Posts Tagged ‘Jack Nance

17
Apr
16

Eraserhead (1977)

Wow. It’s been a good six months since I’ve graced these pages with my incoherent, babbling thoughts – apologies to those who care. Sometimes, life just gets in the way of this self-indulgence. In this case, I went and had a kid, and it has kicked my ass like nothing else in my life ever has. That shit they say about having kids is true: it changes everything.

Henry (Jack Nance) at one of the most uncomfortable, awkward family dinners I've ever seen on film.

Henry (Jack Nance) at one of the most uncomfortable, awkward family dinners I’ve ever seen on film.

Sure, I didn’t doubt that was the case, but I guess I didn’t grasp just how profoundly everything would change – including my perception of movies.

Like most people, I first saw David Lynch’s Eraserhead in college. Whatever copy they played us at one of the last gatherings of University of Pittsburgh’s Twin Peaks club (named Wounded in Pittsburgh, smirk) had Japanese subtitles. I remember having no fucking clue what it was I had just watched, and loving it for that reason. Over the years my memory of the movie faded, I mostly remembered it being an incredibly bizarre, outlandish and freaky nightmare starring a stunned Jack Nance. In the meantime I’d become intimately familiar with Lynch’s work, so that all seemed accurate to me.

Mary is having trouble feeding her little bundle of joy.

Mary is having trouble feeding her little bundle of joy.

For the uninitiated, Eraserhead is, in short, a story about an awkward couple in the early stages of a relationship. Though I find it difficult to imagine them having sex, they have, and they made a baby. But the baby was born extremely premature and is basically a fetus in bandages sleeping on a dresser. We watch in horror as the baby unravels whatever tenuous relationship the main characters (Henry & Mary) had. While that all sounds fairly straightforward, it isn’t. This is Lynch at his weirdest, so, suffice it to say there is a lot of freaky shit happening.

Of course in the 12 or so years since I’d first watched Eraserhead I often toyed with the idea of revisiting it, either through some Lynch marathon or inviting some square over just to scare the shit out of them with it, but it never happened. Not until I had a kid, and my husband couldn’t stop thinking: watching Eraserhead would be really freaky now. So on an evening where we had somehow had enough sleep to sit through a movie after getting the kid to bed herself, we did it.

And oh my god.

It was fucking hilarious.

I get it now. Eraserhead is a fucking comedy! Okay, until there’s that unmentionable violence. But, up until that point, oh my god! Hilarious! Yes, I have looked at my baby like she was an alien. Yes, I have convinced myself the baby was ill, only to find out she was fine, only to turn around and once again swear there is something wrong with her. Yes, I have shouted SHUT UP numerous times in the middle of the night due to my own lack of sleep! Yes, I have put the humidifier too close to her head. All these things that seem nightmarishly cruel are very true to the experience I had during the first few months of parenthood. Nail, head, et cetera.

That baby don't look right.

That baby don’t look right.

I don’t think I can give Eraserhead a star rating. Did I like it? Yes, I like it on two levels. The first is obvious: I like David Lynch, I like weird shit, and I like movies a lot, so of course it follows that I like Eraserhead. The second level is that I finally feel like I’m in on the joke, and it’s always more fun when you’re in on the joke. While it is true that a large portion of this movie remains an inexplicable nightmare, I feel like I finally understand the motivation behind it. All it took was becoming a parent! But how can I translate that into any kind of rating? Movies like Eraserhead don’t get rated. In David Lynch’s world, movies rate you. I mean, should you see Eraserhead? If you are over 25 and you haven’t already seen it, probably not. Unless, of course, you are a new parent. In which case, yes, you should. You should definitely see it. Like yesterday. If it doesn’t make you laugh, well, you probably have no sense of humor.

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