Todd McGowan launches a provocative exploration of weirdness and fantasy in David Lynch's groundbreaking oeuvre. He studies Lynch's talent for blending the bizarre and the normal to emphasize the odd nature of normality itself. Hollywood is often criticized for distorting reality and providing escapist fantasies, but in Lynch's movies, fantasy becomes a means through which the viewer is encouraged to build a revolutionary relationship with the world.
Considering the filmmaker's entire career, McGowan examines Lynch's play with fantasy and traces the political, cultural, and existential impact of his unique style. Each chapter discusses the idea of impossibility in one of Lynch's films, including the critically acclaimed Blue Velvet and The Elephant Man; the densely plotted Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive; the cult favorite Eraserhead; and the commercially unsuccessful Dune. McGowan engages with theorists from the "golden age" of film studies (Christian Metz, Laura Mulvey, and Jean-Louis Baudry) and with the thought of Sigmund Freud, Jacques Lacan, and Hegel. By using Lynch's weirdness as a point of departure, McGowan adds a new dimension to the field of auteur studies and reveals Lynch to be the source of a new and radical conception of fantasy.
Filmmaker David Lynch, whose work ranges from the disturbing seminal cult film Eraserhead to the big-budget sf flop Dune, delights in confounding the expectations of critics and moviegoers alike. McGowan (English, Univ. of Vermont) draws on the work of prominent psychoanalytic film theorists to examine Lynch's many worlds, describing how the themes of fear, fantasy, and desire thread throughout. He notes that Lynch originally intended to be a painter and that his highly developed visual sense may be seen in films like Blue Velvet. McGowan's dense, academic style is appropriate when explicating Lynch's themes and images. However, he doesn't delve much into Lynch's offbeat feeling for absurd humor, and some readers might have welcomed more discussion of how the director maintains his independent vision while navigating Hollywood's high-stakes business environment. Though the book's dense, sometimes excessively academic prose style makes it an appropriate purchase for large academic film collections and film history archives, public libraries should wait for a more popular, definitive portrait. [See also Lynch's own recent Catching the Big Fish.-Ed.]-Stephen Rees, Levittown Lib., PA Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.