I have 490 movies in my Netflix Instant queue. I tend to maybe watch one thing for every five things I add, but now my library is full and I have to make room. Serious watching must begin. So, every Monday I’m going to pick a random movie out of my queue and review the shit out of it. But (like Jesus), I’m also thinking about you and your unwieldy queue and all the movies in it you want to watch but don’t have time to now that you’ve become so awesome and popular. Let me know if there’s something that’s been gathering digital dust in your Netflix Instant library and I’ll watch that, too. One Monday for your queue and the next Monday for mine and so forth. Let’s do this.
What’s the movie? Eraserhead (1976)
What’s it rated? Unrated for being the antithesis of all things pure and warm milk related in this world. It’s like trying to rate a fleeting feeling just out of reach.
Did people make it? Directed by David Lynch. Acted by Jack Nance, Charlotte Stewart, Judith Roberts, Allen Joseph, Jeanne Bates, Jack Fisk and Darwin Joston.
What’s it like in one sentence? It’s like a bad dream you have after watching a video at school about the dangers of pre-marital sex.
Why did you watch it? Chud’s own Michael Rabbatino requested it and a Chewer named Cooper seconded. Also, I hadn’t seen it since high school when it was way over my head.
What’s it about in one paragraph? Okay. I accept your challenge. It’s about Henry Spencer (good old Jack Nance of wanting to have sex with Joan Chen in Twin Peaks fame), a lonely printer who lives in a rundown apartment in an unnamed urban wasteland. When he meets back up after a brief break-up with his estranged girlfriend Mary X, he is invited to have dinner with her and her family. After cutting into tiny man-made chickens that kick and piss blood; after Mary has seizures that can only be contained by Mary’s mother combing her hair and after Mary’s mother starts licking his neck and crying, Henry finds out that Mary had a baby way before it was due and it’s his. Time to get married and be a daddy. Except it’s not so much a human baby as a mix between Admiral Ackbar, a diseased yet aroused penis and a horrible #2. After Mary decides the squealing monster is too much, she leaves and Henry must be a father to the frightening little fish baby or the man who lives in the black planet that controls the ghost eels in his body might get mad. To the best of my knowledge that’s a lot of what happened in this movie.
Play or remove from my queue? Only you can answer this question. I know my purpose here is to advise you and maybe make you laugh once or twice, but I feel criminally underqualified to give you advice on whether to watch Eraserhead or not. Only you know whether you think David Lynch is a visionary and pioneering filmmaker that comes closer to putting the subconscience on film than any other director, or whether he’s a pretentious loon that gets off on creating discussion about films devoid of any actual meaning. I know people from both camps but, even though I sometimes find him frustrating, I remain comfortably entrenched in the latter category. I thought Inland Empire was all punishment with no reward, but after the fascinating and mesmerizing Mulholland Drive, he’s allowed to indulge for a bit if he so pleases. As long as those indulgences don’t end up taking over his career.
The thing that I loved the most about Eraserhead is one of the things that frustrated me the most about Inland Empire. The black and white photography is gorgeous even when the frame is filled with things more grotesque than imagination can supply. The cinematography by Herbert Cardwell and Frederick Elmes (Elmes went on to do a one-two color combination with Blue Velvet and Red Dawn, which makes him a winner in my book) is so flawless that it feels like it could have been shot just months ago. Inland Empire on the other hand is filmed in some very glamorous and naturally impressive areas around Los Angeles, but is shot on such muddy digital camera that all of the grandeur of the environment and of Lynch’s previous films feel lost. It’s a shame because Lynch is a master of framing, composition and camera movement, but on digital it all feels rushed and cheap. I know it’s quicker and allows him more set-ups, but shouldn’t there be a bit of a sacrifice to make his films look so elegant.
I would say that the film is much more accessible than Inland Empire or Lost Highway, but less so than Blue Velvet or Mulholland Drive. Regardless of whether I was confused, perplexed or throwing away my ChocoTaco in disgust, the film held me to every frame. No, I didn’t understand who the man in the black planet was, or why he was disfigured and sometimes controlled Jack Nance with a system of pulleys and levers. I didn’t need to. Lynch’s films are about the feelings they evoke more than the plot points or whether it feels like it’s following a structure of any kind. Eraserhead feels like a fever dream you had after watching 1950’s abstinence propaganda: Have a baby before you’re married and it will not only ruin your relationship but it will also cry all the time and not really be human at all. Also, beware communism and radiators. Love, David Lynch.
Of course you should watch Eraserhead. It’s dark, mysterious, gruesome and wrong. It’s challenging, but rewarding. It’s upsetting, but fulfilling. It made me really happy that I have you guys to pick movies for me, because I probably wouldn’t have re-watched this until a long time from now. This film scattered my critical thought and rebuilt it only enough of it for me to say that this film is a seminal work of art that will last like a cave painting or a terracotta warrior. If you’re serious about film and you haven’t seen this then do so at your next opportunity. It’s a keeper, although I’ll probably never watch it again unless I do a David Lynch retrospective with my cats.
Do you have an interesting fun-fact? Filming Eraserhead took so long that, at one point in the film, Jack Nance ages 18 months between cuts. Also, the fact that the American Film Institute paid for most of this is pretty amazing.
What does Netflix say I’d like if I like this? Why? The Shining (No connection), The Illustrated Man (I’ve never seen it but people keep telling me I should), Dogtooth (this would make for a great but torturous double feature), Suspiria (similar pacing is about the only connection I see) and Night of the Living Dead (now you’re just acting a fool, Netflix).
What does Jared say I’d like if I like this? Why? The Complete Works of David Lynch (duh), The Complete Works of David Cronenberg (body horror and things that ooze), American Astronaut (look it up), Punch Drunk Love (something subliminal) and Stomp the Yard (dancing is healthy?).
What is Netflix’s best guess for Jared? 3.9
What is Jared’s best guess for Jared? 4.5
Can you link to the movie? I sure can!
Any last thoughts? Seriously though, this movie is super gooey and gross. I almost had to throw away the rest of a Choco Taco that I was eating while watching the movie because it started reminding me of the fish baby’s rotten visage. Luckily, I remembered we’re in a fucking recession and Choco Tacos are hard to come by in these desperate times. It would have been wrong not to finish it.
Did you watch anything else this week? Not much. I got cast in a play so that’s going to eat up a bunch of time, but I did see Thor and enjoyed the hell out of it. Idris Elba owned every second he was on screen as Heimdall. He should be Luke Cage.
Next Week? It’s my turn to pick and I say either Jesus’ Son (Crudup!), Blood Creek (Fassbender), Doghouse (British!) or Le Corbeau (Criterion!). If none of these strike your fancy, throw out another idea and we might go with that. I’m open to this shit. Have a great week, Chewers.