It seemed the unlikeliest of pairings when it was announced last week.
Surrealist filmmaker David Lynch, co-creator of the influential TV show Twin Peaks and the celebrated director of 10 feature films, including Mulholland Drive, Blue Velvet, and The Elephant Man, has teamed up with very mainstream '80s pop stars Duran Duran for a concert film. Duran Duran Unstaged features footage Lynch shot during the band's sold-out concert at the Mayan Theater in Los Angeles in 2011 and features appearances from Kelis, Mark Ronson, and My Chemical Romance's Gerard Way. The film will screen at theaters worldwide on September 10, including FilmBar in downtown Phoenix.
This is hardly Lynch's first foray into music. He wrote the score for his first full-length film, Eraserhead. The haunting soundtrack features long, droning, machine-like sounds, maddening sound effects, and nightmarish melodies that match the visuals of the 1977 macabre black-and-white cult classic, which put Lynch on the map. If you can somehow manage to sleep soundly after hearing the penetrating vocals that accompany the song "In Heaven (Lady in the Radiator Song)," then the world wants the medication you're taking.
It was the Bobby Vinton standard "Blue Velvet" that inspired Lynch to make his 1986 film of the same name. The mood of the single gave rise to the disturbing story of a young man who finds a criminal underground in his seemingly idyllic hometown. Filled with violence, rape, and Dennis Hopper inhaling amyl nitrite while screaming the 'f' word as he endorses Pabst Blue Ribbon, it's doubtful you don't think of the traumatic scene of Isabella Rossellini walking naked on the street when the song comes on the radio.
Lynch collaborated with film composer Angelo Badalamenti and vocalist Julee Cruise to create the atmospheric score of Twin Peaks. The score, which could alternate between jazzy and synth-pop, was so effective that it sold enough albums to reach gold status. Lynch also brought together David Bowie and Trent Reznor for the soundtrack for his 1997 film Lost Highway, which features the Nine Inch Nails hit "The Perfect Drug."
Lynch was similarly inspired by the indie synth group Au Revoir Simone. The trio played with him during a reading of his book on transcendental meditation titled Catching The Big Fish and has been a vocal proponent of the indie group ever since. He also contributed vocals to two of the tracks of the collaboration between Sparklehorse and Danger Mouse, titled Dark Night of the Soul. Lynch's haunting photography accompanies a special edition of the album, which would be the final work of Sparklehorse's Mark Linkous before his suicide, as well as the one of the final works by Vic Chesnutt before his tragic overdose in 2009.
Lynch reportedly has made his last narrative film, the bizarre 2006 three-hour Inland Empire, but he continues to be remarkably prolific in other areas. He was one of the first filmmakers to release content exclusively to the web, including his daily video weather reports. (They involve him looking out his window from his home in Los Angeles and describing what he saw.) He also created the critically acclaimed "David Lynch Signature Cup Organic Coffee," his personal brand of coffee beans. If you wanted to learn transcendental meditation, the David Lynch Foundation was created "to ensure that any child in America who wants to learn and practice the Transcendental Meditation program can do so." He credits the practice with allowing him to stay remarkably creative and calm.
This led to his latest contributions to the musical genre: the bizarre and critically acclaimed albums Crazy Clown Time from 2011 and last year's The Big Dream. Both feature bluesy electric trip-hop, experimental rock (the track "Strange and Unproductive Thinking" from Crazy Clown Time is about transcendental meditation), and unique collaborations, including Lykke Li and Karen O from Yeah Yeah Yeahs. If he can continue to explore his crazy dreams and passions in both the visual and musical format, then Duran Duran's latest concert film is going to manage to make the '80s icons relevant again, even if it's for only one night at your movie theater.
Duran Duran: Unstaged is screening at FilmBar on Wednesday, September 10.
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