2017 has been a big year for David Lynch. After a relatively long period of radio silence (his last feature film Inland Empire was released in 2006), the visionary filmmaker has recently been making waves with the long-awaited third series of cult TV show Twin Peaks. Having originally ended its run way back in 1991, the show has now been brought back to life for 18 more episodes of glorious weirdness. 2017 also marked the 20th anniversary of Lynch’s seminal noir thriller Lost Highway, and saw the release of David Lynch: The Art Life, a new documentary film focusing on the early stages of his career.
Both of these films will be shown in our Elgar Room on Sunday 1 October as part of the Royal Albert Hall’s Festival of Film. An afternoon screening of David Lynch: The Art Life will be followed by an evening screening of Lost Highway, including a very special post-film discussion with Mercury Award-nominated musician and composer Barry Adamson, who contributed to the film’s iconic soundtrack.
Ahead of our David Lynch double bill, we’ve chosen some of the most memorable, moving, and downright weird musical moments in his films. Music plays a vital role in creating the various dreamlike moods conjured up in Lynch’s work, which often features a disconcerting yet beautiful soundtrack or a well-known pop song repurposed to fit a particularly surreal or sinister context. Here are some of our favourite examples:
Barry Adamson’s music in Lost Highway
David Lynch’s surrealist thriller is punctuated by quite a number of lasting musical moments. English composer Barry Adamson contributed to the film’s soundtrack along with Angelo Badalamenti and Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor. Adamson’s Something Wicked This Way Comes soundtracks a swanky LA party where protagonist Fred Madison (Bill Pullman) runs into a mystery man, played by a thoroughly creepy Robert Blake, unblinking and covered in white makeup. During their tense stand-off the music fades out abruptly, heightening the overarching sense of dread.
Later in the film, another of Adamson’s pieces brilliantly illustrates the unyielding road rage of volatile gangster Mr Eddy as he chases down a tailgater who has incurred his wrath. “The film is so up my street,” Adamson recounted in an interview. “I connected with it totally. It’s a thriller, it’s noir, there’s mystery, horror, it was perfect for me.”
Nicolas Cage channeling Elvis in Wild at Heart
Wild at Heart tells the story of star-crossed lovers Lula and Sailor (played by Laura Dern and Nicolas Cage), who hit the road in order to escape Lula’s deranged mother, Marietta, and her violent henchmen.
With his Southern drawl, slicked back hair and snakeskin jacket, Cage’s depiction of Sailor channels Elvis Presley in a direct homage to the singer’s own acting phase. In fact, Sailor croons his way through two Elvis staples during the course of the film. His version of Love Me (Treat Me Like a Fool) is performed in a dingy rock club, backed by a speed metal band who instantly change their sound to accommodate his vocal stylings. Then at the end of the film he serenades his girl with Love Me Tender on top of a car in the middle of a traffic jam, as the credits roll.
Angelo Badalamenti’s Twin Peaks theme
Longtime David Lynch collaborator Angelo Badalamenti was drafted in to compose the score for cult drama series Twin Peaks, and in doing so created, ‘the summit of TV soundtracks’ (The Guardian). Many of the show’s characters have their own distinct themes, which accompany them while they are on screen. These range from droning synths to what the composer termed ‘Cool Jazz’ numbers, featuring finger clicking and brushed percussion.
Arguably Badalamenti’s most recognisable work, Twin Peaks’ main theme is hypnotic and unsettling, effectively drawing the viewer in to this strange and intriguing world. He recounts in the below interview how one day he sat down with Lynch at a piano, and the two of them came up with the iconic theme in a 20-minute burst of creativity.
Lip-synching to Roy Orbison in Blue Velvet
A menacing murder mystery set in small-town America, Blue Velvet follows the misadventures of teenager Jeffrey Beaumont (played by Kyle MacLachlan) as he uncovers his hometown’s criminal underbelly, inhabited by a cast of seedy characters including Dennis Hopper’s gas-huffing psychopath Frank Booth.
In one scene, Frank takes Jeffrey to meet his drug dealer Ben (Dean Stockwell), who at Frank’s request starts lip-synching to Roy Orbison’s sentimental ballad In Dreams, as Frank – normally in a state of constant agitation – watches on transfixed with emotion. This serves as yet another example of how Lynch’s films can be both beautiful and terrifying, absurd yet poignant – all at the same time.
David Lynch makes quinoa
As a bonus item, here is a black and white video of David Lynch cooking quinoa while stopping for cigarette breaks and sharing some typically Lynchian anecdotes about his travels in Europe.