Cheery fel­low, dark fan­tasies

Biog­ra­phy-mem­oir ex­plores sunny side of mys­te­ri­ous film­maker David Lynch

Saskatoon StarPhoenix - - WEEKEND - DOU­GLASS K. DANIEL

Room to Dream David Lynch and Kris­tine McKenna Ran­dom House

The sim­plest av­enue for be­gin­ning to un­der­stand film­maker David Lynch might be found in a child­hood friend’s ob­ser­va­tion: “David’s al­ways had a cheer­ful dis­po­si­tion and sunny per­son­al­ity, but he’s al­ways been at­tracted to dark things. That’s one of the mys­ter­ies of David.”

Dark things abound in Lynch’s sig­na­ture films — the grotesque in­fant in Eraser­head (1977), the dis­fig­ured adult in The Ele­phant Man (1980), the vi­o­lent and per­verse Frank Booth in Blue Vel­vet (1986) — and in his first TV se­ries, the off­beat mur­der mys­tery Twin Peaks (1990-91). When his sunny side shows it­self, and that’s not of­ten, the re­sult is The Straight Story (1999).

Like a David Lynch film, the biog­ra­phy-mem­oir Room to Dream is set in a world we recognize but one with a dreamy, com­pelling per­spec­tive at its core. Co-au­thor and Lynch friend Kris­tine McKenna writes from in­ter­views and other re­search in one chap­ter while the film­maker’s own rec­ol­lec­tions of events fol­low in the next. It’s a unique struc­ture that’s per­fectly suited for a cheery fel­low with dark fan­tasies.

Lynch has al­ways been drawn to art of some sort — paint, film, video, mu­sic, pho­tog­ra­phy, act­ing, even car­pen­try. Friends say he is nice, gen­er­ous and out­go­ing — and in­sist that he isn’t weird. Well, how would you de­scribe some­one who dis­sects a mack­erel, lays out the parts, la­bels them for re­assem­bly, then pho­to­graphs the dis­play and calls it a Fish Kit? Oh, and a Chicken Kit and a Duck Kit fol­low.

Cu­ri­ously, Lynch’s life lacks the el­e­ments of evil and the bizarre found in his art. McKenna de­scribes an all-Amer­i­can 1950s boy­hood in the North­west. Taking his turn, Lynch re­calls an idyl­lic youth, too, but one with the oc­ca­sional dis­turb­ing im­age — like the night a nude and beaten woman stum­bled down his street. (If you’ve seen Blue Vel­vet you’ll recognize that child­hood me­mory.)

As Lynch writes: “Al­most everybody has a bunch of stuff swim­ming in them, and I don’t think most peo­ple are aware of the dark parts of them­selves. Peo­ple trick them­selves and we all think we’re pretty much OK and that oth­ers are at fault.”

McKenna doesn’t omit un­flat­ter­ing de­tails — Lynch’s ex­tra­mar­i­tal flings, for ex­am­ple, and the crum­bling of the first three of his four mar­riages. Ac­tress Is­abella Ros­sellini de­scribes how Lynch used a phone call to end their years-long re­la­tion­ship, a sub­ject on which Lynch con­trib­utes only silence.

Importantly for cinephiles, Room to Dream ex­plores such things as how Mul­hol­land Drive (2001) rose from the ashes of a failed TV pro­ject to the cult film that the web­site BBC Cul­ture de­clared to be the best movie of the 21st cen­tury. That back­story and so many oth­ers pro­vide a win­dow into the mys­ter­ies of cre­ativ­ity.

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