Angry Robot

Lynch Fest: Dune & Wild at Heart

My the Lynch Fest took a long break! Actually, it kept going, but my write-ups took a few weeks off. Anyway, a couple lesser works to get through before we get into the heavy-duty gems.


The word on Dune is that the studio botched it. It’s clearly busted: a grand and leisurely first half gives way to a second half so abruptly condensed it feels like a trailer. There is also the consistent rumour that a “director’s cut” of four-hour-plus length is circulating just out of public reach. That’s not true; there was a TV version formatted into two 2-hour slots including commercials, putting its ad-free running time at about three hours. Lynch is apparently no fan of that cut.

Dune isn’t Lynch’s greatest work, but it does have interesting characteristics that would come into play in his later work. One is a willingness to dramatize events in the abstract, in this case a lot of dreamy slow-dissolve sequences with voiceover. The other is a taste for villains so villainous that they strain the limits of the story. Like Blue Velvet’s Frank, Dune’s Baron Harkonnen is given plenty of time to indulge in villainy. Villainy in Lynch films is almost like sex in porns – the narrative grinds to a halt when it’s time for human evil to get down and dirty. Unfortunately in this case, the Baron’s portrayal as a diseased homosexual is disturbing in the wrong ways.

Wild at Heart

This is another less essential Lynch work. It retreads some of Blue Velvet’s territory, in a less sublime way. But man is it a hell of a lot of fun – mass market Lynch sure is a wonder to behold, and set a template for True Romance, Natural Born Killers and many of the most influential indie films of the 90s.

Two other things to note. The film is full of Wizard of Oz references; this will become significant for Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive. Also, it was based on a book by Barry Gifford, who would go on to co-write Lost Highway with Mr. Lynch.