by The Ultimate Dancing Machine
"Eraserhead" is the greatest movie ever made. No, it's the worst. It is extraordinarily compelling. It is utter nonsense. You cannot have a moderate opinion of this movie. Trust me, to this day no one has ever come away from it going, "It was okay, but..."I have my own theory about this. Most movies--and most novels, plays, etc.--deal with the daylight world; they're about, figuratively speaking, the nine-to-five existence. Whatever genre they inhabit, they're essentially situated in the concrete world we all share in common: the extravert's world, in which everything can be settled in the Big Game (any sports movie), the big shootout in the warehouse (the average action movie), or the courtroom (John Grisham and his like). It's even true with a movie like Jerry Maguire, which purports to question our materialistic values but ends, without the slightest irony, with our heroes becoming filthy rich.
"In Heaven, everything is fine..."
Every once in a while--less and less frequently nowadays--some foolhardy talent decides to flip the switch and show us what we look like in the dark. Thus, we get movies like Altman's 3 Women or Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut, movies that roll about recklessly in the twilight world of the unconscious. That is an awfully hazardous business. I have had three different people tell me that 3 Women is the worst movie they've ever seen; and we all know how Eyes Wide Shut was received.
(There's a story about the premiere of Eyes Wide Shut: During the scene where Tom Cruise is asked for the password to the mansion, some guy in the back of the theatre shouted, "Bullshit!" So it goes.)
And then there's Eraserhead, possibly the ultimate twilight movie. It is like nothing else you've ever seen. Five years in the making, it was arduously cranked out by an unknown AFI film student named David Lynch, who literally lived on the set for much of that time, his only income coming from delivering newspapers.
I first saw Eraserhead as a teenager, and at the time I was interested chiefly in the look of the film, its spooky black-and-white expressionist visuals, which tend to lose resolution around the edge of the screen. The film looks like something glimpsed out of the corner of the eye--like something that may or may not be real. Having recently seen Eraserhead again after a decade's time, I'm still mesmerized by its bleak patina, but I can now appreciate how much the industrial soundtrack--the continuous grinding, squealing, hissing racket in the background--contributes to the film's power. Especially at that incredible moment--really one of the most powerful scenes I've ever witnessed, no joke--when everything simply...stops.
What's it all about? There's an alienated young man, his high-strung wife, their deformed baby. And a woman who lives in the radiator. The story creeps along at its own pace, following its own logic, demanding to be met on its own terms. Like a nightmare, the film is convincing even where it cannot be understood.It is funny, bizarre, and horrifying all at once. Ultimately, "Eraserhead" evades proper description, and perhaps even criticism: it may not be a movie you will like, but it is one you should see. Before you die.
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=2122&reviewer=223
originally posted: 05/28/02 18:03:21