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Subverting the Mainstream: The Postmodern World of David Lynch

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  1. Introduction
  2. The world that David Lynch portrays
  3. David Lynch's first successful film
  4. The innovative storytelling behind Blue Velvet
  5. What most critics of Wild at Heart failed
  6. The critical response to Mulholland Drive
  7. The world of David Lynch
  8. Conclusion
  9. Works cited

During the first half of the twentieth-century, a movement known as ?classical Hollywood cinema? thrived; this was the dawn of truly ?mainstream? films. The movies created during this time operated largely within metanarratives; all-embracing laws which governed human behavior. These films utilized well-known plot structures and familiar characters to tell their stories. There was almost always a hero and a villain, and, in the end, the hero would inevitably get the girl. This was a decidedly modernist period in the realm of film. In the latter half of the century, the metanarratives of mainstream, modernist cinema began to face subversion at the hands of a new generation of filmmakers. One filmmaker who has lead the way in this fundamental shift in cinema is David Lynch. Lynch has, for nearly thirty years, stood out as a remarkably postmodern, independent filmmaker. He is largely responsible for ushering in a new breed of independent film, in which the simultaneous subversion and celebration of mainstream metanarratives creates endless cinematic possibilities. His films, most notably Blue Velvet (1986), Wild at Heart (1990), and Mulholland Drive (2001) have generated extreme controversy, dozens of awards, and a reputation as one of America's most brilliant, offbeat directors. The stories these films tell are elaborately interesting, but what sets Lynch apart as a writer/director is the way he tells his stories. Lynch's work is categorically postmodern, extremely controversial, and undeniably independent.

[...] While the mystery in Blue Velvet maybe be reminiscent of the Hardy Boys, and the fictional town in the film (Lumberton) may look like a throwback to the films of Frank Capra, the sadistic violence and sexual depravity Lynch infuses subvert any and all remnants of mainstream ideology the film may have otherwise contained. Many film critics took issue with the brutal violence and perversion in Blue Velvet; largely seen in the sadistic, psychotic character of Frank Booth (Dennis Hopper). [...]


[...] In Blue Velvet, as in most David Lynch texts, the emphasis is on the storytelling rather than the story; and the storytelling is disturbingly beautiful. Lynch creates worlds in which nothing is real, but everything is seemingly based on something real. Kenneth C. Kaleta states that ?Lynch never comments?he presents. He uses incidents of a story and elements of film to fashion his movie world. He tells us that the world is an amalgamation of contradictions. Life is both good and bad, as is everyone who lives in (Kaleta 91). [...]


[...] In his book Detours and Lost Highways: A Map of Neo-Noir, Foster Hirsch describes Blue Velvet as a world in which ?homage collides with mockery in Lynch's satiric jabs at the character types, settings, and narrative arc of the traditional investigation format? (Hirsch 176). Lynch's revision of the investigation metanarrative is almost unbearably violent, explicitly sexual, and wholly original. Within the framework of the film, however, it is clear that Lynch professes a genuine admiration for the detective movies of mainstream, Hollywood cinema. [...]

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