The “Lynchian” Aesthetic
Duffer / Yo A Romantic Comedy / Possibly in Michigan
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.
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.
Possibly in Michigan
dir. Cecilia Condit, USA, 1983, video, color, 12 min.
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).