The LFF Blog: Day Five

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David Lynch and Donovan took to the stage at BFI Southbank last night to deliver a talk on the artistic advantages of transcendental meditation. David Jenkins was intrigued and bemused

Is there anything more likely to drag the cranks and weirdoes out of their suburban hovels than a speaking engagement with David Lynch followed by a short greatest-hits set from lank-haired throwback Donovan? What threatened to be an audience made up of ageing CND supporters and self-harmers ended up as your average BFI Southbank tweed set, with those with pony tails, tie-dye T-shirts and sandals thankfully in the minority.

Even for the man who produced the three-hour brain-frazzler, ‘Inland Empire’, you almost got the feeling that LFF artistic director Sandra Hebron could barely believe the words she was saying when announcing the event at the festival’s press launch back at the beginning of October. Apart from the alleged fondness for each other’s work, it was difficult to place exactly why these two very distinct artists were sharing a stage last night.

Lynch was in town to promote his new book, ‘Catching the Big Fish’, in which the quiffed one delivers 192 pages of highly abstract prose on the links between meditation, consciousness and, obviously, the transmundane. He ambled onto the stage in a trim black suit (top shirt button fastened, naturally) with no rehearsed introduction or preamble, then waited patiently for audience members to form an orderly queue in front of a microphone and ask him questions. It was announced that Lynch would pontificate on any subject, and the tone was set by one plucky ‘soul’ (as Lynch tended to refer to ‘people’) who came straight out and asked: ‘David, what’s the meaning of life?’. ‘Totality’ was his unflinching response, intoned in a manner that suggested he was being asked if he wanted sugar in his coffee.

However, this curt riposte quickly led to a stream-of-consciousness diatribe on the joys of transcendental meditation, as did the answers to nearly all the questions put to him. Now, the guy is either a really shrewd businessman with book sales at the front and centre of his unique mind, or he really, really, really likes transcendental meditation. With his closed-eyes/hand-shaking delivery (and not to mention the pronounced drawl), he actually, at times, came off a bit like a crooked TV evangelist who was being recorded for an around-the-clock infomercial. 'Call 1-800 LYNCH-SLUSH-FUND for your free starter pack', and all that…

The best, most revealing questions were often the sillier ones. When asked, ‘David, how do you get your hair to do that?’ he explained that it’s all down to the quality of the haircut, but that on this occasion he was using a L’Oréal spray. Even when discussing his films, he was careful not to give too much away, claiming that ‘Eraserhead’ was inspired entirely by his ‘time in Philadelphia’.

After about an hour of surreal chat, Lynch left the stage and was replaced by Donovan. In a clever ploy to keep people in their seats, it was promised that Lynch would return at the end of the set. However, not even that was enough to keep at least a quarter of the audience from walking out. Last year, I had the misfortune to see Donovan headlining the Green Man Festival where, much to the embarrassment of the audience, he chose to prance pixie-like around the stage and introduce his songs in a dodgy Jamaican patois. He was better behaved tonight, keeping his banter short and seemed to start every sentence with a reassuring, ‘Back in the ’60s…’. After the grinding joviality of hits such as ‘Sunshine Superman’, ‘Mellow Yellow’ and ‘Hurdy Gurdy Man’ had hit breaking point, Lynch returned to deliver a short poem. The lights went up and the fever dream was over.

I came away from the event feeling confused and slightly disappointed. While I have never tried transcendental meditation, don’t know anything about it or feel any need to begin learning about it, that Lynch identified it as the defining influence behind the key artistic and emotional decisions he’s made over the last 34 years was a little alarming. Surely it would be better to allow the enigmatic qualities that characterise his work to remain a moot point for all eternity than to take the obvious route and put it all down to the eternal oceans of pure bliss consciousness in every human being? Surely?

Read our previous LFF blogs here:

Day Four: A scathing review of Robert Redford's 'Lions for Lambs'

Day Three: Julian Schnabel, lunch with Cronenberg and wild sex with Ang Lee

Day Two: First review of 'Beat' Takeshi Kitano's'Glory to the Filmmaker'

Day One: David Cronenberg's 'Eastern Promises' and all the gossip from the opening gala

 

Author: David Jenkins



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