Visionary. Vulgar. Surrealist dreamscape. Enigmatic. Bizarre. Ugly. Phantasmagoric.
Those are just some of the words used by critics to describe the films of David Lynch. Yet to watch a Lynch film will leave the viewer speechless – there are no words to describe what they’ve just witnessed. And for the Londoner’s who make their way to Hyland Cinema for the September Retromania screening of Lynch’s 1997 Lost Highway, they will no doubt walk out of the theater asking… what did they just watch?
But there’s something else in store for moviegoers at Retromania. David Lynch: The Art Life will finally be making its theatrical debut in London. After initially failing to attract theaters, Hyland Cinema will be showing the documentary with Lost Highway for a September Retromania double feature.
For the host of the monthly Retromania, Jeremy Hobbs, the event is not only screening one of his favourite films, but also the hometown debut of the documentary that he worked on as an associate producer for seven years. It may also be the only time the film is screened in London, a rare opportunity for any film lover to watch a documentary about a Tinsel Town enigma.
“I would absolutely love to see a packed house for this Lynch double-feature,” Hobbs mentioned. “But unfortunately in today’s ADHD climate of streaming and downloading it’s difficult to get people to leave the comfort of their own homes and come out to an actual cinema to see a film.”
While technology has played an unfortunate role in the downfall of smaller, independent theaters, for true cinephiles like Hobbs there’s nothing quite like watching a 35mm print on the big screen with a bag of popcorn.
David Lynch: Fire Walk With Me.
Growing up in the 90’s, Hobbs began taking photography classes at Beal and eventually began making video shorts and exhibiting his photography work. Already a budding cinephile, it was in the early 90s while as a junior high school student that Hobbs was introduced to something news – the original airings of David Lynch’s groundbreaking television series Twin Peaks.
“It scared the living hell out of me,” he recalled. “But at the same time I was utterly hypnotized by it. It was the most stylish, original, and idiosyncratic thing that had ever aired on television, and I’d never seen anything like it.”
The series lead Hobbs to delve deeper in Lynch’s filmography. But it was at the New Yorker Cinema that he laid his eyes on a 35mm showing of the director’s 1977 cult classic Eraserhead. It’s because of the New Yorker’s annual September screening of the film that Hobbs has decided to respect that tradition and show David Lynch films every September during Retromania.
After befriending producer Jon Nguyen during the inaugural stages of a third installment in the Lynch documentary series, Hobbs was originally a financier before becoming Associate Producer as the project began to change shape. The end result was David Lynch: The Art Life.
The man behind the curtain.
Lynch has been, and always will be, a bit of a mystery. A notoriously private individual, one can only wonder what goes on the mind of the man who wrote a film like Blue Velvet and created the character of Frank Booth – a profanity laced and drug inhaling psychopath performed by the equally deranged Dennis Hopper is his career reviving role. So what was in store for the filmmakers who decided to make a documentary about him?
“Basically what happened was… after a great deal of time trying to score these in-depth interviews with Lynch,” Hobbs began. “He finally just invited Nguyen and his co-directors Rick Barnes and Olivia Neergaard-Holm to move into his house for a while.”
“They stayed in a guest room and waited patiently — apparently sometimes for weeks on end — and when David was feeling particularly talkative he would invite them down to chat for 20 or 30 or however many minutes he felt like talking for. Because of this sporadic approach it took quite a long time to complete all of the interviews necessary to finish the film, but the end result was something truly fascinating.”
Lynch’s films may be an acquired taste, so what kind of film would be best suited to be made about it? Surely a straight forward biopic is out of the question. David Lynch: The Art Life focuses very little on the director’s eventual worldwide success, instead choosing to pay attention to his childhood, interest in art and his time living “the art life”.
“I’ve said it many times,” Hobbs added. “But I don’t think one has to be familiar with Lynch’s work to enjoy this documentary. The film would work just as well if Lynch were a dancer or playwright or puppeteer. It’s just a great film about creativity in general, and both the benefits and difficulties of being a creative person.”
For one night only.
While the refusal of London cinemas to show the documentary in his hometown was heartbreaking for Hobbs, it became a great honour for him when the film was released by the prestigious Criterion Collection – an honour bestowed on some of the greatest films ever made.
But this Retromania, Hobbs is finally getting to cherish the moment. It’s been a long time since he sat down at the New Yorker Cinema and watched Eraserhead for the first time. And now he gets to present his own David Lynch double feature.
And who knows… there may even be a young budding cinephile who decides to take a trip to the Hyland Cinema this Retromania and began their own odyssey into the world of David Lynch for the very first time.
For a previous interview with Jeremy Hobbs about horror cinema, click here.