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David Lynch Revisited

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With the return of "Twin Peaks" and a revival screening of "Fire Walk With Me," I decided it was time to dig into the archives for an interview with David Lynch.

Show transcript

Beth Accomando: “Welcome to another edition of the KTBS, listener supportive cinema junkie podcast. I am Beth Accomando. Are you ready for a damn fine cup of coffee and some cherry pie? Well, I certainly am.”
Movie Clip: “Wait a minute. Wait a minute. You know, this is, excuse me, a damn fine cup of coffee. I have had I cannot tell you how many cups of coffee in my life and this is one of the best.”
Beth Accomando: “With the return of the “Twin Peaks” and a revival screening of “Fire Walk with Me” here in San Diego at landmark’s Ken Cinema this weekend, I have decided it was time to dig into the archives for an interview with David Lynch. I have always been a fan of David Lynch. I was hooked from eraser head on. And even when his film disappoint or baffle me they are a million times more interesting than anything else out there. The term visionary is often tossed around and usually assigned to people wholly undeserving, like, Zach Snyder. But Lynch is a truly visionary director and his stamp can be felt on every frame of the film and in the soundtrack. I had the privilege of seeing the Twin Peak’s pilot before most people did because I was at the 1989 Telluride, Film Festival, where they held a late-night premier of the feature length pilot.”
Movie Clip: “Diane, 7:30 AM, February 24th. Entering the town of Twin Peaks, five miles south of the Canadian border, 12 miles west of the state line. I have never seen so many trees in my life. If that makes me [indiscernible] [01:56], I would rather be here than Philadelphia. Fifty-four degrees on a slightly over cast day. Weather man said rain. If he gets paid that kind of money for being wrong 60% of the time, he should be working. Mileage is 79,345 gigs on reserve. Riding on fumes here. I have to tank up when I get into town. Remind me to tell you how much that is. Lunch was $6.31 at the Landglider Inn. That is on highway two near Lewis Fork. That was a tuna fish sandwich on whole wheat, slice of cherry pie and a cup of coffee. Damn good food. Diane, if you ever get up this way that cherry pie is worth a shot. Okay. I am meeting up with Sheriff Harry S. Truman. Should not be too hard to remember that. He is going to be at the Callahan Memorial Hospital. I guess, we are going up to intensive care take a look at that girl that crawled down the railroad tracks off the mountain. Then we are going to be checking into a hotel. I am sure the Sheriff can recommend a clean place to stay reasonably priced. That is what I need a clean place reasonably priced.”
Beth Accomando: “No one at the festival knew exactly what they were in for. And when the film ended not with the revelation of who killed Laura Palmer but rather on a cliff hanger as a hand pulled out Laura’s locket from under a rock.”
[Screaming]
Beth Accomando: “You could hear an audible gasp and even some boos from the audience. And what made things even worse is that we saw the pilot in September of 1989 and the show would not be officially be picked up by broadcast by ABC until April of 1990.”
Advertisement: “Coming Sunday, April 8th.”
Movie clip: “She is dead. Wrapped in plastic.”
Beth Accomando: “I had to wait 7 long months before I could revisit “Twin Peaks.” And get another taste of that outrageous, audacious, insanely weird, soap opera. That a major network would even consider running such a show was remarkable on so many levels. It was also something that simply could not last. I knew that at some point nervous network executives would start suggesting that Lynch turn down the weird and not be so ambiguous. I also knew that if the network started to lean on Lynch to make changes that he would grow frustrated and rebel. All those things happened and Twin Peaks lasted a mere two seasons. In terms of episodes, it was really only a season and a half. Lynch ended the series with a truly bizarre episode that raised more questions than it answered. And that memorably turned one character Joan Chence, Jody Packard, into a knob on a nightstand. At least I think that was the piece of furniture it was on. On one level, I felt like Lynch had taken out his anger at the networks, on his fans. And was flipping everyone off with his crazy finale. But on another level, I totally got it. And the eccentricity of that finale was just what I expected from the visionary mind of David Lynch.”
Movie Clip: “Coot? Coot?”
Beth Accomando: Lynch would return to Twin Peaks in 1992 with a prequel, “Fire Walk with Me.”
Movie Clip: [Whispering] “There is no other person who could have known where it was.” “Did Bobby give you this? Or is there someone new?” “How do you know what she might do?”
Beth Accomando: “The film screened Saturday at midnight and Sunday at 11 am at Landmarks’ Penn Cinema. And cinema junkies are a proud sponsor of the midnight movies at the Ken Cinema. That film explored the last seven days of Laura’s life. Lynch claims that the film is very important to understanding his latest Twin Peaks outing. The 18 episodes, show time series, Twin Peaks the Return.
Movie Clip: Robot voice.
Beth Accomando: “I have to confess. I watched the premier of the new series while suffering a cold and taking medication. And I do not know if that slightly feverish state was the perfect way to watch the return or if it made the show even more hallucinogenic that even Lynch has intended.”
Movie Clip: “Listen to the sounds.”
Beth Accomando: “I loved the first episode. Part One of the premier. It was exactly what I was hoping for. It revisited the show and the characters that I have come to love was just the right mix, familiarity, and surprise.”
Movie Clip: “Hello. I would like to see Sheriff Truman.” “Which one?” “Sheriff Truman is not here?” “Well, do you know which one? It could make a difference.” “No ma’am. “One is sick and the other one is fishing. It could make a difference.” “It is about insurance.” “I am not sure I will be able help you.” “I would like to see Sheriff Truman.
Beth Accomando: It was as unconventional and genre defying as the original series. Part two is also brilliant. But when I hit episode three, I do not know if I had entered a sort of delirium from medication, lack of sleep, and a cold or if that state had been brought on by watching the truly trippy third installment where all sense of plot and form seemed to be thrown out the window.”
Movie Clip: “What the hell?” The other cameras saw nothing. And as soon as this thing moved it disappeared.”
Beth Accomando: “But could I really expect anything else from David Lynch? So, I am hooked again on Twin Peaks, The Return.”
Movie Clip: “Director Cole, on your phone, it is Cooper.” “What?” “On your phone. It is Cooper.” “Albert?”
Beth Accomando: “So to pay tribute to Lynch, I went back into the archives and found an interview from 2005 when Lynch was on a speaking tour to promote his transcendental meditation program. I had interviewed him on other occasions. But I have not been able to track down those audio files or the ones from my interviews with Dean Stockwell and Kyle McLaughlin about Lynch directing “Blue Velvet.” But this interview, even though Lynch said he did not want to talk about his films; is revealing how Lynch thinks and works and he did end up talking about his movies.”
[An earlier interview]
Beth Accomando: “I think, can you talk about what you had for lunch or something so we can get a level on your voice?”
Lynch: “I had some grapefruit juice with Spiralina and 10 almonds.”
Beth Accomando: “So you are all revved up and ready to go, right?”
Lynch: “I am ready to go.”
[Laughter]
Lynch: “Ready to boogie.”
Beth Accomando: First of all, I understand that you dislike public speaking. So, what prompted you to go on this speaking tour?”
Lynch: “There has been a new foundation formed. The David Lynch Foundation for consciousness based education and world peace. We are on a tour to universities to talk about the foundation. Trying to raise enough money to bring transcendental meditation to any student who wants it. That is the goal of the foundation and the reason for the tour.”
Beth Accomando: “Now, why was it so important to you, to do this right now?”
Lynch: “A couple of years ago, maybe more than a couple of years ago, I heard about Mirey, she is peace creating groups. And the technology to enliven this field of unity, pure consciousness, powerfully enough to bring peace to the world. It sounded even strange to me. But then I put that thought together with my experiences with meditation and I said, you know, this is it. And I thought it would happen. And when no one listened or not enough people listened, I thought, if I get a chance to speak about it, I will. And then I also met children who had experienced or were experiencing consciousness based education. And they have another expression; the proof is in the pudding. There I saw students radiating consciousness, truly happy from within and doing so well that you just do not worry about them. They are self-sufficient powerhouses. And all this put together has motivated me to speak about it.
Beth Accomando: Now when did you first learn about meditation and transcendental meditation and get involved in doing it yourself?
Lynch: “I have been meditating twice a day, for 32 years and so I started on July 1, 1973 and let’s say, before the 70’s, I had zero interest in meditation. I was not even so curious about it. But then I heard these phrases like true happiness is not out there. True happiness lies within. You hear this word, within, quite often and they do not tell you, in that phrase, where the within is nor how to get there. And so, I started thinking that maybe meditation is that way to go within, to dive within and experience something that could lead to more and more happiness. I got a call. I started looking into different forms of meditations. Got a call from my sister who said she started transcendental meditation, I heard a change in her voice and what she said about it. I said that is it. That is the one I want and I have been doing it ever since.”
Beth Accomando: “Film making can be very stressful so does transcendental meditation help you create a better shooting environment? Or a more relaxed environment on the set?
Lynch: “Absolutely, and what you are saying is very true and many times you hear stories where people do the opposite. There was an article recently in the paper about, you know, a business run purposely on fear. And so, they put so much fear on the employees, they think they are going to get more out of them. And imagine an employee working under fear and living a life like that. And fear has a way of turning itself into hate. And you hate to go to work. And then it has a way of turning itself into anger. And you almost be, angry at your work. And I said if I ran a set on fear, I would not get one percent of what I get. So, the more beautiful the atmosphere the more you are going to get. People want to go the extra mile. And it is fun to work. And one of the things about diving within and experiencing that ocean of pure consciousness, it is also an ocean of pure bliss, intelligence, creativity, all of these things start to blossom. And fear, anxiety, anger those things start to recede in the light of this consciousness. So, it is money in the bank. It is more fun to work, ideas flow, intuition grows, you know, the understanding starts to grow, awareness, beautiful things.”
Beth Accomando: “Well, I have had a chance in the past, to speak with Dean Stockwell and Kyle Mclaughlin and both of them told me how enjoyable it was to be on your sets and how, kind of despite the seriousness and the darkness of your material sometimes, that there was a real kind of lightness on the set itself.”
Lynch: “We have a good time going down the road together.”
Beth Accomando: And is it also that creative process that is enjoyable.”
Lynch: “When you have an actor that is enjoyable, I feel for actors so much because they have to go out on a limb and make it real and so you try to create an atmosphere that they feel so comfortable to let go and go deep, deep, deep into that character. And this is money in the bank.”
Beth Accomando: So then in the sense for the actor, they may not be actually practicing transcendental meditation; kind of the process that they are working through is similar in a certain way?”
Lynch: “Well, you know, let’s say we are all like light bulbs and consciousness is the light from within. The more consciousness you have, the more bliss you have, the more you radiate that. So, you know, this is the key to world peace. Radiating so much of that, that is actually brings harmony and coherence, and peace to the world. So, you can get more of it. You can radiate more of it and everyone appreciates that.”
Beth Accomando: “So if you are doing these meditation breaks twice a day; do you take them sometimes while you are on the set? How does that effect the work environment there?”
Lynch: “Well, you know, everybody eats lunch and I meditate before I go to the set and then I meditate at lunch as well so and if I cannot get that one in, I meditate after work so, it does not bother anybody. They are eating their lunch.”
Beth Accomando: “Does that sometimes help you when you are taking that break, and slowing things down, does that sort of help you solve problems on the set?”
Lynch: “You know, you are a beautiful questioner, I tell you. You really are. That ocean of consciousness is an ocean of solutions. And it is such an enjoyable experience to dive within. The splash when you hit that ocean of consciousness is bliss. And it is like when you come out you feel blissful, and wide awake, and energetic, and ready to go. And solutions come more easily. You know knowing this comes, an intuition comes. You can see a way to make it feel correct. And you can see more clearly when something is not quite right. It grows. And it is a beautiful thing for film making and really for any human being.”
Beth Accomando: “Now can you remember any specific time, on a film or on a set, where you were facing a problem or challenge, and you did take one of these breaks and you came out, kind of, re-energized and were able to solve the problem?”
Lynch: “Well, many times this happens but I’ll tell you a story on “Mohan Drive” which was made as a TV pilot, they hated the TV pilot so I had an opportunity to make it into a feature but I did not have the ideas. After a long negotiation between the companies to get the rights to make it into a feature. I suddenly was confronted with the fact that I did not know what I was going to do. And one night, diving within, bingo! Like a string of ideas flowed out and there it was. Now that to me was quite a beautiful thing.”
Beth Accomando: Now, meditation often gets stereotyped and sometimes even ridiculed, I was wondering, have you ever come up against that in the work you have been doing and with people you have worked on in films?”
Lynch: “Yeah, you know, there is all kinds of things about something that is not known about part of our lives. There is jokes about it many, many misunderstandings about it but I love my meditation and I would not ever want to miss one and I have seen my life get better and better and I have seen the lives of others get better and better. So, if there is some, something is in a human being, when they hear about it maybe once, maybe it is nothing, they hear about it again or they see a friend change for the better, something clicks somewhere along the trail and they say wait a minute. And off they go.”
Beth Accomando: “In terms of how people often think of meditation, I mean, people think of it kind of a restful, peaceful, relaxing thing. And in terms of the art that you create, some of it tends to be dark and disturbing. I am wondering if you see a contrast, kind of, between your meditation and the art work that you create?”
Lynch: “Yes, most art reflects the world in which we live. A lot of the ideas come from seeing the world and feeling the world and stories have contrast and conflict. And that is what makes them stories. And you know, meditation is that you can lose your own negativity and suffering and still be able to show suffering, actually have more understanding of suffering, more understanding of bliss, more understanding of all of the things in life. And then you can really go to work and do a story and get more depth, more understanding of it, and you know, and get deeper into a world. So, but the artist does not have to suffer. In fact, suffering and negativity cramp the artist, they narrow the mind, those negative things are the mind control. Anger controls the mind. Hate controls the mind. Depression controls the mind. And when you start diving within and experiencing this pure consciousness and it starts expanding, that heavy, heavy weight starts lifting of negativity and it is a beautiful experience. It is money in the bank.”
Beth Accomando: “So you do not feel that your films need to advocate openly Trans meditation?”
Lynch: “No, that is a message film. Now if you get an idea that shows some quality of it, you know, and you fall in love with that idea, then you go. But those ideas that you find, you are you and I am me and we fall in love with different things. It is just the doing becomes so much more fun and the things that used to kill you gets less and less and less powerful.”
Beth Accomando: “And you brought up your film “Mulholland Drive” and that film and also “Eraser Head, in particular too are films that feel like a stream of consciousness. I am wondering if you feel that meditation helps you connect better to that sensibility artistically.”
Lynch: “You know you expand the container of knowledge, consciousness the ability to understand. So, you can catch ideas. I still think there is something about ones likes and dislikes that dictate a lot. Because the ideas pass through the machinery of you, on the way to translating them into cinema. So, it is the idea, the translator and the end product. This thing of cinema can show abstractions. And I love abstractions. I love stories but stories that hold abstractions. There is a language to film. There is thing about a sequence about using time and pace and it is a magical language, cinema, and I like ideas that somehow that kind of cinema can do.”
Beth Accomando: “I have read that “An Eraser Head” was one of Hubert’s favorite films, was that true?”
Lynch: “This is a beautiful story and it is true. Back in 1979, I think a team of guys that were working with George Lucas went out to Elstree Studio in London and they met Kubrick and Kubrick was talking to them and he said; “how would you fellows like to come up to my house tonight and see my favorite film?” And they of course said; “we would like that very much.” And he showed them, “Eraser Head.”
Beth Accomando: “Oh, nice! [Laughter] I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about your childhood. Did you grow up in a happy, normal, middle class, kind of family?”
Lynch: “Exactly, right. “Happy and normal.”
Beth Accomando: “And I mean that is the kind of surface that a lot of your films, kind of, put up and then you see something darker behind that?”
Lynch: “Exactly.”
Beth Accomando: “And what is that fascination for you?”
Lynch: “Well, you know, the thing is that this is all the surface and when you see a facade you feel something or other behind that facade. And it’s a beautiful thing in life it’s like you are in the theater and there’s the curtains and then it is so beautiful when those curtains open up and you go into a world. Now after “Blue Velvet” some time went by but now there are so many TV shows that show that kind of horror, or this kind of horror, and that kind of horror, always it was going on. The world is in bad shape. And more and more of these things are coming to light. And in a way the solutions are not there but the problems are being known to everyone and that stresses us all ten more times. So, if people know that they have a treasury in their basement, this is a beautiful thing to know. And if they know the way to go and open the door to that treasury and start enjoying it, that is a beautiful thing to know and then it is up to them whether they want to visit the treasury or not.”
Beth Accomando: “Well you are bringing up some of the stuff that is being covered now on TV but what has always been so interesting about your films is, you know, unlike some of these TV shows that focus on the dark side, or on horror, or on crime. Your films have always been interested on that dark side mainly as it kind of, contrasts with a brighter, kind of.”
Lynch: “You are a beautiful soul. This is the thing of a story. If it is all dark it does not work. If it is all light it does not work. A story holds many, many things. Many, many different characters and each one is going along and how they intertwine, all of these things are so beautiful.”
Beth Accomando: “With your films a lot of times people, or sensors, or NPAA board when they have dealt with them, always seem to have a hard time kind of putting their finger on precisely what disturbs them and so they cannot tell you well if you take out this two seconds, we will give you the PG rating. I was just wondering how you react to that?”
Lynch: “Well, I love those people. Because they truly, they do not want to hurt a film, yet they have these rules so a lot of times and you have heard this before with other directors, they work with you and they say gee, they say what you just said. And they say, “maybe if you just tone down that one thing or something, we would be happy.” And it would go like that.”
Beth Accomando: “But it seems like when something like “Blue Velvet” came out that they had a really hard time saying what it was that bothered them but they knew there was something really disturbing about that film.”
Lynch: “Yes.”
Beth Accomando: [Laughter] Is there any character in your films, that you feel you identify with? That seems most”
[overlapping conversation] [00:25:09]
Lynch: “Well, I always liked agent Cooper but I think I sort of identify with you know, in a way, I like them all and they are important to the story. So, I really kind of, get a love for Frank Booth as well.”
Beth Accomando: “It just seems like some of the things I have read about you, you were an eagle scout and you seem in tune with some of, kind of, Kyle McLaughlin characters that you have created.”
Lynch: “Right.”
Beth Accomando: “In “Blue Velvet” and then “Twin Peaks.”
Lynch: “I would say so.”
Beth Accomando: “Your films are so very different from so much of what we see in main stream cinema, I was wondering if you see anything that contributes to that as to why? Because if you set out to be different usually it becomes very awkward.”
Lynch: “You never be different for difference sake. It comes from the idea and if you catch ideas you see them. This is almost, it is not like seeing a movie, it is like finding a seed and then seeing the tree and the seed, sort of. You know it has to go through a translation to be a film but when you actually get an idea you sort of, see it and feel it, hear it, it is all there, in sort of, an idea form. And then you unravel it and put it into words for a script and then you turn that into cinema and so it is a process but it is all the idea. And I say it is like a cook, the cook does not make the fish, but the cook can cook it in a very creative way and make a beautiful meal out of it.”
Beth Accomando: “Blue Velvet,” is going to be showing this weekend here in, San Diego and I just wanted to ask you, it has been almost 20 years since the film came out, and I was wondering how you feel about it now and about its longevity.”
Lynch: “Well, I have not seen “Blue Velvet” for a while. I hope it still holds up. You know when a film is finished, you say it is finished because it feels correct to you at that time and I think it would be ok now for me.”
Beth Accomando: “Do, you still have good feelings, that was one of your favorites of your own work?”
Lynch: “Well I really kind of love all my films, except “Dune.”
Beth Accomando: [Laughter]
Lynch: “And you know, I love the experience of doing them.”
Beth Accomando: “Now when you made “Blue Velvet” during the Reagan and the Senior Bush era and we were being fed, kind of, a certain image of American and I am just wondering if you think there are certain things about current events, or the current time, that may make audiences react again to “Blue Velvet.”
Lynch: “Always, you know, the world, you know, is an influence. And art changes as the world changes, it always has. So, there is the world and then there is the person, and then there is the film and it all kind of, slims together and makes it a certain thing. Like, I am always amazed that the number of frames in the film are always the same. It is the same for every screening and yet every screening is different and it depends on the viewers. And the viewer is influenced by the world so it is all together. And that brings up this thing of consciousness and the unified feel of that ocean of consciousness that unified feel that modern science discovered just 30 years ago. And it is a field of unity at that fundamental level we are all one. Up on the surface we are all different and diving within and experiencing that oneness, pure consciousness, unfolding that, it really gives the feeling, gives the reality, we are all one. And you see friends and not enemies. And relationships improve and so many things come from it that are so positive. It is an ocean of creativity for crying out loud, you know? Creative intelligence, it is a beautiful thing to unfold, to expand.”
Beth Accomando: “Now it has been a number of years since you came out with a feature film and I am wondering if part of that reasoning is that you have dedicated more time to this Lynch foundation and”
Lynch: “No, it is because I haven’t got any ideas.”
[Laughter]
Lynch: “You got to get an idea. And after you finish a film there is a vacuum. You know, and then you go along and more often than not more ideas start coming that you fall in love with and it leads you on to the next one, and so”
Beth Accomando: “You do have a new one, “Inland Empire” coming out soon?”
Lynch: “Right, I am working on that now.”
Beth Accomando: “And this is the first film you’ve shot digitally. Is that correct?”
Lynch: “Yep, all digital.”
Beth Accomando: “And you enjoyed that process?”
Lynch: “Love it. I am through with films.”
Beth Accomando: [laughter] A lot of people, because your films tend to be complex, a lot of people I think, to come at you with questions like what does you film mean, what does this mean? You seem to be”
Lynch: “Quiet about that.”
Beth Accomando: “Yeah, refuse to do that, you do not do commentary on your DVDs, sometimes do not even have chapter stops. Why do you do that? Do you feel the film?”
Lynch: “The film is the most important thing. And I say, you work so hard to get a film to be a certain way and then people want you to change that back into words and if your language is. The whole thing is the language of film, so it should be seen as a film and all of the things are there that are necessary at least in the mind of the film makers. And so then, and then people have the freedom to interpret it and come up with their own answer, on their own way, and that is a beautiful thing. You do not want to fiddle with that.”
Beth Accomando: “I think Kubrick was another film maker who refused to answer questions about “2001,” he said you know people need to figure it out on their own.”
Lynch: “Exactly, it’s a fun thing, we are not so used to it but every film has a little amount of abstraction and you understand it. And then if it gets more abstract you still understand it but maybe you just do not trust that understanding so much.”
Beth Accomando: “I just recently had a chance to interview both David Cronenberg and Clive Barker and what strikes me about both of them and also about you is all three of you are able to create this kind of very disturbing images on the screen and yet in speaking with you, all three of you seem well balanced and pleasant so you know, well centered and I am interested in that contrast between the art and the artist.”
Lynch: “Well, you know, it is as I said maybe earlier, you do not have to suffer to understand suffering or to show a story with it in it. So, for me, I have seen this anxiety that I had, and anger that I had, fears that I had, start lifting over the years and it is a beautiful, beautiful experience.”
Beth Accomando: “Do you think part of your fascination is that some of that darkness is that you did grow up with a normal, happy childhood and that the contrast between what you grew up with and what you started to see as you grew older was startling or impressing you in some way?”
Lynch: “Yeah, that is part of it, I mean, there is not idyllic setting no matter what time it is these days but I did visit New York City quite frequently when I was very small because my grandparents lived there and that was a huge contrast, a huge ball of fear to me.”
Beth Accomando: “Okay, I think I have got all I wanted to ask you and I appreciate your time.”
Lynch: “Thank you very much, Beth.”
Beth Accomando: “Thank you.”
Lynch: “Okay, take care.”
Beth Accomando: “You too.”
Lynch: “Bye.”
Beth Accomando: “Bye.”
[End of an earlier interview]
Beth Accomando: “That was David Lynch from a 2005 interview. Thanks for listening to another edition of listener supported KTBS cinema junkie podcast. You can check out my summer preview on our sister podcast KTBS midday edition. And remember if you are in San Diego, Landmarks Ken Cinema is screening “Fire Walk with Me” just in time to catch the next installment of “Twin Peaks, the Return” on show time this weekend. So, until our next film fix, I am Beth Accomando, your resident cinema junkie.”

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Satisfy your celluloid addiction with the Cinema Junkie podcast, where you can mainline film 24/7. This film and entertainment series is run by KPBS Film Critic Beth Accomando. So if you need a film fix, want to hear what filmmakers have to say about their work, or just want to know what's worth seeing this weekend, then you've come to the right place