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Online Movies: davidlynch.com

Review by Robert Barry

Dumbland

Perhaps it will come as little surprise to anyone who attended David Lynch’s 2007 exhibition, The Air Is on Fire, at the Cartier Centre in Paris, which saw him engaging with a diverse array of materials from digital video and large-scale installation to post-it notes, matchboxes and biros, but Lynch seems to have taken to that most zeitgeisty of artistic media, the world-wide web, with, at the very least, a game enthusiasm. From his daily Twitter-synched So-Cal weather report to his sprawling trans-American ‘Interview Project’, Lynch has to no small degree made the internet his own, and the centrepiece of his online world is the subscription-based member site at davidlynch.com.

Navigating through a maze of cryptograms and circuit diagrams accompanied by Alan Splet-inspired sounds of heavy industry and heavy metal, one finds oneself at a portal, an opening to a gateway, which leads into a kind of secret garden, a world both strange and unsettling, but curiously familiar. Lynch’s films have always seemed to spill over the edges of their beginnings and ends, his recurring motifs and circular, unresolvable narratives suggesting less a discrete story than a brief peek into an alien landscape. The website only serves to enhance this feeling, with its implied invitation into the lift from Eraserhead, its short films referencing and fleshing out the fractured narrative of Inland Empire.

One of the most popular features of davidlynch.com is the crudely drawn animated series Dumbland. With its entry-level drawing skills and fondness for ultra-violence and fart gags, it initially appears close to South Park. But the director’s signature is present throughout Dumbland - less in the white picket fences and eccentric characters that have become associated with the epithet ‘Lynchian’ in the culture of the last two decades; more in its occasional eerie stillness, and its excoriating industrial sound design. In a sense, what characterises all of Lynch’s work is the horror of the noise of industry invading the domestic space. In all its simplicity and apparent stupidity, Dumbland may be his most overtly political statement. The title implies that these characters are not rare, isolated freaks, more the symptoms of a malaise that is at least national.

At present, a great deal of the material on davidlynch.com is due to come off the site, possibly so that Lynch can concentrate on promoting transcendental meditation through the David Lynch Foundation. There are worrying rumours that his next film is to be a biopic of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, guru to the Beatles. But in the meantime, ‘The Interview Project’, which consists of a small camera crew taking a big road trip across the United States, asking the ordinary small town folk they pass about their hopes and dreams, provides a welcome reminder of another Lynch - the humanist director who made The Straight Story and The Elephant Man and talks in interviews of his love for Fellini’s I Vitelloni and La Strada. Lynch’s path is strange and unusual; he is a complex artist with three distinct sides: there is Lynch the spiritualist, Lynch the humanist and Lynch the surrealist, and his website reveals their closeness and complementarity.

For more details, go to davidlynch.com. Watch the latest episode of the Interview Project.

Robert Barry

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