See What David Lynch Can Do With a 100-Year-Old Camera and 52 Seconds of Film

In 1995, 41 respect­ed film­mak­ers got a shot at using the first motion pic­ture cam­era, the Lumière broth­ers’ ciné­matographe. Rather, they got more than a shot, but often not much more: each of these icons of world cin­e­ma had to make do with a sin­gle, 52-sec­ond roll of film. Whether you were Spike Lee, Cos­ta-Gavras, Wim Wen­ders, Mer­chant & Ivory, or Peter Green­away, the rules remained the same: no addi­tion­al film, no syn­chro­nized sound, and no more than three takes. This large, indi­rect col­lab­o­ra­tion pro­duced the film Lumière and Com­pa­ny, an anthol­o­gy of all these very short pieces, each of which show­cas­es the kind of cre­ativ­i­ty only strict lim­i­ta­tions can release. (Bri­an Eno would, I imag­ine, approve.) David Lynch’s fans, a ded­i­cat­ed aes­thet­ic fac­tion indeed, will sure­ly fast-for­ward to their man’s con­tri­bu­tion, Lumière, which you can watch on YouTube.

Even in these 52 sec­onds, Lynch enthu­si­asts can spot many of the direc­tor’s sig­na­ture aes­thet­ic and emo­tion­al pre­oc­cu­pa­tions. David Fos­ter Wal­lace elo­quent­ly defined the term “Lynchi­an” as refer­ring to “a par­tic­u­lar kind of irony where the very macabre and the very mun­dane com­bine in such a way as to reveal the for­mer’s per­pet­u­al con­tain­ment with­in the lat­ter,” and you might take Lumière as a bite of unadul­ter­at­ed Lynchi­an­ism. Tak­ing place in vague­ly but sin­is­ter­ly askew small-town mid­cen­tu­ry Amer­i­ca — a realm now more close­ly asso­ci­at­ed with Lynch than any­body — the film drops into and out of a brief fugue of pure bio­me­chan­i­cal grotes­querie. Some of the eerie dream-state qual­i­ty comes from the incon­gru­ous­ly ancient look and feel of ciné­matographe footage. Much more comes from the sound design, which lays the music of a warped clas­sic film score on top of the noise of aging machin­ery. Crit­ics note Lynch’s way with strik­ing images you could­n’t for­get if you want­ed to, but I sus­pect his use of sound does just as much to lodge his movies per­ma­nent­ly into our cin­e­mat­ic con­scious­ness.

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Relat­ed con­tent:

David Lynch’s New ‘Crazy Clown Time’ Video: Intense Psy­chot­ic Back­yard Crazi­ness (NSFW)

David Lynch’s Sur­re­al Com­mer­cials

David Lynch and Inter­pol Team Up on Short Film

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

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