0006   |   February 1, 2018

David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive

Steven Fullword and C. Travis Webb discuss David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive. What is the relationship between storytelling and film?

C.T. WEBB 00:00 A brief note before we begin today’s podcast. We had some technical difficulties at the end that caused us to lose the last seven or eight minutes of our show. We apologize for that. So you’ll notice that the conversation ends rather abruptly. We’re still at the beginning of this and so we’re still making some mistakes but we appreciate everyone’s patience and everyone who tunes in. Thanks and I hope you enjoy the discussion.
C.T. WEBB 00:40 Good afternoon, good evening, or good morning, whenever you happen to be listening and welcome to the American Age podcast. Today I’m talking to Steven Fullwood. Steven, how are you?
S. FULLWOOD 00:48 I’m very well. How are you doing, Travis?
C.T. WEBB 00:50 Yeah, pretty good, pretty good. I’m excited about today’s topic. So, Steven suggested today’s topic which is discussing David Lynch’s film Mulholland Drive which, I mean, I’d seen previously but I hadn’t seen in a long time. And I was cursing him before I sat down to start the show because I don’t know what I have to say about the wackiness that is that film – which I just re-watched – but I’m still looking forward to the conversation. So, Steven, I am going to leave you to lead us is and I’m just going to, kind of, follow along.
S. FULLWOOD 01:20 Sure, absolutely. So Mulholland Drive is just an amazing feat of filmmaking. It is Lynch’s I believe, 10th film, 10th feature film and I think with each film he gets more thoughtful and engaged and more interested in editing and thinking about how the conscious and subconscious works together. And so watching his films I’m always intrigued, always intrigued, and I have to watch them several times. And so I watched Mulholland Drive, I think it came out in 2001 and I saw it in video in 2007 and I remember going– see I don’t have to be told–
C.T. WEBB 02:05 So you saw it the first time in 2007 or you watched it in the theatre in [crosstalk]?
S. FULLWOOD 02:09 In 2007.
C.T. WEBB 02:10 Okay. All right, so it had been several years.
S. FULLWOOD 02:11 Yeah, so it was actually online and I remember– I don’t care to know where I’m going in a film. In fact, I prefer to be led down dark hallways and into closets or wherever it is, or a town that I’m not aware of because with filmmakers I was to trust them. I was to do my work as a viewer, so I don’t want the filmmaker to tell me exactly where he or she is at all times. So that’s one of the things that I love about Lynch’s films. He gives you enough visual clues, I think, through repeated watching to find out where he’s going or where he’d like for you to go. But like a lot of other– well not a lot of other filmmakers, some other filmmakers, he refuses to sum up his films and say, this means this and this means this because he actually respects you as a viewer to go in and do your own imaginative work. So that’s one of my favorite things about Lynch’s films and the reason why I wanted to talk about the film is because I’m entering filmmaking and I’ve started to look at his films differently from a crafts point of view. So not just narrative and not just if they’re terrifying or scary or what have you. So over the last–
C.T. WEBB 03:16 Not at an emotional level?
S. FULLWOOD 03:17 Yeah. I’d say over the last decade though. I’ve been watching his films and sitting with them and writing about them and thinking about how to use sound in a very subtle way. Like his films are very unsettling and sometimes–
C.T. WEBB 03:32 Yeah, the scene that illustrates what you’re talking– one of the things that jump to mind is the, in the donut shop or whatever, it’s the diner or whatever–
S. FULLWOOD 03:43 Oh yeah, Winkie’s.
C.T. WEBB 03:44 Winkie’s, thank you. And so you know the spookiness of those scenes, when they are spooky, is largely carried by the sound. I mean, and phenomenal acting, of course. But there’s definitely– it’s just, kind of the creepy undercurrent, the long sort of discordant notes [crosstalk].
S. FULLWOOD 04:04 Yeah, absolutely. Perfect. That’s a really good example. That was the first scene and that’s one of the first scenes where you get Dan and Herb, and Dan is the guy who has the dream. And he comes to that particular diner so that I think he can discover if it’s a dream or not. And I think that that’s also a cue for the viewer and so as he’s walking, you notice the camera goes before him, which is one of the Lynchian things that Lynch loves to do, the camera goes before that person and it slowed down–
C.T. WEBB 04:38 It’s like a first-person shooter. It’s like a first-person shooter, like video games, like a first-person shooter, sort of like you’re in immersive.
S. FULLWOOD 04:46 Right, and you’re part of this journey, you want to see if this dream is true or not. And I remember when that, I hesitate to say man but every review and everybody says, “Oh, and there’s this man.” Even Dan the character says, “There’s this man that comes out.” But it’s actually a woman.
C.T. WEBB 05:02 Yeah. It’s so funny you said that because I read some stuff to refamiliarize myself with it before I’d re-watched it and you know they’re pulling out the dialogue and the discussion and the man it’s just so clearly a woman. I mean, when you see her, I mean, at least to me, it’s clearly a woman.
S3 05:23 But I think that’s there to also kind of mess with us actually, because when the figure of her as the bomb or the trans person comes out, transient person, excuse me, comes out there’s that, “vroom.” And there’s a sound that sounds like he being doused and pushed underwater and that’s when Dan faints and the sound is like, you’re right, the sounds carried that scene so well for me. I didn’t even know what it was about, I was like “Why is this her? What is this movie about?” And so it intrigued me, it got me in, it moved me in. And so we’ll talk a little bit later on about the key and the blue box and other kind of things. And so what I want to say about films, some of Lynch’s films, always deal with a number of things. And they always deal with desire, death, disappointment, and dreams. And so there all kind of intertwined and this film has all of those elements and more. So what I wanted to ask you before I go on is, how did you see the film? When you said it was a wacky film– but what were your– what do you think Lynch was trying to do with this particular film? I just don’t know what to say to you about it, but.
C.T. WEBB 06:43 So I probably wouldn’t want to go in the direction of like ascribing motive or intent. Mostly because I’d want to know more about kind of the arc of Lynch’s career in the context of discussing the film. That doesn’t mean I don’t have something to say about it. But I think as critics, not just movie critics, but critical readers, the habit can sometimes be to de-historicize kind of the engagements and the arc of what someone’s career is about. And not just sort of over-analyzing a single piece – not that a single piece can’t stand on its own – kind of like the new critic, sort of new critical perspective.
C.T. WEBB 07:33 So I don’t want to go too– I wouldn’t go too far into that but I would say, some of the impressions that I was left with again watching the film, is how little a movie needs a narrative structure to still be a coherent piece of work. And it threw me back to– you know, film theory is definitely not an area that I’ve read very deeply, but I’ve read pieces here and there. And the person that it made me think of was Andre Bazin and his discussion that movies really aren’t about telling stories, that there are actually much better formats for telling stories. You know, “The man walked by the restaurant every day for ten years, the same restaurant every day for ten years.” I can just put that in a single sentence but representing that in film is quite challenging. So a film doesn’t necessarily have to, it can, right, it doesn’t have to tell a story though. It tends to particularize what might otherwise be a universal theme. And so one of the things that Lynch does to universalize – if I’m making that suggestion about the film – is by de-particularizing everything, including people’s identities. You know, sort of, there’s really nothing to finger or pinpoint. I mean, I guess the blue box a little bit, kind of, sort of.
S. FULLWOOD 08:55 Kind of.
C.T. WEBB 08:57 But yeah, I mean we can we can talk about other particular things about the film, but that was kind of the main takeaway that I had from the film overall. Is that it holds together as an eminently watchable, compelling, interesting, frightening, funny, titillating, seductive piece of art, that doesn’t at all tell a coherent story–
S. FULLWOOD 09:25 No, not at all.
C.T. WEBB 09:26 and it works just fine without that, so anyway.
S. FULLWOOD 09:30 And you’ve touched on something that I really enjoy about filmmakers, as I mentioned before. I don’t need to know where I’m going. I don’t care if you mess with the narrative structure. I don’t care if the characters are, you know, you can’t hold them, they are a bit shifty and a bit complicated so I don’t need it. I don’t need a villain or a good guy or a good woman. I want to just know what this film is trying to– how it expands within my consciousness and I don’t mind if it happens over, like I said, years because when I go to see a film– and I think one of the things we mentioned earlier about the sound, is how quiet this film can be at times. Even with music, it can just be quiet, you know. And right now, by comparison, listening to films right now in theatres, they’re so loud. They’re so, you know, and that bothers me–
C.T. WEBB 10:25 It’s like I’m–
S. FULLWOOD 10:25 52.
C.T. WEBB 10:26 It’s oral assault. I mean, just–
S. FULLWOOD 10:29 It is definitely an assault. And it’s cheap, it’s cheap, and so jump scares and that kind of thing– like I felt like the scene at the Winkie’s diner by the dumpster wasn’t a jump scare, it was leading up to. So you’re walking along and you’re like, “Well what’s going to happen.” And then this person just comes out and then just disappears.
C.T. WEBB 10:49 It’s definitely not a jump scare because you are literally told what’s going to happen and it’s still frightening. Like he talks you through the entire sequence, exactly what’s going to happen and yet it’s still alarming, which is actually really interesting
S. FULLWOOD 11:07 Yeah and I think that’s– so I’ve seen a few of his other films and they have some of those elements to them. Where you as a viewer, you have more responsibility, I think at a Lynch film. You know, being at a Lynch film, maybe the later, post Dune, so to speak, and even Eraserhead, some of the earlier films were discombobulating for a lot of viewers. I think that what I love about the soundscape and how the film billows out, is that the characters, I mentioned earlier, the characters are not who they seem. But you don’t know that until, you know, you’re into the film but by that time you are captive. You know, you’re captivated, you’re trying to figure out, “Well, what does this mean?” The film starts off with that sequence where there is a Jitterbug contest and the people are going in and out of figures. So they’re dancing and then there’s sort of cut-outs of them dancing and so it doesn’t stay with the figure. And I remember like wondering–
C.T. WEBB 12:10 Almost like it’s bad green screen or something like that.
S. FULLWOOD 12:13 Right. Which is what I thought it was years ago. I was like “What is this? I’m not sure what this is.” And then she shows up and she’s literally like a beacon of light and she’s smiling. And then these characters, could be her– I’ve heard people describing them as her parents or grandparents, and they’re smiling, sort of like, “Oh, okay, you know.” And the storyline or the narrative it jumps from one scene to another with seemingly no connection, but then I think it does come together after you watch it a couple of times. And so I wanted to mention something about the characters, about the stars of the film–
C.T. WEBB 12:50 Such that they are.
S. FULLWOOD 12:52 Such that they are. Well, the actors and the actresses as well. So you have Naomi Watts playing the lead character. What is Naomi? Naomi is– she plays two parts, so she’s playing–
C.T. WEBB 13:05 She’s Betty and Diane, I think.
S. FULLWOOD 13:07 Yes, Betty and Diane. Then Laura Harring is both Camilla and Rita, or she’s Rita then she’s Camilla, and there’s a lot of doubling up of people. But I think obviously, well not obviously, but it feels like even when I watched it the first time, that it was Betty’s movie and everyone was kind of around it, but I didn’t know how they were around it. So when Betty gets to Hollywood, and she’s coming from Canada, there’s a scene just outside of the airport where she’s talking to her parents or grandparents. These people that she travel with that aren’t related to her but are sort of like could possibly be seen as like paternal figures to her in some way.
S. FULLWOOD 13:45 She’s talking and the voice is just a bit off and I remember thinking, “Oh, this must be a problem with the audio.” But it’s not a problem with the audio. It’s a sunny day out, she get’s to her aunt’s house and everything is just wonderful and she’s just full of light. And then this mysterious character, Laura Harring’s character, Rita – who takes her name from a Rita Hayworth Hollywood poster – and she comes in and everything starts to become like this mystery but there are no stakes here. I’ve noticed throughout their little adventure there are no stakes, they find a dead body, you know, everything is going Betty/Diane’s way, essentially. I wanted to know when you were watching Diane and she’s trying to figure out who Rita is, what were you thinking? What was your feeling? Do you remember what you felt the first time when you saw the film? What were you thinking as you where being pulled along here?
C.T. WEBB 14:43 I mean, so I do have vague impressions of watching it when it was in the theatre of just like, “What the hell is going on?” Probably. You know looking probably for some kind of narrative hooks to grab onto and it’s not that they aren’t there. I mean there are narrative hooks in the film for sure but this most recent time, I think I was, it’s hard for me to say, I didn’t have as much of an emotional– I wasn’t pulled in emotionally as much the second time because I was watching the film with the idea that I knew I would have to talk about it. And so I was constantly, sort of, interrogating what was happening and kind of backing up like okay– so I was having a dialogue with myself the entire time I was watching it, so you know a conscious–
S. FULLWOOD 15:46 A conscious?
C.T. WEBB 15:46 Yeah, absolutely. Not to take the conversation in another direction, but one of the things that it did make me think of as you were talking about what you appreciate about the film, in that Lynch doesn’t condescend to the viewer and it kind of like gives you room to sort of engage with it. I was thinking there’s probably a pretty solid argument to be made that Lynch, and movies like that, really don’t function outside of a structure that encourages a bourgeois self. So the fact that the work itself provokes your and my own, sort of, self-titillating engagement with it, is a way that our own identities become, sort of, developed.
C.T. WEBB 16:52 Right, so we have our own– what we can bring to the film is our own unique self and so the film itself, kind of, sets the stage for an opportunity for me to demonstrate my ability to interpret. Or my ability to have insight. Or my ability to appreciate the strange or the unusual, so. But not to critique Linch and not to leave it there – or critiquing Linch is fine, but not to leave it there – but how the film just refuses to give you any purchase on that. Like you finally don’t get to settle on whatever your, sort of, neat, self-masturbatory idea of figuring out and unlocking what the entire thing is about.
C.T. WEBB 17:44 So probably confusion if I can try and answer your question directly. Probably just straight confusion was something that was going on in those moments. I remember thinking about, when she was pulling out the money, you know, when she first– then she finds all the wads of cash and stuff like that. I started to let go of– earlier in the film there are all the shots of the city, right. At the beginning of the film, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, Los Angeles. And I was thinking, okay maybe we’re getting some– you know, maybe the city is the story, and like to shift the point of view. And I don’t think that’s accurate, I don’t think that’s it actually. But yeah, so the money part of it, I was thinking like, “Oh, here are these again, straight ahead narrative hooks.” Right, so like before you slip away too much like, “No, there is a concrete mystery here.” Right, you know, sort of going to be murdered and the money and all that stuff, so anyway.
S. FULLWOOD 18:41 No, actually I think what you’re saying– and I would argue for a couple of things. One, I think the city is the story and the street which is doubled up with Sunset Boulevard, so you have Mulholland drive at the top and you have Sunset Boulevard there. I was reading something, I didn’t know this because I’m not that much of a film buff yet, in that, the car that was used in Sunset Boulevard, Desdemona? What’s her name? I’m sorry, I got it wrong. She’s the woman in Sunset Boulevard, who is ready for her close-up, you know, the fading actress–
C.T. WEBB 19:15 Oh, yeah, sure. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen that film.
S. FULLWOOD 19:17 Right, so her car, just as Betty’s getting out the car she looks at the gates, you know, for whatever studio she’s at and she notices that that car is there but she’s not– that’s something for the files, for the film people who know this that with– I just kept seeing doubling up, doubling up, so we went back to Winkie’s after a certain point. The characters we thought we knew, we really didn’t know because they had different names. Sunset Boulevard they show you the sign they show Mulholland Drive first, you know, obviously it’s the title of the film. There are a number of other doubling things, some people are substituting for people in her dreams. You know, the woman behind the dumpster they call a man, to me that’s her, it’s the self that’s the washed, the very rough desire and what could really happen to you in this town.
S. FULLWOOD 20:12 She’s this optimistic actress who came to win and then she– even the cinematography works for you, because the dreamlike sequences, or what I think are the dreamlike sequences, are much more colorful and warm. And when she’s– what they call the third part of the film, the film is a lot– just the tone is different. The colors are different. They’re more drab and dry, and it fits with what Diane is dealing with as a character. And so I love the fact that there’s a lot in this film that one regular person may not pick up, you know, they’ll just go, “Well where? What does this mean? What happened here? How did it end? What is all of that?” But for the person who’s interested in film, I think that Lynch and filmmakers like him are doing interesting things for the public, but are really satisfying their own desire to try to break out new ways of looking at film and what film could do for you. And so I was watching that, I think there’s a film called waking life–
C.T. WEBB 21:14 Oh, Linklater’s film?
S. FULLWOOD 21:17 Right. Linklater’s, yeah. So there’s a moment where there is this filmmaker talking about what you can do with film versus a book. You know, a book you have more imagination–
C.T. WEBB 21:24 That’s Bazin. Yeah, that’s Andre Bazin. The holy, the idea of the holy.
S. FULLWOOD 21:27 Right, exactly. And that, you know, film, there’s a specific person doing a specific thing. And I had to rethink that, I was like, no I think that certain kinds of filmmakers in filmmaking could be very– move beyond those borders or move beyond that structure that he was talking about, so. I think that it felt like a film based on illusion. The illusions of being happy. The illusions of being successful. The illusions of being a Broadway star, I mean, excuse me, a film star. Like everybody’s thing is being punctured. Everyone and every character that we are introduced to has been punctured, has been disappointed, has been, yeah. And so there’s something about watching people not win, even when they look like they’re winning that was disorienting for me.
C.T. WEBB 22:25 Yeah. One of the scenes, it’s towards the end of the film, one of the– it may be the most evocative scene for me, is when they’re in the theatre and–
S. FULLWOOD 22:36 Yeah, Club Silencio? Okay
C.T. WEBB 22:38 Yeah, and the characters in the movie are reduced to audience members, right? I mean that entire scene is them watching and us watching the same performance. And there’s a way in which, certainly that reading of the disillusionment and the puncturing and everything, that seems right to me. But it’s definitely not the whole thing, right, because what propels the story is the fantasy life, is the dream, is the possibility, you know. What sets the journey in motion, is this pursuit of stardom or whatever it may be, recognition, success, etc., You can fill in the blank there.
C.T. WEBB 23:31 But I think to sort of tie that into, you brought Linklater and the Bazin angle into it, and I had mentioned that earlier, I mean I do think that that is a problem with film as a narrative device, not a problem with film, just as, film as an art form because it can do these amazing things, right. I mean, project light onto these 70ft screens and take you into these other places and draw you in and move you in ways that other forms cannot. And so it’s not to diminish it, but it does, it does– typical narrative films don’t give you as much room to, as you had said earlier, sort of, co-create and therefore universalize the story. So film does tend to particularize, you know, we tend to idolize actors, we idolize the people who make the films and stuff like that. And this is another area where Linch, he sort of escapes that, right, he slips out of that in this movie. He doesn’t allow the film to be caught up in that particularizing and thereby makes something that I do think draws on some universalized symbols at least in the film.
S. FULLWOOD 25:07 Right. Oh, absolutely. No, absolutely. Definitely through color, through our expectations. Our understanding of the film industry, is the film about the film, about a dream, about desire. and so there are these layers to it. So we do recognize the symbols, we recognize, well maybe not the metaphors immediately, but yeah. Lynch shows me what’s possible as a filmmaker, as a budding filmmaker, to think about how to bring people in through the camera or through the sound. And so there’s a scene that I really really love, I love the Winkie’s scene, that’s my favorite because that stuck with me over the years until I saw the film most recently–
C.T. WEBB 25:55 Sure, yeah. Me as well.
S. FULLWOOD 25:57 There’s a part in the film, where just after the cowboy, the cowboy shows up for a second time and there’s sort of like there’s this– from Club Silencio, and then you see Diane in the bed and then he goes, “Wake up sleeping girl.” I mean, “Wake up pretty girl. Wake up, it’s time to get up. Hey, pretty girl, it’s time to wake up.” I think that’s the line. And so for film students, I think they’re just like, “Oh, well, the rest of it– the beginning part of it was the dream and this other part is the reality.” And even that’s a little slippery.
S. FULLWOOD 26:30 So there’s this moment where Laura Harring’s character, Camilla, is walking down the stairs, very slowly. And so Diane’s car is stopped and she goes, you know, there’s the doubling, “We don’t stop here.” And he goes, “It’s a surprise.” And so she’s walking down the stairs, and she’s almost cat-like, feline-like, walking down the stairs and she sticks her head in the car and she goes “It’s a shortcut.” And they go up to probably– those following scenes really are amazing because you get Camilla leading Diane up those stairs, very slowly, they’re holding hands, it’s almost dreamlike, it’s almost like a dream, it was the way that it was shot before. By the time they get to the party, you know Camilla is a sadist. She’s doing all the stuff in front of Diane, knowing how Diane feels about her, almost to punish her and I think, I found those scenes to be really frustrating and painful and I felt for Diane. I felt for the character because I wanted her to get some sort of satisfaction after she had been led to believe that she was at least winning again, just for that moment, after the breakup.
S. FULLWOOD 27:49 She just felt she was winning and I remember there were just moments that make my stomach feel empty or feel– makes my stomach hurt, you know, and I really like the way Lynch played that because he’s constantly playing with how you feel in films. And then I’m not even sure what he’s asking the viewer to do at times, you know should you identify with this person? Not identify with this person? By the third part of the film, I remember thinking I can’t identify with any of them. I just don’t want this character to feel badly you know. So it just made me think about how a director can within a very short amount of time make you hope for something to happen to just drop you. In the midst of a cold– like where you’re in love with someone and they’ve just announced that they’re going to marry somebody else and you’re visibly upset. You know, visibly. So, it was a good– I just thought it was well-acted, very well acted.
C.T. WEBB 28:58 Oh yeah, the performances are phenomenal. I mean one of the things that allows Lynch or others to you know that use pastiche and kind of hodgepodge and mash-ups to convey a motive for us is the kind of cultural library they’re drawing on, right. So I mean, the number of genres that he mimics and then turns away from in the film, work in the film because of years and decades of films and story-telling devices–
S. FULLWOOD 29:37 Oh yeah, it [crosstalk] about our imaginations
C.T. WEBB 29:39 –yeah, that have shaped how we expected these stories to go, and in some sense how we expect life to go, right. I mean this is the conundrum with that is– I mean and this is the difficult aspect of that interplay, when you want to dismiss something in a film or in literature, or as a work of art or a work of philosophy as well, that’s, you know, that just exists in the imagination. That’s just make-believe. That’s not the real world. No one actually lives in the real world. I mean there’s a famous letter that Wallace Steven’s sends to this reverend that was a friend of the family, the poet Wallace Stevens, early 20th century poet, for listeners that don’t know who that is. And he says that, “No one lives in the real world, there is no such thing as living in the real world.” You can’t make your way in that world, you have to have these hooks in stories and arcs and passageways, that we invent for ourselves because the real world is incomprehensible. I mean maybe in some ways like that movie, it’s just incomprehensible. I mean, just hits you sideways and doesn’t stop.
S. FULLWOOD 30:58 Now that’s pretty astute, Wallace, wherever you are. That’s a pretty astute observation. I completely agree with that in so many ways. So we talked a little bit about sound, we talked a little bit about cinematography and some other things. I wanted to draw your attention to the pacing of the film, like how did you feel about the pacing? I’ll tell you very briefly, I felt that the film was a lot longer than it actually was because there is a suspended sensibility, a very deliberate quiet, a very deliberate hand, at moving things along. And I’ve noticed this in Stanley Kubrick films, and other filmmakers, where they’re with the scene a lot longer.
S. FULLWOOD 31:47 Even in Daughters of the Dust by Julie Dash, there is this scene where the filmmaker, AJ, Arthur Jafa, said that they were really interested in whether or not 16 or 32 frames was appropriate for a person of a certain color, of a brown person. So they were thinking very thoughtfully about how they were going to make that film and I remember thinking, when films catch me in that sort of– when I’m watching a film and it’s slow, I used to be really impatient. I wanted an answer. I wanted it to move on. I wanted that action. And I’ve come to appreciate how deliberate or crafted that some filmmakers make– and it happened with me in other Lynch films such as Lost Highway. I really enjoyed Lost Highway, even though there’s this frenetic sensibility to it.
C.T. WEBB 32:45 Is lost highway the one– the scene where he says like, “Call your house right now, I’m there.”
S. FULLWOOD 32:55 Yes. Oh, yes. Robert Blake
C.T. WEBB 32:57 One of the spookiest, most eerie, unsettling scenes in any movie I can recall.
S. FULLWOOD 33:07 So I saw that recently. Well, I tried to see it anyway, at the IFC in New York City. And the film, it was part of a David Lynch film festival and the film stopped four times and then finally people got up and started leaving and they gave you free tickets for a future screening or whatnot. I went home and I bought it and I watched it and I remember that scene – but I’d seen that scene before online because they have it on youtube – and Robert Blake, it’s just spectacular, like it’s good writing. Bill Pullman’s, you know, he’s trying to figure out this Jedi mind trick or whatever the hell you’d call it.
S. FULLWOOD 33:45 But I remember thinking, how wonderful, how in the mind. Like I’m a theatre of the mind kind of guy, you don’t have to slash a bunch of people up, it doesn’t do much for me, I just feel like it’s just gross. But if you get in my head then I’m great. You know, I’m not great, but it’s a fun place to be when you’re thinking about it, “I’m at your house right now. Call me.” It just draws the, what do you call it, the brackets in further. It sharpens your sensibilities. And I think a lot about when people say you’re afraid, you notice things more – you’re noticing this, you’re noticing that – because your attention’s been drawn to something that’s not as scattered, it’s not as out there–
C.T. WEBB 34:26 It’s focused.
S. FULLWOOD 34:29 It’s focused. So I do like that about Lynch’s films and so Lost Highway also has, as I mentioned, that slow pace, but in a different way. And so yeah, I wanted to ask you about what you thought about that and–?
C.T. WEBB 34:46 Yeah, I thought the movie was slow, but it worked for me. I mean, that’s kind of a lame summation of it but it drew me in enough. I mean, there were enough– the actors were engaging enough. The writing was engaging enough. The music was engaging enough. That I became aware of the time but not in a way that caused me to want to be doing something else. And, you know, sort of, the length of the scene and that sort of frenetic cut thing is a contemporary development in filmmaking. I mean, obviously if you watch old movies they hold scenes for very long times–
S. FULLWOOD 35:34 Very long times, yes.
C.T. WEBB 35:36 Yeah, for really really long, maybe sometimes too long, but it’s a generational sensibility. I mean there are trade-offs. Obviously, there are things you lose with it, but there’s also, you know though, sort of, frenetic cutting allows you to accomplish things in a film that slower scenes don’t allow you to accomplish.
C.T. WEBB 36:06 And certainly Lynch’s movies, at least the couple we’re talking about – I’ve seen a handful – definitely fit into that slower pacing but they draw you into– I mean one of the things that we haven’t really talked about yet is, although you sort of touched on this. There is a sense in which, to me, it feels like Lynch knows what he is trying to say. It’s not, I don’t always feel, you know, when you get like, say a TV series, like Lost or something like that. Which it’s very clear after a couple of seasons, the producers and directors had no clue what they were doing with the show and in fact, in interviews have admitted they were not sure what they were doing with the show. But I have never felt in a Lynch film, that Lynch didn’t know what he was doing. Even though we don’t get– even though we may not be fully privy to the internal framework that the movie hangs on. I don’t ever suspect that he’s unclear about it.
S. FULLWOOD 37:25 Wow. Wow, so what I love about what you said, it links back to something you said earlier about narrative structure and the different ways that that can happen. And that what I think about– I agree with you, I think that David Lynch knows what he’s doing and that there is just a lot of space in what he does for interpretation. Sometimes like with color, I’ve noticed in the film, there’s pink, there’s a lot of red, there’s also a lot of blue, and Club Silencio, maybe it’s just a way station between dreaming and some half-awake state. Most of the film to me, if I remember, is shot at night, you know, or inside–
C.T. WEBB 38:16 Yeah, I think that’s right.
S. FULLWOOD 38:19 And then actually the guy, Don or Dan, he’s sitting in Winkie’s and he goes, “Yeah, the dream sort of occurred in, sort of, a half-night.” You know, kind of like this and then I’m like, but then you look outside and it’s morning, or presumably morning, breakfast food, or on its way to being the afternoon. There’s something about that state that feels dreamy to me, for want of a better term. It feels like possibility, that’s what Lynch get’s for me overall like I just love this idea of possibility.
S. FULLWOOD 38:57 As I mentioned earlier and I won’t go into too much, is that I don’t like being led down a road where everything is this and that and the other. It’s like, you decide, you know, you decide to kind of knit these people and these ideas together. But that there is a hauntingness, I remember feeling when I first saw Twin Peaks or when I saw Fire walk with Me like there were these hauntings that I couldn’t put my finger on. That Lynch is– it’s less about being quirky or, “What is this guy saying? or, “Is this backwards? Is this?” There’s just a lot more room to enjoy his films to me, than some other films, you know. But I think– I’ve completely lost my point, but I was trying to remember what you said earlier and then linking it, but then I went off somewhere else and I just, you know, doing a Lynch talk, I guess. Following the trajectory of the film.
C.T. WEBB 39:50 That’s alright. One of the things I thought of as a kind of off-the-wall question is, can you imagine, you know you were talking about– we’ve both touched on this, sort of, like the door is open for you to enter the film and to co-create and all this, sort of, this idea of being involved in that artistic process. I’m not saying that that’s not real, what I’m saying though, I guess– just a more direct question, can you imagine, so one of things I want to be careful of when we talk about movies like that, and I do this as well, you know, undercutting what we might consider sort of more pedestrian or mainstream entertainments. Whether it be movie, or music or books or whatever. We have the time and the intellectual space to bring to that film, to work out what we think and what we feel about it.
C.T. WEBB 40:58 I wonder, can you imagine, like how would Lynch have faired in a society in which there was far less leisure time, or in an oppressed society. Would a country like Gilead in The Handmaid’s Tale, would it be producing David Lynch films? Now, maybe they would and in fact, maybe this is a false distinction. I don’t ask the question assuming the answer. But I do, you know, like my parents, for example, I just don’t see them ever really getting anything out of a Lynch film. But is what they get out of some kind of straight ahead drama or kind of a popcorn flick, is it analogous to what you or I might feel in that moment of co-exploration? As we’re being led down the stairs with the camera.
S. FULLWOOD 42:05 Well, that’s a great question and since I think I know everything, I’ll just start by saying that– I’ll say that it is analogous because I think in some ways– and I like the way that you frame things, you try to leave a lot of space for other interpretations and thoughts and so forth. And I like that because I think well, what you said earlier with Wallace Stevens, “No one is living in the real world.” We all have all these circles and bubbles that intersect with one another, with family, work, and all that. So when I think of say your parents or say, my parents, I think largely about what people go to do, when they say I’m going to go to be entertained, to do something to be entertained, right. So if they go to a film– so there’s the three of us that, I have a number of intersecting circles of friends, and there’s a group that I go with to films, ASTEROD, and it’s Artis, Steven, and Rodney, so it’s a mash-up of our names and so Rodney loves these sort of the mainstream films, you know, the Mission Impossibles–
C.T. WEBB 43:16 You guys have your own acronym, really?
S. FULLWOOD 43:18 Yeah, my friend actually cussed me out one day he said, “Y’all have your own acronym, fuck y’all you know that.” I just loved it, so–
C.T. WEBB 43:24 I need to upgrade, I need an acronym.
C.T. WEBB 43:26 Well as you can see that was the abrupt end to our conversation. We had a bit more to say but we were winding down. So, Steven Fullwood, thank you, very much, for talking to me today. And next week, Seph will be joining me, and then Steven will be back the week after that, so they’re going to be tag-teaming. They’re both very busy and have a lot of outside projects and as you’ve heard Steven is working through his own projects, film projects and a few other, so. Thanks very much for joining us and we’ll catch up with you next week.


First referenced at 00:50

Mulholland Dr.

“After a car wreck on the winding Mulholland Drive renders a woman amnesiac, she and a perky Hollywood-hopeful search for clues and answers across Los Angeles in a twisting venture beyond dreams and reality.” IMDB
Purchase through Amazon here.

First referenced at 20:21

Waking Life

“A man tries to figure out whether he’s living in reality or whether he’s just dreaming in this expressionistic animated philosophy lesson.” Purchase through Amazon here.

First referenced at 07:33

Bazin at Work

“Bazin’s impact on film art, as theorist and critic, is considered to be greater than that of any single director, actor, or producer. He is credited with almost single-handedly establishing the study of film as an accepted intellectual pursuit, as well as with being the spiritual father of the French New Wave. Bazin at Work is the first English collection of disparate Bazin writings since the appearance of the second volume of What Is Cinema? in 1971.” Purchase through Amazon here.

Episode 0098 – Comedy: Offensive Comedy and Its Virtues

Episode 0098 – Comedy: Offensive Comedy and Its Virtues

There’s laughing at yourself, and then there’s laughing at others. While the former is virtuous the latter is indispensable to group cohesion. In this episode the hosts talk about Jim Jefferies and Louis C.K. What are the limits of comedy?

Humor: What’s so funny?

Humor: What’s so funny?

The hosts take a personal look at what they find funny and why. Fair warning, political sensitivities aren’t off-limits.

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