Throughout his illustrious career in the world of film, television, art, and music, David Lynch is someone that is the true definition of an artist. While he is largely known for his work in feature films, the man has also carved a very solid career in the world of short and experimental films. His work in shorts have spanned for more than half a century as it is clear why he is so lauded by many as one of the finest filmmakers in the world.
Part 1 (1966-1995)
Six Men Getting Sick
The first short that Lynch did is a forty-second animated loop about six men getting sick as they throw up as it features images that are strange which would play into the many things Lynch would do in the coming years. While it’s a simple student film that cost about $200 back in 1966, the sense of imagination is very prominent as Lynch’s approach to editing and shooting style is just incredible for someone who was just starting out in the world of film.
Sailing with Bushnell Keeler
One of Lynch's early short films is essentially a homage to his mentor Bushnell Keeler as it play into a sailboat trip with Keeler and Keeler's brother Dave. While it doesn't feature many of the surreal nor offbeat aspects that Lynch is known for. It does play into something simple though Lynch claims it's really just a home film that is a tribute to his mentor.
Absurd Encounter with Fear
The first of two short films Lynch made in 1967 showcases Lynch playing around with an emerging sub-genre in the world of horror which involves the living dead. It revolves around a zombie walking down a hill as if he’s about to stalk a young woman as he pulls something out of the fly of his pants. What happens is probably one of the most odd short films ever created but it also shows Lynch’s very warped idea of humor.
Fictitious Anacin Commercial
The second of two short films Lynch made in 1967 would be in the form of a commercial for Anacin. Yet, it is played with a sense of kitsch where it starts out being very dark until this young makes the Anacin and feels great. It’s another example of Lynch playing around with the ideas of commercial as it is clear that the 60s were a very weird time.
The four-minute short film Lynch made in 1968 is a combination of live-action and animation as it relates to a young girl having a nightmare involving the alphabets. The girl, played by Lynch’s then-wife Peggy, would be haunted by learning the alphabets as it’s this strange mixture of fear and innocence as Lynch find ways to combine these two elements in both animated and live-action. It’s a short that would be very inventive as it would give Lynch a grant from the American Film Institute as it’s another of one of his finest shorts.
The 34-minute short film Lynch made in 1970 at a budget of $7,200 as it is a mixture of live-action and animation in this story about an abused boy who finds seeds and hopes to grow a grandmother to protect him. It’s a short that is just very imaginative as well as relying music and sound effects to help tell the story rather than dialogue. It’s a short that has elements of mime in the performance of the actors but also a lot more as it features images of a boy growing a tree on a bed along with repeated images of him wetting the bed and getting beaten up by his father. Relying on black-and-white and color photography plus animation that is sort of reminiscent of Terry Gilliam’s work with Monty Python. It’s definitely a short that is quintessential Lynch.
The Amputee (versions 1 & 2)
Made in 1974 for the American Film Institute, the short was made during the production of Eraserhead where Lynch and cinematographer Frederick Elmes were both experimenting with black-and-white video stock. Written with Catherine Coulson (who would be known more as the Log Lady in Twin Peaks), the short revolves around an amputated woman (Coulson) writing a letter while a nurse (Lynch) is changing her bandages. The differences between the two shorts as the first one is timed at five minutes and the second is at four is that the former has a crispier look where it’s darker in its photography while the latter is a bit more polished with some blurs. Both are shot in one take in an entire static shot as it’s a very weird yet compelling short from Lynch.
The Cowboy and the Frenchman
The 26-minute short that stars Harry Dean Stanton, Jack Nance, and Frederic Golchan was made for the French TV series The French as Seen By… that would feature shorts by Werner Herzog, Andrejz Wajda, Luigi Comenichi, and Jean-Luc Godard. It’s a very humorous short film that is set in the American West where a nearly-deaf cowboy (Stanton) asks his fellow cowboys to see what is coming down as it is this Frenchman (Frederic Golchan). Thus, a strange mix of culture clash and confusion looms as this cowboy wonders what this Frenchman is about where he and his buddies look into the Frenchman’s luggage and sees things that are foreign to them. However, the two different men would find common ground in all sorts of things which goes to show that even the biggest differences can bring people together.
Industrial Symphony Vol. 1: The Dream of the Broken Hearted
On November 10, 1989 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York City, Lynch did a stage presentation of an experimental play based on complex mosaic geometric shapes that he did during his days at the Philadelphia Academy of Fine Arts. Starring Nicolas Cage, Laura Dern, Michael J. Anderson, and vocalist Julee Cruise, the fifty-minute short that Lynch released a year later would have a lot of references to projects Lynch would do in 1990 such as Wild at Heart and the TV show Twin Peaks. With a stage set looking like a factory, it’s a strange avant-garde mix of musical performance with drama, exotic dancing, horror, and all sorts of things with music by Lynch collaborator Angelo Badalamenti. It’s one of Lynch’s most oddest film pieces but certainly a fascinating one thanks in part to the music and stage setting.
Premonitions Following an Evil Deed
The fifty-two second short film made in 1995 as part of the anthology film Lumiere and Company is a celebration of the works of the Lumiere Brothers where forty filmmakers would create a short no longer than fifty-two seconds with no synchronized sound and no more than three takes where they would use the original Cinematograph camera invented by the Lumiere Brothers. The short revolves around the death of a young woman where the police tells her parents about their daughter as it features some surreal imagery that is definitely in tune with what Lynch does as a filmmaker.
(End of Part 1)
David Lynch Films: Eraserhead - The Elephant Man - Dune - Blue Velvet - Wild at Heart - Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me - Lost Highway - The Straight Story - Mulholland Dr. - INLAND EMPIRE
The Short Films of David Lynch Pt. 2 - The Music Videos of David Lynch
The Auteurs #50: David Lynch: Pt. 1 - Pt. 2 - Pt. 3 - Pt. 4
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