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

A new digital video by Lynch commissioned as an ad for Dior and starring Mario Cotillard.
Daniel Kasman

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.


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