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The “Lynchian” Aesthetic

Duffer / Yo A Romantic Comedy / Possibly in Michigan

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Thursday 1/8
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A program of films curated by Jon Dieringer

David Lynch is one of the most distinctive and singular of all filmmakers, forging a unique syntax based upon the legacy of the Surrealists, classic Hollywood genres, American iconography, European art-house cinema, and an appreciation for popular melodrama deftly balancing earnestness and kitsch. To fully reduce this syntax to its constituent parts is not only futile, but beside the point; similarly, it would be impossible to make a full accounting of its influence on cinematic and other arts, direct or otherwise. This series of three programs, featuring a total of seven films and videos, explores influences, predecessors, and antecedents, either real or speculative. Special thanks to Rebecca Cleman


dir. Joseph Despins & William Dumaresq, UK, 1971, Blu-ray, 72 min

A 1972 British cult film almost entirely unknown in the United States, Duffer is an independently made psychodrama that plays like a queer mélange of Joe Orton, Hubert Selby Jr., and David Lynch. In his only acting role, Kit Gleave stars as the title character, a wayward hustler who wanders the London streets between two lovers: Your Gracie (Erna May), a tender, matronly prostitute, and Louis-Jack (co-director and writer William Dumaresq), a wretched sadist who’s determined to control Duffer by having him somehow bear a child. As he contemplates love and codependency, Duffer’s world grows increasingly unhinged, culminating in a number of whimsical and disturbing episodes traversing gutters, bedrooms, and back alleys, striking a unique pitch with overtones of both Free Cinema-style social realism and proto-Lynchian weirdness that anticipates the high-anxiety world of Eraserhead.

And as with that film, the soundscape is essential. Hair composer Galt MacDermot provides a light, lyrical piano score that degrades over the course of the film into brooding white noise. Narrated entirely in voiceover, with Dumaresq himself reading in the voices of the characters, Duffer is delivered in an amiable cadence that, like the literary voices of Humbert Humbert or the narrator of Poe’s “Tell Tale Heart,” belies the gradual exposure of paranoid fissures. It might be simply described as a dark comedy, but the rough and wistful Duffer contemplates the darkest recesses of the aching heart and disturbed mind.

Preceded by:

Yo A Romantic Comedy
dir. Ryan Trecartin, USA, 2002, video, color, 12 min.

In Yo A Romantic Comedy, Ryan Trecartin creates a bombastic, grotesque pop explosion between a jilted lover and her would-be baby daddy in this piece with manic aesthetic affinities to Lynch’s 2007 shot-on-prosumer-video feature Inland Empire. Yo could also be considered a hyper saturated internet-era take on the parental anxieties underlying Eraserhead. A nod to suburban Goth favorites Nine Inch Nails of the Lost Highway soundtrack is a nice bonus connection.

Preceded by:

Possibly in Michigan
dir. Cecilia Condit, USA, 1983, video, color, 12 min.

Possibly in Michigan narrates, in light sing-songy vocals, the story of a pair of friends with two things in common: “violence and perfume.” So begins a funny and disturbing story of cannibalism, homicidal psychosexual urges, and the macabre in suburbia, which, like TWIN PEAKS, locates beyond the department store cosmetics counter a rabbit hole into a whimsical and twisted world.

About the programmer: Jon Dieringer is the founding editor and publisher of Screen Slate, a daily comprehensive listing resource for repertory film and moving image artwork in New York City, and a principal administrator, programmer, and trailer editor at Spectacle, a collectively run DIY cinema in Brooklyn. He has also organized screenings series and shows at 92YTribeca (in collaboration with the Flaherty Seminar), Anthology Film Archives, the Film Society of Lincoln Center, the Museum of Arts and Design, and UnionDocs. His video work has shown at venues including Anthology, Lincoln Center, Flux Factory, MoMA Warsaw (Poland), The Museum of Arts and Design, and The Nightingale (Chicago), and he often works in collaboration with musicians to generate original video for live scores at Spectacle. Professionally, Dieringer is the Technical Director at Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI).

David Lynch film programming is in conjunction with David Lynch: The Unified Field at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA), the first major U.S. museum exhibition of PAFA alumnus David Lynch, on view September 13, 2014 to January 11, 2015. Organized in close collaboration with the artist, the exhibition features over 80 paintings and drawings from all periods of Lynch’s career. It includes rarely-seen early work from Lynch's time in Philadelphia (1965-70), a critical period in his creative development. The William Penn Foundation is the presenting sponsor of David Lynch: The Unified Field. Follow @PAFAcademy on social media and join the conversation with #PAFADavidLynch.