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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Bonus Materials: David Lynch, nightmare membranes and Eraserhead

Posted by on Wed, Sep 17, 2014 at 2:07 PM

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Thirty-seven years after its initial theatrical release, David Lynch's debut feature film Eraserhead has been reissued and upgraded to U.S. Blu-ray format in a gorgeous package from the stalwart archivists at the Criterion Collection. The reissue includes a full 4K digital restoration, six additional short films and the usual generous assortment of new and archival bonus materials.

Several years in the making, Eraserhead remains a masterpiece of American independent film, albeit one shelved back in the darker aisles—where the spiders and the molds grow. It defies synopsis. The story, so far as it goes, follows a fearful man named Henry (Jack Nance), caring for his deformed infant child in an industrial wasteland. Abstract sounds and visuals float about, and nothing is as it seems. ("They're still not sure it's a baby," his girlfriend proclaims.) It's dedicated Surrealist art all the way, teeming with personal and archetypal anxieties. Like much of Lynch's later work, it's also frequently funny.

In the years since its release, the film has been particularly lauded for its intricate sound design. The incessant industrial noises move beyond ambient audio into a soundscape that screams and moans like some parallel narrative. If you've got a good home theater setup, crank up the volume.

Also included in the package is the 2001 documentary Eraserhead Stories, assembled by Lynch himself. This is pure, weird gold for anyone interested in the excruciating minutiae of the filmmaking process—which in this case stretched over five years. Lynch, chain smoking and framed with an old-school radio microphone, free associates about the making of the movie with archival photos, "home movies" and audio clips woven in. Lynch even calls collaborator Catherine Coulson on the phone for some extemporaneous reminiscence.

Like most Criterion reissues, the Eraserhead package also comes with a booklet of printed material—a detailed Q&A with Lynch by Chris Rodley from his book Lynch on Lynch, and some details on the painstaking digital transfer.

It's a lot of fun to double back to Eraserhead, and even more fascinating to watch the film again in context of the bonus materials. Lynch's films and stories often squirm about on the surface of that thin membrane that separates nightmares from our waking life. This is where it all began, and if you're feeling intrepid, here's an option for the kind of scary movie night at home that will seep into your dreams.

Also new on DVD, Blu-ray and Digital:

  • Monster movie fans should enjoy the skyscraper-smashing mayhem in Godzilla, which crosses state-of -the-art FX with old Japanese kaiju movie in-jokes. 
  • Shailene Woodley plays a 16-year-old cancer patient in the YA weepie The Fault in Our Stars
  • The hardscrabble Philly neighborhood drama God's Pocket stars Philip Seymour Hoffman in one of his final performances. 
  • Clive Owen and Juliette Binoche play an art teacher and a writing teacher, respectively, in the romantic drama Words and Pictures

Notable New Titles on Netflix in September:

All is Lost (2013)
A Simple Plan (2009)
The Double (2014)
Girlfight (2000)
Good Morning, Vietnam (1987)
Le Week-End (2014)
Lords of Dogtown (2005)
Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
Your Sister's Sister (2011)



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