Kool Kat of the Week: Jeffrey Butzer Delivers A Lynchian Tour de Force with His “Club Silencio: Music From the Feature Films of David Lynch” Kicking Off Its Southeastern Summer Tour at The Earl

Posted on: May 30th, 2017 By:

by Melanie Crew
Managing Editor

It’s been exactly half a decade since we shot the breeze with Atlanta’s own jack of all musical trades and film score junkie, Jeffrey Butzer (The Bicycle Eaters/The Compartmentalizationalists). So we caught up with him once again to get the scoop on his upcoming venture into the bizarre land of Lynch. His “Club Silencio: Music From the Feature Films of David Lynch” tours the southeast this summer with a killer kick-off at The Earl this Friday, June 2 at 9 pm, featuring the “Ladies in the Radiator” also known as Butzer (guitar); T.T. Mahony (synth/piano); Bicycle Eaters Matt Steadman and Sean Zearfoss (rhythm section); Ben Davis (sax), Jade Poppyfield and Renee Nelson (rotating vocalists). Club Silencio promises an unconventionally surreal evening sending you dangling head first into The Pink Room. And if you just can’t get enough Lynch-madness after the June 2 date, you can catch the tour at its stops at the High Dive in Gainesville, FL on June 23, at Saturn in Birmingham, AL on July 8, and at the Caledonia Lounge in Athens on July 15!

ATLRetro caught up with Jeffrey Butzer for a quick tête-à-tête about “Club Silencio,” his love affair with film scores and film in general, and what he and the Bicycle Eaters/The Compartmentalizationalists have been up to in the last five years. While you’re takin’ a gander at our little Q&A with Butzer, why not listen to a bit o’ Butzer and The Compartmentalizationalists’ “Mother’s Gray Dress.”

ATLRetro:  It’s been nearly half a decade since we spoke to you about the release of The Bicycle Eaters’ new 7-inch HIDING PLASTIC SPIDERS. So much has happened since, and now you’re diving head first into David Lynch’s land of the bizarre with your newest musical escapade, CLUB SILENCIO: MUSIC FROM THE FEATURE FILMS OF DAVID LYNCH. What draws you to Lynch’s film scores?

Jeffrey Butzer: What I love about Lynch’s work is his element of surprise. The new TWIN PEAKS series is a great example of that. I love that every week I have no idea what I am getting into. Will it scare me or be hilarious?  …Who knows?

Your CLUB SILENCIO tour was originally slated for 2008, as a follow up to your BEAUTIFUL LOSERS: THE SONGS OF CAVE, WAITS AND COHEN and A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS tours. Of course we have to know, what took so long and why now?

I am not sure? It wasn’t feeling right in 2008. I never could get in to the mindset to put it together. As Lynch would say, “The ideas weren’t coming.” I had a set list, which really hasn’t changed very much. But that was it. Earlier this year, I had a conversation with a musician who was sort of pushing me to finally do it. Then Julee Cruise and I sort of discussed a mini tour, which neither of us could make happen but, at that point I was really into the idea again, and with the timing of the new TWIN PEAKS it was easy to get everyone motivated.

Can you tell our readers a little about “The Ladies in the Radiator” who will be performing with you on the CLUB SILENCIO tour?

Yes, my longtime collaborator T.T. Mahony is playing synth/piano, Bicycle Eaters Matt Steadman and Sean Zearfoss are the rhythm section, Ben Davis (Purkenji Shift/Noot d’Noot) on Sax, Meghan Dowlen a.k.a. ”Jade Poppyfield and Renee Nelson (Jarboe) are both singing on different dates. I am playing guitar. It is a really great band. I am really happy with all the arrangements.

Film scores are a big influence on your music, with the Bicycle Eaters and The Compartmentalizationalists, et al. It seems many musicians are influenced by particular musicians (past or present) or a particular type of popular music (the art being the whole), but film’s scores tell a different kind of story, as accompaniments or pieces or carriers of the whole. Can you tell our readers what it is about film scores that influence you and the part they play in carrying a film?

I am a film lover in general. I like when films have no music, like in NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN or films by my hero Luis Bunuel. But, I also like when music is almost like a main character in a movie, like THE MASTER or films by Fellini, for example. I am not sure how film music influences me exactly. I guess I like the abstract nature of creating feelings out of noises. Mood is my primary goal in the music that I create.

We see that you’ve composed several scores as well for films such as Raymond Carr’s WILD IS THE WIND (2011); HITORI (2014); GOOD GRIEF SUICIDE HOTLINE (2015); ABACUS, MY LOVE (2014); BIRDCATCHER (2006), etc. Do you prefer composing behind the scenes, or playing in front of a crowd? Pros and cons?

I enjoy both for different reasons. Making a score is really strange to me. I really never know what I am doing. I still do not have a method of working and I don’t write out music. Matt Steadman (producer, musician) and I normally meet and see what happens and eventually we come up with music we are happy with. Live shows are very thrilling for me. Something like Club Silencio is fun, because we get to have our own Lynchian spin on expectations. We created this as massive admirers and fans of Lynch and have put together the show we would want to see. I’m getting really obsessed with details like stage plot, lighting, clothing. We put a lot of thought in to these types of shows. We really want them to feel special and fun for people.

Which film score(s) influenced you the most before you began composing your own, and how did it influence you?

Nino Rota’s 8 ½, Michael Nyman/Peter Greenaway scores and the spaghetti westerns by Morricone and Luis Bacolov were all influential to me.

Who are your top five favorite film composers and the film scores they composed that moved you most?

In no particular order my favorites would be Nino Rota (8 ½); Angelo Badalamenti (most Lynch films); Ennio Morricone (ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST/ THE GREAT SILENCE); Michael Nyman (A ZED AND TWO NOUGHTS/ THE COOK, THE THIEF, HIS WIFE AND HER LOVER); and Carter Burwell (FARGO/ BARTON FINK). However, it is difficult to speak about influence. As a musician I strive to not show my influences. I can say that when I sit down to write, music is the last thing on my mind. I am typically thinking about a story, sometimes my own, sometimes a book or film. Then, I try to musically paint a picture. I am very bad with narrative, which is probably why I am drawn to filmmakers like Lynch, who seems more concerned with mood.

Can you give us five things you’re into at the moment that we should be listening to right now–past or present, well-known or obscure?

1) Rowland S. Howard, the guitarist from The Birthday Party has a great, dark, and beautiful album called TEENAGE SNUFF FILM; 2) the singer Lhasa, especially her song Rising, and a song called “That Leaving Feeling she recorded with Stuart Staples of Tindersticks. She passed away a few years ago. Her voice is one of my favorite things; 3) Leonard Cohen’s underrated album NEW SKIIN FOR THE OLD CEREMONY is an all time favorite of mine; 4) Emiliana Torrini’s version of “If You Go Away” has been in my steady rotation. I love Brel’s version of course, but hers in a wonderful modern take; and 5) Rennie Sparks (The Handsome Family): Many now know of them from the theme from True Detective, but do yourself a favor and delve in to their world. Rennie’s books and paintings are so strange and vivid and their last album is one of their best. Rennie, as a writer is one of my biggest influences.

Back to the surreal. If you had to choose just one (I know it’s hard!), which Lynch film would be your absolute favorite?

I honestly cannot pick one. MULHOLLAND DRIVE is always in my top three. BLUE VELVET is the first one I fell in love with. INLAND EMPIRE is a misunderstood masterpiece. If you’ve only seen it once and are on the fence or don’t really like it, see it three more times. It is so dense it demands multiple viewings.

You’re taking this epic and eccentric beast on a trip across the equally bizarre south this summer after your gig at The Earl on June 2, with shows at the High Dive in Gainesville, FL (June 23); Saturn in Birmingham (July 8); and the Caledonia Lounge in Athens (July 15). What exciting things can folks expect when they come to one of your shows? And will this be the last of the tour, or will you be giving Atlanta an encore presentation in the near future?

If this goes well, we plan to make it a summer tradition. We are doing our best to make you feel like you are visiting the Pink Room/Black Lodge and deliver the best renditions of these iconoclastic songs as possible.

And last but not least, any other exciting plans in the future for Jeffrey Bützer? The Bicycle Eaters? The Compartmentalizationalists?

Bicycle Eaters have our first vocal full-length in the editing room as we speak…er, type. I’m also writing a play/screenplay entitled “Partialisms” that I plan to bring to a stage or screen in the near future.

All photos are courtesy of Jeffrey Butzer and used with permission.

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Retro Review: In ERASERHEAD, Everything Is Fine: A Lynch Classic Lurks into Landmark Midtown Art Cinema

Posted on: Feb 26th, 2015 By:

MPW-30819ERASERHEAD (1977); Dir. David Lynch; Starring Jack Nance, Charlotte Stewart, Allen Joseph, Jeanne Bates, Judith Roberts and Laurel Near; Tuesday, March 3 @ 7:00 p.m.; Landmark Midtown Art Cinema; Tickets $11; Trailer here.

By Aleck Bennett
Contributing Writer

Landmark Midtown Art Cinema continues its “Midtown Cinema Classics” series with ERASERHEAD, the debut feature from one of this country’s most iconoclastic and distinctive filmmakers, David Lynch. Though made with an almost non-existent budget and shot over the course of five years, it quickly became one of the defining films of the “Midnight Movie” circuit and established Lynch as a singular artist with a visual strength and innovative storytelling style that must be reckoned with.

First, a summary: The Man in the Planet pushes a lever and things go into motion. Grey, desolate cityscapes. Harsh concrète pulses of industrial noise interspersed with the jaunty organ music of Fats Waller. Flickering lights in the hallway. Henry Spencer, a man with a questionable hairstyle. A family dinner with a bleeding, miniature roast chicken. “They’re new!” A revelation. “They’re still not sure it is a baby!” Something that looks like a goat fetus swaddled in bandages. The Lady in the Radiator. “In Heaven, everything is fine.” Crying. Oh, the crying. The Beautiful Girl Across the Hall. Visions. We have a title. Scissors. Confrontation. Explosions. An embrace. And despite the Man in the Planet’s attempts, those levers will not go back. No way to slow down.

There is no effective way to critically assess a movie like ERASERHEAD. It just exists, monolithic. Even discussing the making of the movie is a faulty way to approach the film. It’s too mundane. Too workaday. Is it interesting that Lynch filmed it while on an AFI scholarship and used their campus as filming locations? That it took over five years to complete and that he shot it around his schedule as a newspaper delivery boy? That star Jack Nance’s then-wife, assistant director Catherine “The Log Lady” Coulson helped fund it by donating her entire salary as a waitress? That nobody will speak of the nature or construction of the baby prop? Perhaps. But none of that is nearly as interesting as the movie itself.

eraserhead2You can try to analyze it and its symbols, but as David Lynch has always been such a closed book when it comes to discussing his own work, that approach depends entirely on what you bring to the table. Is it a horror movie about the terror a parent faces when an unwanted child is brought into the world? Sure! Why not? It’s an easy read of the text. It’s pretty much exactly what you’d say if you were to attempt to summarize the plot in a linear fashion. But try to tie that to a theory that this reflected Lynch’s mindset at the time, and that’s all on you. Lynch isn’t talking, and he’s never going to tell you that you’re right. For all you know, he thought the movie was high comedy. From on-set reports, that’s precisely what he thought about the Dennis Hopper/Isabella Rossellini scenes in BLUE VELVET, and those are freaking harrowing. No, the only way to approach the film on any interpretive level is to take the postmodern stance that the “meaning” of any work of art is dependent entirely on the viewer. And for what it’s worth, Lynch is completely on board with that. You come to it with the baggage you bring, and you walk away from it eyeing your baggage suspiciously.

Universally speaking, and without getting into personal interpretation, the only thing I can do is insist that you undertake this experience without hesitation, and try to relate to you the film’s ugly beauty. The production design is incredible, and Lynch establishes early on that he is expert at bringing on board cinematographers who can translate his inner visions to celluloid. ERASERHEAD is photographed beautifully. What it captures is often bleak, horrifying and miserable, but depicted with incredible detail and economy. Though the film presents incredibly unpleasant themes and sets its sights on incredibly unpleasant visuals, it does so with such a striking aesthetic impact that you cannot help but appreciate the care, passion and technical precision and accomplishment behind every frame. Lynch, trained as a painter, knows how to work effectively within a frame and does so with a remarkable style and uniform visual sense.

eraserhead-645-75What’s more striking, though, is how this single work has come to define David Lynch as a filmmaker. Even more than his many early short films, this is the lynchpin (and may the Man in the Planet strike me dead for making that pun) for all of his subsequent works. The unnerving sense of “is this supposed to be funny?” bubbling up from the depths of the darkest sequences. Trademark visual motifs (figures emerging from shadows, the unreliability of electric light sources), storytelling elements (the blurring of dream and reality, odd chanteuses appearing at crucial moments to perform for us), visual composition (alternating black-and-white set design, long establishing shots, seemingly random inserts) and sound design (ever-present ambient noise, strangely anachronistic musical score) all find their wellspring here. Even in casting, Lynch’s oeuvre is tied together by this film, in which he first cast his most frequently-used actor, the late Jack Nance as Henry Spencer. Nance’s distinctive presence and oddball style made him a perfect choice for many subsequent cult films, and Lynch continued to use him in nearly all of his subsequent features (save for THE ELEPHANT MAN) until Jack Nance’s death in 1996.

Frank Zappa coined the notions of “conceptual continuity” and the “Project/Object,” in which he posited that all of his work—every album, song, interview, etc.—was all part of the same Big Work of Art that he was eternally designing as he went along. In a way, this is true of Lynch’s work as well. You could spend days going back and forth about the concepts of identity in his films and how MULHOLLAND DR. is the feminine flip side to the male-dominated diabolism of LOST HIGHWAY, and how all of that relates to the shifting and blurring definition of “self” in INLAND EMPIRE. You could follow the threads of adultery and its repercussions that pop up with regularity throughout his work. You could focus on the almost religious reverence he consistently devotes to the physically aberrant. And you could easily use any of those examinations to tie all of his work together as one big Project/Object. But you’d be hard pressed to do so without coming to the conclusion that it all comes together perfectly in one spot and flows out from that source: ERASERHEAD.

Or maybe not. It’s kinda up to you.

Aleck Bennett is a writer, blogger, pug warden, pop culture enthusiast, raconteur and bon vivant from the greater Atlanta area. Visit his blog at doctorsardonicus.wordpress.com

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Kool Kat of the Week: Russ Marshalek Walks with Fire to Reimagine TWIN PEAKS as a place both wonderful and strange

Posted on: Sep 12th, 2013 By:

Photo courtesy of Russ Marshalek.

When TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME was released in 1992, it evoked boos in Cannes and derision from almost all US critics and many loyal David Lynch fans. However, over time, the film, meant to be a hybrid of prequel and sequel to the iconic TV series, has acquired its own cult following who revel in the excessive grotesque, over-the-top symbolism and psychological horror dualism of Leland Palmer and the corrosive Bob. One of these new advocates is once-Atlanta resident/now New Yorker Russ Marshalek, a musician, DJ and looper whose previous project with Sophie Weiner, the Silent Drape Runners, devoted much of its creative energy to re-soundtrackings and re-imaginings of the iconically weird TV series, a precursor to quirky cable dramas of today. Now with his new solo project a place both wonderful and strange, he’s doing a live re-scoring of TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME this Sunday Sept. 15 at 7 p.m. at the Highland Inn Ballroom, and well, while Angelo Badalamenti‘s score was a film high point, maybe the Log Lady injected us with a primal sense of curiosity.

The idea of new fans and a new soundtrack makes me wonder if TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME might have been received better as a standalone feature, in other words, if the series hadn’t existed. I, for one, recall hating it for the same reasons as Quentin Tarantino did – Lynch was so out-Lynching himself that it became almost a parody of the cinematic vision I had grown to admire from ERASERHEAD to THE ELEPHANT MAN to, of course, BLUE VELVET, and WILD AT HEART. TWIN PEAKS was an epiphany when it hit the airwaves, and Audrey Horne (Sherrilyn Fenn) became my role model for how to be all innocence and tease, saddle shoes and maraschino cherries. Alas or maybe for the better, Fenn, along with Laura Flynn-Boyle, skipped the movie, although the pass did not save her career. Lynch also had lost his co-series creator Mark Frost by then, and even Kyle McLachlan sought to minimize his role. Maybe it’s the train wreck aspect also that perpetually fascinates, the longing that something highly anticipated, such as Audrey’s slow knotting of the cherry stem in her mouth, would be better than I remember. Chris Isaak and David Bowie also played roles in it. Yeah, just plain weird. Which also is totally Lynch.

ATLRetro caught up with Russ because I had to ask “why?” I’m happy to report, he left me asking “why not?”

ATLRetro: You and Sophie just disbanded the Silent Drape Runners. How is your new solo project, a place both wonderful and strange, similar or different to your past work? And is that place TWIN PEAKS?

The production work for Silent Drape Runners was mostly me, and when Sophie and I parted ways I immediately knew that I wanted to continue with what I’d been doing, so a place both wonderful and strange is a similar creative vision, but it’s mine. The music is a bit more accessible, I think, and live performances incorporate a heavy visual and dance element. That carries over into the FIRE WALK WITH ME show, which is a bit more theatrical than the SDR shows were. On the whole if you liked SDR, I think you’ll love a place both wonderful and strange.

Let’s go back to the beginning. What was your entree into the world of TWIN PEAKS, and why did it entice you so much as to become such a central theme of your music? Were you already a fan of David Lynch’s work?

Lucy, my friend/current vocalist/then-gf, introduced me to TWIN PEAKS when I bought her the Gold Box for Xmas one year ages ago. It broke the conventions of everything I thought could be done with using images to create a mood – I am, and have always been, more about words or sounds. That was the gateway drug. Combine that with the fact that Lynch’s influence is inescapable in the modern dark electronic music scene, and there you have it.

TWIN PEAKS’ second season was not as satisfying as the first — some say it descended into strange for strange sake once Laura Palmer’s murder was resolved. And TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME doesn’t get a lot of love from critics. What are your thoughts and why if the show didn’t end on a high note does it have still have such a following nearly 25 years later. 

I attended a lecture recently done by this group FEAST OF FOOLS here in Brooklyn, at the occult bookstore Catland, on David Lynch, TWIN PEAKS and the occult. In it, the end of TWIN PEAKS Season 2 was discussed: how when Lynch returned to the show he did so in a BIG way. And I agree – yeah, a lot of season 2 was “eh,” but the end of the show was phenomenal, and that’s what sticks with you. Honestly, FIRE WALK WITH ME is one of my absolute favorite things, and though it wasn’t adored by critics at the time, I think it shines as a terrifying masterpiece.

There have been other re-soundings of TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME. What makes yours different and worth coming out on a Sunday night? 

What we’re presenting is a unique vision: we’re not adhering to what Lynch and Badalamenti have laid down as gospel, but rather taking the dualistic playful/terrifying nature of the source material and using it as inspiration. There’s a live performance aspect that goes into it, and honestly if I ever scanned the notebooks of concepting that went into these two hours, it would be enough to drive a sane person nuts. Also, yeah, it’s a Sunday, but you’ll be home by 10 p.m.

Are there specific parts of the film that were especially interesting or challenging to re-conceive musically? 

Laura’s death. It’s easy to treat that with TOO MUCH gravitas, and that’s not what the show is about. Yes, it’s terrifying and emotionally draining and horrific, but it’s also campy and outlandish. The trick was finding a middle-ground. The whole movie, in fact, is like that.

If I understand correctly you did the soundtrack in collaboration with GHOST COP, aka Lucy Swope. What’s Lucy’s part in this? 

Lucy and I actually dated ages ago; we’re just friends now. Lucy’s GHOST COP project is really impressive electronic space pop. As I said, she introduced me to Lynch. She also had performed a few times with Silent Drape Runners, doing a twins/doubling performance with my former band-mate Sophie on a witchy version of “God Only Knows.” When there was a gig to fill doing a show for the David Lynch Foundation in South Carolina post-SDR, we talked and the pieces kind of fell into place. I love FIRE WALK WITH ME, probably more than the entirety of the series as a whole, so the show kind of started from there. We took to the film with a scalpel and came up with something that’s playful, a little inappropriate and creepy as hell. She does the majority of live vocals.

Looping and goth music are obviously strong influences on your work. What about some of the iconic experimental industrial groups such as Throbbing Gristle and Einsturzende Neubaten?

Looping/drone was one of my first musical loves. I used to walk around the Barnes and Noble on Peachtree in Atlanta and listen to the sound the store’s air conditioner made. It was a really uniquely repetitive tone that was strangely highly nuanced. IDM stuff like Autechre and old Warp/Rephlex Records stuff also factor in there, too. The work of Chris and Cosey‘s stuff under that moniker more so than Throbbing Gristle, though obviously Throbbing Gristle is incredibly important. Nine Inch Nails. My Bloody Valentine. My hair stylist pointed out to me the obvious nods to Coil.

Russ Marshalek. Live photo taken by The Culture Of Me. Photo credit: Zhang Qingyun; Art Direction: Deanna Paquette.

What do you think of DUNE? To me, it’s always been an intriguing but tragically flawed film, and I’d be very interested in seeing a re-sounded interpretation. 

HMMMMMMM. 🙂

You and Lucy used to live in Atlanta. Does your show here have a special resonance because of that, and what else would you like locals to know about what you have planned? 

Atlanta’s always a fun place to play. My old band had a great time playing some gigs there last year. It’s where I grew up. Plus it’s the last show of the tour. We’re doing four shows in four days, so I will be in a pretty festive mood after. Maybe we should all go to The Bookhouse? 😉

While you’re here in Atlanta, you’re also DJ’g a Depeche Mode after-party Thursday night at Noni’s. Can you tell us a little bit about what you have planned for that? 

Yeah that should be fun – the folks who run the NONSENSE Atlanta parties and I are doing that . Up here, I DJ so much pop music that I’m really excited for a chance to dig into some darker dance tunes without anyone asking me for “Blurred Lines.” I have an external hard drive full of stuff that I can’t wait to play.

Will there be a recording of the re-soundtrack and what’s next for a place both wonderful and strange? I take it that it won’t be all TWIN PEAKS, or will it?

No, no recordings. The original Silent Drape Runners re-soundtracking of the TWIN PEAKS pilot was recorded at our final show in August, and that’ll be coming out next month, but I feel about this show the way I felt about that one – it can’t be experienced unless it’s live. The live, performative aspect of it is what makes it special. What’s next for my project? I’m putting out the music video for my single DNT CM, finishing my ep.

Finally, gotta ask. If we went to a diner, would you order coffee and cherry pie?

YES, but not at Waffle House.

Advance tickets are recommended and available at http://aplacebothatlanta.eventbrite.com/.

 

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30 Days of The Plaza, Day 20: Don’t Let Us Be Too Bad – Why We’ll Always Be WILD AT HEART For David Lynch

Posted on: Jul 7th, 2012 By:

WILD AT HEART (1990); Dir: David Lynch; Based on the novel by Barry Gifford; Starring Nicholas Cage, Laura Dern, Willem Dafoe, Crispin Glover, Diane Ladd, Harry Dean Stanton, Isabella Rossellini; Sat. July 7, 9:30 p.m.; Co-presented by and featuring a live performance by Women’s Work, come dressed as your favorite Lynch character, coffee and pie in the lobby; Plaza Theatretrailer here.

“I’d go the far end of the world for you, baby!”

“A man can’t ask for more than that.”

“You rope me, Sailor, you really do.”

These immortal lines are exchanged between Lula Fortune (Laura Dern)and Sailor  Ripley (Nicholas Cage), but in 1990, I’d have to admit I would have gone to the ends of the world to see any piece of celluloid created by David Lynch.

If you were a certain type of young person drawn to the deepest darkness but still enchanted by the lure that true romance can exist even if it kills you, you worshipped at the insane, amazing altar of Lynch back then. You saw a college or midnight revival of ERASERHEAD, and your head throbbed with pain while watching it, yet your eyes were glued to the screen. ELEPHANT MAN was even more excruciating because of the toll it took on your emotions, but you knew brilliance onscreen when you saw it. You really, really wanted to embrace DUNE and liked some of the visuals, but …well, but then came BLUE VELVET, and every time you heard that song ever after, it had a different meaning and while you didn’t want to admit it to anyone but your diary, Dennis Hopper made you all hot and bothered ever after. So, of course, you tuned into TWIN PEAKS like an addict desperate for a Lynch fix and told your lover “don’t let me too bad,” hoping just the opposite as you twisted a cherry stem into a knot behind your ruby lips.

Sailor Ripley (Nicholas Cage) in his iconic snakeskin jacket is WILD AT HEART for Lula Fortune (Laura Dern). Polygram/Propagada Pictures, 1990.

Into that era of Lynch euphoria arrived WILD AT HEART, perhaps the best example of how behind the violence, Lynch is sweetly sentimental about love. Based on the Barry Gifford novel of the same name (though Lynch changed the ending), the movie didn’t test well with audiences and was not completely critically well-received, but yet walked away with the Palme d’Or at Cannes. In other words, a typical Lynch movie. You either love Lynch or you don’t.

Without giving too much away for anyone who has not seen it before, the plot hinges on a simple love story–boy meets girl, they fall in love, girl’s mother (Diane Ladd) forbids them to marry and hires a hitman to take out boy, boy goes to prison and serves his time, girl picks him up and they hit the road, mom hires another hitman (J.E. Freeman) and craziness, violence – and yes, beauty ensue topped off by a cameo by Glinda the Good Witch (Sheryl Lee, aka Laura Palmer)! Yup, this road movie may be set in contemporary America and include all the requisite stops at seedy motels, but it’s also a fairy tale with heavy references to the Road to Oz.

Diane Ladd as Marietta Fortune in WILD AT HEART. Polygram/Propagada Pictures, 1990.

Like Woody Allen, Robert Altman or Quentin Tarantino, Lynch has been a genius in assembling an intriguing ensemble cast, and WILD AT HEART is no exception. It may be hard to remember now but Nicholas Cage was once a fine actor and just weird enough to make him a perfect Lynch leading man. In those days when he put on a snakeskin jacket and impersonated Elvis, he was sexy, not creepy. Pretty but still real-looking Laura Dern brings just the right mix of passion, forthrightness and stroppu Southern accent to pull off Lula without turning her into a cliche. Casting Laura’s mother, Diane Ladd, as her domineering, disapproving and crazy-as-a-Lynch-movie Marietta Fortune, though, was pure brilliance. At the time, Ladd was at that middle age where she wasn’t getting many great roles, and this one proved a comeback that earned her both Oscar and Golden Globe nominations. The supporting cast also includes Harry Dean Stanton as a private dick and Marietta’s boyfriend, a scary-toothed Willem Dafoe as a psychotic gangster hired to kill Sailor, Crispin Glover as Lula’s cockroach-eating cousin (isn’t insect-dining a David Lynch movie prerequisite?!), Lynch favorite Jack Nance as a loony rocket scientist, a gone-blonde Isabella Rossellini (then still Lynch’s lover) as a gangster moll, and a cameo by Sherilynn Fenn (Twin Peak’s Audrey and then every Lynch-boy’s fantasy and every Lynch- girl’s role model) as a car crash victim.

Sheryl Lee (TWIN PEAKS' Laura Palmer) as Glinda the Good Witch in WILD AT HEART. Polygram/Propagada Pictures, 1990.

Sigh, because I’ll only be there “In Dreams.” Nope, I won’t be able to take that wild ride with Sailor and Lula tonight because I alas already am committed to other plans. So all I’m going to say is I hope you’ll go in my stead and fill up the Plaza as it should be for a special screening like this (come early and see STAND BY ME for a double feature if you can! If you missed Plaza Day 19, catch up here). If you haven’t seen WILD AT HEART, you should and encourage all your friends. If you haven’t seen it in a while or even more if you’ve never seen it on the big screen, this is a rare opportunity and another reason why Atlanta needs The Plaza.Remember, your ticket and any concessions purchases help keep Atlanta’s longest-running, locally owned historic independent cinema and Retro treasure alive!

 

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