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The last day of the Rome Movie Festival at Parco della Musica Auditorium came to an end along with the guest of honour of this 12th Edition: David Lynch. Late in the morning the American director already has had the chance to tell about himself and his art during the press conference, when he talked about the transcendental meditation (a controversial form of meditation he has already promoted in Palermo on the occasion of the convention Impresa etica e sociale: un manifesto per una nuova coscienza in 2013, and in 2014 on the talk show Che Tempo Che Fa), the importance of the inspiration that comes from ideas and music, the meeting with Nanni Moretti where he jokingly threatened to kill him, his love for Kafka, Tati, Bowie, Herzog, Mad Men and Breaking Bad. But actually, nothing has been revealed about the Hollywood sex scandals, neither about future projects, just cryptic and ironic answers.  

The visit of David Lynch in Rome proceeded on the red carpet, crowded with fans since the early afternoon. The American director walked down the red carpet in a dazed, shy and reserved way, with his same good smile, signing more autographs than allowed (normally 25) and awkwardly posing in front of the cameras with a light discomfort.

Ultimately, the meeting with the audience, which brought nothing new to the ears of the lucky ones that, the last 19th October, were able to get a seat in the Sala Sinopoli at the Auditorium (seats that sold out in less than 30 minutes). Same questions and same answers. Of course, everything that comes out of Lynch’s mouth and mind is pure gold, but the very high expectations were completely disenchanted.    

First clip: Eraserhead (1977)

My inspiration is the city of Philadelphia, which I love, maybe for the wrong reasons: it’s dirty, corrupted, violent, always filled with terror and crowds. I also appreciate its architecture, the intense colours, the absurd ones of the interiors, the odd proportions of the rooms, the beautiful bricks covered with soot and the location defined by the presence of the factories. The world of Eraserhead was born right from my experience in Philly.

Second clip: Blue Velvet (1987)

Is it true that Dino De Laurentiis had the last word on Dune and you had it on Blue Velvet?
I signed a contract for Dune knowing that I wouldn’t get the final cut. I knew that signing a contract wasn’t the right thing to do, but I did it anyway. While for Blue Velvet I said that I would film it,  only if I could get the final cut. Dino promised me and he kept his word.

How does the writing process take place in your script? And do you support the improvisation on set? 
No, I’d rather talk about rehearsals. That’s because ideas are born in our heads, we see them in our mental screens, we feel them with every sense and then we write them with words, through which in the moment they are re-read, the idea re-emerges and it’s restored in all of its fullness. Ideas are born especially in fragments, like a pile of fragments of an idea, and I look at these fragments like there was a whole puzzle in another room, and suddenly someone from that room threw a piece of that brain-teaser, and then another one, and you began to write something. Slowly this something takes shape, and one day it becomes a script. Your job is to change those ideas into cinema. But you need to be sure that the path you have taken is loyal to the idea. To do so, it’s necessary that everyone that take part to the creative process is connected to the original idea, in a way that everyone can move forward together and reach the goal, in other words the idea realisation.     

Third clip: Lost Highway (1997)

This scene scares me a lot.
No, I like to have guests!

And how do you come up with ideas?
I don’t know. Someday there are no ideas, and they are still not there. And then suddenly, an idea comes. 

Do you see a connection between your movies? Or do you leave these conjectures to the critics?
I believe that Lost Highway, Mulholland Drive and Inland Empire are all located in Los Angeles. I think this is the link between the three movies.

I heard about a lyrical transposition of Lost Highway. Are you involved in that?
Is the Polish project? ..ah no, another one.. anyway no, I am not involved.

Fourth clip: Mulholland Drive (2001)

Earlier you spoke about how much you have been fascinated with Philadelphia. What do you like about Los Angeles?
I moved to Los Angeles in the 70s, after I have been in Philadelphia. I arrived during the night, the next day I went out of my apartment and for the first time I saw the light of the Los Angeles sun, and it was so much beautiful that I almost fainted. Therefore I love the light of LA and I love the fact that is gigantic, without limits, you can’t see its boundaries, and what makes you feel a sense of freedom, of following your dreams and doing everything you want. I adore Los Angeles also because is the house of the Golden Age of Cinema. When the jasmine starts to bloom it’s like that era could come back to life.

What is the difference between shooting a movie and a tv serie?
It is exactly the same thing. There is only one difference. Thanks to the cable TV you get the chance to create an on-going story, on the other hand, a movie has to come to and end. Sure, in a TV project the audio-video quality isn’t as high as it is in a movie destined to the big screen, but the good news is that everyday there are big improvements.    

Fifth clip: Inland Empire (2006)

What do you think about the difference between analog and digital?
The film is extraordinarily nice. However, it is heavy, it gets dirty and damaged, it breaks and falls apart. It is hard to manage. Digital, instead, is reaching the film quality more and more, and the things you can do in post-production are endless. A wonderful world opens up with digital. I support it and its potential is increasing day by day.

Does these possibilities of the digital approach the cinematographic images to painting?
Absolutely. You can manipulate an image the same way you work on a canvas. This opens up to infinite possibilities. The world today is wonderful for the cinema.

I remember a conversation between you and Bernardo Bertolucci almost ten years ago – says Monda –, where both, you in particular, were saying that high definition shows too much and removes a bit of mystery. Is it still your point of view?
I love Bernardo Bertolucci. But I don’t recall this conversation. A lot of people believes that digital is too plastic and less organic, but today, there are techniques that allow to get really close to the film perception. In other words you can get the result you want to obtain even with the digital.

Francis Bacon, Seated Figure, 1961

I actually didn’t chose this painting. But I love Francis Bacon. To me, he is one of the biggest painter in history. I love the organic phenomenon and the distortion of the human figure: this is Francis Bacon. What he does with the organic phenomenon is really incredible to me.     

How does art fall into your expressive process?
I love ideas. Some of them are born for movies, other ones for painting. Sometimes you can catch an idea and it thrills you and you transpose it on canvas. To me, painting is taking action and reacting: a constant exchange. Right now I like the “ugly”, childish painting.   

When you create your exhibitions, do you build up a sort of path between your works, like wider structures? 
I would like to answer yes. Sometimes there is a sort of bound between my works and an intimacy is created among them. However, after I follow a specific current for a while, I consume it and I look for something different. I am interested in this diversity.

Edward Kienholz, The Illegal Operation, 1962

He is another artist who explores the organic phenomenon in an extraordinary way. I also appreciate three-dimensional things. Usually I make holes in my paintings to insert something and dig into the deep surface, or add something to it, so that another thing will emerge. I believe that Kienholz is one of the maximum exponent of this kind of expression.  

Stanley Kubrick, Lolita, 1962

I think it is an extraordinary movie, with no flaws or weakness. I appreciate it in every expression. I like the mood , the locations, the acting, the evolution of the characters and the plot. I find it all beautiful. How you achieve this beauty doesn’t matter.  

Billy Wilder, Sunset Boulevard, 1950

To me it is a sad movie about unfulfilled wishes. Can I tell you how the character of Gordon Cole of Twin Peaks was born? In a scene of Sunset Boulevard Cecile B. DeMille says: “Call Gordon Cole on the phone for these 5 cars”. Billy Wilder was working for the Paramount Studios and if one person walks down the road from East to West of Los Angeles to get to the studios, he will go through two roads inevitably, Gordon and Cole, and I am sure that is for this reason that Wilder called his character like that. Billy Wilder was a great master in terms of places. The house in the movie is amazing, it gives you those feelings that take you back to the cinema golden age: even if it’s falling apart, it’s still the organic phenomenon that I like the most about this house, but also about the picture, the forniture, the customs and music of the movie. All of this makes the Hollywood of the 50s re-emerge. And everyone in this movie wants something they can never have.     

What is the connection between dream and reality in your opinion?

I love dreams, the dreams logic, which cinema is able to express. When we see something, we know its meaning, but we can’t express it into words; while it is possible to do it by the cinematic language. I love abstractions and concrete things, in particular the stories that connect concreteness with abstraction. Occasionally you feel perceptions, thoughts, that allows you to get to know something that is hard to convey into words though. It’s like when you try to transpose a dream into words to describe it to a friend, but it’s almost impossible that he could understand that experience.

Federico Fellini, 8 1/2, 1963

Fellini certainly inspired me. I love his movies. They are simply works of art. I met Federico Fellini twice. One night, I was to a dinner party where mushrooms were served – some of them very tiny and some others big as steaks – with Silvana Mangano, Isabella Rossellini and Marcello Mastroianni, and I said to Marcello how much I admired Fellini. The next day Marcello sent a car to my hotel because he organised for me an entire day to spend with Federico Fellini at Cinecittà. In that period he was shooting Intervista and the director of photography was Tonino Delli Colli. Fellini took me to a restaurant for breakfast and there was a woman with a huge breast. Then, in 1993, I was shooting a commercial for Barilla and the director of photography was Tonino Delli Colli. He told me that Fellini was being recovered in an hospital in the north, but that he would be transferred in Rome. So, I asked if it could be possible to say hello to him, and Tonino replied that there were no problems. I remember that I went to visit him on Friday and it was a very warm night. There was only his niece, who said that only me and Tonino could go inside. I went in. In the room there were two single beds and Fellini was sitting between them, on a wheelchair, with a small table in front of him. In the room there was a journalist, Vincenzo Mollica, who knew Tonino. While Tonino was talking with Vincenzo, I spoke to Fellini, who was holding my hand, and we talked approximately for thirty minutes. He told me he was sad because of what was happening to cinema. He remembered there were students passionate about movies and they use to talk about them with enthusiasm. But as time passed by, little by little the enthusiasm moved toward to the television, these kids forgot about the movies and soon they stopped talking about him. He was sad because he was feeling that everything was changing. While I was leaving the room, I told him that the whole world was waiting for his next movie. I met Vincenzo many years later and he told me that Fellini, after I walked out that night, told him “David is such a good guy”. That meeting happened on a Friday, on Sunday Fellini slipped into coma and two weeks later he passed away.

The lights turned on and Paolo Sorrentino appeared on stage, delivering to an emotional David Lynch, the Lifetime Achievement Award.   

Benedetta Pini – Translated by Beatrice Birolo