Bright Wall/Dark Room.
2 hours ago
permalink
BRIGHT WALL/DARK ROOM TURNS FIVE!(and a whole lot is about to change…)
Yesterday marked our fifth anniversary, five amazing years since we first came up with a little idea for a different kind of film site, gathered some friends together, and opened up our doors. When BW/DR started, our focus was—and remains—on publishing unique and personal responses to films, about the ways that movies interact with our lives, inform them or are informed by them. For the better part of 4 years, we published an essay or two every week, right here on tumblr, convinced that it was the best place to build and grow a community of like-minded readers. And it worked, far better than we ever imagined. As of today, this site has nearly 220,000 followers and has grown beyond our wildest dreams.
About a year and a half ago, we decided to start a magazine. We found a publisher, held a fundraiser, brought in over $2000, and launched Bright Wall/Dark Room magazine in June 2013. The past year we’ve been mostly focused on making the very best magazine possible, though we kept up a presence here as well, running essays that, for one reason or another, didn’t quite fit into the magazine. We realize that led to some confusion, because, as our soon-to-be brand new publisher (we’ll get to that) told us a few months ago, “you guys have like 5 different places to go online and it’s really hard to figure out what you are or where to go to get things”. We agree, and apologize. Which is why we’re simplifying things a whole lot, beginning today.    
So basically, some really big changes are afoot here at Bright Wall/Dark Room, and we wanted to tell you all about them.
Going forward, we have officially decided to focus all of our energies on Bright Wall/Dark Room magazine, which, in the past year, has taken off in all kinds of new and interesting directions, and started opening up a lot of doors for us. Beginning with our August issue, we’ll be moving to 29th Street Publishing (home to Harper’s, Poetry, n+1, The Weekly Rumpus, The Awl: Weekend Companion, Maura, Scratch, and a whole lot more). They’ve slightly modified the magazine app (though not much), and completely revamped the online web-based version of the magazine (which we can’t wait to show you!).
Once that transition happens, we’ll be putting all of our energy entirely into the magazine, and this site—which we’ve built from the ground up and loved so dearly—will no longer be running any full-length essays. The only way to read any BW/DR essays or writing, beginning August 1st, will be to subscribe to the magazine. The magazine will be centralized at this address (http://brightwalldarkroom.com) and the current version of the site, the one you’re reading right now, will revert back to its original tumblr address (http://brightwalldarkroom.tumblr.com). We will continue to post to this tumblr, but those posts will be limited to excerpts from the magazine, as well as other film and television flotsam and jetsam. You know, how the rest of the world uses tumblr. 
Since our brand new issue just came out, we’ll be spending the rest of this week focusing largely on that around here, posting excerpts and artwork from the issue. But after that, we’ll spend the remainder of July posting some of our favorite essays from the past five years of Bright Wall/Dark Room - a fifth year anniversary celebration and a going away party of sorts, all at once.
It’s been a fantastic ride, tumblr, and we sincerely thank each and every one of you who’ve helped us get this far. We hope you’ll choose to join us as we continue building and growing our magazine—for just $2 a month (or $20 per year), you can still receive instant access to everything we do…

BRIGHT WALL/DARK ROOM TURNS FIVE!
(and a whole lot is about to change…)

Yesterday marked our fifth anniversary, five amazing years since we first came up with a little idea for a different kind of film site, gathered some friends together, and opened up our doors. When BW/DR started, our focus was—and remains—on publishing unique and personal responses to films, about the ways that movies interact with our lives, inform them or are informed by them. For the better part of 4 years, we published an essay or two every week, right here on tumblr, convinced that it was the best place to build and grow a community of like-minded readers. And it worked, far better than we ever imagined. As of today, this site has nearly 220,000 followers and has grown beyond our wildest dreams.

About a year and a half ago, we decided to start a magazine. We found a publisher, held a fundraiser, brought in over $2000, and launched Bright Wall/Dark Room magazine in June 2013. The past year we’ve been mostly focused on making the very best magazine possible, though we kept up a presence here as well, running essays that, for one reason or another, didn’t quite fit into the magazine. We realize that led to some confusion, because, as our soon-to-be brand new publisher (we’ll get to that) told us a few months ago, “you guys have like 5 different places to go online and it’s really hard to figure out what you are or where to go to get things”. We agree, and apologize. Which is why we’re simplifying things a whole lot, beginning today.    

So basically, some really big changes are afoot here at Bright Wall/Dark Room, and we wanted to tell you all about them.

Going forward, we have officially decided to focus all of our energies on Bright Wall/Dark Room magazine, which, in the past year, has taken off in all kinds of new and interesting directions, and started opening up a lot of doors for us. Beginning with our August issue, we’ll be moving to 29th Street Publishing (home to Harper’s, Poetry, n+1, The Weekly Rumpus, The Awl: Weekend Companion, Maura, Scratch, and a whole lot more). They’ve slightly modified the magazine app (though not much), and completely revamped the online web-based version of the magazine (which we can’t wait to show you!).

Once that transition happens, we’ll be putting all of our energy entirely into the magazine, and this site—which we’ve built from the ground up and loved so dearly—will no longer be running any full-length essays. The only way to read any BW/DR essays or writing, beginning August 1st, will be to subscribe to the magazine. The magazine will be centralized at this address (http://brightwalldarkroom.com) and the current version of the site, the one you’re reading right now, will revert back to its original tumblr address (http://brightwalldarkroom.tumblr.com). We will continue to post to this tumblr, but those posts will be limited to excerpts from the magazine, as well as other film and television flotsam and jetsam. You know, how the rest of the world uses tumblr. 

Since our brand new issue just came out, we’ll be spending the rest of this week focusing largely on that around here, posting excerpts and artwork from the issue. But after that, we’ll spend the remainder of July posting some of our favorite essays from the past five years of Bright Wall/Dark Room - a fifth year anniversary celebration and a going away party of sorts, all at once.

It’s been a fantastic ride, tumblr, and we sincerely thank each and every one of you who’ve helped us get this far. We hope you’ll choose to join us as we continue building and growing our magazine—for just $2 a month (or $20 per year), you can still receive instant access to everything we do…

Comments
1 day ago
permalink

A Message to Young People from Andrei Tarkovsky (2:22)

"…learn to love solitude…"

Comments
permalink
Excerpt from the new issue: Tracy Wan on Boyhood:

"It’s a big element, isn’t it, of our medium?" Linklater asks, in an interview with Sight & Sound. “The manipulation of time, the perception of time, the control of time.” And if cinema is the art of time, he is a master of the art—from his fictional histories emerge a truth beyond the medium, that of experiencing life’s passing itself. If the Before trilogy is a microcosmic representation of his obsession (three days, 18 years apart), we can only look at Boyhood as the Linklater macrocosm: 12 years, in three hours. It is filled with what he does best—documentations of life in suburbia, streams of consciousness, revelations of personal philosophies. Here, what he captures is not the story of a boy growing up, but boyhood as identity: the edification of one small American dream. We learn about Mason as he learns about himself—in time. He, unsurprisingly, is just as obsessed with the concept—we watch Mason pick up photography as a hobby, and then as a major. There is no pretension: his photographs aren’t revelatory, just a product of his attention. And the same can be said for Boyhood. Its smallness is its charm. At ten, Mason asks his Dad: “There’s no such thing as real magic in the world, right?” And then, at nineteen, watching the sun duck behind canyons in the Big Bend, we see that he gets it. The magic is the world. It is here now, and now, and now.”

To read the rest of this essay, download the Bright Wall/Dark Room app to your iPhone or iPad for free, or subscribe online for $2 per month to receive immediate access to the entire issue.

Excerpt from the new issue: Tracy Wan on Boyhood:

"It’s a big element, isn’t it, of our medium?" Linklater asks, in an interview with Sight & Sound. “The manipulation of time, the perception of time, the control of time.” And if cinema is the art of time, he is a master of the art—from his fictional histories emerge a truth beyond the medium, that of experiencing life’s passing itself. If the Before trilogy is a microcosmic representation of his obsession (three days, 18 years apart), we can only look at Boyhood as the Linklater macrocosm: 12 years, in three hours. It is filled with what he does best—documentations of life in suburbia, streams of consciousness, revelations of personal philosophies. 

Here, what he captures is not the story of a boy growing up, but boyhood as identity: the edification of one small American dream. We learn about Mason as he learns about himself—in time. He, unsurprisingly, is just as obsessed with the concept—we watch Mason pick up photography as a hobby, and then as a major. There is no pretension: his photographs aren’t revelatory, just a product of his attention. And the same can be said for Boyhood. Its smallness is its charm. At ten, Mason asks his Dad: “There’s no such thing as real magic in the world, right?” And then, at nineteen, watching the sun duck behind canyons in the Big Bend, we see that he gets it. The magic is the world. It is here now, and now, and now.”

To read the rest of this essay, download the Bright Wall/Dark Room app to your iPhone or iPad for free, or subscribe online for $2 per month to receive immediate access to the entire issue.

Comments
4 days ago
permalink
Excerpt from the new issue: Kelsey Ford on The Last Picture Show (1971):

“This world is black and white and simple. Tumbleweeds languish outside empty gas stations. Trucks rattle down the lonely road. There’s the street with the picture show, the diner, and the pool hall. There’s your car, parked alongside the curb. All empty and open and waiting.
You’re a young woman, or a young man, or a mother remembering what it was like to be young, fickle, and fresh. You want someone to touch you. Anyone to touch you. You want to get out, or you failed to get out, but staying alive in this place requires a fight you don’t always have in you. 
Here, everyone knows everybody else and you wish there was a way to escape that, but there’s not.
You play basketball, feel your girlfriend up in the backseat of the bus, go fishing with Sam the Lion, listen to his stories about youth and love and loss.
It’s Saturday night and the only thing to do is go to the picture show and grope in the back row, but even this has lost its amusement. You want more, but you don’t know what more means. You’ve already seen this picture three times.”

To read the rest of this essay, download the Bright Wall/Dark Room app on your iPhone or iPad for free, or subscribe online for $2 per month to receive immediate access to both the app and web-based versions of the magazine.

Excerpt from the new issue: Kelsey Ford on The Last Picture Show (1971):

This world is black and white and simple. Tumbleweeds languish outside empty gas stations. Trucks rattle down the lonely road. There’s the street with the picture show, the diner, and the pool hall. There’s your car, parked alongside the curb. All empty and open and waiting.

You’re a young woman, or a young man, or a mother remembering what it was like to be young, fickle, and fresh. You want someone to touch you. Anyone to touch you. You want to get out, or you failed to get out, but staying alive in this place requires a fight you don’t always have in you. 

Here, everyone knows everybody else and you wish there was a way to escape that, but there’s not.

You play basketball, feel your girlfriend up in the backseat of the bus, go fishing with Sam the Lion, listen to his stories about youth and love and loss.

It’s Saturday night and the only thing to do is go to the picture show and grope in the back row, but even this has lost its amusement. You want more, but you don’t know what more means. You’ve already seen this picture three times.”


To read the rest of this essay, download the 
Bright Wall/Dark Room app on your iPhone or iPad for free, or subscribe online for $2 per month to receive immediate access to
both the app and web-based versions of the magazine.

Comments
permalink
Movies, if they’re very good, aren’t a conversation; they’re an exaltation, a shuddering of one’s being, something deeply personal yet awesomely vast. That’s what criticism exists to capture. And it’s exactly what’s hard to talk about, what’s embarrassingly rhapsodic, what runs the risk of seeming odd, pretentious, or gaseous at a time of exacting intellectual discourse. »Richard Brody
Comments
5 days ago
permalink
Excerpt from the new issue: Matt Brennan on Far from Heaven:

"By the time the film arrives at its ambivalent conclusion, the light cast on lives lived openly is sobering. Frank inhabits a small apartment with his lover, but finds himself estranged from his past; Cathy balances the checkbook and attends to her schedule’s quotidian details, but catches herself in tears unexpectedly; Raymond and his daughter search for a fresh start in Baltimore. Yet there is something faintly expectant in the end of secrecy, too. The silent goodbye that Raymond and Cathy exchange may be the nearest the film comes to its own definition of divinity—pared down, basic, deeply felt just the same—and as she drives away from the train station the camera pans up to a spray of white spring blossoms, signaling a second chance. 
In some sense, Far From Heaven is less a story about living in the suburbs than a story about how we leave them. It is, finally, a tale of abandonment, exile, departure from the norm. Watching the film again, I see that its sympathetic magic stirred something beneath the surface of things, but my escape from that place was a decision all my own.”

(artwork by Brianna Ashby)


To read the rest of this essay, download the Bright Wall/Dark Room app on your iPhone or iPad for free, or subscribe online for $2 per month to receive immediate access to both the app and web-based versions of the magazine.

Excerpt from the new issue: Matt Brennan on Far from Heaven:

"By the time the film arrives at its ambivalent conclusion, the light cast on lives lived openly is sobering. Frank inhabits a small apartment with his lover, but finds himself estranged from his past; Cathy balances the checkbook and attends to her schedule’s quotidian details, but catches herself in tears unexpectedly; Raymond and his daughter search for a fresh start in Baltimore. Yet there is something faintly expectant in the end of secrecy, too. The silent goodbye that Raymond and Cathy exchange may be the nearest the film comes to its own definition of divinity—pared down, basic, deeply felt just the same—and as she drives away from the train station the camera pans up to a spray of white spring blossoms, signaling a second chance. 

In some sense, Far From Heaven is less a story about living in the suburbs than a story about how we leave them. It is, finally, a tale of abandonment, exile, departure from the norm. Watching the film again, I see that its sympathetic magic stirred something beneath the surface of things, but my escape from that place was a decision all my own.”

(artwork by Brianna Ashby)

To read the rest of this essay, download the Bright Wall/Dark Room app on your iPhone or iPad for free, or subscribe online for $2 per month to receive immediate access to both the app and web-based versions of the magazine.

Comments
5 days ago
permalink
pulpfictions:

“Perfect nonsense goes on in the world. Sometimes there is no plausibility at all.”
—Nikolai Gogol, The Nose

pulpfictions:

“Perfect nonsense goes on in the world. Sometimes there is no plausibility at all.”

—Nikolai Gogol, The Nose

Cite Arrow via pulpfictions
Comments
permalink
Free essay from our new issue: Kara Vanderbijl on Blue Velvet (1986)

image

AMERICAN IDOLS

by Kara Vanderbijl

I am five years old. Crisp white paper crinkles underneath me as I shift on the table. It is very cold and bright in the room, but I am sweaty. My palms stick together. I look at my mom and at the big jar of red, yellow, and green lollipops. Then I look at the nurse, who is holding a syringe up to the light. Clear drops of fluid spritz off its sharp end.

“Now,” she advises, pointing the needle at the meat of my upper arm. “Look away.”

But I can’t. The needle moves closer and closer.

Some images are too powerful to forget. Wherever and whenever they appear, they poke at dark things that lie just beyond the reach of our consciousness. They sear our brains. Whether we seek them out or stumble upon them, they reel through our minds like a refrain, unbridling fear and obsession.

David Lynch’s Blue Velvet is full of such images. I was fourteen when I saw it for the first time, on a class trip, and I was not ready for it. I walked out of the theatre that day, its violent, sexually charged scenes filling my mind, cues for brand new nightmares.

In the film’s iconic opening sequence, the peace of a quiet neighborhood in Lumberton, North Carolina is shattered when a man collapses on his lawn. Inside the house, his wife watches a mystery program. A dog drinks from the man’s hose, which he still holds in a viselike grip. Nearby, children laugh as they cross the street and flowers in deeply saturated colors play against a bright blue sky. Bobby Vinton croons “Blue Velvet” in the background.

This could be Anywhere, America. But the man’s stroke has taken away its anonymity. Violence is particular: it peels open what’s expected, to reveal what’s curious underneath. Below this man’s immaculate lawn, thousands of bugs gnash at the soil and at one another, eroding the idyllic afternoon with each bite.

My mother is watering flowers in the backyard. When she steps away from a pot full of bright purple petunias, my brother and I see that a rust-colored rattlesnake is coiled next to it, almost the same color as the planter.

It flicks its tongue. We scream and pound on the window.

The man’s son, Jeffrey Beaumont (Kyle MacLachlan) returns home to Lumberton from college to visit his father in the hospital. While cutting through a vacant lot on the way home, he finds a severed ear. It buzzes like a radio between stations, as if Jeffrey must turn it to the right frequency to understand its hidden message. Jeffrey bags and pockets it like a key, opening the door to an enigmatic, frightening world that’s been lying just under the surface of his sleepy hometown.

With his open face, sensitive eyes, and strong jaw, MacLachlan is a Romantic hero, a physical embodiment of trustworthiness and virtue. Lynch once said of him, “Kyle plays innocents who are interested in the mysteries of life. He’s the person you trust enough to go into a strange world with.” This is especially true for Sandy Williams (Laura Dern), the local detective’s daughter, who catches wind of Jeffrey’s discovery and other details of the case by eavesdropping on her father’s telephone conversations. In a local diner, Jeffrey and Sandy make plans to find the connection between the ear and the police’s current person of interest—a club singer named Dorothy Vallens—by breaking into her apartment.

My father cracks open the lid of the electric breaker on the back wall of the house. Inside, a huge spider stretches across the switches. Her spindly legs gather together as the sun hits her. She hisses.

My father slams the breaker shut.

It’s within Dorothy’s flat that Lynch’s noir undertones take full flesh. We’d heard echoes of it in Angelo Badalamenti’s score, an orchestral track calling to mind deeply-dipped fedoras, slinky cocktail dresses, and smoking guns. Now, in a setting worthy of Hitchcock, Lynch’s femme fatale, played by the inimitable Isabella Rossellini, catches Jeffrey red-handed as he rifles through her apartment looking for clues. She holds a butcher knife up to his throat. She demands that he remove his clothes.

You can’t look away from Dorothy. Dark-haired and pale, she drapes a blue velvet robe around her shoulders and examines herself in the mirror. She leans against walls, folds in despair to the floor, and looks up through half-lidded eyes. With her bright red lips and bruise-blue eye shadow, she’s the picture of open, violent passion, the antidote to Sandy’s pink-and-white bloom. She is the smoking gun. She is the afternoon mystery program that the women of Lumberton turn on to forget the suds in their sinks. She is so alluring that a man named Frank kidnapped her husband and young son in order to make her his sexual slave.

Frank (Dennis Hopper) lives up to his name: he is a straightforward brand of evil. Jeffrey, Sandy and Dorothy, their names ending in y, decorate the action of the film like adverbs decorate a verb. But Frank is pure action. He interrupts Dorothy and Jeffrey’s brief interlude by pounding on the door. By the time Dorothy whisks Jeffrey into the closet, he has entered the apartment, his movements brusque, every word punctuated by obscenities. He has come to take what is his. As Jeffrey watches from the closet, Frank subjects Dorothy to a series of humiliating and violent sexual acts. He presses a mask to his mouth and gasps at an unidentified substance. His eyes bug out. But neither his person nor his crimes are as disturbing as Dorothy’s obvious enjoyment of them. At the tail end of a punch, her lips curl into a smile.

I shift uncomfortably in my red velvet theatre seat as Frank finishes dry-humping Dorothy and leaves. She folds her legs up to her chest, a patch of her blue velvet robe missing where Frank cut it. Naked, Jeffrey emerges from the closet. He folds Dorothy into his arms. “Are you okay?” he asks her.

“Hit me,” she whispers.

I am not ready to see this, but I cannot look away.

With Blue Velvet, Lynch satirizes an antiseptic small-town America and creates its antithesis, a terrifying villain—but it is through Dorothy that he makes his most important point. She may love her husband and child, but when they were taken away, she discovered that she loved pain, and humiliation, and degradation, too.

We are almost never ready for the things that end up shaping us the most. Innocence kidnapped, flesh bared, we wait for whatever lurks in the darkness. As viewers, we take Jeffrey’s place in the closet and wonder at Dorothy’s world, where blue velvet symbolizes the complex dichotomy of human desire, at turns soft and rough, dark and light. We are Little Red Riding Hood who, in the original tale, was so fascinated by the wolf that he was able to gobble her whole. We are voyeurs of violent fantasies, rubbing at the hurt until our fear and desire explode.

As Jeffrey deepens his relationship with Sandy, he gets caught up in Dorothy’s world. One moment he shares a tender kiss with Sandy in the local diner, the picture of 1950s high-school innocence, the next he punches Dorothy during sex. Like Dorothy, he has a relationship with two very different people, but he separates his encounters by night and day, location and type, whereas Dorothy links her savior and her captor by desiring violence from both of them.

Fear is brawny. It beats the pulp out of our other feelings until it has left scars on all of them. We turn to it like a bad habit, and no wonder; it’s been with us the longest, longer sometimes than comfort has. It takes us further into the future than love. It carries us to the outer reaches of our character: how fast we can run and how much we can stand. Sometimes it takes us far enough to bring us to what we thought we’d never do.

A young boy and his brother are playing outdoors after dark. From where they play, they can see the rose bushes in their front yard, the bright friendly white of their picket fence.

Suddenly, they hear a thin wail. Walking down the street towards them is a naked woman, arms across her chest, dazed and crying. The young boy’s eyes fill with tears. He is not ready to see this. He cannot look away.

Dorothy’s appearance, naked and battered, in the idyll of Jeffrey and Sandy’s neighborhood, is what marked me the most when I first saw Blue Velvet. Her bruises made sense to me (she had just escaped from Frank, after a particularly horrific event), but the erotic satisfaction with which she spreads her body open did not. How could a woman already so harmed desire to degrade herself further?

The nakedness was an obvious choice. It did not surprise me to learn later on that the scene is actually based on Lynch’s childhood experience. Had the troubled woman in his past also laid herself bare? Doubtless she had been pried further and further open as the image echoed in his mind like a refrain, until, like a symbol, she had no shame, only meaning.

Like humor, violence often occurs in the space between what’s expected and what actually happens. In a society where the two so often remain separated, humor—or violence—becomes a natural reaction. Both are particularly-shaped puzzle pieces that cement the often ill-fitting parts of human desire. If you despise a man, you can laugh at him or kill him. Satire is punishment on a grand scale; violence is punishment on a particular scale. Lynch manages to do both in Blue Velvet.

If you were to separate the two worlds in the film, you’d find that both have the power of a gut-punch: each one alone is enough to sear you. They dredge up fear and obsession; they demand laughter or horror. But together, they elicit a curious blend of both.

“What kind of movie is this?” my classmate whispers. I am peeking around my fingers as Frank searches Dorothy’s apartment for Jeffrey, gun in his hand. He throws open the closet doors, where Jeffrey has been hiding. Jeffrey puts a bullet in Frank’s brain.

I laugh. My classmates laugh, hysterically.

We are laughing to save our lives.

This essay currently appears in the July 2014 issue of Bright Wall/Dark Room Magazine. To read the rest of the issue, download the Bright Wall/Dark Room app to your iPhone or iPad for free, or subscribe online for just $2 a month and receive full access to the issue online.

Comments
permalink
David Foster Wallace, on seeing Blue Velvet for the first time:

"The screen gets all fuzzy now as the viewer’s invited to imagine this. Coming out of an avant garde tradition, I get to this grad school and at the grad school, turns out all the teachers are realists. They’re not at all interested in post-modern avant garde stuff. Now, there’s an interesting delusion going on here — so they don’t like my stuff. I believe that it’s not because my stuff isn’t good, but because they just don’t happen to like this kind of esthetic. In fact, known to them but unknown to me, the stuff was bad, was indeed bad. So in the middle of all this, hating the teachers, but hating them for exactly the wrong reason — this was spring of 1986 — I remember — I remember who I went to see the movie with — “Blue Velvet” comes out. “Blue Velvet” comes out. “Blue Velvet” is a type of surrealism — it may have some — it may have debts. There’s a debt to Hitchcock somewhere. But it is an entirely new and original kind of surrealism. It no more comes out of a previous tradition or the post-modern thing. It is completely David Lynch. And I don’t know how well you or your viewers would remember the film, but there are some very odd — there’s a moment when a guy named “the yellow man” is shot in an apartment and then Jeffrey, the main character, runs into the apartment and the guy’s dead, but he’s still standing there. And there’s no explanation. You know, he’s just standing there. And it is — it’s almost classically French — Francophilistically surreal, and yet it seems absolutely true and absolutely appropriate. And there was this — I know I’m taking a long time to answer your question. There was this way in which I all of a sudden realized that the point of being post-modern or being avant garde or whatever wasn’t to follow in a certain kind of tradition, that all that stuff is B.S. imposed by critics and camp followers afterwards, that what the really great artists do — and it sounds very trite to say it out loud, but what the really great artists do is they’re entirely themselves. They’re entirely themselves. They’ve got their own vision, their own way of fracturing reality, and that if it’s authentic and true, you will feel it in your nerve endings. And this is what “Blue Velvet” did for me. I’m not suggesting it would do it for any other viewer, but I — Lynch very much helped snap me out of a kind of adolescent delusion that I was in about what sort of avant garde art could be. And it’s very odd because film and books are very different media. But I remember — I remember going with two poets and one other student fiction writer to go see this and then all of us going to the coffee shop afterwards and just, you know, slapping ourselves on the forehead. And it was this truly epiphantic experience.”

David Foster Wallace, on seeing Blue Velvet for the first time:

"The screen gets all fuzzy now as the viewer’s invited to imagine this. Coming out of an avant garde tradition, I get to this grad school and at the grad school, turns out all the teachers are realists. They’re not at all interested in post-modern avant garde stuff. Now, there’s an interesting delusion going on here — so they don’t like my stuff. I believe that it’s not because my stuff isn’t good, but because they just don’t happen to like this kind of esthetic.

In fact, known to them but unknown to me, the stuff was bad, was indeed bad. So in the middle of all this, hating the teachers, but hating them for exactly the wrong reason — this was spring of 1986 — I remember — I remember who I went to see the movie with — “Blue Velvet” comes out. “Blue Velvet” comes out.

“Blue Velvet” is a type of surrealism — it may have some — it may have debts. There’s a debt to Hitchcock somewhere. But it is an entirely new and original kind of surrealism. It no more comes out of a previous tradition or the post-modern thing. It is completely David Lynch. And I don’t know how well you or your viewers would remember the film, but there are some very odd — there’s a moment when a guy named “the yellow man” is shot in an apartment and then Jeffrey, the main character, runs into the apartment and the guy’s dead, but he’s still standing there. And there’s no explanation. You know, he’s just standing there. And it is — it’s almost classically French — Francophilistically surreal, and yet it seems absolutely true and absolutely appropriate.

And there was this — I know I’m taking a long time to answer your question. There was this way in which I all of a sudden realized that the point of being post-modern or being avant garde or whatever wasn’t to follow in a certain kind of tradition, that all that stuff is B.S. imposed by critics and camp followers afterwards, that what the really great artists do — and it sounds very trite to say it out loud, but what the really great artists do is they’re entirely themselves. They’re entirely themselves. They’ve got their own vision, their own way of fracturing reality, and that if it’s authentic and true, you will feel it in your nerve endings. And this is what “Blue Velvet” did for me.

I’m not suggesting it would do it for any other viewer, but I — Lynch very much helped snap me out of a kind of adolescent delusion that I was in about what sort of avant garde art could be. And it’s very odd because film and books are very different media. But I remember — I remember going with two poets and one other student fiction writer to go see this and then all of us going to the coffee shop afterwards and just, you know, slapping ourselves on the forehead. And it was this truly epiphantic experience.”

Comments
permalink

The opening scene from David Lynch’s Blue Velvet (1986)

Comments
Powered by Tumblr Designed by:Doinwork