Fire Talk With Me

The tidbits of information kept alternating between exciting and worrisome: Slow-working visionary David Lynch had made a new movie, but it was so long and weird no company would distribute it. He’d put it in theaters himself, but only in cities like New York and L.A. It might come to Texas, but only one sold-out show at Austin’s Paramount Theatre.

In fact, many Lynch-lovers near Austin did get their fix: Not only did the Paramount show Inland Empire, the director was there for a generous Q&A. He gave away free cups of the “signature blend” coffee now sold at He ventured before an audience to tape a Texas Monthly Talks interview. (Broadcast here only on KLRN’s digital channel, February 23 and 26.) He went to Barnes & Noble to sign his new book, Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness and Creativity.

We’re still in a good/bad news pattern: The film did end up with a full weeklong booking in Austin, but an SA engagement in still pending. (At press time, the Bijou had confirmed it will be showing Inland Empire, but no date has been set). While we cross our fingers, here’s a taste of what Lynch had to say when, God bless him, he spoke with the Current in Austin last month.

On Inland Empire’s production, which began with unconnected scenes that Lynch filmed off and on over the course of a year, without any idea they’d eventually be a feature:

Has making a film in this method converted you to working this way, or will you want to do a more conventional production again?

Well, I think it’s better — it’s probably better to do a script first and then gather the gang together and shoot. But there’s still something about marching at a certain `slow` speed based on your finances. Marching at that speed, it’s — it’s important to go, not with wasting time, but having the time to feel it. That would be ideal. But have a script first.

On digital video, which Lynch has embraced wholeheartedly:

Are you sympathetic at all to people who are praying that you haven’t really abandoned film for good?

There’s no way I could shoot that slow again. Slow should be used for the scenes, it shouldn’t be between set-ups. You want to roll forward and catch things. People love the quality of film, but it’s really, in my book, it’s so gone. It’s an old thing, and it’s a heavy thing, and it’s a slow thing. That heaviness and slowness can kill things. To say they’re praying I go back to film, it’s like hoping I’ll die the death, and go ponderously through, and lose magical things.

You have rhapsodized about how you fell in love with this particular camera `a cheap one he was using for experiments`, but since video has already progressed far beyond this camera’s quality ... I wonder, have you really fallen in love with this to the exclusion of other things, or will you explore better cameras and richer looks?

I couldn’t change cameras `to make Inland Empire a feature`, because I’d already started, and I wanted it all to have the same feel, which I loved. But next time, I’ll see what the state-of-the-art small camera is, and go with that. And stay with that.

On the members-only, where he posts all manner of short material:

Are the web shorts made for fans, or for yourself, or as a scrapbook for future ideas?

All of it. It’s like: There was this morning I was walking over to the studio, and I see this ball of bees. So, it’s not every day you see a ball of bees. So I filmed them, and it was a good thing I did, because the next day they were gone. Because there was a sprinkler underneath there, and they didn’t know that — when the sprinkler went off, I can imagine what they thought, “We gotta get out of here, this is the wrong place.” So they were gone the next day.

But when you see stuff, the ball of bees, ideas come out of that. A fascination for what’s happening. Things like that could lead to something. That one hasn’t led to anything yet, but other things can lead. All these things are, when it strikes you, good to do.

On his enthusiasm for Transcendental Meditation, a practice he hopes will spread throughout the world:

You’ve been spending a lot of energy lately promoting peace and joy, and ways for people to achieve that. Does it ever concern you that, though they don’t affect you in this way, the effect of many of your films on perhaps most viewers is to create a sense of dread and fear?

`Chuckles` I don’t think that it does, really. During the story, you have those things. But when it’s over, you have an experience that could be exhilarating in some ways. So, I really believe in stories with huge conflicts and torment, and the human condition, and all the things we get into. But like I say, the artist doesn’t have to suffer to show suffering. And the viewer is always in the safety of the theater. It’s an experience.

You feel like at the end, even if there’s not a conscious feeling of ease, that the viewer has gone through a process that puts him there?

Yeah — well, I don’t know, every viewer’s different, so you can’t say generally it’s one way, but when I see a film that’s a certain experience, even though it has maybe been tormenting overall, I feel inspired that I felt things that I couldn’t have felt without this experience. That’s cinema. We can go into a world that didn’t exist, and now we’re in there. To me, that’s magical. l


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