My personal Blu-ray collection is admittedly quite small. Being only a recent convert to the hi-res home entertainment medium I haven’t had time to amass the vast array of titles that more devoted friends and colleagues have. Still, despite the size of my set, I seem to have collected nearly the entire feature film career of David Lynch without ever deliberately setting out to do so. It makes sense given he is probably my favourite director, but I’ve always found myself gravitating towards his films over and over again – I once had three copies of Wild at Heart on DVD! Thankfully his first feature, the bold and brilliant Eraserhead has finally made its way onto Blu-ray and it looks stunning. Oh sure, nothing quite beats viewing this industrial cult classic in amazing 35mm on a big screen at an old movie palace where it can truly envelope you in its madness, but if you’re going to wade into the waters of Eraserhead at home then you may as well go for gold with this new release edition.
As a matter of fact, the very first entry in the “Couch Trespassing” series was dedicated to two films by David Lynch. His films call out to me like siren songs, begging to be watched repeatedly. I will do so with a new format or not. Of course, if any of Lynch’s films don’t necessarily adhere to the Blu-ray format’s ideal then it is Eraserhead. Made on a pittance, its look is deliberately rough and worn down like the world it inhabits. Watching it on Blu-ray is a much different experience to watching it in the 1970s on the Midnight Movies circuit, but it’s great that old fans and newcomers alike are able to experience this groundbreaking film in such a new way.
Equally bold and experimental is Godfrey Reggio’s Koyaanisqatsi. This 1982 documentary presents life in motion in the most simple, yet refreshing, of ways. Little more than a series of stunningly photographed moments in time, collated and strung together with Philip Glass’ hypnotic music. What sounds like a rather simplistic one, a potential chore to sit through, actually proves to be an invigorating alternate take at the methods of cinema. Stripping away most of the elements that we look for in a film, even a documentary, and merely showing the viewer this world that we live in. It’s at once extraordinary that nobody had thought of it before (or at least not on such a grand scale) and also extraordinary that anybody had the thought and actually went through with it.
As examples of experimental cinema, Eraserhead and Koyaanisqatsi are particularly accessible to those who are perhaps a bit wary about the concept. Eraserhead’s narrative, such as it is, certainly appears less weird today than it would have upon its release in 1977. It certainly helps that the film features the origins of Lynch trademarks that have since gone on to become ingrained in popular culture through his work on Twin Peaks, Mulholland Drive and others. But I also think changes in cinema and audience viewing habits will make it easier for modern day audiences to get into it. Big blockbusters and burgeoning home sound systems have raised audience’s appreciation of intricate sound design, the desolate industrial production design is reminiscent of film from the post-apocalyptic subgenre that have been so popular, and the odd strangeness that envelopes the entire picture has its modern day devotees. Even the onset of high end television via HBO has meant audiences, young and old, have broadened the scope of their viewing and are willing to dive headfirst into such a universe. It’s a blessing, really.
Whether these films find appreciative new audiences on Blu-ray I won’t know, but if there are brave viewers out there willing to take the plunge then these are certainly two titles worth seeking out. Fans of the films would be hard-pressed to find a reason to not add them to their collection, as they are fantastic, rewatchable works of art.
Eraserhead and Koyaanisqatsi are available now on Blu-ray through Umbrella Entertainment