Monday, May 24, 2010

HOW TO MAKE A JOKE UNFUNNY 3: Consider this: Birdemic and Blue Velvet may have been directed by the same person

"AN ACADEMIC DEFINITION of Lynchian might be that the term "refers 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."

- David Foster Wallace,
US Premiere magazine,
September 1996

Having watched Birdemic for the fifth time, I am convinced I have watched a David Lynch film - in spirit at the least, if not in authorship. Never mind that James Nguyen kind of dresses like Lynch and that his public persona stinks of a put-on. Never mind if the film seems 'self-aware' and seems to knowingly subvert horror movie cliches around its sexual subtext - The couple barricade their motel room from the birds with the mattress they fucked on, and they later fend the birds (reference to storks, perhaps?) off with coat hangers - I write this note not in order to cry foul, but to express an appreciation of a certain quality I've come to find in this feature film supposedly directed by James Nguyen. Birdemic may or may not be a sincere attempt at a genre film, but the intention doesn't deter the strength of the work in my humble opinion. In short: If this IS a hoax, I consider the hoax part of the 'grand vision' of the project.

Having said this, here's my pet theory concerning the conception of the film.

Filmmakers Bobby Hacker and Evan Husney described what they encountered in Park City, Utah: "We saw this rundown Nissan Quest just crawling down Main Street plastered with posters and fake blood . . . And just blasting this indescribable avian-like, screeching, like eagle attacks."

James Nguyen was handing out flyers to passers-by from his van, adorned with stuffed birds and paper signs that read "BIDEMIC" (mispelt).

My theory is that David Lynch - the same guy who sat next to a cow to campaign for an Oscar Nomination for Laura Dern for her role in INLAND EMPIRE, and has been displayed an affinity for playful viral marketing techniques since the launch of his website - was experimenting with consumer-grade DV and at some point decided to use James Nguyen and Moviehead Pictures as a front for some of his projects. This isn't that far a stretch. Lynch has grown increasingly prone to re-contextualizing his own work; Mulholland Drive started of as a pilot for a TV series, sequences in INLAND EMPIRE existed previously as the series RABBITS on David James's previous video projects are described as noir-throwbacks, and sounds like they could have been homemade experiments initiated by the creator of Eraserhead and Twin Peaks himself.

"I had a dream. In fact, it was on the night I met you. In the dream, there was our world, and the world was dark because there weren't any robins and the robins represented love. And for the longest time, there was this darkness. And all of a sudden, thousands of robins were set free and they flew down and brought this blinding light of love. And it seemed that love would make any difference, and it did. So, I guess it means that there is trouble until the robins come."

- Sandy, Blue Velvet

Aside from the fact that moviehead pictures's logo seems to be a modified version of David's spiral logo, Birdemic shares lot of the imagery from David Lynch's films. The aesthetic of the film itself - sans serif fonts, musical numbers - is Lynchian. The ending in particular appears to reference Laura Dern's dream in Blue Velvet. The crew of BV have also noted Lynch's decision to use a particularly artificial-looking bird in the movie's conclusion.

Many other scenes seem to come from Lynch's sensibilities and uses many of his archetypes. Consider:

- The man in the cowboy suit who threatens the protagonists with a gun
- The opening sequence with credits over the shot of the road (Lost Highway)
- Platinum blond mother-daughter archetypes
- Dance sequence over gaudy colors not unlike Mulholland Drive's jitterbug scene
- The bizarre TV news broadcast about seals and race cars driven by hollywood celebrities.
- The sex scenes are uncomfortable and particularly Lynchian (Imagine Peace?)
- The slide about the Solar Panel in the business meeting scene ... Sans Serif fonts again, over a big black rectangle

To make things more troubling, the "bad editing" seems to be very considered and deliberate. Take the diner scene with the waitress at the beginning with the dubbed-over voice and cuts making the waitress seem to inhabit multiple spaces without breaking the flow of the scene (an allusion to the name-changing Diane/ Betty waitress at Winkie's?) This blatant 'mistake' sets up the haphazard tone of Birdemic and is never repeated throughout the rest of the film, suggesting the direction of someone who is used to creating cognitive dissonance rather than an amateur.

A lot of the shots seem mirror the camera work in Inland Empire in terms of editing and framing. Consider Lynch's lo-fi tendencies and love for the absurd, which often manifests in lesser-known projects such as 'On the Air', 'Dumbland' and the comic strip 'The Angriest dog in the universe" and you'll be hard-pressed not to find, at the surface, a stylistic common ground between his work and Birdemic.

But I could be wrong, maybe James is just and individual who has been influenced by Lynch and has assimilated some of his themes and styles. Who can tell? But it doesn't deter from the fact that the film is extremely effective at hinting at what may or may not be lurking underneath, pecking away at our subconscious. Laughing at, laughing with, being laughed at.

What has intent ever had to do with anything, anyway?

1 comment:

Andrew Remington Bailey said...

great articles, i have heard about this movie but never seen it. this makes me want to see it so much more!