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David Lynch

by Thom Bennett

Revered as a cinematic visionary by many and dismissed as merely odd by others, David Lynch is a true American original. His enigmatic, often-unnerving style of filmmaking has created a body of work that is at once nightmarish and strangely beautiful.

In 1968, Lynch made a five-minute short film entitled "The Alphabet". This bizarre film established early on Lynch's leanings toward the avant-garde and earned him a grant from the American Film Institute to make his next film, the 34 minute dark fairytale "The Grandmother" (1970). For the next five years, Lynch worked on his first feature length film. The result was "Eraserhead" (1978), a bizarre and disturbing vision of a man trapped in an industrial future.

Impressed with Lynch's vision, filmmaker Mel Brooks hired Lynch to direct "Elephant Man" (1980) about the real life story of life of John Merrick. For his effort, Lynch received an Academy Award nomination for best director and quickly moved him from the midnight movie circuit to the mainstream.

This is where the story takes some strange twists and turns. Lynch was offered the job of directing "Return of the Jedi" and turned it down, instead opting to try to get his script "Ronnie Rocket" made. After this project fell through the cracks, Dino De Laurentis offered Lynch "Dune." Based on Frank Herbert's science fiction epic, "Dune" (1984) was re-edited to death and was one of the biggest box office failures in history.

In 1986, Lynch returned to what he knows best. Lynch's masterpiece, "Blue Velvet", is a portrait of what lies beneath the surface of typical small-town America. In the opening scenes, Kyle MacLachlan stumbles upon a severed ear in an empty lot and the false fašade of Americana is unraveled before our eyes. "Blue Velvet" cemented Lynch's place in cinematic history and established him a one of the great visionary filmmakers of the modern era.

Lynch's body of work includes "Wild At Heart" (1990), a surreal, haunting road movie laced with hints of "The Wizard of Oz"; "Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me", the prequel to his cult television series that had the world asking "Who killed Laura Palmer?"; and "Lost Highway" (1997), a bizarre tale of murder and switching of identities. Lynch's latest, "The Straight Story", is in competition at this year's Cannes Film Festival.

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