Friday, June 24, 2016

Eraserhead: Oh, I Don't Know Much Of Anything

Henry Spencer...trapped in a hell of his own design

Written & Directed by: David Lynch

Original Release Date: March 19, 1977


Thoughts on Eraserhead


While I'm actually old enough (sigh) to remember when David Lynch's “Eraserhead” was new, I didn't really discover his work until a little later in life. I'd read various articles and pieces on “Eraserhead”, back when no one really had any idea who Lynch was or what he was about. “Sci-fi”, “horror”, “midnight movie fare”, even in those days no one could resist trying to pigeonhole it. I watched it when it was first released on DVD and my initial reaction was, of course, “what the hell was that?”. Like with much of Lynch's work, however, certain details reveal themselves upon repeated viewings, thus I took another trip through Henry Spencer's dark and twisted reality just to see what my impression was all these years later.

 Knowing a bit more now regarding David Lynch than I knew during my first watch, it quickly became apparent that “Eraserhead” is definitely an autobiographical film, at least in a metaphorical sense. In fact, I was quite surprised by how very David-like Jack Nance's Henry is. In my opinion his mannerisms, his speech and even his walk brings Lynch to mind. Leave it to Jack Nance to channel David Lynch, huh? He's such a wonderfully odd actor and very sorely missed.

David Lynch and Jack Nance...twin sons of different mothers?
So what is Eraserhead about? I've read many reviews and opinion pieces about how the film is based on Lynch's own experiences as a young struggling artist and newly-minted father living in a grim urban American city, in his case, Philadelphia. Obviously anyone can see these themes running through the film; however in my opinion there's something far more broad and all-encompassing going on as well. 

Henry's "Tree Of Life"...barren, bleeding out & dying


The Pencil Works...conformity factory? Organized religion? Psychiatry? You'll have to ask Mr. Lynch.
Henry is trapped in a hell of his own making and it's cost him his soul. The artificial constructs of conformity, relationships and expectations have stripped him of everything meaningful and left him baffled, confused and troubled. His real identity, his own soul, has been replaced with a different entity, one he's forced to nurture and care for even though he finds no reward or fulfillment through it. His life is shrouded in darkness, cold, ugly, harsh darkness. Henry tries to hold onto the last pitiful remnants of his own soul, his own being, but that slips away as well. He tries to find fulfillment by going through the motions and even through a sexual encounter with his seductive neighbor, but all it accomplishes is sinking him even deeper into his own morass of confusion, doubt and self-loathing. The entity (aka The Baby) is still there, demanding attention and care, mocking him as he tries to do what's expected of him. Henry isn't really Henry, he's part of this entity and it's a part of him as well, a part of him that's been reduced to the point of being a mere prop in his own life. 

It meant nothing, Henry
Finally Henry faces this entity he's created and strips it down to reveal its true ugliness, which prompts him to kill it. He finally faces the horror of what's he's created in all its grotesque, vile reality. Only after he faces “the ugly truth” does he find “heaven” and light. And then the film abruptly ends.

This is who you have become, "Eraserhead"
Now I suppose some could see this movie as some sort of religious allegory, or perhaps the tortured soul of a young artist having great difficulty properly expressing and realizing his ideas while also struggling mightily with the pressures of a relationship, fatherhood and urban life. Or maybe it's something of a morality play about conformity, or a cautionary tale about relationships. I could really reach and say it's a scathing indictment of conformist capitalist culture and “selling out” one's artistic vision and personal integrity as well as a harsh look at how much we're willing to sacrifice in the name of love and sex, relationships and society's “expectations” in general. Ask a hundred Lynch fans and you'd get a hundred different answers.

The "ugly truth" = the path to enlightenment and bliss
Now speaking for myself, if I had to attempt to distill it all down and be really glib about it, I'd say “Eraserhead” is the story of a man who can't escape his own personal hell until he drags his own demons into the light and excises them himself. Only the truth finally sets Henry free and that truth is grotesque, painful and scary. Until he has the courage to face it in all its horror he'll never find true bliss. Obviously that's a rather simplistic synopsis and I'm sure that bigger fans of the film than I could spend days in the comment section shredding my silly personal analysis.

But having seen most of Lynch's films and TV work, that's what I got out of “Eraserhead”. As obtuse as it seemed when I first watched it (and the first time around the imagery and the pace can be unnerving) I was actually a little surprised at how “linear” and straight-forward (relatively speaking) it was. As with a lot of his work, sometimes it's not so much about “what's happening?” as it is about "why" it's happening. It definitely helps to have a little Lynch background going into “Eraserhead”, it's not too surprising that few knew what to make of it or Lynch when it was first released.

Another aspect that really jumps out is how many familiar Lynchian themes “Eraserhead” contains. Someone “lost” in a strange or surreal situation, a circular pool into which people disappear, trees (frequently in the background), oddly disquieting musical interludes featuring vaguely late-fifties-early sixties-ish pop music, archaic technology, the chevron floor of Henry's lobby, characters exhibiting strange tics and mannerisms and of course a mysterious femme fatale. Even back then the stylistic elements of what Lynch was trying to express were in place, the man has a vision and that vision is a specific one even in spite of the ambiguity he cloaks it in.

All in all it was a lot of fun to take a fresh-eyed look at a Lynch film that often seems to be somewhat dismissed as being a weird oddity. In my opinion, Lynch is often accused of being “weird for the sake of weird” and although he can indeed create some pretty weird imagery, his films resonate with his take on “the human condition”, for lack of a better way to describe it. He's tackling universal themes and truths in his films, he just takes a unique approach in doing so. 


Hope you enjoyed my relatively quick take! To read more of my work, check out my writing on ----> Son of Stuck Funky.


Friday, June 17, 2016

Recap of Episode 12

Do you know what the ultimate secret is? 

Season 2 Episode 12


Written by: Barry Pullman

Directed by: Graeme Clifford

Original Air Date: October 27, 1990


"My Special Agent"

At the Great Northern, Dale wakes up and makes a tired recording to Diane at 6:42 am. He tells her he dreamed he was eating a tasteless gumdrop, but woke up to realize it was just one of the ear plugs she sent him. Then he goes to do his usual yoga headstand and notices something underneath his bed. Dale realizes that the Giant was right and he did forget something, which he tells Diane about. Then Dale reaches under the bed and sees it's a note from Audrey written to "My Special Agent." In the note, Audrey tells Dale that she went North, because Jack, as in One Eyed Jacks, may have the answer.

"Sometimes the 'Can Do' girls, can't!"

Hawk hurries into the Sheriff's station and tells Harry that he went to investigate the One Armed Man. Hawk says he ended up drinking three pots of Chamomile tea while talking to two retired school teachers, only to learn they have no memory of the One Armed Man. Hawk then rushes off to the bathroom. Harry tells him to keep looking. After Lucy talks to Harry with a packed bag in her hand and tells him she's going to visit her sister and is waiting for the "Can Do" temp to arrive. Lucy wants to wait to show the temp how to handle the coffee and phones. She says, "Sometimes the 'can do' girls, can't!" Harry tells her not to worry and walks her to the door. Right then Dale walks in, wishes Lucy well and then tells Harry he knows where Audrey is.

"Uh...Bob, I've got a problem here!"

Bobby and Shelly talk to Mr. Pinkle, the insurance agent for Leo, at Shelly's house about Leo's home care needs. Mr. Pinkle installs a chairlift that Bobby tests out to transfer Leo from the wheelchair to the bed. However the contraption violently jerks Bobby around when he attempts to use it. Mr. Pinkle explains that after the insurance takes their share there wasn't much left for a quality chairlift. Then Shelly tells Bobby she's got to go to Leo's hearing, but Bobby wants to fool around before she leaves. They leave Mr. Pinkle alone, who ends up getting trapped in the chairlift, which also violently flings him from side to side. Mr. Pinkle yells for Bobby saying, "Uh...Bob...I've got a problem here!"


"Why don't you try for a little more face in there?"

At the Roadhouse, Leland's bail hearing begins with Daryl Lodwick as prosecutor and Judge Sternwood presiding over the case. Harry speaks up for Leland's character saying no one can understand what it's like to lose a daughter the way Leland did. Ben listens from the bar while unaffectedly popping nuts into his mouth. Maddy and Sarah sit behind Leland for support. Then Andy shows Harry a courtroom sketch he drew for Leland, but it only shows the side of Leland's head. Harry notes, "Why don't you try for a little more face in there?" Judge Sternwood then decides to release Leland on his own recognizance, Ben walks out and Leland reveals a slightly pleased grin.

"There's things you can't get anywhere"

Donna goes to Harold Smith's house to deliver his Meals on Wheels and offers to tell him her life story if he lets her read Laura's diary. Harold says he'll read the diary to her, but it can't physically leave the room. Donna agrees and sits down to begin. She watches as Harold pulls Laura's diary and a blank notebook from a secret shelf in his book case. Harold sits down with his pen and tells Donna to begin. She starts telling him how her father delivered her and she was born in Twin Peaks, but then asks where he's from. Harold seems surprised and answers that he grew up in Boston or rather he grew up in books. Donna replies that there are things you can't get in books. Harold says, "there's things you can't get anywhere, but we dream they can be found in other people." Donna wonders if their dreams are real. Then she impulsively grabs Laura's diary and dares Harold to read it with her out on the lawn. She steps outside and he goes after her, but once Harold leaves his threshold, he looks up in fear, his hand shakes and then he collapses to the ground. Donna feels bad, holds his head and says she's sorry. Harold quickly grabs Laura's diary and clutches it to his chest.

"He seems to be a head of cabbage."

Back at the Roadhouse, Leo's trial begins. The defensive lawyer argues that Leo's coma state inhibits him from being able to comprehend his own trial. However, Daryl Lodwick thinks the town needs closure for Leo's crimes. He makes an impassioned speech about the subject, but Judge Sternwood says he needs to deliberate. He asks Cooper and Harry to join him at the bar and asks Sid to make them three Black Yukon Sucker Punches. The judge asks Cooper if he thinks Leo is Laura's killer. Cooper answers no. Harry says the town wants the right man brought to justice. Sternwood thinks that Leo seems to be a 'head of cabbage' at the moment. Then they all drink the Sucker Punches, especially Harry who quickly gulps his entire glass down. Judge Sternwood says he's going to declare Leo not fit for trial and will send him home. Harry then goes to tell Shelly the news. Meanwhile Sternwood warns Dale at the bar to keep his eyes on the woods in Twin Peaks, because they are both wondrous and strange. 

"It just came right off!"

Big Ed brings Nadine home where James is waiting for them. Nadine doesn't recognize James at first, but then asks if he's from the high school. James looks confused, but answers yes. Then Nadine worriedly asks where "Mom and Dad" are. Ed thinks quickly and says they're out of town. She accepts his response and goes into the kitchen for a drink. In private, James wonders if Big Ed should take Nadine to see Dr. Jacoby, but Ed says Jacoby is in Hawaii recovering from his heart attack. Then they hear an awful noise. After Nadine walks out with the refrigerator door in her hand looking shocked. She seems surprised and explains, "It just came right off!"

"Cooper isn't coming back."

Ben goes into his office and is greeted by Mr. Tojamura and his assistant. Ben doesn't know who he is and wonders if they can meet another time. Mr. Tojamura expresses interest in the Ghost Wood Estates project. At first Ben is ready to blow him off, but then Tojamura shows him a check for five million dollars. Ben suddenly seems impressed. Meanwhile Hank comes to the Great Northern and Bobby follows him. Bobby ducks out of sight when Dale walks in blowing a kazoo. Dale goes into Ben's office right after Tojamura leaves and they take a call from Jean Renault about Audrey. Jean gives Ben instructions to meet him with the money at an amusement park. After Ben gives Dale the money and says his daughter's life is in his hands. Dale tells him to stay by a phone and walks out. After Hank walks into Ben's office through his secret door. Ben tells Hank to follow Cooper, because Cooper isn't coming back. He orders Hank to bring back Audrey and his money, if possible. 

At One Eyed Jacks, Jean Renault shows Blackie his forearm knife that he plans to kill Dale Cooper with in her office. They eat fruit and she asks what they're going to do about Ben. Jean thinks Blackie can run One Eyed Jacks by herself after their business is complete. Blackie then asks what they're going to do about Audrey so Jean shows her some drugs he plans to kill Audrey with. Then Nancy, Blackie's sister, walks in and tells Jean that Audrey is safely in dream land. In private, Nancy wants to know how they are going to deal with Blackie. Jean answers that they will kill her later that night. 

"I'm a whole damn town!"

Andy sits at the reception desk at the Sheriff's station and talks to a nurse from his doctor's office about his test results over the phone. He whispers that he was calling about his, "semen's analysis for Brennan, Andy." He asks her to speak slowly so he write everything down. The nurse tells him that he had something called "Oli go sper mia" as Andy writes it and that it means too few sperms, but that he's fine now. The nurse uses an analogy from the doctor saying his sperm are not just three men on a fishing trip, their a whole damn town. After Andy gets excited and screams that, "I'm a whole damn town!" Harry comes out of the bathroom, hears him and nods approvingly. 

Then Harry goes into his office and discusses their plan to get Audrey back with Dale. Hawk walks in and says he learned that the One Armed Man is in a motel outside of town, but hasn't been seen in a day. He shows them another syringe with the same drug they found before from the One Armed Man and says it has a weird deep smell. Dale tells him they are still waiting on Albert's analysis on the previous sample. Then Harry tells Hawk they will see him in the morning, insinuating he should leave. Hawk senses something is going on, but walks out anyway. After Dale tells Harry they will approach One Eyed Jacks through the woods and make their way to the bedrooms below, where Dale thinks Audrey is being kept. Then they leave to get her. After Andy goes looking for the number Lucy left for her sister's house. However when he dials it he reaches an abortion clinic. He slams the phone down and says in shock, "Oh my god!"

"The First Time I Ever Fell in Love"

Donna and Maddy discuss their plan to covertly get Laura's diary from Harold's house. Maddy thinks it's a scary idea, but Donna is determined to see it through. Maddy questions Donna saying that she thought Donna liked Harold. Donna looks distance at first, but then says she does like him. Later Maddy goes to the Double R for coffee and sees James there. She's short with him when he asks if she's seen Donna. He also asks who the coffee is for. Maddy seems off put, but answers that it's for Leland. James is surprised they don't have coffee at home. Then he asks where she's going. Maddy answers 'home' and then quickly walks out. James gets suspicious and decides to follow her. After we see Maddy watching Harold's house from the woods with her coffee. 

Inside Harold's place, Donna sits with him and tells him a story for her living novel. She recounts an experience from her youth when her and Laura went out to meet older boys. In her memory, Donna tells Harold about how Laura danced in front of the boys, which made her jealous when Laura got the male attention. Donna says in that moment she suggested skinny dipping and then everyone took off their clothes. Donna notes how when Laura started kissing two of the boys she felt uncomfortable and swim off to herself. However the third boy, Tim, swam up to her and give her, her first kiss. Donna says it was the first time she ever fell in love. Harold watches her in awe as Donna stands up, smokes and dances while recalling the experience. When she finishes, Harold tells her the story was beautiful.

"I'm nothing, but meat on a hook to these people!"

Dale and Harry make their way to One Eyed Jacks and knock out the security guard at the door. An owl watches from above. Once inside, they make their way to the lower level and begin looking for Audrey. Harry comes across Jean and Blackie in Blackie's office and sees them watching a video of Dale gambling from the night he came in disguise to the casino. They split up while Dale continues searching for Audrey. Inside Blackie's office, Jean prepares Audrey's final drug dosage while Blackie asks what he sees in her sister Nancy. Jean callously replies, "something different." Meanwhile Dale comes across Nancy in the hallway, grabs her and insists she bring him to Audrey. She leads him to the bedroom where Audrey is tied and drugged up. Nancy says it's not her fault because she's nothing but meat a hook to "these people." Dale tells her to shut up, but then sees in the reflection of the mirror that Nancy is pulling a knife from her boot. Dale punches her and then picks Audrey up.

"Good thing you guys can't keep a secret!"

Back in Blackie's office, Jean stabs Blackie to death while Harry watches from outside the windowed door. Jean sees him and fires his gun at Harry, but when Harry looks back Jean is gone. Then Dale rounds the corner with Audrey over his shoulder and he and Harry make their way to the exit. However they are greeted by a security guard with a gun pointed at them. The guard orders them to turn around, which they do. Then a sharp sound rings out and the guard drops to the floor. When Dale and Harry turn back around they see the guard face down with a knife in his back. Hawk then runs down the stairs and says, "good thing you guys can't keep a secret!" Dale and Harry are rightly relieved and exit One Eyed Jacks with Hawk. Outside, Hank reports to Ben on the phone that he heard shots and Cooper is leaving with Audrey. Jean comes up behind him, puts a gun to Hank's throat and pulls Daryl Lodwick's ID from Hank's pocket. 

"Are you looking for secrets?

Harold takes Donna into his indoor greenhouse and shows her his orchids. He describes the various parts of the plant in a gentle sweet way that seems to seduce and impress Donna. Harold then kisses her hand softly followed by a gentle kiss on her lips. They share a sweet moment, but then Harold pulls back and excuses himself. Once alone, Donna grabs her flashlight, runs to the window and signals for Maddy to enter Harold's house. Maddy makes her way inside and heads to Harold's bookshelf. Meanwhile Donna tries to distract Harold in the greenhouse by asking him to show her more orchids.

However Maddy fumbles with the "doohickey" on Harold's shelf. She makes too much noise and the shelf collapses as she grabs the diary. Harold hears the sound and then sees Maddy from the greenhouse window. He looks deeply disappointed. Harold grabs his garden weeder tool and heads out to the living room. Donna runs to help Maddy and Harold ends up cornering the girls. He yells, "Are you looking for secrets?" Then he says Laura knew the ultimate secret, which is the secret of knowing who killed you. Harold then proceeds to cut his own face with the garden weeder. Donna and Maddy cling to each other in fear while watching him and Maddy screams out in terror.

End of show!

All in all, this is a great episode. It has many humorous scenes, particularly with Andy and in the courtroom, not to mention some classic dialogue and plenty of build up for the proceeding episodes. I can't say I was sad to see Blackie die, but at least her death was suspenseful to watch. Cooper and Harry saving Audrey is one of my favorite moments from their time working together in the series. And of course it goes without saying that Hawk saving the day is down right awesome, for lack of a better word. Also once again an owl is watching Dale as he enters One Eyed Jacks. The owls always seem to be lurking and watching at critical points in the series, don't they? I guess that's because they're not what they seem. 

Despite the fact that fake blood is on the weeding tool before Harold even cuts himself, I still love the end scene of this episode and find it powerful. I always felt that Donna's confession is Lara Flynn Boyle's best scene in the show. Coincidentally Laura herself recounts the same story Donna shares in The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer written by Jennifer Lynch. However Laura's depiction of the evening is a bit racier and suggests that Laura felt judged by Donna for enjoying herself with the boys that night. I think it's interesting to get a sense of their friendship from both girls perspective. I think Donna had her own fascination/issues with Laura that drove her to think of only the secrets within Laura's diary and not of what was fair to Harold. One of the rare times in the series that Donna's character had an edge to her. Sadly it came at Harold's expense, but I think it was definitely interesting and intriguing to watch. It also kind of makes me want a cigarette. :)