Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Eraserhead (1977)

Eraserhead (1977)
Director: David Lynch
Stars: Jack Nance, Charlotte Stewart, Allen Joseph

While I was only two years old when Eraserhead came out, meaning I didn't see it until about 1990, I probably would have understood it better if I had seen it in 1977, steeped as I was at that time in an endless series of disturbing Sesame Street psychedelic animation shorts. Or at least I would have been better able to just let it flow over me just like a song about living in a capital "I." Or a radiator.

Eraserhead has confounded and delighted cult film fans for over 35 years, but one thing we all understand is that it's not meant to have a traditional narrative, so it's okay to end each viewing scratching your head. You can try and pick apart the symbolism, or you can take it as a surrealist mood piece, but either way, you have to be thankful to this film for launching the feature career of one of America's greatest whackos. Just be glad you're not Henry, flipping between a terrifying reality and even more horrible nightmares, trying to raise a breathtaking baby while being the owner of one of the worst hairstyles of the 1970s. Everything is fine.

Six Things I Learned While Watching Eraserhead

1. The floor in the lobby of Henry's apartment building is a similar pattern to the floor of the Black Lodge in the Twin Peaks universe.

2. The moment where Mary bends down and looks at Henry through the bars at the end of the bed before leaving him alone with the baby calls to mind Bob looking through the bars on Laura Palmer's bed.

3. People speculate about what animal was used to make the deformed baby puppet, but no one seems to realize the baby is actually played by Lowly Worm from the Richard Scarry children's books.

4. When someone has a seizure at the dinner table, just act like nothing has happened, particularly when a seizure pales in comparison to the bleeding stop-motion Cornish game hen you were previously thinking about eating.

5. Babies are much more charming when they laugh than when they cry, unless they are monster babies.

6. We will probably get an explanation from the U.S. government regarding JFK's assassination before we get an explanation from David Lynch about Eraserhead.

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