Eraserhead David Lynch

When I’ve seen Eraserhead before — on badly damaged prints in rep cinemas or on poorly dubbed VHS — I found both its grainy, underdeveloped look and its constant hissing, spitting and grinding soundtrack alternately disturbing and a shame. Now that David Lynch’s 1977 surrealist masterpiece has arrived on DVD — strangely enough dubbed "DVD 2000” — it’s much easier to discern what was accidental damage and what was actually intended to scrape the viewer’s last nerve. (The picture is beautifully clear; the soundtrack remains grating.) But to Eraserhead one can also now bring 20 years of Lynch’s work and perspective, making this so-called "student film” one of the great accomplishments of independent cinema, a fully formed universe of hallucinations and symbols that may not be narratively transparent but that still strike raw nerves. Though some of Lynch’s anti-DVD stances remain (the film features neither a commentary nor chapter breaks, since Lynch believes it should be watched in one sitting), there is a remarkable 80-minute interview in which he recounts various anecdotes — from the insightful to the banal — related to making the film. Ironically, the extras are like Eraserhead itself, not giving you a complete picture but shading with fascinating textures: Lynch hijacks the American Film Institute student program for his own ends; star John Nance spends six years of shooting with "that haircut,” destroying his romantic relationships in the process; and the last minute addition of the "lady in the radiator” and the song she sings of heaven. If you haven’t seen Eraserhead before, or not in a while, this is an opportunity to look at a visionary director arriving at a destination that he didn’t even know existed (Lynch admits he has no memory of conceiving of or writing Eraserhead), a process that continues to this day. And it’s one of the few DVDs where a theatrical trailer is actually a fascinating extra. (Absurdia/Paradox)