Watch All of the Commercials That David Lynch Has Directed: A Big 30-Minute Compilation

Some film­mak­ers start in com­mer­cials, hon­ing their chops in antic­i­pa­tion of mak­ing per­son­al projects lat­er. A select few go in the oth­er direc­tion, real­iz­ing their dis­tinc­tive vision before field­ing offers from com­pa­nies who want a piece of that vision’s cul­tur­al cur­ren­cy. Any­one who’s seen David Lynch’s most acclaimed work will sus­pect, cor­rect­ly, that Lynch belongs in the lat­ter group. With 1977’s cult hit Eraser­head, he showed cin­e­ma what it means to be Lynchi­an. This brought him the atten­tion of Hol­ly­wood, lead­ing to the respectable suc­cess of The Ele­phant Man and the dis­as­ter that was Dune. Only in 1986, with Blue Vel­vet, could Lynch make a tru­ly, even trou­bling­ly per­son­al film that hit the zeit­geist at just the right moment.

Nat­u­ral­ly, Madi­son Avenue came call­ing soon there­after. “With the smash Blue Vel­vet, a Palme d’or at Cannes for Wild at Heart, and then the nation­al phe­nom­e­non of Twin Peaks’ first sea­son, David Lynch clear­ly estab­lished him­self as the U.S.A.‘s fore­most com­mer­cial­ly viable avant-garde-‘offbeat’ direc­tor,” wrote David Fos­ter Wal­lace in a 1997 piece on the film­mak­er.

“For a while there it looked like he might be able to sin­gle-hand­ed­ly bro­ker a new mar­riage between art and com­merce in U.S. movies, open­ing for­mu­la-frozen Hol­ly­wood to some of the eccen­tric­i­ty and vig­or of art film.” Lynch’s fans in tele­vi­sion adver­tis­ing must have imag­ined that he could do the same for their indus­try, and you can watch the fruits of that hunch in the half-hour com­pi­la­tion of Lynch-direct­ed com­mer­cials above.

Lynch has worked for some star­tling­ly big brands, begin­ning with Calvin Klein: his trio of spots for the fra­grance Obses­sion take as their basis the writ­ing of F. Scott Fitzger­ald, Ernest Hem­ing­way, and D.H. Lawrence. A few years lat­er he direct­ed a humor­ous mini-sea­son of Twin Peaks to pro­mote Geor­gia Cof­fee, one of the top brands of canned cof­fee in the Lynch-lov­ing coun­try of Japan. The New York Depart­ment of San­i­ta­tion engaged Lynch’s ser­vices to imbue their anti-lit­ter­ing cam­paign with his sig­na­ture high-con­trast omi­nous­ness, a mood also sought by fash­ion-indus­try titans like Armani, Yves Saint Lau­rent, Guc­ci, and Dior. The mar­keters of hum­bler goods like Alka-Seltzer, Bar­il­la Pas­ta (a seem­ing­ly auteur-aware brand that has also hired Wim Wen­ders and Felli­ni), and Clear Blue Easy home preg­nan­cy tests have also gone in for a touch of the Lynchi­an.

Quite a few of these com­mer­cials orig­i­nal­ly aired only out­side Amer­i­ca, which may reflect the sup­pos­ed­ly more endur­ing appre­ci­a­tion of Lynch’s work that exists in Europe and Asia. But for all Lynch’s artis­tic dar­ing, the man him­self has always come off as an enthu­si­ast of unre­con­struct­ed Amer­i­can plea­sures. To this day he remains a stead­fast smok­er, and in 1998 brought that per­son­al cred­i­bil­i­ty to the Swiss cig­a­rette brand Parisi­enne. The result­ing spot fea­tures men in ties, show­ers of sparks, dead fish, back­wards talk­ing, a for­bid­ding­ly illu­mi­nat­ed shack, and apoc­a­lyp­tic flames: Parisi­enne, in oth­er words, must have got exact­ly what they paid for.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

What Makes a David Lynch Film Lynchi­an: A Video Essay

David Lynch Made a Dis­turb­ing Web Sit­com Called “Rab­bits”: It’s Now Used by Psy­chol­o­gists to Induce a Sense of Exis­ten­tial Cri­sis in Research Sub­jects

The Sur­re­al Film­mak­ing of David Lynch Explained in 9 Video Essays

Wim Wen­ders Cre­ates Ads to Sell Beer (Stel­la Artois), Pas­ta (Bar­il­la), and More Beer (Car­ling)

Spike Jonze’s Imag­i­na­tive TV Ads

Fellini’s Fan­tas­tic TV Com­mer­cials

Ing­mar Bergman’s 1950s Soap Com­mer­cials Wash Away the Exis­ten­tial Despair

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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