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While "Blue Velvet" could be the most structurally complete Lynchian vision, "Wild at Heart" could be considered his most accesible. For me, this is the perfect culmination of everything I love about Lynch. The previous themes exist here, too, but they are more deeply felt than they've ever been before. Like "Blue Velvet", the film is about extremes -- love and violence, darkness and light, sanity and madness. But this film takes those extremes even further - the colors and the characters are more eye-poppingly vivid and alive. The world Lynch creates here knows no bounds. "Wild at Heart" is a road picture (a perfect genre for Lynch to ground his style of storytelling), a horror movie, a love story, a musical and a domestic drama. Everything Lynch throws into the mix (whether it's Elvis Presley or "The Wizard of Oz" homages) feels like it organically belongs. The movie can never veer out of control because that lack of control is exactly what it's about. It is his most audacious, fun and free creation.

"Twin Peaks:Fire Walk With Me", the feature film "prequel" to Lynch's highly successful television series, deals with an abused child who creates their own means of emotional detachment and escape, much like "The Grandmother" before it. Only this time, the child's choices place them further on the road to self-destruction. This is, in many ways, Lynch's first all-out horror film, albeit a domestic horror film dealing with child abuse and incest. Lynch's use of macabre sound and imagery hit a new high here; the experience is at once tender, shrill, horrifying and drenched in regret.

"Lost Highway" and "Mulholland Drive" examine the nature of duality; how someone can assume a different identity to either escape or welcome a darker past. There are curious moments in each film that seem to betray the world Lynch attempts to create. For the first time, his work seems too self-conscious. While many critics claim that "Wild at Heart" was an overt attempt at Lynch trying to be Lynch, I feel this description is much more warranted with these films. With these two films, it seems as if he's trying to out-Lynch himself to an extent that cannot be adequately supported by their wobbly structures.

Always surprising, Lynch also directed "The Straight Story" during this time. A family drama about an elderly man who travels by tractor across country to visit his ailing and estranged brother, the picture is as wholesome and warm as his previous films are dark and violent. It also earned Lynch a first (and probably last) milestone in his career: a G rating. It is, like "Wild at Heart", a road picture of sorts, only here the characters suffer no extreme affectations - they are all good, moral midwesterners. "The Straight Story" is, ironically, Lynch's riskiest experiment (can he tell a straight story?) and, despite its exhaustively lengthy running time, it is largely successful.

His next film, "Inland Empire", is a 165-minute DV film that promises more of Lynch's trademark atmosphere and mystery. Video produces a more flattened and voyeuristic image than film by its very nature. There's no telling what kind of perverse world Lynch can create with it. Whatever the new film turns out to be, it will definitely be another vision that we've never seen before.

The Short Films:
Six Figures Getting Sick: B-
The Alphabet: B
The Grandmother: B
The Amputee: C
The Cowboy and the Frenchman: C-
Lumiere: A

The Features:
Erasurehead: B
The Elephant Man: B
Dune: C-
Blue Velvet: A
Wild at Heart: A+
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me: A-
Lost Highway: B-
The Straight Story: B
Mulholland Drive: B


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