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David Lynch’s 1990s

David Lynch’s 1990s

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Feature by: David Carter, Jonathan Foltz, Leo Goldsmith, Evan Kindley, and Rumsey Taylor

Posted on: 11 July 2010

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Lost Highway at 92YTribeca

Overviews of David Lynch’s career tend to emphasize his debut, Eraserhead, his breakthrough Blue Velvet, or his later masterpiece Mulholland Drive as exemplars of his highly idiosyncratic sensibilities. None of these films were made in the 1990s, and yet that very decade found him at his most prolific, not to mention his most prominent in the public consciousness in all of his thirty-plus year career. Twin Peaks debuted in April of 1990 to immediate critical and popular acclaim, and his fifth film, Wild at Heart, followed later that Spring, and would win the Palme d’or at Cannes. In the decade’s remainder, Lynch would helm three more features; produce a second, tumultuous season of Twin Peaks; create two more television series (both of which remain orphaned in only a handful of episodes); direct an opera; and make what is by some measure his finest short film. The decade would end as it began, with an unexpected mainstream success: 1999’s surprisingly gentle, pastoral The Straight Story earned its star, veteran character actor Richard Farnsworth, an Oscar nomination.

Lynch was at his most creatively volatile in the 1990s, with works – some of which are simultaneous with each other – that are alternately violent, melodramatic, slapstick, and deeply sincere. These traits would be synthesized in Mulholland Drive, but as large as that film has come to loom in Lynch’s oeuvre, its characterizing features stem from his 1990s output: interchangeable blondes and brunettes, Nancy Drew-like amateur investigations, mystery men, and even Mulholland Drive itself.

This week we’ll be covering much of Lynch’s curious and comparatively under-recognized 1990s output, beginning with his 1990 opera Industrial Symphony No. 1, and culminating with what may be his most confounding and brutal film, 1997’s Lost Highway. In addition, we’ll be hosting a screening of the latter film this Saturday at 92YTribeca in New York City. (Reviews of Wild at Heart, Twin Peaks, and Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me are available in our archives.)


Industrial Symphony No. 1 1990
On the Air 1992
Hotel Room 1993
Premonitions Following an Evil Deed 1995
Lost Highway 1997

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