Interview. “It’s like a fish. The chef doesn’t make the fish, the chef just cooks the fish. And it’s the same with the ideas.”

David Lynch interview: ‘I’m not really a movie buff’

The mere presence of Twin Peaks on TV schedules around the world is somewhat miraculous, a paranormal apparition in programming lineups that by and large function within the safety of formula, or at least genre. Even in the current “golden age of television,” which offers viewers no lack of original — even groundbreaking — series, David Lynch’s sequel to his seminal 1992 show seems in a class of its own.

The series which has set legions of Lynch fans aflutter has also bedeviled viewers and critics with impenetrable storylines, a seemingly ever-expanding cast of characters and a plot at once endlessly fractured and impenetrably dense. It is as if Buñuel or Jodorowsky had directed a crime procedural. Although, to be fair, Lynch did have a hand in sowing the seeds of the current TV renaissance when he startled viewers with the original ABC series in 1990. Twin Peaks was clearly ahead of its time, and there is poetic justice of sorts in Lynch’s return to a medium he helped to revolutionize.

He clearly hasn’t lost his subversive thrust. It is not only the storyline of Twin Peaks but its form which defies all TV norms and conventions. The pacing, the interminable minutes during which Lynch holds a frame in which only minimal movement takes place, his indulgence in transcendental silence — these are unthinkable anywhere else. It’s as if an authorial voice from another place or time has momentarily taken control of the screen. And it makes the new Twin Peaks a show as much about art and film as it is about the enigmatic peregrinations of Agent Cooper and his doppelganger.

What are you getting audiences to think about?

I can’t help you one little bit. It’s something that’s not finished until it’s finished. And just like anything, you watch it and you feel it and you go along and it adds up to something in the end and then you can think about that.

Is there a key to deciphering the story?

I interpret it for myself, because everybody is different, and we are seeing the same thing and hearing the same thing and everybody, just like in life, we see the same things and we hear the same things and we try to figure out what’s going on. So it doesn’t do any good. I always say, you can’t dig up a dead author and ask him or her about their book; you read the book and figure it out for yourself. And that is a beautiful thing, to see things like a detective think and feel and come up with your own conclusions. That is a very beautiful thing. And it’s always that way.

Do you feel and hope that the new Twin Peaks will speak to today’s audiences?

I don’t know what will happen, but the same thing was true for the first Twin Peaks. You don’t know what will happen until you release something into the world. It’s out of your control. So it was a big surprise that Twin Peaks travelled around the world and people really liked it. And now, going back in, the rule was to follow the ideas, be true to the ideas, do it as good as you can, and when it’s finished, you release it. And there’s nothing you can do. You just do the best job that you can. And people have said they don’t really know how a small town, a small story in the Northwest of America, appealed to the Japanese say, or the French, whatever. It just was an interesting, fantastic phenomenon. But it was just a magical combination of things.

Have you been thinking about Twin Peaks for the past 25 years?

I have said I love the world of Twin Peaks and I would think about it fondly during those years. And sometimes would wonder what people were doing and wonder about how things were left. But I didn’t really think of going back into the world until Mark Frost invited me to Lunch at Musso and Frank and we started talking. That was about five years ago. [Twenty-five years later] I am the same person. Just like you. When we talk to ourselves, we are always the same. And, I love a lot of things. I love working on wood, I like painting, I like music and I like cinema. And so getting back into the world of Twin Peaks is really thrilling to me, and for the last five years, like I said, I have been working on this. So it was very good to get back with a crew and the cameras and the sound and build this thing with a lot of great people. This time, I discovered “cronuts” and that is a new thing, and they are really good. They are incredible. A cross between a croissant and a donut. And it’s incredible. And I like cherry pie a lot too.

Do you think of directing as a kind of painting?

Yes. They say cinema takes seven arts: writing, and music, painting, many, many things. But I came into the world of cinema through painting. I was at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, sitting in a small cubicle working on a painting in a garden at night, and I was watching the painting, and I heard from the painting a wind. And I saw the painting start to move. And I said, “Oh, a moving painting.” And that experience was what started it going. And I made a stop motion animated film, a one-minute film loop of six men getting sick and it was my first film, one minute long. And I kept getting green lights in the world of cinema, but it came out of painting.

You are a painter as well as a filmmaker?

I like to catch ideas, and the idea I always say dictates everything. You could be sitting and say, “Oh, I have an idea to go to the store to get some coffee.” That’s an idea. So you can be sitting in a chair and get an idea for a chair, a new chair. And you get so fulfilled with the thrill of it, that you get some wood, you go into the wood shop and you start building that chair. And how do you build it? You just remember the idea, and this goes like this and this goes like this, and so beautiful. And, you start building it according to the idea. And, what might come out is that someone could say that there is a certain style, but it wasn’t that you were trying to make a style, it was trying to realize an idea, translating an idea to some medium.

Are dreams very important to you?

First of all, I don’t really go by nighttime dreams. I have hardly ever gotten ideas from nighttime dreams. But I always say I love daydreaming. I love to sit in a chair, and it’s getting harder to do because there are so many distractions. But the idea of sitting and thinking and just thinking, like daydreaming, sometimes ideas can come that way. Or you can just walk down the street and an idea will come. You never know. I don’t know what triggers them, but ideas come in. And in a big way, I don’t really, I can’t take credit for any of those. They come from outside. They come into the conscious mind and they show themselves to you. It’s like a fish. The chef doesn’t make the fish, the chef just cooks the fish. So it’s all about just catching ideas. And I always say, if you desire an idea, a desire is like a bait on a hook and if you really are desiring, it’s almost like focusing. You are desiring and focusing and lo and behold, an idea will come in. And once you get on idea, I say it’s like catching a little fish, but you love that little fish, but it’s a whole fragment of something big, because you got one little fish that you love, now you got more bait, and you think about that little fish and then more will swim in, they just start swimming in. And then you have got a whole bunch of ideas, and a story emerges from that.

Can you talk a little bit about music and sound in your films?

Angelo Badalamenti brought me into the world of music. When I was little, I played the trumpet, and I would have kept playing the trumpet, but instead in high school, because you are in a band or the orchestra, they make you come to school screaming early in the morning and practice marching for football games. And I said I am not doing that. So I had to give up the trumpet. But as I said, music is so important in cinema. And Angelo, I started working with Angelo, and Angelo wants lyrics. This helps him write. So I started writing lyrics. And that brought me together more with Angelo. And then one thing led to another, and I am not a musician really. Even though I have made some music, I have nothing but respect for great musicians, Angelo is definitely one of them, and I love music and I say music in a film, you can love many different types of music, but you have to get the right music to marry to the picture. And elevate that and live in that world, so it’s a thinking, feeling sort of thing, sort of an experiment always in a film, what comes in, how it comes in, and how it goes out. It’s a magical world of music, and I love musicians. And I always say that musicians are like children. They are happy. And when they play together, it’s like they become a unit of oneness, and it’s so beautiful. And a lot of bands get broken up because of jealousies or ego or whatever, but when they are playing together, all that disappears. And they are one thing in the world of that particular sound, and it’s really, really, really beautiful.

Silence also plays a big part in your work. Why?

This is a very beautiful question. They say that in the transcendent, in the unified field, there is infinite silence alongside infinite dynamism. These two opposites exist. They co-exist together. And silence is… I have a recording studio and so when you close the doors and when the machines are off, it’s so well sound proofed that you experience it really, really quiet. But to dive within and experience that silence, that is an unbelievable experience. It’s very blissful, but it’s absolute silence. Silence is so powerful and it’s so missing in the world, it’s a really noisy world. So silence is this basis in which all these sounds and all these things come. There’s something about that with music, too. It’s really quiet and the timing of when something emerges and how it emerges, how loud it gets at what points and how it goes, it’s all coming off of this idea of no sound, of silence. So it’s very interesting to think about silence.

So do you have an cellphone?

I don’t like phones. I like old phones, the ring of old phones. It’s a disturbance a telephone, and every time the phone rings and you know it’s for you, it’s a torment. So, I don’t like email, so it’s a world of disturbances is what it is. And the glass box is a little different from that.

What can you tell us of the origins of the “Red Room”?

In the pilot of Twin Peaks, we were required to come up with some alternate ending, in case (the show) was a bust, they would release it in Europe as a feature. So they kept saying: “David, you have got to come up with an alternate ending” while we were shooting. And so nothing was happening, and we were editing at Consolidated Film Industries, CFI, on Seward Street, and it was about 7 o’clock at night on a summer night. And we came out of the editing room finished for the day, and it was Dwayne Dunham and Brian Berdan, editor and assistant editor and I came out of the room. And we went into the parking area and we were talking, and I leaned against the roof of a car. And that felt really beautifully warm. Not too hot, just very warm. And I was learning against this, and the red room came in. Every single thing was there in an instant. And I said, “Dwayne,” and I went and wrote that down. And then I showed that to Mark and we made a few changes and there it is. Twenty-five years later there we are back in there.

What do you think of Hollywood in the age of blockbusters?

I would say it’s not such a good time for the feature film like with the French or Italian New Wave of the ‘60s, for instance, when it was a glorious time for the art houses. Art houses were getting more business than the regular theaters. And it was beautiful. People were really experimenting and finding a new way of cinema. And then it changed. And now, the art houses are gone and what’s in the theaters in not necessarily… it’s what a lot of people want and it’s a business. And the kind of cinema that used to be and still is being made, but it’s usually a cinema that might last in a theater in New York for a week and then go to DVD or Blu-Ray and that’s the way you will see it from then on. So there’s sadness. You get an idea that is thrilling for a feature film, and then you have to think well, it’s built for the theater, but how many days will you have it in the theater? It’s kind of depressing.

Are you a cinephile?

I am not really a movie buff. I love to make them, but I don’t really see a lot of films. And I don’t watch much TV except sometimes news. And I have been watching this Velocity Channel, where they have these car shows, and customizing cars and restoring cars. And I have learned so much, the metal work that these guys and gals do and the upholstery and the engine work, it’s thrilling to me. They are real artists a lot of these people. And some of these cars are definitely works of art.

So is there a chance you might make another movie?

For sure, if I got an idea. See, to make a film or anything, you have to get an idea that is thrilling enough to get you out of the chair and go to work. And so if I get that idea, for sure I would do it.

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