DFW Part II – Film

The first post on David Foster Wallace can be found here.

In 1995, David Foster Wallace was allowed onto David Lynch’s Lost Highway set for three days and hired by Premiere to write about his experience. But being the author that he is, DFW felt it necessary to provide background information on everything David Lynch had ever done up to that point. So what was supposed to be a nice and easy Sunday article turned into a 66-page thesis (damned thorough academics).

Nevertheless, the article is… perfect. Here are my excerpts.

While you read, enjoy some more Do Make Say Think.

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***Because Quentin Tarantino had recently (1995) become the indie-darling of Hollywood and DFW believes that Tarantino watered-down what Lynch had been doing for a decade, much of the article reads as a “Lynch is better than Tarantino for so many reasons because…”

Reservoir Dogs, for example, with its comically banal lunch-chatter, creepily otiose code names, and intrusive soundtrack of campy pop from decades past, is Lynch made commercial, i.e. faster, linear, and with what was idiosyncratically surreal now made fashionably (i.e. “hiply”) surreal.

DFW’s mid-90s assessment of cinema.

Movies are an authoritarian medium. They vulnerabilize you and then dominate you. Part of the magic of going to a movie is surrendering to it, letting it dominate you. The sitting in the dark, the looking up, the tranced distance from the screen, the being able to see the people on the screen without being seen by the people on the screen, the people on the screen being so much bigger than you, prettier than you, more compelling than you, etc. Film’s overwhelming power isn’t news. But different kinds of movies use this power in different ways. Art film is essentially teleological: it tries in various ways to “wake the audience up” or render us more “conscious.” (This kind of agenda can easily degenerate into pretentiousness and self-righteousness and condescending horsetwaddle, but the agenda itself is large-hearted and fine.) Commercial film doesn’t seem like it cares very much about an audience’s instruction or enlightenment. Commercial film’s goal is to “entertain,” which usually means enabling various fantasies that allow the movie-goer to pretend he’s somebody else and that life is somehow bigger and more coherent and more compelling and attractive and in general just more entertaining than a movie goer’s life really is. You could say that a commercial movie doesn’t try to wake people up but rather to make their sleep so comfortable and their dreams so pleasant that they will fork over money to experience it- this seduction, a fantasy-for-money transaction, is a commercial movie’s basic point. An art film’s point is usually more intellectual or aesthetic, and you usually have to do some interpretive work to get it, so that when you pay to see an art film you’re actually paying to do work (whereas the only work you have to do w/r/t most commercial films is whatever work you did to afford the price of the ticket).

Many pages later… and one song later.

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The difference between experiencing art that succeeds as communication and art that doesn’t is rather like the difference between being sexually intimate with a person and watching that person masturbate. In terms of literature, richly communicative Expressionsim is epitomized by Kafka, bad and onanistic Expressionism by the average Graduate Writing Program avant-garde story.

——————end of exceprt.

To really understand the rest of the 66-page Premiere article, also published in A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, you’d have to watch Blue Velvet and other Lynch projects. But the above excerpts corner the industry and our society’s perception of the film industry far better than I could.

 

 

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