Tuesday, December 06, 2005

You'll Never Guess! There's a Mutant Baby in the Percolator!

Similar words were uttered by Jack Nance's character during the first, most excellent season of Twin Peaks.

He was warning FBI agent Dale Cooper and Sheriff Harry S. Truman not to drink the (damn fine!) coffee that he'd just poured . . . and then he'd discovered a fish in the coffee pot.

You can imagine that the flavor of the java had been affected.

Well, someone must have put something similar into David Lynch's mother's coffee while she was pregnant, because Mr. Lynch isn't right in the head.

The evidence is right there for all to see in his film debut, which I have finally taken the time to see. Eraserhead is a really messed up tone poem, a black and white scream of subconscious insanity, something very disturbing.

It has some gross imagery, but nothing radically shocking. But you almost wonder that if you could get past the metaphors, the double- and triple-meanings of things, you might really want to scream.

What is the movie actually about? Hard to say, so I won't try very hard. Jack Nance's character Henry Spencer is almost like Charlie Chaplin's Little Tramp--but with a huge pompadour of Cosmo Kramer's hair. And the film is basically silent. When people do talk, it occurs in bursts of non sequetors that if strung together might resemble something approaching normal human dialogue.

The "plot" follows Henry's life as it digs deeper into something like madness. But can you be mad in a world filled with pod people. It's like this is Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Henry is the only pod person who doesn't understand the rules.

There are the typical Lynchian tics here (or since this one came first, I guess they should be called something else). But the voyeurism, the flickering lights, the odd dream sequences. It's all there. There is a baby, but a sadly premature husk of a baby. It causes problems.

Basically this film is about one strange man's surreal attempts to deal with his problems. And for all the weirdness, I found at least one or two moments of humanity to connect to, such as when Henry's wife struggles to sleep while the "baby" is constantly whimpering and crying during the night. There might not be another thing in the movie I could understand; but I did understand that.

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