Book Review David Lynch by Kenneth C. Kaleta By Mike White. David Lynch by Kenneth C. Kaleta A few weeks before the release of Lost Highway, I was fiending for David Lynch...

David Lynch by Kenneth C. Kaleta
A few weeks before the release of Lost Highway, I was fiending for David Lynch. I re-watched Eraserhead and Dune and picked up this book at my local used-book store.

I’ve got to be honest, I only got through the first three chapters and then I had to put it down. This is the worst book on a film-maker that I’ve ever read!

It covers Lynch’s career up to and including Wild at Heart so you would think that it might discuss similar themes explored throughout Lynch’s career and possibly relate them to Lynch’s real life. Nope. You would think that we might get a glimpse into some of the behind-the-scenes action that occurred during the making of each of his films. Nope. One would think that this book would have to be more in-depth and better written than a high school senior’s english term paper. Nope.

Each chapter deals with one of Lynch’s films (except for the first which also includes his student films) and Kaleta uses a simple and repetitive form for the "discussion" of Lynch’s work. Ninety percent of the chapter is a literal re-telling of everything that happens in the film and the other ten percent is made up of quotes from film critics. No insight into symbolism, just cursory "I like it or don’t like it because" off-the-cuff armchair criticism and bland plot synopsi.

The only time Kaleta interjects his own opinion of Lynch’s films is when he gets the idea in Chapter Two to start comparing Lynch to Stanley Kubrick. He compares The Elephant Man to Barry Lyndon because they’re both historical pieces. Allow me clarify; that’s his comparison. He doesn’t give anything more. He simply says that The Elephant Man is historically accurate in its hairstyles just as Barry Lyndon was accurate in that it was lit with candlelight.

This gets Kaleta comparing Lynch to Kubrick several more times, with each getting more outrageous and simplistic. In fact, he even begins to quote an admitted Lynch-hater, Roger Ebert, to support his "theories." "The direction by Lynch is competent, although he gives us an inexcusable opening scene in which John Merrick’s mother is trampled or scared by elephants or raped—who knows?—and an equally idiotic closing scene in which Merrick becomes the star child from 2001, or something."

By simply presenting this knee-jerk critical quote we’re supposed to firmly believe that Kaleta’s Lynch-Kubrick connection is incontravertable. But, the fun has just begun! It’s when Kaleta is giving a long-winded plot synopsis of Dune where he really goes off the deep end. He offers that there are two types of science fiction films; "new world order" films, those that are based on what we know to be reality (The Omega Man and Westworld are set in Earth’s possible future) and those who create a new world (Dune, Star Wars). He contends that A Clockwork Orange and 2001 are successful "new-world creation" films while Dune isn’t. He holds that Dune’s script, while approved by Frank Herbert (he points this out four times in one chapter!), is muddy, confusing, and bogged down by too much plot. Then he proceeds to give one of the most asinine observations I’ve ever read: "In Kubrick’s film 2001, HAL the computer, not the film’s audience, shuts down with an overload of information."

What Kaleta doesn’t seem to realize is that, under his guidelines of two different "types" of Sci-Fi films, both of Kubrick’s should be classified as "new world order." Thus, invalidating his entire...I hesitate to say "argument" and I think even the word "observation" is too strong, "blabbering" might be the word of choice I seek.

I had to put the book down when I read yet another Kubrick comparison; it was his opinion that the use of telethapy worked in The Shining but not in Dune. Freaky Deaky! I just couldn’t go on. I’ve seen the films, I’ve read the reviews, he wasn’t telling me anything that I couldn’t learn in an afternoon. The only "new material" was Kaleta barely grasping at straws to make one weak connection between two filmmakers. No attempt at analysis, no study of motifs, Kaleta didn’t even interview Lynch for this book and I wouldn’t be surprised if Kaleta had never seen any of these films at the theater; only on video or TV! Oh, hell, I'll just admit it, this book was so jam-packed with important information that, like HAL, I just shut-down.

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