Monday, April 13, 2020

Cinema in Quarantine: Wild at Heart

Last week I got together with writer and filmmaker Cameron Cloutier (@bodian26) to watch and discuss David Lynch's Wild at Heart in a live stream video. Cameron is the director of Queen of Hearts, an intriguing Twin Peaks-inspired film that explores characters Caroline Earle and Annie Blackburn, and through all this we discovered that we both really favor Lynch's late 80s/early 90s period that includes Blue Velvet, Twin Peaks, and Wild at Heart.

My own personal experience of seeing this film for the first time was kind of interesting, at 15 I had to shut it off about halfway, but about a year later I muscled my way through the Big Tuna scenes and ended up really enjoying it. Unfortunately I was not able to see this in a theater, which would have been an entirely different, very visceral event (which Cameron describes). For anyone trying this for the first time, just know it's very violent, very sexual, and filled with jarring, intense moments that you just have to be able to go with. If you can make it through the conclusion of the Johnny Farragut situation about midway through the film, you'll probably be fine to the end. IMDB's official description uses the phrase "variety of weirdos" to summarize the film and the people in it, and while it's true, these people are weird and violence is at the root of the story, the film is a lot more than just that. For more on plot summary or character details you can read this review, also pretty informal, that I did ten years ago on this blog.

Sometimes when you watch a film you've seen multiple times, the experience can feel a little like you're just going through the motions or just serves as a setting where you can recite all the lines and feel comforted by the familiarity. Relaxing. Validating. This never really happens to me during Lynch films or Twin Peaks for two reasons.

1. Everything on the screen is so rich with detail---dialogs, composition, music, effects---there's almost always something each time I view that I notice for the first time. For instance, this time Cameron brought my attention to the music during the film's opening: its interesting shift from Badalementi's score to "In the Mood," to the aggressive guitars of Powermad during the first murder. Very disorienting but very fitting for introducing Sailor and Lula (while Marietta lurks in the background). Also Marietta's cute little pink bathroom with floral wallpaper. The furniture in the hotel lobby in New Orleans. And a random longhorn (we decided it may have been a light or decal with a florescent bulb along the underside) leaned up against one side of the bed at the motel in Big Tuna that was only there for one scene at night and then disappeared (!) Always something to see, hear, or think about.

2. The uncanny, somewhat incongruent elements (usually in the form of characters, but sometimes entire scenes or musical numbers) that pop up Lynch's work and speak to his brilliance and individuality as an auteur. I'm always on high alert when waiting for these situations, things like Marietta's mishandling of the lipstick, the woman sidestepping across the stage with her fingers flickering up by her cheeks at one of the New Orleans musical venues, the story of Jingle Dell, or the old men loitering around the hotel lobby where Johnny is supposed to meet Marietta (but has gone "buffalo hunting").

I've already said too much, but it was a fun couple hours reminiscing and hearing another fan's experience of it, too. Take a look, if you want to see/hear more, or better yet, turn on the film and watch along with us. Let me know in the comments what you think!