Over the course of his 90-minute conversation with Paul Holdengräber at BAM last night (watch some of it here), the word David Lynch kept returning to over and over again was “beautiful.” Lynch used “beautiful” to describe a Chaim Soutine painting of a plucked goose. Lynch used “beautiful” to describe a falling down factory that he’d photographed in Poland. Lynch used “beautiful” to describe a film still from Blue Velvet which shows a disembodied ear, nestled in a grassy lawn. Lynch finds beauty in factories, in smoke, in diners, in fire, in clouds, in sugar (which he called “granulated happiness”). In short, beauty was everywhere last night, even (if not especially) in the hard time Lynch occasionally gave Holdengräber, who had a tendency to over-intellectualize every single thing Lynch has ever done or said, in direct opposition to Lynch’s insistence on appreciating something for what it is, not for the words that we try to ascribe to it.
Despite Holdengräber’s at times tone-deaf line of questioning (which was, incidentally, never less than enthusiastic, at one point Lynch even had to say, “You’re very close to me!” before Holdengräber would back away), this very public conversation with David Lynch was illuminating in many ways, and even die-hard Lynch aficionados would probably have been surprised to learn some of the things Lynch revealed.
David Lynch Loves Kanye West (and Jimi Hendrix! and Neil Young!)
Toward the end of the evening, Holdengräber played a bit of “Blood on the Leaves,” revealing that Lynch was a huge fan of West’s. When Lynch was asked to expound on why he loved West so much, and Yeezus in particular, he said, ”I just think it’s one of the most modern pieces and so minimal, so powerful but at the same time so beautiful.” Lynch, who plays the electric guitar, is also a big fan of Jimi Hendrix, whose playing Lynch describes as being akin to “becoming one with his guitar.” And Lynch also recommended that everyone go home and watch this video of Neil Young singing “Love and War.” So we did. And we liked it too.
David Lynch Has Brooklyn Roots
Lynch’s mother hailed from Brooklyn, and the director spent a lot of time visiting his maternal grandparents here and has memories of the Brooklyn of the 50s, when “all the cars were black, all the brownstones had awnings, and the trees formed a canopy over the streets.” Beautiful, right? Well, the beauty didn’t last long in the eyes of Lynch, who wound up with a phobic relationship with the subway (“the smell of the subway fills me with fear; I don’t mind going down into things, but I mind going down into the subway”). However, Lynch doesn’t hold Brooklyn responsible, and gave the borough extra love when he praised his longtime musical collaborator, Dyker Heights native, Angelo Badalamenti, who was in the audience.
David Lynch Makes People Nervous
I don’t want to be too hard on Paul Holdengräber, who has interviewed Lynch before and thus knows that the director can be a hard interview because Lynch “is reluctant to ascribe meaning to work he has created—to say, ‘This means that.’ [And] finds it limiting to do so.” Holdengräber tried his best and admitted that it was “treacherous talking to” Lynch, but was not really able to connect as fully with the director as he clearly wanted to. And Lynch seemed to enjoy every uncomfortable silence and long pause in a way that was sort of delightful for his fans in the audience, but must have been torturous for Holdengräber. Oh, well. What’re you going to do?
David Lynch Thinks As a Child
Lynch’s reluctance to define the things he loves in the kind of academic terms that so many critics love is due, he says, to his love of “thinking as a child.” Lynch said, “Some people like to have meaning, and some people don’t care because it allows them to dream… everywhere you look there’s a gift.” And later, when looking at a slide of one of his own paintings, Lynch said how much he loves distorted images, commenting, “when things are blurred, there’s more room to dream.”
David Lynch Likes Factories and Naked Women
While looking at slides of Lynch’s photographs of factories, Holdengräber pointed out that one of the locales in which Lynch shot is Poland, where the director attends an annual cinema festival celebrating directors of photography. Holdengräber asked Lynch why he loved that festival so much, and Lynch answered that when the festival-runners asked him to visit, Lynch asked, “Do you think it would be possible for you to get me into some of these factories so I can photograph them? And do you think you can get me nude women at night?” Which, we guess so! Because now Lynch goes every year. So.
David Lynch Thinks Everybody Is a Voyeur
Lynch spoke of his love of spying on people, saying, “I think everybody’s a voyeur… Looking into windows is something so fantastic. It’s like cinema, and a glimpse into another world, other lives. So beautiful.”
David Lynch Was an Eagle Scout
And it was during his time as an Eagle Scout that he volunteered at the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy. Lynch told Holdengräber that he saw the stretch limousines carrying Kennedy and Eisenhower, Johnson and Nixon, sail past him, saying that he couldn’t have realized it then, but he’d just seen “four consecutive presidents just gliding by me.” Holdengräber asked, “Did you feel at that moment… patriotic?” “No.”
David Lynch Loves BAM
Lynch spoke of seeing some things which were so beautiful that they gave him pause and captured his heart. When Holdengräber asked what had done that most recently, Lynch said it had happened when he’d come into BAM that night: “Seeing this theater stopped me in my tracks.”
David Lynch’s Heart Opened When…
The director spoke of two times when he was shaken to his core. One was when he first saw Francis Bacon’s work at the Marlborough Gallery in 1966, and the other was at LACMA a couple of decades ago. He’d gone to see sandstone sculptures from the Far East and wandered by himself into a room with a Buddha from India. He spoke of his gaze falling on the face of the Buddha and seeing a “white light that shot out and filled [him] with bliss.”
Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen