Found Highways

The King of Weird shows his sunny side

Some Lynch devotees may find these conflicts to be a weak brew, but to do so is to miss the important qualities in his work. One of the most difficult scenes for people to swallow in Blue Velvet was the moment when Laura Dern's Sandy stops her car in front of a church -- for no apparent reason other than to justify the organ music on the soundtrack -- and told Kyle MacLachlan's Jeffrey her dream about thousands of robins bringing love to the world. On the one hand, it was so baldly mawkish as to appear ironic; on the other hand, together with the music (and the context), it was strangely moving -- once you put your postmodern cynicism aside long enough to let it be.

It's that sort of moment that suggests the positive awe -- that is, the wonder -- in Lynch that balances his negative awe -- the dread. It's always been there, but in The Straight Story, it's dominant for the first time -- perhaps in part because the director had to give proper respect to the real people whose story he's telling.

For whatever reason, The Straight Story is indeed heartwarming, though not simplemindedly so. It represents the other side of Lynch's particular, almost spiritual, worldview: In essence, The Straight Story could have been called Found Highway. Like Lyle and Alvin, it and Twin Peaks (and the others) are siblings beneath the skin, no matter how distant they may seem on the surface.

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