adults only’ version that doesn’t hint at sinister undercurrents: it is just dark. It may be devoid of the soapy humour that made Twin Peaks so accessible but it revisits the theme of the doppleganger in a stripped-back but similar way, specifically how the blonde Laura Palmer (who died) was supplanted by a brunette version Madeleine Ferguson played by the same actress, (Sheryl Lee). In Lost Highway, a brunette, Renée Madison, is murdered and then re-emerges as a blonde, Alice Wakefield (both played by Patricia Arquette). Fred, Renée’s husband, is sent down for her murder but, while in prison, morphs into Pete Dayton (Balthazar Getty), a mechanic. Pete is released and meets Alice at the garage where he works and begins an affair with her.   Superficially, Lost Highway is a classic film noir but there is a very loud echo of Hitchcock’s Vertigo in which Madeleine (Kim Novak) committed suicide and then ‘came back to life’. The thrill in Vertigo was in watching John Ferguson (James Stewart) virtually lose his mind over Madeleine’s death, only to be further mentally tortured when he thought she’d returned. Combine these characters’ names and what do you get – Madeleine Ferguson – probably a coincidence but interesting nonetheless. In Lost Highway, we don’t see how Fred reacts to his dead wife coming back to life because, when he meets her, he too has morphed into a different character. What we do see is a Vertigoesque two part/same girl story. This theme also reflects that of Krzysztof Kieslowski’s The Double Life of Veronique, in which the two Veroniques see each other at one point in the film, thus emphasising that they are two separate people, (rather than a Sliding Doors-type ‘what if?’ scenario), and likewise, in Lost Highway when Pete picks up a picture frame that shows Renée and Alice in the same photograph he points at her dark haired twin and asks her “is that you?” This idea of a dual presence is prevalent throughout Lost Highway and at its most disturbing during the encounter between Fred and Mystery Man. Mystery Man approaches Fred at a party and tells him he is at his home, confirmed when Fred calls his home number and Mystery Man answers (while still standing in front of him). In a way, this is the scene that sets the tone for the whole film. Is Fred experiencing an Othello-style madness, or is this ‘normal’ within the parameters of the whole story? Lost Highway doesn’t make any apologies or try to tie up any loose ends. It provides a beginning with a buzz on the intercom followed by an announcement that “Dick Laurent is dead” that is mirrored at the end of the film; we see that the person talking on the intercom is the same person who received the message at the start of the film; Fred Madison. Within this start – which is also the end – Lynch somehow plays out a doomed love story between Alice and Pete, overshadowed by a violent boyfriend Mr Eddy/Dick Laurent. In Lost Highway Lynch indulges the viewer in the idea of a parallel life, even the plot can be interpreted in multiple ways. It’s as if he doesn’t want conventional narrative or dialogue to sully the seduction of allowing you to be consumed in its fantasy. Lost Highway is visually beautiful. Each scene is rich in colour and composition but simultaneously awkward and loaded. Every minute you watch it messes with your expectations of what a ‘Hollywood’ film should be but at the same time pays homage to the very best of what a film can be.


Issue 14 » Summer 2011

Mulholland Drive ©2001 Studiocanal Image. All rights reserved

Craig Burnett on Mulholland Drive (2001) If I kept a diary, I might have written about the night I saw Mulholland Drive something like this: “Before I went to the cinema, I attended an opening at a well-known commercial art gallery. The show featured paintings and videos of women, in doubles: women silhouetted in pairs on pale, crusty canvases; women walking on the seaside, listless, never quite connecting with each other. I think there was a bucket motif. As I made my way to see the movie, I remember thinking how enervated the art was, how terrified the artist seemed to be, how unwilling to risk his wits. The show was dry and lifeless, the shed skin of a snake. Sitting in the cinema, any lingering sense of grievance became excitement as soon as the credits started to roll. This is more like it, I thought: what joy to be in a strange, uninhibited thicket of the imagination, where everything was irresolvable, yet made perfect sense. And when Naomi Watts said she was from Deep River, Ontario, I was laughing. Menace may be everywhere in the film, but it is everywhere leavened by wit: the espresso connoisseur mobster, the sinister cowboy, the way the director (Justin Theroux) was cuckolded by a pool boy played by Billy Ray Cyrus. The structure of the movie made it impossible to distinguish between artifice and accident, pathos and façade – indeed,

it made the distinction between these things dull and suspect, without sacrificing either. Keeping track of the narrative felt wrong and impossible, but it was irresistible not to follow. It was as if the movie was able to depict the same events taking place in parallel universes, or as if the fiction could only exist as a range of narratives that overlapped, visible only through the filter of a vast range of consciousnesses. Reality as the LA freeway system: networks intertwining, emptying, filling up, thronging with exits and entrances.” Another vivid memory was of walking out of the cinema convinced I understood everything perfectly, that an interpretation of the film’s structure and narrative, and its characters, had presented itself to me with forceful clarity, as if I had unlocked it by just enjoying it so much. (Although I remember being a bit hung up on that blue key. Did I object to it aesthetically – I mean, did I consider its presence Lynch’s only misstep? Was it too obvious or mysterious – or both? Or did the key trouble me because it seemed like it should have a more direct, allegorical meaning that I couldn’t figure out?) Of course, I was wrong – the movie invites all sorts of readings, but rewrites them with almost every viewing. Retrace your steps, and you soon get lost. And if I may make a slightly unfair comparison, one more memory. How is it possible, I wondered, for contemporary art – the display of objects or pictures or videos in a small gallery – to compete with Lynch’s multilayered brilliance? The fact is, very little of it can, still today. 29


It’s Strange World – The Films Collection of David Lynch RogeraBarrett / Courtesy of Brian Wernham

Peter Wix on Eraserhead (1977) A film that Stanley Kubrick once called his favourite is a promised land indeed for any self-respecting cineaste, yet Eraserhead has proved an obvious target for anyone who thinks cinema should neither deal in the abstract nor make interpretation difficult. Go with Stanley. Lynch called this his own Philadelphia Story, a surrealistic portrait of the city in which he chose to study art, offered to us as a slow, icky, claustrophobic grimescape in which a quiet but troubled man, Henry, slowly and solitarily manages the numbing rituals of a devitalised society and the stultified psyches of its all but dead souls. Through a hissing, squealing, and generally unnerving track of designed sound, we too are installed in the threatening and unbreathable atmosphere of Henry’s environment. We should all recognise the surroundings of our industrial heritage, despite the disquieting black-and-white the film was shot in, a kind of shock-of-the-old technique to reinforce the bleakness and decadence in Lynch’s perspective of the USA. Dirt, stagnation, morbid images that vex the squeamish and titilate the modern art lover, a film made despite considerable difficulties and, worth noting, before Tarkovsky’s similar vision in Stalker (1979), though in Eraserhead even God is a moribund pointsman. Peter Wix on DUNE (1984) Is this the one no one likes? Frank Herbert’s sci-fi novel of interplanetary dynastic doings had so much impressed both readers and literary critics of the genre that a film version of gargantuan proportions was expected and delivered. This meant a huge budget, an internationally known cast, and technical resources to guarantee the desired dimensions of superness. Distributors were deployed in force, and the financial risk was heightened by the appointment of young David Lynch to direct a project David Lean had turned down, and which Ridley Scott and Alejandro Jodorowsky had tried but failed to bring in. The result was a movie eventually released in several versions, none of which had Lynch’s seal of approval, and all of which have disappointed on too many levels. Generally regarded as inaccessible and tediously labyrinthine, it may find the more forgiving amongst us extracting some pleasure from the best moments of its ponderous visual splendour, certainly on a big screen, and from good casting of its uncomfortably numerous characters. As a rendering of the book saga it satisfied some fans; watching it may create an appetite for the books. But this is a project lost to Lynch and vice-versa. 30

Jamie Holman on The Straight Story (1999) I love The Straight Story despite not being a fan of David Lynch… The Straight Story is a road movie. Its core themes are about age and experience, and what is gained and what is lost along the way. It’s about hope. Visually it’s a film about the spaces between things, between people, between generations and between our place in the present and its beginnings in the past. The spaces that we no longer see because we move through the world at such increasing speed; the scenery blurs in a permanent smear across the windows we look through on the way to somewhere else. The Straight Story is a reminder of the spaces that exist when you pull off the road and walk into the fields, or just slow down and look. Here are the people who have fallen through the gaps between towns and cities, and back into the old America. The runaways, the never rans, the lost and lonely searchers who drift across the land by day, and sleep by campfires at night. It is absolutely an American story, and one that is as old as America itself. The drifter’s tale, the wagon train, the rise of the city and our divorce from nature. Beautifully shot, gloriously slow paced and totally at odds with the relentless speed of pace, narrative and language that characterises so much of American cinema. No guns, tits or “mutherfucking” dialogue in sight. It’s a simple joy. An old man goes to see his dying brother. Drinks his first beer in years. Meets people, reminds both them and us that there’s much to be said for kindness, friendship and adventures played on your own terms. Most of all it’s a celebration of age in a culture that increasingly values youth, beauty and the need to consume over anything else. Lynch silences the bellowing voices of Hollywood, commerce and consumerism with stunning performances by Richard Farnsworth in the central role, to the mighty leather bound, hand stitched face of Harry Dean Stanton as his estranged brother, told through the eye of cinematographer Freddie Francis, who was 77 when he filmed this at the request of Lynch himself. This is not a review, it’s a love letter. When film is this good, you don’t need backward dialogue, shifts in perception, cherry pie or any of that. Lynch here is good because it’s back to basics time. A good story, well told.


It’s a Strange World – The Films of David Lynch

Moby on Inland Empire (2006) David Lynch is a friend of mine. I think he’s one of the greatest living artists we have. How many twentieth century directors, or artists of any kind come to that, have last names which have become widely used adjectives? As time has passed, he’s let himself become even more personal, idiosyncratic and experimental – I find that really inspirational. I think Inland Empire is one of the best movies made in the last ten, if not 20, years. I saw it many times and I kept taking friends to see it, but most of them weren’t as convinced by it as I was. It’s nearly three hours long and not immediately logical… but I love it! I really admire everything David Lynch does, in fact, including the music he now makes. If he was making a movie and he asked me to show up and clean the coffee mugs, I would happily do that… Moby’s album and photography book – both called Dest royed – are out now.

Greg Jackson on Wild at Heart (1990) It seems only natural that a movie heroine who finds herself broken down on the Yellow Brick Road should try to make things better by clicking her heels together, as does the love struck Lula (Laura Dern) in Wild at Heart. This being a road movie, calling the AA really isn’t an option, and as every self-respecting Dorothy wannabe knows, there’s no place like home, even if in this case small town Kansas has been substituted by Cape Fear, North Carolina. No place like home, that is, unless your own mother turns out to be the Wicked Witch. You have to feel at least a twinge of sympathy for Lula, given the bum cards David Lynch has dealt her. Not only is her romance with Sailor Ripley (Nicholas Cage) twice interrupted during the film by the latter’s lengthy stretches behind bars, but her mother, Marietta Fortune (Diane Ladd), has also hired underworld crime boss Marcelles Santos (J.E. Freeman) to hunt down the young lovers. The references 32

David Lynch on the set of Inland Empire in 2005. Photo © Michael Roberts

to The Wizard of Oz that pepper the script of Wild at Heart might allude to fairytale aspirations, but it becomes clear pretty fast that over the rainbow we ain’t… After Lula tries the old ruby slipper trick, all she gets is the unwelcome attentions of the psychopathic Bobby Peru (Willem Dafoe) who, with his US Marine Corps tattoo and lamentable dental record, represents a dark twin to Cage’s comparatively socialized Sailor. A happy ending in this re-imagined Oz looks extremely unlikely. For the viewer, though, Wild at Heart is pure joy – a film where the visuals and soundtrack overlap to great effect; the uneasy marriage of doo-wop and thrash metal works perfectly to highlight the different sides of the Lula/Sailor relationship. Cage’s character alternates tirelessly between crooning and fucking, and at times it feels as if we are being asked to watch the romance between the starcrossed lovers play out in the language of porn. At the end of the Yellow Brick Road there’s a somewhat uneasy reconciliation, as Sailor hangs up his snakeskin jacket for good and gets back into the car, which bizarrely ends up looking like some symbol of domestic stability. Jeez, and there you were expecting a Bonnie and Clyde-style bloodbath to round things off predictably. Again it’s the soundtrack, in this case the haunting strains of the Richard Strauss lieder ‘Im Abendrot’, that pulls it all together, with the clear implication that these two wild things have hung up their boots and are done roaming. It’s an unsettling journey, but the resulting movie, not to mention the performances conjured from Dern and Cage, is never less than incendiary.


Heather Graham and Kyle MacLachlan on the set of Twin Peaks Photo Š Richard Beymer

Welcome to Twin Peaks

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Issue 14 » Summer 2011

When Twin Peaks appeared on UK television in 1990, the critical reaction was unequivocal and unprecedented. Art-house buffs and casual viewers alike were in agreement: this was seriously great. Dave Watkins explains what made Twin Peaks a killer serial. Co-created by David Lynch and Mark Frost, writer for the immensely popular Hill Street Blues, and scored by Angelo Badalamenti, Twin Peaks was a bona fide cultural event. Its plot and characters, its tone – intensely homely and deeply sinister in equal measure – became the stuff of everyday conversation. A TV drama whose MacGuffin was the sexual killing of a cocaine-addicted high-school beauty queen cum prostitute by a supernatural entity called Bob enjoyed, for a brief, odd moment at the beginning of the nineties, the kind of popularity that we’d now associate with Dancing on Ice or MasterChef. People held Twin Peaks-themed parties. As a high watermark in popular entertainment, Twin Peaks remains unsurpassed. Its strange richness was completely absorbing – as though the contrast had been turned up on your TV, leaving other programmes seeming flat by comparison. For such an experimental series to take the hold that it did, it required a very particular, receptive time. Funny things were happening in 1990. Ecstasy had leached into the mainstream, and with it the clubby stylings epitomised by Madonna’s ‘Vogue’: part fifties iconography, part chrome-gleamed erotica. And from the other end of the spectrum, the Pixies were offering up their take on surf rock, suffused with Roswell-inflected paranoia. If the eighties had been a love affair with the new, 1990 sought reassurances in an aesthetic that was firmly post-war American. And so with Twin Peaks: the Double R diner, cherry pie and black coffee; Mike and Bobby, who could have stepped out of an episode of Happy Days; Agent Cooper, dictating his reports to Diane like a pre-feminist captain of industry; the lachrymose James Hurley, perpetually zooming off on his Harley in a love-struck sulk. It is a world steeped in 1950s imagery, taking

them to their distorted extremes. Agent Cooper is so excessively wholesome he carries an other-worldly air, his appearance pallid and plastic. Bobby and Mike aren’t just stereotypical teenagers misbehaving – they’re violent coke dealers. As series one progressed, the question of who killed Laura Palmer gave way to the spectacle of a community revealing itself and its interconnectedness. There was a straightforward soap opera at the heart of Twin Peaks – Invitation to Love, the play within a play whose themes often reflected the more complex dramas unfolding around them. But Twin Peaks itself just got weirder and weirder. By the second series, ABC had had enough and put the pressure on to reveal the murderer, resulting in declining viewing figures and compromised storylines. And in truth, the second series does tail off. But by then, what magic had been created. There is a scene in the first series where Leland Palmer is attending his daughter’s funeral. He is demolished by grief, and it’s pretty hard viewing. In a moment of anguish he throws himself on top of the casket as it descends to the bottom of the grave. The motor lowering the casket malfunctions – it rises and falls, rises and falls, with Leland lying distraught on top. It is awful. And it is hilarious. And were this the end of that scene, it would be a brilliant piece of emotional manipulation. But instead we cut to the Double R, where Shelley Johnson is replaying the event by raising and lowering a condiment box behind the counter, much to the amusement of two locals . . . along with every other viewer. That such brilliant – and deeply bizarre – screenplay could achieve prime-time status seems utterly implausible now. I wonder if it will again. 35


‘As Laura Palmer’, Sarah Baker in collaboration with Emily McMehen & Jen Fechter


Mad Men, a Lionsgate production Image credit: AMCTV.com

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Issue 14 » Summer 2011

In Twin Peaks, David Lynch effectively created a TV series that was a continuation of Blue Velvet. Jeffrey Beaumont the D.I.Y detective becomes Dale Cooper the FBI agent on a mission to solve the mystery of Laura Palmer’s murder. Likewise, Twin Peaks shares the same veneer of idyllic small town America as Lynch exposes its dark underbelly. Original adverts for the series warned, if you miss it tonight, you won’t know what everyone’s talking about tomorrow. These were the days before Sky+ and iPlayer, so if you didn’t own a VHS recorder you were screwed. Nowadays, people often skip the TV broadcast altogether and go straight to the box set. Mad Men's marketing line is are you addicted yet? W hy wait until next week when you can binge watch in a single sitting?

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Box Clever

Ray Wise as Leland Palmer Photo © Richard Beymer

The world is full of box sets from Lost to Downton Abbey, Mad Men to Dr Who. The level of ambition, writing and quality is consistently increasing to the point where these shows can outrank the films they are inspired by. But what makes the box set so desirable and so addictive, and how has this relatively new ‘genre’ fed back into visual culture? Here, Cedar Lewisohn gathers a group of artists and musicians together to share their thoughts. Cedar Lewisohn How do we define a box set – what is, and what isn’t? Paul Purgas If we were going to isolate a starting term for the DVD box set I guess it would be the repackaging of the TV series into a digital form that offered a flexible and potentially non-linear viewing experience. You could look at 1999 as a defining point, specifically The West Wing and The Sopranos. Sarah Baker You could get a box set in a VHS format before DVDs. David Watkins There is something about it being a marketing decision. In the ’80s script writers wouldn’t have been thinking “let’s create a series that’s going to get its money back 40

as a DVD box set”. Now, absolutely, at the commissioning stage that’s precisely where they think the money’s coming from. SB Distributors didn’t think it was going to be popular to buy and own a TV series; it was actually unusual to rent or own a TV series in the ’80s. They were recorded at home on the VHS tape recorder. PP There’s a difference in the cultural mindset around the DVD box set and the VHS box set. I don’t remember during the VHS era there being such a tailoring for that medium and that audience. I think the compacting of the DVD did create that. CL It’s an interesting idea that the format has influenced the genre. What do you think made Twin Peaks so good and why has it had such an important legacy on the box set phenomenon? DW I think the scene where Leland Palmer breaks down in the prison cell explains an awful lot. It’s a reveal on Lynch’s whole technique. Whenever you have one thing you have to have it’s complete polar opposite. So in the Leland character you have the loving father plus the murderer in the same package. In the same

way as you have Laura Palmer the blonde dead girl and her cousin the brunette played by the same actress. You have the giant and the dwarf and so on. The best part about that scene is it’s incredibly moving, It’s really harrowing watching someone have an extended breakdown for three minutes on screen. PP I remember watching Twin Peaks when I was young and finding it profoundly otherworldly, yet the styling and formalisms kept it within a comprehensible genre construct. SB It’s been about ten years since I saw Twin Peaks and I didn’t remember who killed Laura Palmer. When you’re watching it, you’re always wanting to find out who killed her, but actually once you know it doesn’t matter at all. Nowadays a lot of TV series use that trope of you needing to know the answer or wanting to find out what happens, and that desire compels you to watch the next episode. That’s why Battlestar Galactica ultimately failed, because the story ran on for so long that eventually you didn’t care. CL The music was very potent in that scene. DW The swirling strings by Angelo Badalamenti inject a bit of comedy, it never lets


it fall into one thing or another. The music is a very good way of guiding the audience reaction. When it was getting melodramatic it became more epic and what you’d imagine a classic melodramatic soundtrack would be. Yet leading into that you get quite repetitious, but sinister, modulations. PP It’s a very synthesized epic orchestration that almost mimics the material aesthetic of Lynch’s world. It sits between artificial and acoustic and at times moves between the two. SB It’s actually sticky sweet, with undertones of something sinister. CL Is the whole appeal of DVD box sets a nostalgia trip? You’ve got a series like Mad Men which is set in the ’60s and its appeal is that it creates a nostalgia for a fictional reality. Are box sets generally just tapping into peoples desire to relive the past through TV shows? PP There was a tipping point when people wanted to immerse themselves in certain TV shows as an opportunity to reflect upon a moment in time. DW I do think there’s a line between something that is suitable for it and something that is engineered for it. So whereas Twin Peaks was suitable for it, Lost was made for it. SB It’s interesting to look back and see that certain shows were precursors; Dynasty was the birth of a lot of important things, like how women were portrayed. The first series of Dynasty was only about the oil industry but the ratings weren’t competing with other shows like Dallas so, at the end of the first series, they brought in Joan Collins and got the writers to do a more dramatic script around her character, and in the second series the ratings went way up. They realised the oil industry dramas at the rig weren’t enough to keep the viewer’s attention. The basic musical composition of Dynasty stayed the same throughout its nine years. There’s something about it that says affluence and optimism, and something terrifying at the same time. DW The title sequence sets each character up as a type and what differs with Lynch is that he’ll take that type and subvert it, and for mainstream consumption that was quite a radical thing to do. CL Box sets are often quoting from literature or being compared to literature, but what is the impact of box sets on literary and visual culture? PP I think the concept of the DVD box set

has had some influence on visual art but simultaneously there’s a question about technology and media that is still waiting to be addressed. For example I haven’t seen any work that critiques that process of engagement that the DVD box set provides.

Issue 14 » Summer 2011

SB What about Doug Fishbone’s Elmina? The film was commissioned by a few collectors who acted as executive producers, and own the exclusive edition. Also, now anyone can buy the DVD from the gallery for like £30. What they’re really looking forward to is when the DVD ends up on Brick Lane market for a fiver. So it’s playing with the idea of the artist’s DVD edition and exclusivity. CL Likewise, Nick Payne and Ollie Ralph took all their films and pirated them. So you could buy the original for how ever many thousand or buy a fake version for £10. PP Though these were more examples of engaging with production and process of film and isolated DVDs rather than specifically box sets. Within art there is a situation where digital media is being used on quite a large scale and on the flip side you’ve got the return or revision of analogue media. But the DVD itself is almost too current for us to reflect upon. SB Are you talking about an artist releasing a DVD box set? PP That would be a literal embodiment of what I’m talking about. It’s more that artists seem to enjoy playing with media when they’ve slipped past the threshold of the current and into the outmoded. CL Artists love redundant media. VHS, vinyl or 16mm film. Writers don’t seem to care so much, or do they? DW Because until very recently the format was a constant, it was a book. Now ebooks have arrived, there are more possibilities. CL The shows we’re talking about are primarily American, do they offer a portrait of modern America? SB In Sex and the City you’ve got Carrie Bradshaw living in a big apartment dropping $600 on Louboutins or Jimmy Choos. No. It’s inaccurate; the budget for her wardrobe is totally unrealistic. DW I think Ally McBeal and Sex and the City are one and the same. They’re unashamedly playful, they present aspirational lifestyles but they’re uncomplicated. I think if you want to make a

distinction between UK and American shows and ask if an Ally McBeal type of programme would come out of the UK then probably not. That’s not to say the vast majority of viewers in the UK don’t enjoy such programmes. We might be slightly embarrassed about it, but there’s nothing wrong with a bit of Friday night glass of wine, pizza and Sex and the City. CL The idea of psychoanalysis is quite a big aspect of these shows that also seems to be a very American part of them. DW It’s a way of revealing the interior life of the character without having to get the character to do the work. You can have the character on the couch explaining something very quickly and directly then you can go back to blowing $600 on a pair of shoes. SB The Carrie Bradshaw character has a column that analyses her relationship with sex as a thirtysomething woman. DW She does it in such a glib way there’s never any depth to her analysis she trots out a bunch of platitudes but that’s part of the escapism – there’s never any jagged edges; everything is wrapped up in each episode. 41


Box Clever

CL What about literary examples of 24, surely people have written in real time.

CL What is it about those characters that makes us all unanimous that we loved it?

DW The closest I can think of is a novel by Gordon Burn called Born Yesterday (2008) about the McCanns and Blair. He wrote it in about 3 weeks, then it got published while the content was still current.

DW It’s looking at gangsters in a new way, because you’ve got that psychoanalytic insight.

CL The Sopranos was definitely important in defining this genre.

DW Its saying a lot about the early 21st century, what’s going on with the economy, greed, the media.

CL Even though Deadwood is a period drama, is it a portrait of the contemporary world?

SB It was basically Scarface drawn out over 8 years. CL But maybe more knowing and humourous than Scarface; the characters are parodies aren’t they? CL We’ve gone from the glory, happy years of Ally McBeal and Sex and the City to The West Wing and I’m interested in how these shows change post 9/11. One of the weird things about 9/11 in relation to Friends (and Sex and the City) is that the Twin Towers are in the title sequence. So the meaning of the shows has been altered by events which took place after they were made. PP It actually seems like where they’re working [in The West Wing] is slightly irrelevant. DW It was lauded for being a more naturalistic depiction of what it would be like in the White House. If you look at it from the angle of The Thick of It obviously that’s not how the White House functions. PP The Thick of It couldn’t have existed without The West Wing... DW The Thick of It couldn’t have existed without Yes Minister. It’s a different take on it, it’s not a criticism of US depictions of leadership. But what it does say is they want their leaders to be heroes. I wonder if that has changed, in that the willingness to be reassured prior to 9/11 is there. But after 9/11 there is more nervousness and that invites a different kind of programme like The Sopranos.

DW They are, but you’ve got that device of being in the psychoanalyst’s chair again. The way they do it in The Sopranos is really smart much like a Shakespearean soliloquy; the main character explains what his motivation is and then you’re back to the action, so as the audience you’re privileged with an insight into what’s informing those actions. PP In Scarface you get to live it and that’s what the DVD box sets are brilliant at. It’s taking people’s favourite genres and letting them live them. CL Is there a point where the box set is better than the film? Maybe The Sopranos is the turning point where the box set overtakes the movie and something really new is happening? SB In a film, the director is really important but in a TV show you can have a series like Columbo where Stephen Spielberg directed a couple of episodes, as did Peter Falk himself, but they all come out similarly.

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PP Deadwood is essentially the story of the birth of capitalism, the birth of the media. You have a lawless state then money emerges and money affects that society and how it builds itself up. It feels like the story of America. For example, it reflects upon ideas of celebrity culture, like Wild Bill Hitchcock is a proto-celebrity. DW In terms of it being an investigation of America and how its specific brand of capitalism works, it’s the money that is the power in Deadwood. There’s an attempt to control it but it’s out of control and it’s the illegality – the prostitution and liquor – that’s winning out, rather than the Sherriff. SB The get rich quick culture that develops – that’s the birth of the American Dream. In Deadwood they don’t actually focus much on prospecting itself. Maybe they learned the Dynasty lesson that to keep ratings high you need to push the mining story into the backdrop and focus on character dramas. CL From The Sopranos to Deadwood, what struck me is the photography and mood seem to change, they seem to spend a lot more time concentrating on the tone, the colour of Deadwood is very grey and The Sopranos is very starkly lit. Deadwood is very painterly, I would say.

CL Before Obama was on the scene there was a black president in 24 which generated a bit of a conspiracy that there was going to be a black president and it did come to pass, bizarrely. Are these shows introducing the ideas before they happen to guage how the public will respond? SB It is possible that because of 24, Obama ended up winning the election in the end… I think these TV series are very influential.

SB I think what’s fascinating about this premise is that the pioneers’ boom towns were lawless. The saloon owner was the one who decided all the politics, he was king because he had the money, and he had the money because the prospecters spent what they had at the saloon. People who made money in a boom town were the people who were providing the entertainment and tools for the miners.

PP The set ups definitely feel like they would have taken longer than The West Wing where it’s just floodlit.

© Faber


Box Clever

CL All of the box sets we’ve discussed so far have had predominately white casts. There’s the occasional minority but what I think is so interesting in The Wire is that it is largely a black drama. One thing that was so clever about The Wire was that it had an Upstairs, Downstairs element to it, from the low level crack heads to the politicians. DW The strata of the society are all meant to reflect each other so the behavior in town hall is mimicked on street level and vice versa. CL Why was The Wire such a success? SB It was exposing drive-by shooting, gangster gun crime. It goes beyond the fantasy of gangsters in Scarface because it actually seems to be depicting reality to a certain degree. Plus, the script in The Wire is amazing. DW It’s quite an intense scrutiny of what’s going on. I think it’s quite faithful to the ugliness of what it’s like to live in that environment. CL Do you think it’s true that they are all anti heroes in The Wire? SB Omar is a hero... CL The guy's a drug dealer and a murderer! DW I think Omar is a hero.

SB In those circumstances what can you do? PP Does Leicester Freeman come out a hero? CL He’s a pretty good guy. But flawed. DW Bubbles is a comic hero. CL If you had to equate The Wire to a Shakespeare play – is there one? DW More often it gets compared to Homer, in terms of having lots of episodes, little stories, and one big overarching story. SB I’m interested in what you were saying about the black and white audience – that suddenly the white audiences were glued to the TV. CL The Wire had the same sense of ghetto narrative as hip hop music, you hear about the gangsters and the hoes and it becomes like theatre. Why is it that British TV can’t produce something like this? We’ve got our period dramas but I can’t see a Wire coming out of the UK anytime soon. PP Commercially we seem preoccupied by series like Doctor Who. Sherlock Holmes was basically just Doctor Who. SB In terms of reality TV the UK is further advanced than the US. For example X Factor and Dragons’ Den. CL But in British dramas there doesn’t seem to be the same complexity, is it the same in British novels and writing?

Doctor Who Series 6 Part 1 is available on BBC DVD from 11th July 2011

DW There’s an idea of the American novel being a large expansive thing that reflects the American landscape and the scope of America – as so much bigger, with bigger concerns and preoccupations. Whether that’s true or not, I don’t know. But what would define Britishness about literature I think would be comedy and self deprecation. We’re great at humour but not so great at the epic. SB You recently had Downton Abbey, which I don't think was as good as Brideshead Revisisted. But they both represent a quintessential Britishness, a romanticism that British people probably aren’t that interested in. PP Simon Reynolds wrote a piece on Midsomer Murders and the Richard Curtis films discussing the premise that these shows are constructed in order to sell to an American audience for a quintessential vision of Britishness. That’s why no black people appear on them. SB Midsomer Murders was the one that was hugely criticized for having no black people in it and the producer responded that he was trying to represent an accurate vision of quintessential Britishness. And someone went back and said “so there’s a murder in the British countryside every week?” Cedar Lewisohn is a writer, curator and artist based in London Dave Watkins is an editor, musician and writer from London Sarah Baker is an artist based in London

The Wire, Friends and Sex and the City images courtesy of HMV. A wide range of DVD and Blu-ray box sets are available in HMV stores nationwide.

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Paul Purgas is an artist based in London


THE THREADNEEDLE PRIZE FOR PA I N T I N G & SCULPTURE 2011 22 September – 8 October 2011 Admission free

Mall Galleries, The Mall, London SW1 Near Trafalgar Square

10am – 5pm daily (including weekends) info@mallgalleries.com 020 7930 6844 Closes 1pm on Wednesday 5 October ww.threadneedleprize.com

G002_ad_saatchi_AW1.indd 1

Artwork: Timothy Sandys, 2010 Exhibitor

Midsummer2011_Saatchi.indd 1 03/06/2011 12:46

1/5/11 13:03:55

IRONBRIDGE OPEN AIR MUSEUM OF STEEL SCULPTURE

Cherry Tree Hill, Coalbrookdale, Telford, Shropshire, TF8 7EF Tel: 01952 433152 www.go2.co.uk/steelsculpture

A collection of 79 sculptures set in 10 acres of exceptional Shropshire landscape. Open: 10:00 to 17:00 from March to November Closed Mondays except for Bank Holidays Adults: £3 Concessions: £2 The Museum is hosting a special Autumn Event in support of the Foundation for Iron & Steel Sculpture. Email: pam.brown@virgin.net for information


lost & found

Steve McRae in ‘Rhapsody’ Photo courtesy Royal Opera House © Tristram Kenton

Rhapsody/ Sensorium/ ‘Still Life’

Royal Opera House, At the Penguin Cafe – The Royal Ballet,

Taking my seat within the grand surroundings of the Royal Opera House, I was struck by the peculiar Englishness of the atmosphere and the aptness of the eccentric triple bill on offer. From the camp extravagance of ‘Rhapsody’ and ‘Sensorium’s’ restrained sensuality, to the downtrodden humour of ‘‘Still Life’ at the Penguin Cafe’, this programme of Royal Ballet favourites proved to be a successful, if disparate, collection. Set to Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Frederick Ashton’s ‘Rhapsody’ provides a suitably flamboyant opening.  The virtuosity of the piece is instilled from the outset with breathtaking work from soloist Steven McCrae accompanied initially by six female supporting dancers, later by the six males. Each variation is choreographed perfectly to fit the orchestration; from the shimmering strings of ‘Variation 11’ announcing the arrival of soloist Alina Cojocaru, who gracefully makes the stage her own, to the serenely romantic ‘Variation 18’ accompanying a stunning duet.  From ‘Variation 19’ onwards the ensemble is constantly changing, with Cojocaru and McRae flitting between solos until the final virtuosic duet. ‘Sensorium’ is Alasdair Marriott’s setting of a selection of Debussy piano preludes, orchestrated by Colin Matthews. Mechanical, angular figures contrast with fluid, sensual motions within a minimalist background to create a sparse, futuristic vision; simultaneously contrasting and complementing the fluidity of the compositions. The four principal dancers perform intricate pieces, weaving amongst each other to form a single being. The work is imaginatively orchestrated, at times unsettling, at others drifting through the ether. Only two preludes remain untouched by the orchestration; performed on solo piano, their intimacy is reflected by reserving these pieces for duets.   Incorporating a selection of Penguin Cafe Orchestra founder Simon Jeffes’ works, ‘‘Still Life’ at The Penguin Cafe’ provides a moving finale, consisting of several relatively 46

March 16

short dances portraying an endangered world. Following a short introductory dance by the Great Auk, the inherent decadence of the opening ballroom sequence, accompanied by the lilting refrain of PCO favourite ‘Air a Danser’ sets the scene – humanity indifferent to the plight of the outside world. David Bintley’s choreography maintains a human element while depicting characters – from the agitated, long-distance runner movements of the Texan Kangaroo Rat’s ‘Horns of a Bull’ to the vanity of Edward Watson’s Southern Cape Zebra, juxtaposed against the self-involved clothes horse fashion models who don’t even flinch when a bullet cracks across the mesmeric minimalism of ‘White Mischief’. The spellbinding finale begins with the frantic display of ‘Music By Numbers’, featuring the evening’s second appearance of Steven McRae as a Brazilian Woolly Monkey. The whole cast joins in a carefree gathering until the frivolity comes to an abrupt end and flood rains begin to pour; the dancers removing their masks to reveal their true, fearful selves. The piece ‘Numbers 1-4’ is the cue for numerous short solos as the cast flees the unrelenting downpour until an ark containing the characters is revealed; there is hope… Katie English


BRILLIANT

COLOUR THAT STAYS

BRILLIANT

“I can achieve even greater subtleties & levels of depth in my paintings now.” NICK MALONE

www.winsornewton.com


lost & found

Bound, All Visual Arts 1 - 30 April

All Visual Arts’ cavernous new Kings Cross space recently played host to two works by different artists, brought together to create a happy yet unsettling dialogue. Alice Anderson’s Fort-Da comprises a towering wooden bobbin wrapped in fist-sized ropes of gleaming red hair, one of which escapes the coil and dangles in the air draped from a ceiling strut. Kate MccGwire’s work Corvid writhes on the floor, a mass of crow feathers tessellated over a smooth muscular body. Formally the conversation revolves around tangles, curves and abstracted bodily parts. Emotionally these works hum with symbolisms and associations, stirring up discomfort as powerful embodiments of compulsion and repetition. 48

Both artists are renowned for their repeated, almost obsessive, use of one material. For MccGwire it’s feathers of every shape, colour and size. She uses these to cover the surface of her sculpted forms which typically leap or pour from fireplaces and corners of rooms or are contained, paralysed, in glass vitrines. Her work is instinctive in its play on bodily creases or crevasses, abstracting these to both attract and repulse the viewer. Corvid is a vast version of this. Its intricate and infinite twists and turns are a perfect combination of the poetic and panic-inducing. Her use of crow feathers, a bird associated in folklore with thievery, renders the work a manifestation of a dark state of mind straight out of Dostoyevsky. Alice Anderson’s work is intensely autobiographical and her sculptures repeatedly feature red doll’s hair of a shade identical to her own. With this she threads spider webs, models fetishistic dolls, festoons rooms and wraps buildings. Fort-Da has evolved from the story of Freud’s grandson who would play a game with a wooden reel which he would throw over the wall of his cot and pull back in using a still attached thread. In Freud’s view this was a game to allay the anxiety of the absent mother. Anderson played a similar game as a child, and in this version the compulsively wound hair is a way of facing the angst she felt at her own mother’s absence. Anderson was shuttled between parents living separately in France and Algeria. Both works seem to feed into feminine tropes such as sewing and weaving. These ‘hobbyist’ pursuits, handed down through generations of women, and practiced repetitively, were adopted into psychoanalytic theory by Freud into which Anderson inserts her own story or selfhood. For MccGwire they act as a departure point for distributing formal abstractions which touch on ideas of the ‘uncanny’. Both works are about transformation. For Anderson the transformation is of the body into symbol. McGwire touches on the ancient fascination with winged humans standing between animal and man, and the contemporary discovery of the chemical keratin which links hair to feather. This is an imaginatively curated exhibition, in which two artists, both alike in spirit, have been brought together to realise large scale works in tandem. Whilst they may not be speaking entirely the same language, the riff and play of allusions, textures and formal qualities is an aesthetically interesting experience. I look forward to the evolution of their work, especially as these two pieces feel like they may stand at the pinnacle of each artist’s current practice. Natasha Hoare


lost & found

Laurie Anderson, Trisha Brown, Gordon Matta-Clark Pioneers of the Downtown Scene, New York 1970s 3 March - 22 May 2011 Barbican Art Gallery

Trisha Brown, ‘Roof Piece’ (1973) Peformed at 420 West Broadway to 35 White Street, New York Photograph: Babette Mangolte

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A woman is standing on a flat roof; she is wearing a red top and trousers and is performing a series of choreographed movements against a grey vista of fire escapes and water towers. On the roof of the building, directly behind her, is another dancer who is mimicking her moves; and another dancer standing on a roof further back, again following the movement of the person in front of them – it’s like dance dominoes. This film documents a performance called ‘Roof Piece’ (1973) by Trisha Brown and is part of Laurie Anderson, Trisha Brown, Gordon Matta-Clark: Pioneers of the Downtown Scene, New York 1970. ‘Roof Piece’ is just one example of how these three artists’ practice overlapped as each of them used downtown New York City as both canvas, source material and exhibition space. In ‘Fully Automated Nikon’ (1973), Anderson shows how art can be political, feminist yet provocatively comic. Every time a man would cat call her on the street she would photograph them and note their reaction. For her, taking their photograph was a direct counter attack, a ‘fuck you

too’. This is so ordinary yet so out of the ordinary: the objectification of women on the streets is commonplace but in this work it’s reflected back by a woman and now exposed in the gallery. It draws a smile to see the surprised expressions on the faces of these men who were clearly so used to getting no reaction at all. Alongside Anderson’s photography are a number of her sound sculptures, including ‘Talking Pillow’ (1977), which invites viewers to rest their heads and listen to her ‘dream like’ singing and stories. Also on show are remnants of the buildings that were either assembled or ‘cut out’ by Matta-Clark. In his most famous work ‘Splitting’ (1974), he took a saw to a derelict house and literally sliced it down the middle. It makes Rachel Whiteread’s East End terrace cast seem modest by comparison. The majority of photographs here feel like ‘records’ rather than ‘art’ but in documenting these performances, experiments and events they build a strong sense of how raw and exciting this ‘scene’ must have been. The clumsy graphics, grainy films and lo-fi photography seems so ‘undesigned’ they feel bare and cold. The richness lies in the motivation that informs them. The gallery also reconstructs a number of Brown’s performances throughout the day, 1971’s ‘Walking on the Wall’ being the most popular. Here the slick presentation of the performance feels out of synch with the rest of the show as it’s really just about the choreography. But every work here demonstrates how radical this period was and what a vast area the wider ‘downtown’ creative community covered as it evolved. Ultimately, the message this show leaves you with is as old as art school itself: that all you need to make great work is a sketchbook, a camera and an idea. Gemma de Cruz


Sticky Fingers The Lost Session A selling exhibition of rare and unseen limited edition photographs by Peter Webb

16 July to 3 September 2011 Snap Galleries 8 Piccadilly Arcade London SW1Y 6NH

t : 0207 493 1152 w: www.snapgalleries.com e: info@snapgalleries.com

Catalogue available


Photo © Mark Allan

Over one weekend in May 2011, the Barbican presented a celebration of the work and influence of Steve Reich, bringing together a formidable array of artists to perform both Reich’s work and their own. Reverberations: The Influence of Steve Reich Session 3, The Barbican, 7th May 2011 We’ve been warned by the organisers not to let the programme tonight – which is scheduled to run for over five hours – turn into a gruelling minimalist marathon, but pretty much everything on offer looks unmissable. Session 3 kicks off with three pieces performed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra, conducted by André de Ridder. Steve Reich’s Variations for Winds Strings and Keyboards is a sparkling, swirling cascade of repeating melodies and rhythms, utterly mesmerising in the very best Reichian tradition. Following this is Anna Clynde’s kinetic, choppy Rewind and Michael Gordon’s Rewriting Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony – a piece that, with its heavy use of atonal drone, is to my ears more interesting than pleasing. But then, I’ve never claimed to be any good at classical music. Former Battles frontman Tyondai Braxton is up next, complete with orchestral and kazoo backing, with excerpts from Central Market. 52

His angular, experimental fusion of alt-rock and modern classical doesn’t make for easy listening – alas, it’s too difficult for us so we take the advice of the organisers and head to the bar for a break. The renowned Kronos Quartet perform five pieces, including the European premiere of Steve Reich’s WTC 9/11. This is, as you would expect, a deeply moving piece – even more so given the New York origins of both Reich and some of the performers who have come here tonight to honour him. The fifteen-minute piece, featuring cut-up recordings of phone conversations and interviews interwoven among both live and recorded strings, is over in the blink of an eye. Another highlight is Bryce Dessner’s Aheym (translated as Homeland), a haunting tribute to Dessner’s grandmother. The Kronos quartet take up a fraction of the space occupied by the previous artists, with about one-fiftieth of the equipment, but are by far the most compelling performers tonight – almost a gestalt entity, so tight and intenselyfocused is their playing.

Dan Deacon/So Percussion dazzle with Ghostbuster Cook: The Origin of the Riddler, a piece that starts out as a tuneful curiosity (look! chimes made out of pop-bottles!) and ends up (via some frenetic conga action and an interlude where all the liquid is released, hissing and dripping, from those pop-bottles) with a gorgeous display of shimmering marimba work. By this time the programme is running one and a half hours late. Eyelids are drooping somewhat as teams of black-clad stagehands struggle to assemble the necessary equipment on stage, and the last tube is threatening to leave A&M’s Zone 4-dwelling correspondents stranded in the City. Reluctantly, we leave before Lee Ranaldo and Bang On A Can take the stage – which is a shame, because we’d been particularly looking forward to the finale. Perhaps it was for the best, though, as five-anda-half hours of albeit excellent performances had left us somewhat maxed-out on minimal. Katie Grocott


Issue 14 » Summer 2011

Iannis Xenakis/Steve Reich, Ether Festival, Southbank Centre April 2, 3 and 9 Once again the Southbank Centre’s annual Ether festival has spoiled us with some great concerts, not least a unique chance to enjoy live performances of works by two of the twentieth century’s most celebrated composers: Iannis Xenakis and Steve Reich. The ‘Xenakis – Architect of Sound’ night on April 2 saw the London Sinfonietta play some of the Greek composer’s most famous pieces: Eonta (1964, for piano, two trumpets and three tenor trombones), Kottos (1977, for solo cello) and Phlegra (1975, for woodwind, brass and strings). The following day, students from The Royal College of Music presented Rebonds, Okho and XAS, eminently enjoyable works written at the end of the 1980s for percussion and saxophones. The following week, the Colin Currie Group with Synergy Vocals executed American minimalist Reich’s endearing composition Drumming, written in 1971 for eight small tuned bongo drums, three marimbas, three glockenspiels, two female singers, a whistler and a piccolo player. While Xenakis’ and Reich’s musical styles are very different, it is obvious that they have both been influenced by jazz (Drumming, Eonta, XAS) and African percussion (Drumming, Rebonds, Okho). They also have in common an extremely rigorous approach to composition, coupled with an obsession with randomness. Interestingly this association of structure and chaos takes very different turns in their respective music. Xenakis uses aleatoric or stochastic mathematical processes as a starting point for musical composition. This is striking in Eonta, which opens with a piano solo entirely calculated on an IBM 7090 computer. In Phlegra, Xenakis experiments with the concept of melodic arborescence and Brownian movements, composing strands of melodies which ‘branch out’ and move around the ensemble. Paradoxically, the use of mathematical theories creates pieces which are extremely free and surprisingly visceral. Contrary to assumptions, they are also accessible and playful. This is often reinforced visually. In Eonta, the brass quintet is effectively ‘choreographed’ – moving from the back of the stage, to the left by the piano, then to the right, then to the centre where the musicians start walking in all directions while continuing to play. In Rebonds, the score is so intricate that the percussionist has no other choice than to dance frenetically whilst playing it. Xenakis

conceptualised composition techniques construct a musical universe that has often a childlike quality to it. Very often only the presence of music scores in front of musicians’ eyes reminds us that the exhilarating chaos we are witnessing is actually written. If Xenakis’ Phlegra is a Picasso painting, Reich’s Drumming is a Seurat pointillist masterpiece. The composition pushes the concept of phasing (gleaned by Reich from experiments with tape recorders as much as West African polyrhythm and polymeter) to the limit. Musicians play to slightly different tempos therefore seeming at first to play in unison, then shifting slightly from each other, creating an echo effect, then a clear delay, then a complex oscillation/ringing effect then back to delay, echo and unison. The oscillation effect is what makes Drumming magical. It is a bit like watching stars at night and linking them to make constellations. Each part is distinct from the others but put altogether they form a whole with an existence of its own. The singers often guide the listeners into hearing the complex melodic patterns, which are not played by one single instrument, but created by the combination of each individual part played together in phase. It is a strange experience to hear music and see musicians play but not know where what you are hearing is actually coming from. The result is a very contained piece of music which at times feels a little soulless and lacks the melodic excitement of Music for 18 Musicians (1976) or the emotional pull of later narrative works such as Different Trains (1988). Nevertheless, it is wonderful to see such complex and exciting music performed live by such great musicians. Angèle David-Guillou

53


round up

Low’s ascension from playing Camden’s bijou Underworld club in 1995 to selling out the 1,100 plus Barbican Theatre has been a glacial business; all the while their music has remained graceful, epic, devastating and, yes, unquestionably patient. While hardcore fans, myself included, have devoutly shadowed the relentless-touring Minnesotans from grungy pub backrooms to shimmering chapels and luxuriant arts complexes, their most recent swell in popularity doubtless owes something to exposure on Skins, a Gap Yuletide TV advert and two songs covered by Robert Plant. C’mon, Low’s ninth official album, initially comes across as something of a crowd-pleaser, particularly compared with the troubled, sonically experimental predecessor Drums And Guns, but in ‘Nightingales’ and ‘Nothing But Heart’, which open proceedings tonight, they have at least two glorious additions to an already astonishing, consistently magnificent catalogue. For some, the presence of keyboardist Chris Price might be deemed sacrilegious:

Low were always a holy trinity with all the gristle of the conventional rock’n’roll combo trimmed off, leaving just voices, guitar, floor tom, snare, hi-hat and bass; the space between the notes as important as the notes themselves. Tonight, Price is mixed reverently low, only ever breaking the surface with the titanic bass stabs of ‘Pissing’. Similarly, bassist Steve Garrington rides comfortably in the backseat, leaving the hard driving to Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker whose intimate telepathy and occasional playfulness is that of the classic, mystic rock couple. Sparhawk introduces filial bonding paean ‘Witches’ with the no doubt fallacious statement: “This is a song for my father; I guess it was his birthday some point recently – my family doesn’t keep track of that stuff”. Three songs later, Parker elicits audience laughter by saying, “That song was for my mother. Her birthday is April 3rd”. On record, of course, Low allow no such frippery. Indeed, there are two types of Low album: the one where the demons have just about been contained (C’mon, The Great Destroyer), and the one where they patently haven’t (Drums & Guns, Secret Name). It’s telling that, tonight, the latter variety is barely represented. Sparhawk may contort like a banshee, but bar some evidently cathartic guitar wrestling on his part, this is a band almost worryingly at peace with itself. It’s a minor gripe, but as superlative as their music is, the pace is consistently simmering, never quite boiling over. Still, there could be few qualms over encore ‘Two Step’, a song that induces frost down the hairs of the neck. ‘(That’s How You Sing) Amazing Grace’, likewise, must surely be close to the lost chord, inviting, as it does, brooding thoughts of existential nihilism in a room packed with strangers. Low remain a very special band, deservedly, if tentatively, stepping into the glare. GLEN JOHNSON

Low 3 June Barbican Theatre 54


ROYAL COLLE G E OF ART GRADUAT E EXH I BITI ON Show Kensington 24 June — 3 July (closed 4pm 28 June; 1 July) Kensington Gore, London SW7 2EU

Show Battersea 24 June — 3 July (closed 1 July) Howie Street, London SW11 4AY Free admission www.rca.ac.uk/show2011 Information line: 020 7590 4498

A Summer Selection

10th June to 20th Aug 2011 An exhibition of contemporary non precious jewellery 19 – 23

White Lion Street London n1 9pd

enq u i r ies @da rby sh i re.u k .com T 020 7812 1200 F 020 7812 1201

21 South Molton Street London W1K 5QZ Telephone: 020 7629 6325 www.electrumgallery.co.uk

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A&M Special

After Premonitions Following an Evil Deed

The latest in an ongoing series following Winterbird, the tiny Lancastrian record label founded by Jamie Holman I found a band. A band to fall in love with and believe in. There was a purity about them which touched all who heard them. Their shows grew bigger and more joyous; they were everywhere, and suddenly, overnight, it looked as though all our fortunes would change. We sat up long into the night talking, drinking, dreaming and daring to hope that this time we would win – label and band. We were in it together and the world was about to fall at our feet.  The band got better and better. Together we couldn’t fail. I decided that I had to make a leap of faith and put everything on the line. Money was found, agents employed, press companies briefed and I re-mortgaged my house to put up a substantial share of the recording costs – a famous producer and a professional studio waiting in the wings. I couldn’t sleep during the recordings. My telephone rang around the clock. Press calls, agents, shows, radio... It was happening. We found the band a manager and I was relieved to hand over some of the responsibility. I couldn’t do everything and wanted to concentrate on getting the record out. The record finally completed, I waited for the world to change. And it did. 56

The management talked units and strategies, licensing, marketing, publishing and press. They said we needed to step up a level. Thanks to everyone who had sweated blood for them so far – but they had to go. I was uneasy with this part of the plan, but I always knew it could happen. So I picked up the phone and cut ties with the very people I had begged to come on board in the first place: the press pluggers and radio pushers who had worked for nothing, the local agents and promoters who were all promised a slice of something bigger if they helped out in the early days. All went to the sword, and it was I who slashed and cut away. “The band deserve a real shot, we can’t let anything get in the way.” Finally the phone rang for me. I was out. I realised that I was never really in. I had rights to nothing, and like many before me I was fucked over by a lawyer. I’ve read all the books, collected the records and didn’t think it would happen to me. I’m still not sure if it did, but somehow, it already had.

“The band deserve a real shot, we can’t let anything get in the way.”


Without any pretence at front-line criticism, Peter Wix presents a quarterly digest of armchair observations to help in your search for the best of old and new movies. The Last W inter Larry Fessenden (2006) I’m tempted by anything set in snow but this supernatural thriller tries to tread the same track as John Carpenter’s The Thing and gets lost on the way. There’s nothing wrong with the cast, which is led by Ron Perlman (Hellboy), the actor who has a face like a Hummer SUV in kneedeep mud. The film fails to create maximum suspense from an ‘And then there were none’ plot idea, in which the ‘thing’ menacing a small research station trying to set up drilling for a profitable pipeline turns out to be vengeful nature herself. Climate change seen as the earth’s defence against maknind is not a bad idea but it is one that doesn’t need to be manifested by any Alien-like ectoplasmic dinosaurs. The camerawork is more annoying than fear-inducing, while the score is familiar territory.

Photo © Last Winter Productions 2006

The Big Blue Luc Bresson (1988) If you see the full 168 minutes, you’ll end up thinking this should be called The Long Blue but, like me, you’ll probably yearn for a dip in the Meditteranean and a holiday amongst the glorious blues and whites that are among the film’s strongest virtues. Good too are the performances of Jean Reno and Jean-Marc Barr as fictionalised characters based on two extraordinary free divers who had, to put it mildly, quite special relationships with the oceans. Sadly, despite the beautifully captured light and sun/ sea dynamics, the simple plot of competitive diving rivalry becomes repetitive in the extreme. So too the parallel love interest in which Rosanna Arquette does her best to struggle with unimaginative dialogue and a certain directorial shallowness that leaves many of the performances struggling for air. A 90-minute version full of the eccentricities of Reno’s often hilarious personality would be more digestible. Put it down to typical 1980s indulgencies and enjoy the better constructed beginning to the film and the lovely views and dolphins.

58

5/10

 4/10

The Earth Dies Screaming Terence Fisher 1964 A title like this promises some intriguing late night tension, a tall, handsome anguished scientist, perhaps, pulling a lovely young thing one-handedly from the abyss just in time to save the planet from marauding death rays, cataclysmic tsunamis, and psychotic uber-kids controlled by unmentionable forces. Disappointingly, Fisher’s film seems to spend all of its very low budget and energy on an atmospheric beginning, somewhat like Village of the Damned, which shows streets strewn with bodies as evidence of a desolated planet. The last people alive turn out to be several actors whose best days are behind them, including the great Dennis Price, really fallen on hard times here. Willard Parker is an unlikely American space pilot who finds himself organising resistance against an unknown and unseen invasion force. HQ is a quaint inn in an English country village occasionally besieged by hilarious looking robots made out of bits from props department waste baskets and who move slower than grannies with zimmer frames. Throw in a zombie element as the unfortunate victims are revived and made to serve the invaders, eyes whited out for maximum spookiness, and you have a few moments of action around scenes of dialogue that fails to make the most of the philosophically rich situation involved in observing those who believe they have survived the annihilation of all other human beings. Scream here for the ’60s Peter Cook and Dudley Moore to appear at the bar in the Inn, completely oblivious of the situation and engaged in conversation. Once the survivors manage to solve their first technical problem and conflict with the daft robots, the film ends suddenly with a promise that all will be put to rights and a convenient shot of a passenger plane taking off. Buñuel did something similar when he ran out of money to finish Simon of the Desert a year later. He was obviously inspired by this British sci-fi gem.

2/10


EWAN McGREGOR CHRISTOPHER PLUMMER MÉLANIE LAURENT

THIS IS WHAT LOVE FEELS LIKE.

★★★★ TimeOut New York

‘FUNNY AND TOUCHING’ Matthew Leyland, Total Film

★★★★

★★★★

‘DELIGHTFUL AND MOVING’

‘CHARMING AND UNEXPECTED’

Mark Adams, Sunday Mirror

Kate Muir, The Times

★★★★

‘GENUINE WARMTH AND REAL HEART’ RED magazine

1 year for £15 When you subscribe to David Lynch has been likened to a human percolator so it’s not surprising he’s created his very own brand of coffee the David Lynch Signature Cup. It’s organic, fairly traded and a “damn fine cup of coffee” is assured. Available exclusively in the UK from: www.davidlynchcoffee.co.uk This Summer, David Lynch Signature Cup UK in association with Art & Music have 5 bags of coffee beans to give away to first five subscribers

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The Saatchi Gallery Magazine ART&MUSIC

SUITA

Issue 14 » Summer 2011

David

Lynch

Wild at heart and weird on top

Dave Watkins

on what made Twin Peaks a killer serial

Peter Wix

casts an ear over David Lynch’s unique sonic realm

Cedar Lewisohn

discusses the pervasive DVD box set and its place in contemporary culture Plus: Steve Reich, Sarah Baker, Bill Fontana and more…

Suita Sofa photographed at VitraHaus, Vitra Campus 2010 Vitra 30 Clerkenwell Road, London EC1M 5PG, Phone: +44 20 7608 6200, E-Mail: info_uk@vitra.com

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Summer 2011 / ISSUE 14

Suita Sofa. Developed by Vitra in Switzerland. Design: Antonio Citterio

£2 .95

The Saatchi Gallery Magazine Art & Music Summer 'David Lynch' Issue June 2011  

Summer 2011 - David Lynch issue Content: Twenty-one years ago, Twin Peaks hit the UK small screens - a televisual phenomenon that was ground...

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