The collection of The Short Films of David Lynch (2002) brings together his rarest works, with Lynch introducing each piece. It's for Lynch completists mainly, as only one of the films, The Grandmother (1970), is a strong work in its own right. The others have value mainly because of who the director is, not because of their individual merits.
Six Men Getting Sick (1966) is a one-minute film-loop intended for projection on a sculptured screen. It uses mediocre animation to portray vomitting, to the sound of a siren. It's piffle, but in its original context of an art show it was likely quite wonderful.
The Alphabet (1968) is four minutes long, depicting a girl's nightmare of the letter A giving birth. Though trivial, it is interesting as a precursor to the horrific birth & monstrous baby of Lynch's surrealistic masterwork Eraserhead (1977).
Lynch's one-minute contribution to Lumiere et campagne (1996) views like an outtake from Eraserhead & as such is quite marvelous, but not enough of a film to justify excising from the original context, which was a collection of 40 miniature films by 40 international directors using the actual film equipment of pioneer filmmakers the Lumiere Brothers, released on the 100th anniversary of the brothers' first film.
During a hiatus when there was no money to continue filming Eraserhead, David Lynch filmed The Amputee (1974) showing a legless girl narrating a letter.
There are a few gross bits given in stark contrast to a banal narration. It's not much of a film, but can be viewed as though it were a rightly deleted scene from Eraserhead, having the same general look.
The Cowboy & the Frenchman (1988) is an impressionistic western comedy that introduces an extreme-stereotype of the cinematic Frenchman (Frederic Golchan) to an extreme stereotypes of American cowboys (Harry Dean Stanton among them).
It was originally part of Luigi Commencini's documentary mini-series with intercalated short subjects, Les Francais vus par (1981) investigating images & stereotypes of French people. Lynch's unfunny half-hour comedy really isn't enough of a film to stand on its own.
The Grandmother (1970) is the only one of Lynch's short films that is substantive & could be considered a successful work of art, a grand precursor to Eraserhead, truly disturbing & pictorially strange in the best sense.
A bit over half an hour, at the time Lynch was still a novice in the underground film scene uncertain that he'd ever be a significant filmmaker. If not for an American Film Institute grant of $5,000, it might never have been made, & Lynch might never have gone on as a world-class director.
Mixing camera tricks, live action, & animation, the film starts with a highly mythic series of images of two plant-like monstrous humans mating & giving birth. The spooky sexuality & grotesqueness of reproduction makes this phobic exercise mysteriously bizarre & mesmerizing. The theme of horrific births would be duplicated in enough of Lynch's films to indicate it is one of his actual phobias or obsessions.
Shifting, silent realities range from the boy tortured by Scary Dad because he's a bed-wetter, to Quacking Mommy going on a loony abusive tangent with just enough hints of disturbed affection to make it creepier. The film is sometimes reminiscent of the puppetry of the Brothers Quay, even though Lynch's puppets are live actors.
There is no dialogue proper but only grunts, quacks, snarls, shouts. Escaping from his cruel parents to his private world in the attic, the boy plants a potato (or a jangly rock?) from a bag labeled "Seeds" in a mound of dirt on the attic bed.
He waters it & cares for it as it grows into a disgusting fungus-like monstrosity with a moist, oozing vaginal cavity, from whence is born fully grown & fully clothed, the boy's Grandmother.
This moment is so splendid it nearly cancels out everything that follows, but an important factor is that this weird Granny is much to be preferred over the horrific mom & dad.
There's a hideous, lurid beauty to this beguilingly perverse film, a significant early work for Lynch whether viewed for its own content or for how it interplays with the content of Eraserhead.
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