The “Lynchian” Aesthetic
Dreams that Money Can Buy / Angry Boy
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
Dreams that Money Can Buy
dir. Hans Richter, USA, 1947, 16mm, 81 min.
Produced and Directed by Hans Richter in
collaboration with Alexander Calder, Marcel Duchamp, Max Ernst, Fernand Leger,
and Man Ray.
As Hans Richter called it: “Seven dreams shaped
after the visions of seven contemporary artists.” To attempt to trace David Lynch’s
seemingly irreducible aesthetic to a single point of origin, one couldn’t do
much better than to arrive at this Surrealist super group film, which Lynch
praised in-depth on a 1987 episode of BBC Arena.
Made by a group of similarly interdisciplinary artists
- whose roots also trace back to Dada and anticipate Fluxus - Dreams that Money Can Buy is a
low-budget, high-concept masterpiece of seven dream-films by Alexander Calder,
Marcel Duchamp, Max Ernst, Fernand Léger, Man Ray, and Hans Richter - who coordinated
the overall collaborative production with additional key contributions by
composers/performers including Louis Applebaum, Paul Bowles, John Cage, Libby
Holman, John Latouche, Darius Milhaud, and Josh White.
Of particular note is the sequence by Man Ray, in which the cinema is grounds for interesting behavior modeling experiments. Painter Léger (whose 1924 “Ballet Méchanique” is one of the early touchstones of experimental cinema) also contributes a brilliant segment, “The Girl with the Prefabricated Heart,” portrayed as a satirical mechanized romance between store mannequins. It’s set to John La Touche’s brilliant title song, sung as a duet between Libby Holman and Josh White, which may well have planted the seeds for Eraserhead’s “In Heaven.”
dir. Alexander Hammid, USA, 1951, 16mm, b/w, 33 min.
Angry Boy 16mm print courtesy of the Reserve Film
& Video Collection of The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.
Special thanks to David Callahan and Johnny Gore.
Already an important figure in the Czech avant-garde, Alexander Hammid emigrated to the United States and in 1943 co-created one of the touchstones of experimental cinema, Meshes of the Afternoon. Later he directed a number of sponsored films, including this study of troubled youth for the Mental Health Film Board’s “Emotions of Everyday Living” series. The white bread suburban setting—and the frustrations boiling beneath—wade in the same pool of All-American imagery drawn upon by Lynch in films like Blue Velvet. Though straightforward and conservative in approach—this is, after all, a film sponsored by the Michigan Department of Mental Health—one detects oblique flourishes of the weird with an avant-garde master behind the camera.
It’s worth noting that not only Hammid, but also
Richter and many others have worked in sponsored film—including Lynch, who has
made ads for products including coffee, cigarettes, perfumes, and more.
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).