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David Lynch, Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement

The Board of Directors of La Biennale di Venezia, presided by Davide Croff, has accepted the proposal by Director Marco Müller to award the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement to US director David Lynch at the 63rd Venice International Film Festival, scheduled to take place on the Lido di Venezia from August 30th through September 9th 2006.

  The award will be presented to the director on September 6th, in the Sala Grande of the Palazzo del Cinema, on the occasion of the screening of his new masterpiece INLAND EMPIRE.  

David Lynch (United States), Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement. With his visionary and disturbing style, he is one of the directors who has most strongly influenced our contemporary imagination, developing his coherent artistic career at the borders of the Hollywood industry, and fascinating the wider public with his experimentalism. He is considered the father of independent new film-making in the United States, having paved the way for authors such as the Coen brothers, Jim Jarmusch, Spike Lee, Quentin Tarantino, and outside the US, among others, Jane Campion. Lynch's great admirers include Stanley Kubrick and Bernardo Bertolucci. Kubrick owned a copy of Eraserhead, the film that revealed Lynch to international critics in 1977, and used to project it periodically in his house in England, stating that Eraserhead was the only film directed by others that he wished he had directed himself. Bertolucci, president of the Jury at the 1990 Cannes Film Festival, whom many consider to have inspired the verdict awarding the Palme d'Or to Wild at Heart, underlines how Lynch's film was “extraordinarily” powerful.  

The visionary nature of Lynch's cinema, and the originality of his point of view, have been the focus of many critical essays around the world. He has a fascination for what cannot normally be seen, for mysterious beauty, the one that appears in strange places, and sometimes turns into horror. It has been said that in his films, he looks at the world like at a giant Rorschach inkblot (as used in the famous test), which reveal an infinity of butterflies or skulls, or secret faces. “The Frank Capra of dream logic”, he was defined by the great critic Pauline Kael. One of his principal stylistic traits is to amplify otherwise common elements in the construction of his films: darkness, for example, or sound, or again stillness. All normal elements in a film, which Lynch however uses in an unusual manner, dilating the moments of total darkness, making the sound excessive in some shots, lingering disturbingly over absolute stillness. French critic Michel Chion has written that Lynch knows how to “film like no other the apparent opposite of film, represented by stillness.” The power of his vision attacks the standards of taste, takes the reassurance out of conventions, instills doubts that are hard to remove. His importance lies in having said something new at a time when the movie industry seeks conformity and the absence of risk.

David Lynch - Biographical notes 

David Lynch describes himself like this: Born, Missoula, Montana. Eagle Scout. Born in Montana in 1946 (his father was a science researcher), thanks to the recognition won by his short films (both partly animated) The Alphabet (1968) and especially The Grandmother (1970), the fairy tale about a boy who invents a grandmother which highlights his visionary talent at an early stage, David Lynch was hired by the American Film Institute of Los Angeles. Here he worked for five years on the Eraserhead (1977) project, filming at night while delivering newspapers door-to-door during the day, a film-nightmare in which background sounds, off-camera music and acoustic impressions seem to have been produced by an unseen mind, characterizing the style he would use in his later films. Eraserhead became a cult movie on the Midnight Movie circuit, the midnight showings for cinephiles featuring commercially difficult movies, remaining on the bill for over a year.  

It was noticed by Mel Brooks, who helped Lynch make his second feature-length film, The Elephant Man (1980).  Set in Victorian England, it was the story of a man who was horribly deformed but a sensitive soul, filmed, like Eraserhead before it, in a fascinating black and white. The film was nominated for 8 Oscars, convincing critics and audiences, and paved the way for Lynch – after he refused Lucas' offer to direct the third episode of Star Wars – to direct the science-fiction blockbuster Dune (1984), from the saga by Frank Herbert, an experimental and visionary film that was a box-office flop. From that moment on, Lynch only directed films over which he had complete control, starting with Blue Velvet (1986, nominated for the Oscar for Best Director), with Isabella Rossellini and Dennis Hopper, where he perfected the fundamental characteristics of his distressing and anti-narrative poetics, his oneiric fascinating style, expressed through noise, shadow and the vivid colors of surreal objects.  

His later Wild at Heart (1990), with Nicolas Cage and Laura Dern, a road-movie in which the headlights illuminate only a few meters of asphalt towards nothingness, alluding to a horizon that we will never see, won the Palme d'Or at Cannes. The year 1990 witnessed the explosion of a veritable Lynchmania, as a result of yet another event: his Twin Peaks series shook and captured television audiences around the world, beginning with an unsolved homicide and ending in the most scary and bizarre paranormal phenomena; it influenced all the international cinema noir after it. Other successful nightmares, sleek and obscure, include the more recent Lost Highway (1997) and Mulholland Drive (2001, for which he won Best Director in Cannes, and was nominated for an Oscar), between which Lynch produced his surprising The Straight Story (1999), the journey of an old man on a tractor, searching for interior peace. His new film is called INLAND EMPIRE.

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© Mike Hartmann