Eraserhead (David Lynch / U.S., 1977):

Blood of a Poet, ooze of a father. Creation is excruciation and birth is no exception, from stars in space to bubbles in slime, that's but a lever pulled by the Man in the Moon (cf. Wood's Glen or Glenda?). The "very nice fellow" on vacation (Jack Nance) wears a black suit and an expression of unease, his frizzy bouffant might be from the free-floating electricity of the industrial netherworld in which he trudges. His girlfriend (Charlotte Stewart) is first seen as a ripped photograph in a drawer, then framed by pipes during the revelation of their offspring, "they're not even sure it is a baby!" Post-apocalyptic Norman Rockwell for dinner with the in-laws (the chicken twitches and bleeds profusely upon carving), a skinned mutant for Junior in the cradle. Steam and grime and smog rule the land, the flickering lights are the lewdling next door (Judith Roberts) and the puffy pixie (Laurel Near) who lives in the radiator, so it goes in David Lynch's indelible nightmare—nothing obscure about it, just the artist's every fear laid bare and clear as day. (His realism is his strangeness and vice-versa, all it takes is a change in angle to reveal that the unholy squeaking in a petrified familial tableau comes from a litter of suckling puppies.) Stringy spermatozoa pulled out from under the covers and thrown with a splat against the wall, curtains and waiting rooms, the larva in the cupboard (Blake's "invisible worm that flies in the night") opens its maw and the camera dives in. The prodigies of Lynch's textures extend to his soundscape, the hissing and rumbling of machines and the bleating of the misshapen baby who only stops mewling to laugh at you. Panic fables, as Jodorowsky would have it, the schnook who loses his head but gets the fairy, practically a Harry Langdon comedy: "By prong have I entered these hills..." Cinematography by Herbert Cardwell and Frederick Elmes. With Jeanne Bates, Allen Joseph, and Jack Fisk. In black and white.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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