People forget that the otherworldly filmmaker David Lynch made the Disney-produced movie The Straight Story back in 1999. The tale of an old fellow that rides his lawnmower from Iowa to Wisconsin to reconcile with his dying brother. Except for the lawnmower oddity, the film was straightforward and tenderhearted with a narrative you could actually track. Now Lynch is filming another journey, this one traveling from the West Coast to the East Coast of the United States. A 70-day, 20,000-mile road trip led by Lynch’s son, Austin. It’s a film project called The Interview Project. And that’s what the crew is doing, each stop along the way: Interviewing everyday folk. Guys like Jim Carter, pictured above, who, we’re told in the text intro, grew up on a farm with his ten brothers and sisters, and left, reluctantly, to bear witness for God.
Most of the interviews are only three or four minutes long. And most of the subjects, so far, live rural or right on the fringe. I’ve been watching and listening to these these faces for the last week now, sometimes getting teary-eyed. There’s a strong pulse of stark sincerity that animates each story, each line of personal history. Listening to folks talk so simply and honestly about their lives makes you feel out of time and space. And after awhile you come to realize that it feels freakish listening to a woman describe the simplicity or the hardship or the pride of her life without all the bullshit and hype that you’re accustomed to hearing from celebrity culture (or worse, reality television situations with all its feigned bluster.)
I love the thirty-second intros to each interview, with Lynch sitting in his office/laboratory, speaking to you in that halting, deadpan style. It reminds me of when I went to see Lynch, a couple of years ago, here in Seattle, where he was on hand to discuss his film Inland Empire. My impression of Lynch was that he was the real deal. No pretense, just a man with an open-ended curiosity about life and how we each go about living it. And he seems to live his to the fullest. He’s like a zen-inspired Renaissance man: Painting abstract pictures, making non-linear movies, composing music, writing books on meditation, discussing the meaning of the universe in lectures and selling his coffee, David Lynch Signature Cup, on the side, with a percentage of the sales going to his David Lynch Foundation For Consciousness-Based Education and Peace.
He kind of made me feel like a slacker.