|" Where have you been? You never come around anymore ! "
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|ERASERHEAD Ė the 1977 movie by David Lynch. His first full-length film as a student at the Centre for Advanced Film Studies in Los Angeles. It was, of course, followed by the Academy Award nominated film : The Elephant Man. ( After the success of The Elephant Man, Lynch re-released ERASERHEAD in France, under the title, "The Labyrinth Man".)
EraserHead : This Black and White film ( b & w being perfect for the atmosphere of the movie ) is enigmatic, to say the least. Youíll either love it or hate it, get-it or at least partially get-it, or just walk away in disgust. Itís surreal, quirky and very, very imaginative. Some have said if conveys a post-Apocalyptic scenario --- Maybe, for some. David Lynch has said that the Title of the film is obvious in its meaning. So far, according to Lynch, no one has interpreted it correctly. I THINK I HAVE --- AND I'LL TELL YOU IN A MINUTE...
Now, it took five years for Lynch to complete this movie. Itís about 90 minutes in length. And the entire screenplay is only 21 pages : with a lot of scene description, diagrams, and drawings. There is very little dialogue; sticking to that screenplay axiom of : if you can show it, donít say it! In fact, in my estimation, thereís only about 8 or 10 minutes of dialogue in the entire film ( read the dialogue in the EraserHead script : here ). The imagery alone will carry your mind and imagination far far away, if you let it. Five years in the making with many interruptions for a variety of reasons : mainly money. Each actor on the film was paid $25 a day, and the wardrobe was from the Salvation Army discount store. -- Even Sissy Spacek worked in the production of the film.
According to David Lynch the "Baby", if we can call it that, is actually an embalmed calf that Lynch animated somehow. Although he never says how he did it. Regardless, that thing is something to see. I really canít figure it out either. And this was a time before such real-looking animation / fx. Besides, David did not have that kind of budget. The entire movieís cost / budget was under $10,000. But the dead cat, which he got from a Vet, I understand ! ( The influence of the painter Francis Bacon on EraserHead is evident : here )
Thereís one scene, where Henry Spencer ( played as no one else ever could by the late Jack Nance ), many consider him Eraserhead due to his hairdo, is walking up the hallway of his apartment building returning to Mary and the Baby. As he approaches the door to enter his apartment, Henry places his hand on the doorknob. CUT -- to an interior view from inside his apartment as he enters it. Well, thereís a year and-half time lapse in filming between the hallway scene and the one of Henry entering into the interior of his room. Itís all very seamless of course, but it gives you an idea of the time and struggles involved in making this movie. As a side note : Lynch was in such a dire need of funds to complete the movie that he once considered claymation animaton --clay figures-- as an alternative ending. Imagine that one...
My favorite line in the movie is, and since the dialogue is minimal and infrequent, I enjoy every word in the movie, but my favorite is the delivery of the line by Henry to his girlfriend Mary of ( outside her parents' house ) : WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN? YOU NEVER COME AROUND ANYMORE ! The emotion, if not anguish, comes through so well.
Now the movie "score" is a combination of some of the eeriest, mechanical and haunting sound FX I ever heard Ė it compliments the imagery and lends to the atmosphere beautifully. AND, thereís that organ music. What a soundÖ by a young Fats Waller. Unaccompanied Fats at the organ with music he composed between 1926 to 1929 :: The Digah's Stomp : Lenox Avenue Blues : Stompin' The Bug : Messin' Around With The Blues. By itself the music is wonderful and entertaining. But once you hear this organ music behind the imagery of EraserHead... It takes on a haunting, quirky, otherworldly, surreal characteristic. Youíll never hear FATS Waller the same way again !
Hmmm "ERASERHEAD", why the title Eraserhead ? Could it be due to the hairstyle of Henry. Hmmm Ö That would be too obvious and pointless. But it is a great stylish effect for Henry and to call attention to his Head. Could it be because towards the end of the film some "erasers" are drilled from Henry's head ? Nah! Let me preface this by stating that the film is from a male, in this case Henryís, perspective. And the movie is filled with male sexual imagery, as you can tell.
HERE IT IS : the movie is about the consequences of irresponsible sex : sex without the responsibility it requires : the disastrous consequence of REC-reational sex, as compared to responsible, RE-CREATIONal sex.
Unanticipated things can happen ( the "baby" ) when, from the male POV, your little head (you know what I mean by the "little head" donít you ?) swells-up and ERASES the thinking, control and rational thought, that your BIG head can bring. In other words when the "little head" of the male takes over, it ERASES the objectivity of the BIG head and itís so-called brain. Youíll do things with consequences you may regret and get into some serious trouble. Hence, the decapitation of Henry in his dream sequence.
Also, for added perspective, Lynch first wanted to film the story based on his script for "GardenBack", which he had been working on for a year : it's a story of Adultery. He lost interest after its rejection by the AFI... ERASERHEAD grew out of it.
Lynch also noted that, after working on EraserHead for a few years, he came upon a verse in the Bible that "pulled it all together" for him. What that verse is he will either not reveal or just doesn't remember. Lynch said in an interview when asked where in the Bible the verse is : "Honestly, I don't remember. I read it and shut the book." I'm sure he knows what the verse is, but he ain't tellin'. Any ideas? My guess is that the verse in The Gospel According To St. John, chapter 1, verse 14, of The New Testament, may be it : "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us...". In the beginning of the movie we see Henry open his mouth as a sperm-like gamete emanates from it and is deposited into a murky pool. From sperm is Flesh made : The baby : The Word from Henry. Whatever the case, Lynch considers EraserHead his most spiritual work... He didn't say "religious" work.
So, thatís my analysis of the KEY to the understanding of David Lynchís ERASERHEAD film : Thereís hasnít been, nor, in my opinion, be another movie like it. So, David, Mr. Lynch, if I got it right please let me know if you can (and I'm assuming you'll read this stuff). Okay ??
Anyway, I think I hit it on the headÖSo to speak Ė OUCH !
When it's all said and done : In 2004, the film was deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.
But, there is SOOOO much more about this movie and itís imagery Ė conscious and unconscious Ė that needs to be stated and deciphered : each for himself. And that's the beauty of it, and why it is so enigmatic and personal.
I really love this film and canít get enough of it. A perfect Bourbon movie of the week.
For More News and Blurbs on David Lynch and EraserHead : Pencil Machine Blog
Oh, here's a Free EraserHead ScreenSaver ...Very cool !
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