An Internet comic strip is another new frontier for the experimental filmmaker.
You’ll Like It If You Like: South Park, Beavis and Butt-Head, David Lynch movies.
David Lynch has found the Internet, and it’s not pretty. His Internet comic strip DumbLand, now available on DVD from his wide-ranging pay site davidlynch.com, is a raunchy explosion of suburban id-Home Improvement meets Beavis and Butt-Head, or King of the Hill meets South Park with extra gore, fury and farts.
The shape-shifter of modern movies, Lynch swaps styles faster than you can say, “Who killed Laura Palmer again?” The high-culture avant-garde filmmaker (and Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts graduate) of experimental movies like Eraserhead and Lost Highway also made the sincerely sentimental Straight Story, took a detour for the relatively mainstream Elephant Man, and made himself (in)famous with twisted soap operas of suburban life like Blue Velvet and Twin Peaks.
You’d never guess DumbLand was made by Lynch, but its primitive style and vulgar energy make sense once you know they’re his. He’s always been on the edge, and line drawings on the Internet are just another new frontier.
Lynch’s whole career has been about changing things up. Just when you think you know who he is, he tells an earnest tale of an old man and a tractor, or does a TV miniseries, or makes a self-reflexive tale of Hollywood like Mulholland Dr. It’s as if his guiding principle is: Shock wears off. To keep shaking things up, to keep opening people’s eyes to the perversity and weirdness and horror of the world around them, he’s got to keep changing his angle.
DumbLand has the deliberate anarchic crudeness of a kid’s drawing matched to gleefully misanthropic content somewhere around the fuck-you level of a teenager (or snotty art student). The show’s eight short epi-sodes (most about four minutes) focus on a raging apelike guy in an undershirt, filled with gas and venom.
He’s got a wife who jabbers at him incoherently, a son who looks like an amoeba and treats him with toxic hero worship, and a terrifying mother-in-law who’s the only person he fears. He drinks beer, watches football and wrestling, and occupies himself with farting and terrorizing his family.
In a typical episode his neighbor shows up with a stick wedged in his mouth and his son yells, “Get the stick!” Prying it out of the guy’s mouth, Dad winds up poking out the neighbor’s eyes and turning him into a quivering, inside-out mass of pulp who then gets hit by a truck. The punchline? “Fucker never even said thank you.”
In other episodes Lynch’s suburban everyman throws his wife off a treadmill (“Stop your fucking exercising!”), punches his puking uncle (and in turn gets socked by his mother-in-law) and flips off the mailman (“Eff you, stamp licker!”). Yet DumbLand‘s most resonant episode contains no real action at all-it’s just a four-minute slice of everyday cacophony.
In the family’s suburban living room the TV screams. A car chase goes on outside the window, complete with police, guns and fire engines. The son jumps up and down on a trampoline so hard he starts shouting, “My teeth are bleeding! My teeth are bleeding!”
This absurdist short captures the noisy desolation of modern life more vividly than some whole movies do. Like other Lynch films, it takes on the loss of interiority in modern life (Lynch is an advocate of transcendental meditation), which makes even lives of quiet desperation impossibly clamorous.
Along with the best of Lynch’s art, DumbLand fuses pathos to vulgarity and sentimentality to horror in a way that recalls Victorian aesthetics. Check out the newly repackaged Short Films of David Lynch, available Jan. 10, to see how much the 19th century influenced his earliest movies, as well as his first two features Eraserhead (out on DVD Jan. 10) and The Elephant Man.
In spite of its crude content, Dumb-Land takes Lynch back to his art school and Eraserhead roots, producing handmade art as a one-man, one-room artisanal practice. It’s not always pleasant to watch, but it manages to be both a natural and surprising new place for Lynch to go.
David Lynch on DVD
Artsy Lynch: The Short Films of David Lynch
From art school to the present, Lynch is never more eccentric and opaque than in his experimental shorts.
Surrealist Lynch: Mulholland Dr.
Lynch revived his career in 2001 with this “huh?” time-twister about two lost souls in decadent Hollywood.
Traditionalist Lynch: The Straight Story
An old man drives a tractor cross-country in Lynch’s straightest story-pure and heartfelt without (much) sentimentality.
Hipster Lynch: Wild at Heart
Nicolas Cage does faux-Elvis and Laura Dern meets him over the top in this wildly baroque nightmare parable of doomed lovers on the run from wackos and evildoers.
Underrated Lynch: Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me
Now that Laura Palmer has joined the hula-hoop in fad history, the Twin Peaks movie feels like Lynch’s most persuasive vision of suburbia’s accidental poetry and horror.