My relationship with David Lynch is a lot like the opening scene of season two of Twin Peaks, wherein I’m the elderly room service waiter with a glass of warm milk and David Lynch is Agent Cooper bleeding out from a gunshot wound. The excruciating five minute exchange picks up seconds after the season one finale: FBI Agent Dale Cooper lays paralyzed on the ground suffering an attack from an unknown assailant, Deputy Andy, of the Twin Peaks Police Department, calls out to Cooper over the phone trying to relay urgent news, and the most clueless waiter employed at the Great Northern Hotel brings Cooper a glass of warm milk, hangs up the phone, and cannot understand Cooper’s request to call a doctor.
Over the past few months, I’ve been diving into the directorial history of Lynch. The director’s name had always come up in film discussions with my more versed friends. I knew enough references to keep up, but I never thought of myself as smart enough to watch. It wasn’t until I took a class on Stanley Kubrick that I started to consider myself “worthy.” In the class, we studied Kubrick from The Killing to Eyes Wide Shut. Going through that filmography, seeing the growth of an artist, made me crave more; and it just so happened that Kubrick’s favorite movie was Eraserhead.
On the verge of college graduation, and with a directionless artistic background, I began my personal semester of David Lynch.
I started Eraserhead with a glass of warm milk; slowly, inviting, and with a friendly “room service” smile. By the time I was finished with the task, I was confused and a little scared, unable to comprehend the dying Cooper in front of me, so I hung up the phone for him and tried to be accommodating. Looking back, I couldn’t have asked for a better introduction.
Then came The Elephant Man. Straight-forward, succinct, and easy to digest. I stuck out my receipt for Lynch to sign and thanked him kindly. It was an exchange I was more comfortable with. But just like Cooper signing for his milk, it was obvious that there was so much I was missing. As I would realize towards the end, the easiest exchanges aren’t the most rewarding.
With Dune, again I was confused, so I let him know that the warm milk I had brought may get cool pretty soon. He was frustrated, but polite. He knew it was my fault for not understanding, as did I.
But by the time I got to Blue Velvet, something clicked. I started to understand, in my own little way, what was happening. Of course, not enough to see the obvious dying man on the floor, but enough to say to Lynch, “I’ve heard of you!” and give a thumbs up. He would return the thumbs up every time I noticed decaying America, the superimposed fantasies of characters, and perception of reality.
I’ve seen all of his features now, sans one, to varying degrees of understanding. The Straight Story, obviously, stands as his most comprehensible, while Lost Highway holds my personal record for “Most Times I’ve Had to Stop a Movie for Awhile and Just Think.” Wild at Heart is as delightfully bonkers as any Nicholas Cage film, Mulholland Dr. is a masterpiece that I thought I understood until the last thirty minutes, and the Twin Peaks canon is where I feel the most comfortable in my ability to dissect, speculate, and discuss.
But I keep giving a thumbs up. And Lynch keeps returning it. And I know that there are so many dots I haven’t even begun to connect.
In the continued saga of Agent Cooper and the Great Northern room service waiter, you come to discover that the waiter is “one in the same” with The Giant, an inter-dimensional being who gives Cooper clues in Twin Peaks and The Return. Maybe The Giant is within me too. Maybe Inland Empire will be my “Come to Lynch” moment and all will seem clear. Maybe I’ll spend the rest of my lives pulling on threads, but never completely unravelling the mystery. Regardless, I’m willing to keep trying because there’s a spark. Sometimes it’s dim, and sometimes it’s bright, but it’s always there when I watch a David Lynch film. And just like a thumbs up from Special Agent Dale Cooper, the spark is worth coming back for.
Zack Peercy is a writer; that much can be agreed upon. He has been published in The Sandy River Review, Every Day Fiction, Eunoia Review, Toasted Cheese Magazine, and others. He has a twitter, but he’s kind of annoying: @zackpeercy.
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