Video of the day. David Lynch's "Lady Blue Shanghai" (2010)

How come no one told me this existed?  I may be a year late to the game, but this seems to be the longest video/film work David Lynch has directed since INLAND EMPIRE.

Filmed as a commission for Dior, Lady Blue Shanghai stars Marion Cotillard in a work that strongly continues the stripped down "amateur" digital aesthetic introduced by Lynch's 2006 masterpiece, working in a vein closer to video art / avant-garde video than his feature film-films.

What does this mean?  For one, it pushes Lynch's characters further away from the ostensible psychological naturalism that makes the stories of films like Blue Velvet and Mulholland Dr. accessible despite continued forays into the "unexplainable."  Characters in INLAND EMPIRE and in this video are more like suspended ghosts than "real people," abstracted echoes of Americana, cinematic genre tropes, psychic impressions and resonances. Most concerns here are not those of conventional storytelling; I think for a good portion of this film Lynch is as interested in the way Cotillard's massive, round eyes blink more than the symbolist meaning so many people search for in his films (a blue bag! — I have a meaning for that one: Dior).  Or how spoken words, uttered in a certain cadence, have the magic to create things: memories, fears, yearning, new spaces.

It also means the film's use of awkward video, through a combination of extreme wide-angled lenses, stark lighting, severe editing disruptions, and, eventually, in a wondrous scene that ranks with some of the best things Lynch has ever shot, the smeary wonderland of some kind of slomo digital distortion, the filmmaker teases and encourages the collapse of a line his storytelling has danced around for decades: that between the light and the dark, the known and the unknown.  It is clear Lynch has found his medium; nowhere but in the digital indeterminacy of the pixel, and, most affectingly, the obvious-pixel, the pixelated-pixel, the distorted and artifacted and unreal pixel, does it seem like there's a camera capturing something and at the same time a camera capturing something else, something...not quite there.

As an unrelated note, this film called to my mind two recent digital works by Chris Marker: one, in its particular digital look, Marker's recent photography exhibit PASSENGERS; and the other, in its expressive navigation around a hotel, the cryptic re-edit spy film Stopover in Dubai.

Responses

12 responses to this post.  Join the discussion

  • Bobby Wise

    I like it. The old music reminded me of “The Shining”.

  • Daniel Kasman

    Definitely — more hotel cinema!

  • DOUGLAS REESE

    It’s incredible and one of my favorite short films of the aughts (and possibly ever).

    It’s not as fantastic – but I’d recommend checking out “Lady Grey London” just for curiosity’s sake. :P

  • Craig Keller

    It’s a nice piece, Danny. It’s interesting that you write about this film — I was just revisiting it the other day, some time after I finished ‘Twin Peaks’.

    For me the greater mystery is: How did I not know about ‘Stopover in Dubai’ or, more broadly, Gorgomancy.net?

    Where apparently the whole of the ‘Immemory’ CD-ROM has been converted-to-Web?

    ck.

  • Uli Cain, Cinefidel¹³

    Daniel, now check out the other 3 pieces of the Ad Campaign. White is small Noir-type film, Red is a video where Marion sings Eyes of Mars with Franz Ferdinand, and the newest and last piece just came out with Marion as a Dancer, Russell Tovey as a painter and Ian McKellen as a man in a wheel chair.

  • Daniel Kasman

    Thanks, Craig. Re: Twin Peaks, I was trying to bring FIRE WALK WITH ME to a theater in NYC, but apparently no print exists in the US (!). Perhaps by any chance you know differently? Re: gorog, yes, I wanted to drop that semi-secret in there. Hard to believe so few (at least in the US?) know about that.

    Uli: thanks for the tips. How are they?

  • Uli Cain, Cinefidel¹³

    Daniel, good, I love the song, and it’s a good video, the last piece I like a great deal, the first piece was okay.

    Lady Grey: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YfyGjy5ajF8
    Lady Nior: http://youtu.be/12fmWY-FU10
    Lady Rouge: http://youtu.be/2uQ2Z_ht_qA

  • sajju

    might be mr lynch wants to talk about the buddhist reincarnation theme :)
    well it looked so odd that how the bag was the prior sponsor … it looked out of box … were lynch maniacs disappointed .. the camera movements … welll it says the high speed camera is being used ….but i think it can be done with any cameras … of course hd ( here lets take 7d as reference ):)
    n i liked the double layer editing .. when the big face of the protagonist is on the background of the same moving image .. thats movie … :) moving image …:) thanks fr the upload ..

  • Joe Bowman

    Danny, did New Line burn all their prints of FWWM?

  • Ben Simington

    Great. Thanks.

  • Omer

    I love Lynch!! This is his style! thanks for the video!

  • rowdyman

    Even better than his David Lynch Signature Cup Coffee ad.

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