David Lynch’s first big-budget film (1980) confirmed the talent he showed in Eraserhead, though the picture itself is a strange trade-off between Lynch’s personal themes—”the night world of obscure, disturbing sexual obsessions”—and the requirements of a middlebrow message movie. Lynch revives ancient avant-garde mannerisms—”dream images and swirling, dissolving montage sequences”—and makes them work again, brilliantly; he’s less successful in the light of day, where the film bogs down in stagy, high-minded dialogue sequences. Despite the rich associations, the film finally makes little more of its central figure, “a hideously deformed young man,” than an object of pity. With John Hurt and Anthony Hopkins.
The Elephant Man
PG • 2 hours 4 min • 1980