Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Lady Blue Shanghai (2010) A Short Film by David Lynch
Remember David Lynch's vehement disapproval of all things product placement in the past? Well, given that apparent sense of outrage at the notion of whoring one's art to the advertising industries, there is more than a strong whiff of hypocrisy at the crux of his latest short film endeavor, Lady Blue Shanghai, a project designated as a vehicle for Dior's new accessory line. In it, Marion Cotillard does her best Laura Dern "woman in trouble" impression by staring uncomfortably at a fogging, radiating purse in the middle of a Shanghai hotel room (blatant allusions to Mulholland Drive's blue box in its transportive, otherworldly power), inexplicably recalling past traumas (or are they peaceful memories?), and trudging through fantastical spaces in hysterical fits of emotion. Her spacey character eventually recites poetry (written by Lynch) in front of a pair of Chinese bellboys about the Oriental Pearl Tower, leading her to an epiphany involving a blue rose. If it sounds like a cheap entry-level tour through the wonderfully surreal sights and sounds of Lynch's oeuvre, that's because it really is. And with its jittery, unpolished, intimate digital video stamp, it comes closer to a 16-minute abbreviation of INLAND EMPIRE.
At first glance, the film appears to be fixated on a typically Lynchian universe of dark hallways, glowing patches of light, and stilted dialogue, as if this was really a passion project for Lynch to begin with that got tagged with a Dior purse late in the game. Yet there's also an overwhelming impression by the end that this is a mere novelty item whose lone motivating force is the appearance of an ominous Dior product in a few incarnations, the most prickly being an utterly gratuitous shot overlooking the Shanghai cityscape where a video billboard plays a bit that feels lifted straight from a more television-ready commercial. I can admire Lynch's ability to suffuse the mass market with his trademark sensibility (unsettling, dead-end dialogue, low-frequency drones, opaque narrative), but I wonder if it's worth it if it means downgrading it at the same time, sugarcoating his fine-tuned tics to fit into a nice "weird" envelope while simultaneously maintaining a degree of allure and trendiness, because, after all, this product has to sell. It's likely that Lynch had to update his bank account after a few years of inaccessible experimental work, which seems fair enough, but I would hate to see Lynch get stuck in a creative impasse. Of course, be sure to check out the film yourself over at Lady Dior's official website, and weigh in with your own thoughts.