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David Lynch Presents The History of Surrealist Cinema


David Lynch takes us on a journey through the history of automatic cinema, or “cinepoetry”, and tells us how it influenced his own work.

Perhaps Surrealism has been left behind in the twentieth century; however nobody has been able to drag it back into the contemporary sphere with such artistry as David Lynch has. If you have ever seen one of his films, or his television program Twin Peaks, you will know that the director appeals to something that echoes in indescribable areas, which cannot be understood through words. And this is why it is wiser to simply experience his works and not explain them.

In 1987, a year after Blue Velvet was launched, the BBC decided Lynch was an authority of cinematic surrealism and asked him to host an episode of Arena on the subject. Lynch was to present facts about the films and filmmakers, in addition to telling the history of surrealist cinema. We see short extracts of films like Un chien Andalou by Luis Bunuel and Salvador Dali, Le Sang d’un Poete by Jean Cocteau, The Girl with the Prefabricated Heart by Fernand Léger, La Jetée by Chris Marker and Entr’acte by René Clair, where we can see Man Ray and Marcel Duchamp playing chess on a roof.

Lynch does much more that simply contextualise these films; he discusses their influence in his own work. By allowing Lynch to speak of film as the ideal format for surrealism —since it allows the subconscious to speak—, this program is one of the most perplexing and unusual productions in the history of television. It is truly worthwhile to watch it from beginning to end.

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