Wild At Heart (1990) directed by David Lynch

Captain Beefheart (Don Van Vliet) passed away a couple of days ago. A very sad loss. Not just for some of the great records he made, but also for the attitude behind his music. No compromise, just inspiration. I see David Lynch as cinema's version of the Captain, always pushing the envelope, yet each frame of his films undeniably his work. Astrid's latest pick of her favorite films is Lynch's Wild At Heart, often overlooked nowadays when compared to say Blue Velvet or Mulholland Drive, Wild At Heart in some ways encapsulates all the aspects of Lynch's cinema, the good and the bad, all in one handy bundle.

Violence, sex, Rock 'n Roll, The Wizard of Oz and an obsession with the 1950's iconography run through Wild At Heart, the energy on screen is breathtaking. Laura Dern and Nicolas Cage (as Lula and Sailor) exude a certain empty chemistry that really works in the film's favor. Great support from Diane Ladd, Harry Dean Stanton and Willem Dafoe means that Wild At Heart is one of the most character-built Lynch movies. Two thirds of this picture is so on the money, it's almost intensely faultless. At times it's very funny. It's also strong visually, with many stand-out shots and a great use of color. Crispin Glover's cameo and Sherilyn Fenn's car crash victim live long in the memory. Isabella Rossellini's face has never been so well captured. The soundtrack mixes Elvis and kung-fu style metal, invents Chris Isaak along with some great work from Angelo Badalamenti.

For me, Wild At Heart really falls down in the last third, when Sailor and Lula stop following the Yellow Brick Road and end up in Big Tuna.

Despite the introduction of Dafoe as the rotten toothed and slimy Bobby Peru, Lynch's abrupt end to the films road movie sequences zaps all the energy. It's a minor quibble of course, there's more than enough on display here to fill 100 movies. Plus, genuine weirdness abounds to satisfy Lynch die-hards. I prefer Blue Velvet if I was going to compare, where I think Lynch captured the essence of a 1950's utopia in a subversively sly, creepy and dark modern suburban surrounding. But Wild At Heart is Lynch in almost mainstream mode, and it's still exhilarating if ultimately flawed.

Once when walking in Beachwood on the Hollywood Hills I was stopped by an old man in a suit who wanted to say that I look like someone in a David Lynch film. He could not remember who, but I suggested it was Laura Dern and he did not deny it. I guess it doesn't take that much imagination there to make this arbitrary connection with Mulholland Drive close by, but it was a great LA moment for someone who loves Wild At Heart.

In my opinion, I don't much resemble Laura Dern, but I do admire her portrayal of Lula. Wild At Heart depicts the need to break free from entanglements, tormenting familial relationships, nightmares, and traumatic past events into a self-defined reality. It is a heart-wrenching mother-daughter story too. Being Lynch, it is stylized to the point of being like a fairytale. Funnily enough, Wild At Heart also references The Wizard of Oz, as did Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore (the other movie I have chosen as my favorite so far).

Being on the road, driving away from something, running away – how ever you want to see it – I have experienced moments of exhilarating freedom in a moving car myself, and can therefore always relate to cinema that depicts this specific kind of disentanglement. It could be that I got this romantic notion from watching movies, but it certainly has come to good use on tour buses. On the last stretch of my latest tour, the bass player decided to play Love Me Tender maybe five times in a row on his DJ-turn. Watching Wild At Heart again now, I remembered why.

So I'm not the only one who gets romantic ideas about being on the road based on this film. Sailor Ripley (Nicholas Cage) is a great characterization of a simple young man who gets into a lot of trouble for following his romantic notions of love, identity, individuality and freedom. I'm not a huge Nicholas Cage fan, but I'm a fan of Sailor and his snakeskin jacket.


Popular Posts