Sunday, 13 March 2011

Daydream Nation: Back To The Velvet


Critically and commercially, Back To The Future (1985) and Blue Velvet (1986) continue to be influential and popular in a way that so few hits of the 80s are. Frequently placed on 'all-time favourites' lists, the former continues to entertain school kids with frequent TV broadcasts, the latter still finds an enthusiastic college-age audience on DVD. In retrospect, what is most striking is how very similar both films are. The main difference may be their respective genres' terms of reference, but they have far more in common than first impressions indicate. Both films hark back to the 50s, not least the persistent myths of lost purity and cohesion. These myths even extend to their use of 50s pop music. The only non-white people visible in either film are 'Chuck Berry' and his band - taught how to play rock'n'roll by white Marty. For all of Blue Velvet's borrowings from Kenneth Anger and its sexual 'subversion', homosexuality is solely suggested by a camp rendition of 'In Dreams'. Women serve as battlegrounds, over which 'family values' struggle against fathers abusive or weak. Blue Velvet's kidnap plot takes a back seat to its sexual violence. Compared to symbolic flourishes and dream imagery, its crime 'mystery' is the least memorable aspect of the film. Similarly, Back To The Future's sci-fi trappings are largely there to open, close and advertise the film. The real genre connecting both is the fairy tale, where the hand of the princess and the keys to the kingdom are earned by overcoming demons external and internal. Both films' 50s genre adornments are mere 'McGuffins' to that most ancient of dramas: the Oedipal triangle. The real 'meat' of both stories concerns the affirmation of patriarchal authority, won via young men's journeys into an underworld (of dreams, dangerous curiosity, sexual turbulence, or the unknowable past). What makes them highly relevant to the 80s is their restoration and empowerment of the 'good' family, of traditional gender (and implicitly, class and race) relations.


As with most fairy tales since Grimm, both films are as conservative as they are perverse. Both screenplays cunningly exploit the thrill of taboo, while also working to repress the curiosity and traumas of the Primal Scene. By not hiding behind the symbolism of the Oedipal triangle, making the blood relations at stake explicit, Back To The Future was arguably more risky. This is a kid-friendly blockbuster where Marty McFly spends most of the film trying to discourage sexual advances from his own mother. It's rare to see any mother in a 'family' film portrayed as sexually assertive, especially when the object of desire is her youngest son. As with Blue Velvet, the story was years in gestation, tinged with autobiography and childhood nostalgia; 'personal' projects that rescued the director's reputation after a notable flop. Blue Velvet's characterisation is built around David Lynch's childhood memories of small-town life (including the traumatic sight of a bewildered, naked woman walking the streets). Back To the Future screenwriter Bob Gale stated that his story emerged from speculating on whether he would have been friends with his father had they attended school at the same time. It is perhaps logical that director Robert Zemeckis added further speculation - over the desirability, and indeed availability, of one's own mother if she also attended the same school. It may be its dreamlike tone and environment that allows Back To The Future to get away with this central conceit.

 
Although controversial, Blue Velvet got away with its 'outrageous' scenario by presenting an America removed from any recognisable reality. 70s crime thrillers and neo-noir often focussed on the degradation of 'the excremental city' or town, where patriarchal order was hideously abusive (Chinatown, Serpico, Gloria), subject to mockery (Dirty Harry, Dog Day Afternoon, The Long Goodbye) or tragically ineffective (Night Moves, Cruising, The Killing of a Chinese Bookie). Left, right or liberal; the city was always corrupted, with varying emphases of blame. In the 80s, noir increasingly presented a hyperreal 'America' - a country in inverted commas where story, environment and performance became more overtly 'plastic', as in Body Heat, Blood Simple, Body Double, Trouble In Mind, Down By Law and Something Wild - moving towards stylized black comedy and away from urban realism. Complementing this noir trend, science fiction moved away from its earlier (and far less profitable) litany of doom, towards childlike optimism and renewed faith in family values. Again, comedy played a big part. Unlike the 70s, the Disneyfied America was no longer a niche - it was common parlance, as mise-en-scene turned away from 'realism', back to the fairy tale and its comforts.  

Along with the traditional hero, the 70s was a period when the cinematic father was thrown open to question. Despite the death of the western, its narrative set-ups moved into the suburb, the city or even outer space. The restoration of the father's Law and legitimacy can be charted over the first Star Wars trilogy; but came to dominate many genres like the Teen movie. Teens adjusting to social norms by asserting aspirational values over the indulgences and 'failed' authority of their Boomer parents was a common motif in 80s film (Exhibit A: John Hughes). Flattering the ideology in which its young audience was growing up, it was youth bringing the Law to town. When making Back To The Future, Michael J. Fox was starring in the popular sitcom Family Ties, a key show of Reagan's 80s. Where previous sitcoms played off the conservative father against the more progressive son, here roles were reversed. Fox played the right-wing yuppie, fighting against the hippy liberal values of his father (that's all I can remember about the show, apart from the distractingly youthful Meredith Baxter as the mother - herself adding a layer of Oedipal tension). In Back To The Future, it's not so much a conflict of values as attitude. Marty's family, especially father George (played by the very 'Lynchian' Crispin Glover) are a source of comic embarrassment, losers that disappoint the ambitious, energetic Marty. Their domestic discontent, their failure to keep up with the Joneses, is the desperate situation in need of narrative remedy (later continued into the following century and, somewhat appropriately, the wild west).

If the McFlys begin with a failed patriarch's impotence (and ensuing lack of domestic discipline), Blue Velvet opens with two versions of patriarchal castration, true to Lynch's usual approach of painting symbolism with boxing gloves. The red, white and blue of the idyllic suburb is disturbed by a sudden stroke, the father's hose out of control, punctuated by a dog that snaps away near his crotch. For the rest of the film, the 'true' father will be absent; as will the owner of the severed ear Jeffery Beaumont finds on the way back from his hospital visit. The rest of the film will be loudly dominated by the monstrous, obscene father (veering between 'Daddy' and 'Baby'); using his power to violate the Law in the absence of idealised, silent fathers. Compared to the difficult but well-judged performances of the other leads, Dennis Hopper's Frank Booth is as hammy and cartoonish as Christopher Lloyd's Doc - performances from the school of Robert Newton's Long John Silver. Like Silver, they are dangerous substitute fathers, unpredictable 'wizards' reliant on artificial enhancement, leading our young heroes into perilous (but ultimately containable) dreamworlds. The 'dream' being a hyperreal, mythologised America that must overcome temptation and confusion. Frank also incorporates the role of town bully (as goblin or fire-breathing 'dragon'), like Biff in Back To The Future. Both bullies must be destroyed, physically and/or economically - in the interests of hygiene: to cleanse the town, the home and the mind, a threat to be exterminated as decisively as the insects populating Blue Velvet. In accordance with 80s economic ideology, the first battle for social redemption is within the family.


In the interests of 'surrealism', Blue Velvet preys upon infantile anxieties and adolescent fantasy. Complementing those mysterious noises that emanate from mommy and daddy's room, Lynch adds imagery redolent of animal sex: reminders of why parents hastily lead children to the next cage at the zoo. The voyeuristic Primal Scene that introduces Frank has been analysed to death elsewhere. His 'bad father' sadism usually garners the most attention, Dorothy's 'bad mother' masochism less so. Why does she accept her 'punishment' so willingly, even encouraging it from a reluctant Jeffery? Despite his wilful violation of patriarchal order, Jeffery is still presented as the 'innocent' throughout. His response to Dorothy's abuse is foregrounded, as much as his own beating is given greater narrative weight than the regular violence Dorothy is subjected to. Instead of punishment or condemnation, his voyeurism is rewarded with a plot device familiar from any number of porno films - the virginal peeping tom 'punished' with fellatio (sex-with-stepmother also being a porno staple). Even the first-time viewer knows that the castrating knife she holds won't be used - being more of a Hollywood taboo than incest, or sexual violence encouraged by its victims. Jeffrey's position in the fairy tale (as son, as 'apprentice') allows for a license that Dorothy can't claim. 

Sex without family is presented as the instincts of beasts, like the snarling dog or writhing insects of the opening scenes. As much as Back To The Future, Blue Velvet is very much concerned with 'taming' female sexuality. The casting of glamorous Isabella Rossellini, her relative youth compared to Hopper (or even the man playing her husband) throws her into the thankless position of mother as sexual being without domestic purpose; a guilt that seems to haunt Dorothy until the film's final shot. As with Back To The Future's Leah Thompson, she is written and played as more sexual (and disturbingly sexy) than the protagonist's 'real' girlfriend. Marty's mother's desire is subject to the demands of narrative and biological destiny (he has to procure the Primal Scene to exist). As 'mother', Dorothy bears the brunt of punishment, for the absence of supposedly stabilising influences of husband and child (whose hat, fascinating to Jeffery, could be read in similar terms to the severed ear, as severed/castrated from patriarchal coherence). Although Dorothy is often described as a 'femme fatale', Jane Greer, Barbara Stanwyck or Joan Bennett were never this willingly victimised; but then 40s noir rarely added 'failed' motherhood to its locus of betrayals (a notable exception being Mildred Pierce). Their characters also had a far greater role in manipulating events, a luxury brutally denied to Dorothy.

Lynch's highly acclaimed career would continue in a similar vein, with stories of women in trouble. The look and manner of his heroines echoing a re-imagined 50s, their agonies and mutilations a punishment for 'modern' sexual transgression. Even TV's Twin Peaks sold itself with the fetishised image of a young girl's corpse. Its film spin-off gloated upon the torture that led her there. The actions of Lynch's abusive father figures or murderous cuckolds are frequently explained away by a supernatural presence (deus ex machina as convenient as the Force, Superman's time-reversal, or opening the Lost Ark). Zemeckis would go on to be one of the most financially successful directors of all time, notably with Forest Gump: a celebration of political ignorance and revisionism, with historical punishment for counter-cultural discontent, particularly for women. The mid-80s may be the turning point where the Hollywood blockbuster and American 'art' cinema found a common ideological ground. As 'independent' film increasingly become an exercise in style and pastiche, it was a decade in which the post-modern condition closed the gap between notions of art and commerce, mainstream and counter-culture; all under the vigilant watch of neoliberal hegemony. Although social reality continued to move further away from domestic idealisation, American film pushed the family fairy tale as the only social 'unity' worth working towards. As with the 80s police procedural or war film, father knew best again. Hollywood made fundamental demands of faith from an increasingly juvenile audience. 

Reagan and Bush I were fans of Back To The Future, both citing it in speeches (the murderous presence of "Libyan terrorists" probably helped). Its idyllic treatment of the 50s, with a previously irreversible outcome available for correction and revision (history be damned!), had obvious Republican appeal. This attitude was even apparent in the making of the film: "We decided to shoot all the 50s stuff first, and make the town look real beautiful and wonderful. Then we would just totally trash it down and make it all bleak and ugly for the 1980s scenes." However, lifelong Republican Lynch's (very 50s) Lumberton sees its nocturnal, inarticulate inner city 'cleansed' by suburban outsiders; as Jeffrey's righteous resolve kicks in when Dorothy's violated, naked body 'violates' the wholesome space of his idyllic, retro suburb. It is also a journey to the new Morning in America; the restored strength of the white bourgeois family to which both films awake at the end, in blinding sunshine. A gentrification of the soul. Although some ambiguity persists (for the benefit of sequels... or critics), memories of urban degradation, sexual transgression or moral failure are conveniently devoured by the Law, nature (the robins), science (time travel) and right-wing family values. The patriarchal family is not only consolidated, but enhanced. 


For all the contradictory impulses and sexual dread of their protagonists, both films' denouements come after the most American of solutions. As manipulated by Marty, George McFly earns the right to be a father (the right father) as his trembling hands transform into well-timed, well-aimed fists (at a dance event called 'Enchantment Under The Sea', emphasising the fairy-tale Freudianism). With this, the family rapidly fading from Marty's photograph returns to visibility and future invincibility. Jeffrey enters sexual maturity (exiting the 'dark underbelly' of moral and sexual confusion) by blowing out the brains of the obscene dad of nightmare; and with that blowing out the 'dark' side of himself, foreshadowing Fight Club years later. This time the camera emerges from an ear free of insects and mutilation. Oedipus has completed his journey with both eyes intact. Initially meek, our suburban mother fuckers have enforced the Law; using the last resort of all politics, sexual, domestic or otherwise. Rescued from sexual coercion from 'undesirable' elements, both mothers return to their rightful role in the magic kingdom, after male violence is placed in the 'right' hands. If both films are about entry into (and escape from) dream worlds, it is physical force that has final say before the family can return to an acceptably altered reality: The 80s version of the American Dream.

18 comments:

Phil Knight said...

I think this is the best thing you've written Mr. Kasper - and I don't mean that lightly, as I rate your writing very highly.

But what it does suggest, at a deeper level, is that 80's culture was a con (which indeed I think it was).

Obviously my position here is going to be very predictable (the con was enabled by cheap oil resulting from the opening up of the North Sea and the Alaskan North Slope), but it is fascinating how a whole philosophy of apologetics manifested itself as soon as Reagan appeared to grant it legitimacy.

Paul said...

"both films are about entry into (and escape from) dream worlds"

Surely the structure of Blue Velvet is more complicated than a simple opposition of "real" and "dream" worlds. As explored more explicitly in Lynch's later films, the relationship between reality and fantasy is depicted as tangled and non-heirarchical. The very hyperreality of the idyllic suburb makes it seem less real than the obscene oedipal dream world, as confirmed by the materialisation of the robin from Sandy's dream. It seems to me that the apparent consolidation of right-wing morality should not be taken at face value then. In fact the prevailing sense of unreality at the end (and beginning) of the film always leaves me with a disturbing sense of non-resolution and moral ambiguity.

Qlipoth said...

The only non-white people visible in either film are 'Chuck Berry' and his band - taught how to play rock'n'roll by white Marty.

I seem to recall booing in the theatre at the stereotype astonished face made by an employee of the diner.

Qlipoth said...

oh, and, wonderful post




this is funny:
http://www.toplessrobot.com/2010/09/back_to_the_future_is_evil_rapey_racist.php

and

" Dorothy is often described as a 'femme fatale', Jane Greer, Barbara Stanwyck or Joan Bennett were never this willingly victimised; but then 40s noir rarely added 'failed' motherhood to its locus of betrayals (a notable exception being Mildred Pierce"

Given Lynch's racial preoccupations might it be safe to suppose "Dorothy" suggests Dandridge?

W. Kasper said...

Phil -

Yes, so much of 80s culture was a huge con. I think this has had a long-term effect on the critical faculties of those who grew up then. Around 1990, when Lynch was everywhere - Twin Peaks, Julee Cruse LP, the truly dreadful Wild At Heart, he seemed to stand out in a cultural wasteland. Mainly for throwing in a few striking images here and there, cunning use of music and a few other gimmicks - I was SUCKERED. American film was in such a bad state at the time that anything remotely out-of-the ordinary was eagerly grasped by his core audience: pretentious boys in their late teens/early 20s.

Paul -

I don't agree. Whenever I've viewed a Lynch film among an audience, there's always (nervous) laughter at the 'irony' and the assumption that his films are 'ambigious', at some critical remove from the black and white silliness onscreen. I think this is Lynch's most effective con. The bad pacing, the silly performances, the narrative clumsiness, the cheesy dialogue like Laura Dern's 'robins' speech - Lynch means it. He can't direct performances very well - hence the hamminess from less disciplined actors. His simplified 'all-American' worldview is represented by his very conventional plots (yes - CONVENTIONAL. Spouting exposition backwards or punctuating gunfights with some non-sequitor is just his window-dressing). At the end of Blue Velvet, Jefferey is fully at ease with the world. It's Dorothy who must bear the burden of 'ambiguity'. Read any inteview with Lynch - he takes things very much at face value, and he is unashamedly right-wing. He's no Michael Haneke. Other directors from his generation, whatever the quality - like Cronenberg, Jarmusch and the Coens, despite their stylisitc tics, have 'matured' by making their concerns more apparent. Inland Empire was like the result of handing a toddler a camera and a talented cast.

If it walks like a duck etc...

Qlipoth -
I do think Rossellini's 'foreigness' makes her fair game for Lynch's abuses (he got 'brave' enough to abuse blonde WASPS as his reputation inflated out of all proportion). And yes, the racial stereotypes got more pre-war offensive with further films. Richard Pryor in Lost Highway? I seriously doubt Lynch would have cast him in full health at his most dynamic and 'powerful', but as a visibly ailing 'servant' he slots nicely into Lynch's Republican utopia. And the misogyny is as 'ambiguous' as Hitchcock's - it's clear and present for all to see. There's also the Elephant Man, which repeat viewings show as very hostile to the poor (the Victorian working class were just EVIL - how right-wing is that?), and reverential to the wealthy - as a superior 'species' (as though a medical exploitation is morally superior to entertainment exploitation).

Despite this, I still quite like Eraserhead and Mullholland Drive, for one reason: They take one uncomfortable, ugly emotion and squeeze it dry (respectively, reluctant parenthood and sexual jealousy). But even there, he'd be a lot more 'brave' if he reversed the genders of the protagonists (lesbianism in Mullholland Drive is a cop out I can't be bothered elaborating on, but you get the idea). Then they really would be uncomfortable to watch. As it is, he's deeply, deeply conservative; and as artistically childish as Zemeckis, Spielberg etc.

W. Kasper said...

Oh, and Paul -

Right-wing ideology's main modus operandi is to make 'real' and 'dream' worlds interchangeable. Since Goebbels, its been aware that the fiction is the best propaganda - create an unreality, and then propose a solution to it. Watch an hour of Fox News if you need evidence. This is the edge it usually has on the 'reality-based community'. 'Reality' is the impoverished 'public option' left for the poor, third world, minorities etc etc. A particularly cunning trick of right-wing ideology production is to treat the (relatively comfortable) western left as 'loony' - for failing to agree we all live in the best of all possible worlds.

Greyhoos said...

But Wayne, David Lynch made a dancing dwarf talk backwards & everything. He's a genius.

No, seriously...very nice job, this. Uncanny how you addressed all the creeping suspicions/misgivings I started having about Lynch 25 years ago.

Phil Knight said...

Yeah, but the problem that the right has is that another term for creating your own reality is being delusional.

This is the kind of thing that intellectuals like Baudrillard miss when they critique neoliberal re-inventions of reality - there really is a real reality out there which is slowly grinding onwards underneath the dream.

This is why for example the neoliberals are totally blind to the fact of peak oil, just as the Nazi's were blind to the fact that the Soviet Union could churn out 500 tanks a week.

W. Kasper said...

I agree - but too many people settle for that delusion, even if it drags them over a cliff much faster than any 'loony left' initiative. Any 'motivational' training I've been unfortunate to attend can sometimes feels like a Neuremberg Rally with Powerpoint - everyone eager to nod in 'positive' tandem no matter how miserable it'll make them in the long-term.

Anonymous said...

"I do think Rossellini's 'foreigness' makes her fair game for Lynch's abuses"

yes but even more specifically i think the relation is american slavery - the hostage taking, the mutilation, and rossellini was lynch's partner and has some close black relatives. (her family seems to have inspired him on numerous occasions.) but i really do think much of his work is delivering white supremacist violence in a surreal language (that shields the viewer from feeling voyeur-accessory and as you say offers enough ambiguity for critics to treat everything as critique of itself) and given a psychoanalytic glaze that shifts blame to and locates horror and evil in historical victims. -qlip/chabert

Anonymous said...

not quite white, passing and hiding the difference, is lynch's preoccupation (not quite white rita hayworth, robert blake painted white...the horror of miscegenation; merrick's mother raped by an elephant; in inland empire the white goddess womb perforated and filling with foreign gypsy shit. these horrors of mingling are lynch's big worries and what is done to prevent it his fantasies.

"her family seems to have inspired him on numerous occasions."

like aristo lisa's death in that car accident, and i hate to say it but dwarf= scorsese.

the funniest line about eraserhead i saw was something about a man fainting at the sight of his own sperm.

W. Kasper said...

Qlipoth -

"shields the viewer from feeling voyeur-accessory and as you say offers enough ambiguity for critics to treat everything as critique of itself"

Well, that is the great po-mo trick, which is why it complemented neoliberalism so well for the 'smart' viewer. Pornography itself certainly made use of this - from the 90s, there was a strange trend of "yes we're performing this numbing gender oppression, but you're watching it" (there were porn film-makers called "The Dark Brothers" who really played on this reflexivity). But 'ironic' reflexivity often ends up being the accepted norm.

The supposed 'irony' of widespread rape jokes among British comedians (or Slovenian philosophers!) being a telling example. Comedians pretend they're being 'better' than that, but actually being far more brutal and ugly in their sexism than the 70s comedians that they've "knowingly" moved ahead from. Jimmy Carr's entire career seems to be based on this schtick.

I'm not sure how conscious Lynch's racism is. He seems so simple-minded that he may not even be aware of it. A lot of what I once thought was 'irony' is just straight-laced ineptitude or idiocy in his films. American visual artists-cum-directors tend to use/hide behind decorative images to cover their narrative/thematic incompetence. But in working to 'shield' the viewer, yes. It certainly does the trick, like our new wave of racist, misogynist (but privileged, well-educated) comedians. Flattering us with "you're too clever to really be into this - even though you're spending money on it". The real flattery is assuming "we" have the luxury of treating it as a joke when convenient.

Anonymous said...

conscious - well not exactly. he does say he was afraid to go into psychoanalysis because he presumed it would harm his creativity, which his prospective shrink agreed could happen. he does seem to put a subconscious up there, a free association kind of pseudo-surrealism, more like the automatic writing of spiritualism. but he's aware what makes him happy and what scares him; that he's comforted by the white picket fence and the white couple, and frightened by the city:

"Because I grew up in a perfect world, other things were a contrast. When I visited Brooklyn as a little kid, it scared the hell out of me. In the subway, I remember a wind from the approaching train, then a smell and sound. I had a taste of horror every time I went to New York.I visited my grandfather there, who owned an apartment building with no kitchens. A woman was cooking an egg on an iron - that really worried me. Every night my granddad unscrewed his car aerial so gangs wouldn't break it off - I could feel fear in the air."

and he did put a razorwire fence around his hollywood hills estate...



JEREMY GILBERT-ROLFE

I don't really know David Lynch's work very well but as far as I can see he is a person who works with the poetics of suburban sleaze, sort of a Galsworthy of the lumpenbourgeoisie. As the director of Blue Velvet and Twin Peaks he should of course be the obvious choice to direct the I-hope-soon-to-be forthcoming Nancy and Ronnie and Frank Story. ButI don't think that in the end the work does much more than tell Americans what they already want to hear, namely that the underside of the American psyche and of American society is a world which revolves around sex and ambition of a deformed sort. In actuality, however, it revolves around greed and the deformations of racism - neither of which really appear in Lynch's works, which cleave to the traditional, and surely very revealing, Hollywood device (or dream) of a world which, though flawed, is a place where everyone always seems to have all that they 'need,'and where the notion of race is absent or blurred. In the'alien'character in Twin Peaks, the notion of the foreign is psychologized rather than politicized as it most certainly is n o t in the domestic politics or foreign policy of the United States. Like Warhol and Galsworthy, Lynch is an artist of the Establishment, who helps the banal to feel superior to a banality which is in fact a mirror image of themselves, and does so by telling them that their world is naughty in the way they want it to be naughty rather than evil in a way that they are quite unwilling to confront.

W. Kasper said...

Anonymous -

Yes there is the terror of contamination, mixture or intermingling (like that "voodoo" scene in Wild At Heart, or the fixation on scabs, fluids and saliva in Dune) . Eraserhead seems more traumatised by the act of conception than the actual baby. And I forgot about the "elephant conception" - which seems of a piece with the 'dirty' working class who invade Merrick's home (emerging from the smog), compared to the pristine medical surroundings run by pure-hearted rich doctors.

Matt said...

What a terrific post! More please!

Alex Niven said...

Wonderful piece.

Crispin Glover is definitely a thoroughly Lynchian archetype isn't he? The peeping-tom scene especially.

Now you've made the comparison it seems so obvious. In fact, hard to believe Blue Velvet wasn't a direct influence on BttF.

The second BttF film is also very interesting from this urban/suburban dystopia angle. The "good" Hill Valley is a consumerist. New Urbanite fantasy (complete with Cafe 80s - how prophetic!). The "bad" alternate future in which Biff has bought the town is a libertarian nightmare though, with murders everywhere, gambling, private security services etc. Interesting because this is actually something of an indictment of Reagan's eighties, a vision of neoliberalism taken to its logical extreme.

Anonymous said...

I remember Crispin Glover mainly from the TV interviews he used to do in the '80's. He was a favourite guest of Jonathan Ross (another neoliberal progenitor). Glover used to bring strange things onto Ross's show, like a matchbox with a dead cockroach in it, and claim that he "collected" them. He seemed to be an "act" in real life, rather like Emo Phillips.

The whole BTTF scenario seems to invoke the scenario of It's A Wonderful life, with the idea of the town of Bedford Falls going to seed if George Bailey commits suicide. The ultra-acerbic American social critic Jim Kunstler points out that regardless of the outcome of that film, Bedford Falls, if it really existed, would now be a soul-less, centreless vista of parking lots surrounded by Walmarts, strip-malls and six-lane highways, because that's what the American people really want.

W. Kasper said...

I can barely remember the sequels, apart from the migraine inducing product-placement in "2" (something Lynch isn't averse to, either).

I remember Crispin Glover's interviews. It was Wossy's attempt at a smirking 'freakshow' segment, like his role model David Letterman. Glover directed his own films - bizarre ritualistic pieces featuring visibly ('cinematically') disabled people in circus outfits, dwarves and Feral House publisher Adam Parfrey in blackface carrying out executions. Basically David Lynch without pastiche (or 'irony') to hide behind.

Good point point about Bedford Falls. Am I alone in thinking that if Mr. Smith really did take over Washington, he'd be a Lindbergh-style fascist demagogue; with his small-town boy scout camps, pseudo-rebeliousness and ranting sincerity?