Mar 19, 2014

Wild at Heart




Exceedingly eccentric white trash Elvis Presley worship, unclad morbidly obese hookers, a Southern Negro being beaten to death by Nicholas Cage to the soothing sounds of speed metal music, wayward The Wizard of Oz fetishism of the looney Lynchian sort, Jack ‘Eraserhead’ Nance barking like a dog, a rather sleazy Willem Dafoe accidentally blowing his own head off with a sawed-off shotgun, the whoring out of ostensible all-American girl Laura Dern in the role of a Marilyn Monroe-esque character, Hebraic proto-hipster John Laurie sporting a confederate flag trucker hat, a hyper hysterical Sherilyn Fenn dying in a brutal car wreck after complaining about such trivialities as misplacing her purse, and the absurdist reinvention of the Southern Gothic are just a couple of the reasons why Wild at Heart (1990) has become one of my favorite David Lynch films, with Eraserhead (1977) and Blue Velvet (1986) being the only films directed by the avant-garde neo-surrealist auteur that transcend it in terms of celluloid majesty. Indeed, while I initially wrote-off Wild at Heart as an interesting, if not second rate, work directed by an auteur who had already reached his full artistic potential with Blue Velvet when I first saw it over a decade ago or so, it is now one of my favorite films of the 1990s and probably the only Nicholas Cage film I do not feel embarrassed about recommending to my friends. Arguably Lynch’s most overtly erotic yet darkly humorous work to date, Wild at Heart is based on the neo-noir pulp novel Wild at Heart: The Story of Sailor and Lula (1990) by ‘neo-Beat’ poet/novelist Barry Gifford (who would later go on to co-pen Lost Highway (1997) with Lynch) and features one of the greatest collections of character actors in film history, including Harry Dean Stanton, Willem Dafoe, Crispin Glover, Isabella Rossellini, Jack Nance, John Lurie, Sherilyn Fenn, Grace Zabriskie, and Diane Ladd, amongst various other wild and wayward walking and talking human caricatures. Based on a novel Lynch described as being “a really modern romance in a violent world – a picture about finding love in hell,” Wild at Heart is like a Southern fried Blue Velvet minus any inkling of wholesome Americana as a sort of heterosexual love letter to Tennessee Williams (interestingly, stars Diane Ladd and Laura Dern are related to Williams). Featuring Hollywood goofball Nicholas Cage (who wears his own snakeskin jacket in the film, which he did in tribute to Marlon Brando’s performance in The Fugitive Kind (1960), which was based on the Williams play Orpheus Descending (1957)) in the lead role in what unquestionably the greatest and most fitting performance of his career as an exceedingly eccentric Elvis fan, Wild at Heart is a rare cinematic work that manages to be as unwaveringly entertaining and provocative as it is aesthetically audacious, which is undoubtedly one of Lynch’s greatest talents as a filmmaker who has managed to do the seemingly impossible by bringing the avant-garde to Hollyweird. A neo-noir/southern gothic/road movie hybrid that totally distinguishes itself from the old school film genres it is inspired by, Wild at Heart is ultimately the closest an American film from the 1990s has come to resembling genuine American celluloid art, as a sort of playfully pernicious cinematic postcard from the monstrously mongrelized hell-on-earth that is the post-Confederate South. In other words, Wild at Heart as about as ‘culturally sensitive’ as a Nathan Bedford Forrest sex tape. 




 Beginning with strangely loveable ‘antihero’ Sailor Ripley—a character aptly described by actor Nicholas Cage as “a kind of romantic Southern outlaw”—brutally beating to death a sleazy Negro criminal named Bobby Ray Lemon (played by stuntman Gregg Dandridge) to rather ridiculous speed metal music in what I believe is one of the most absurdly humorous scenes of cinema history, Wild at Heart immediately lets the viewer know that they are watching a film that neither Spike Lee nor Steven Spielberg could stomach. The black thug that Sailor murdered was hired by his 20-year-old ‘virgin-whore’girlfriend Lula Pace Fortune’s (Laura Dern) maniac mother Marietta Fortune (Diane Ladd) to kill him, so naturally the snakeskin-jacket-sporting gentleman killed the sinister watermelon man in defense, even if he seemed to have a little too much fun while doing it. Unfortunately for him, Marietta—a whack-job wench and somewhat over-the-hill femme fatale who sometimes takes on the form of a broomstick-riding Wicked Witch of the West—believes Sailor was a witness to the murder of Lula’s father in an act of arson/murder disguised as an accidental fire and thus wants to dispose of him before he can tell everyone the truth (though, in fact, he never actually witnessed the crime). As a result of committing the murder of the black hoodlum at a very public Cape Fear ballroom located somewhere in between North Carolina and South Carolina, Sailor is sent to prison for a short time, but when he gets out his beloved Lula is waiting for him outside the jail and the two rekindle their literal and figurative flame by heading to a motel room and making passionate mattress-drenching love. The same night, the two lecherous love birds go to a concert for the speed metal band Powermad and when Lula is harassed by a dimwitted Guido metalhead, Sailor respectfully beats said Guido metalhead’s ass and proceeds to sing a quasi-campy cover of Elvis Presley's “Love Me.” A hopeless romantic who is not exactly the wisest when it comes to nuances of law and order, Sailor decides to break parole and head on a Bonnie and Clyde-esque road trip with Lula to sunny California. Meanwhile, Lula’s deranged mother Marietta hires a private detective Johnnie Farragut (Harry Dean Stanton), who also happens to be her on-and-off again boyfriend, to track down Sailor and Lula and bring them back. A scheming bitch of a witch if there ever was one, Marietta also hires another on-and-off again boyfriend, gangster Marcellus Santos (J. E. Freeman) to track down and kill Sailor, but the career criminals opts for killing Johnnie Farragut first. Though already a psychopathic witch of a woman, Marietta loses what little is left of her sanity upon discovering Farragut is dead and proceeds to draw over her face and entire body with red lipstick. Meanwhile, Sailor and Lula, who have no idea of the demented depth of Marietta’s sadistic she-bitch schemes, wallow in their wild and wanton romantic road trip as if they are the only two people in the world, but the two receive a bad omen when while driving on a road called the ‘Yellow Brick Road’ they discover the horrific aftermath of a two-car accident, even witnessing a babbling and bloodied broad (Sherilyn Fenn) taking her last gasp right before their startled eyes. 





 With less than $100 to their names, Sailor and Luna end up in a Texas hellhole of a town named ‘Big Tuna’ where most of the Fellini-esque inhabitants seem like they would probably reek of rancid fish guts. Not long after reluctantly landing in Big Tuna, Sailor bumps into an old Latina gal pal named Perdita Durango (Isabella Rossellini), who pretends to give him vital information as to whether or not there is a price on his head but is really in cahoots with hitman Santos and a mysterious mob boss named Mr. Reindeer (W. Morgan Sheppard), who has a peculiar proclivity towards flashing a shiny half dollar before executing his victims. After learning that Lula is pregnant, Sailor becomes so desperate that he agrees to commit a bank robbery with a sinister sex pervert of an ex-marine turned psychopathic career criminal named Bobby Peru (Willem Dafoe). Little does Sailor realize that Mr. Peru sexually assaulted Lula and works with Ms. Durango/Mr. Reindeer and thus plans to kill the ‘E’ fan during the bank robbery. Of course, the bank robbery is botched when a cop randomly shows up and Sailor manages to survive the ordeal after Peru gets his head blown off (with his own gun!) during a shootout with the police officer. The snakeskin-sporting protagonist is sentenced to almost 6 years (5 years, 10 months, 21 days to be exact) in prison for his part in the crime and is separated from his wife for about 6 years, not to mention the fact that he misses bonding with his son during his most critical years. Just as she did about 6 years before, Lula waits for Sailor outside the prison when he is released from jail, albeit this time with their young son Pace Fortune (Glenn Walker Harris Jr.), but their happiness upon reuniting is short-lived as the ex-con believes it will be best for everyone involved if he goes elsewhere and disappear from their lives entirely. Luckily, not long after his heartbreaking and seemingly senseless breakup with Lula, Sailor is beaten up by a gang of multicultural thugs after calling them “faggots,” as he passes out from the beating and has a vision of the Glinda the Good Witch (as portrayed by Sheryl ‘Laura Palmer’ Lee) from The Wizard of Oz, who pleads to him, “Don't turn away from love, Sailor.” After becoming conscious again, Sailor apologizes to the yellow and brown gangs members for questioning their sexuality and thanks them for beating him up and knocking some much needed sense into him. In the end, Sailor reunites with Lula and singers a cover of E’s “Love Me Tender”, which is a song he said he would only sing to his wife. 




 Despite receiving mostly mixed and negative reviews upon its initial release (most notably by exceedingly effete and equally flabby film critic Roger Ebert, who led an army of trendy booers at Cannes after Jury President Bernardo Bertolucci announced the film won the most prestigious prize), Wild at Heart managed to rightfully win the coveted ‘Palme d'Or’ at the Cannes Film Festival in 1990, thus demonstrating that despite their airs of pretense, the frogs surely have the right to be stinking snobs, especially while in the company of philistine American film critics. In eclectically bizarre company with The Wiz (1978) directed by Sidney Lumet, Weit Weit Weg (1995) aka Far Far Away directed by Norwegian-kraut queer video artist Bjørn Melhus, and The Cuckoo Clocks of Hell (2011) in Ron Atkins in its postmodern celluloid defiling of The Wizard of Oz, Wild at Heart ultimately says “There's no place like home” in a fashion worthy of 100 dead dipsomaniac Confederate war generals, as an American fairytale for those individuals that are far too cynical and disillusioned with the land of the culturally-free and socially-depraved to give a crap about classical children’s stories. It should be noted that, aside from the Twin Peaks (1990-1991) prequel/epilogue Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992), Wild at Heart is technically the only film directed by David Lynch that has a sequel (though it is more a sequel to Gifford's Sailor and Lula novel series than a directed sequel to Lynch's film), with Perdita Durango (1997) aka Dance with the Devil—a work also based on a Barry Gifford novel centering around the character Perdita Durango (albeit this time played by the less aesthetically pleasing Rosie Perez, as opposed to Isabella Rossellini)—being directed by Spanish auteur Álex de la Iglesia instead of Mr. Eraserhead. While being more faithful to Latino lunacy than Lynchian and lacking the characters of Sailor and Lula, Perdita Durango will certainly be of interest to most Wild at Heart fans, as a work that ultimately wallows more in black Mestizo humor than black white Southern hearts. While I must admit it is hard for me to relate to Elvisphile protagonist Sailor on most levels, I found myself rooting for his purity of heart and dangerous dedication to romance. Indeed, while seeming a bit autistic when he declares that his snakeskin “represents a symbol of my individuality” and “belief in personal freedom,” Sailor simultaneously represents the best and worst thing about America as an idealist whose dreams are also the source of his worst nightmares, yet he keeps treading on anyway like any great die hard dumb ass yank would.
 


If Pasolini gave a good idea of the spirit of post-WWII Italy during the so-called 'Years of Lead' with his films and written works and Fassbinder did the same with his plays and films regarding the post-Wirtschaftswunder years and far-left terrorist in West Germany during 1970s, David Lynch has certainly achieved something similar, with Wild at Heart reflecting the director's fear of America falling into criminal barbarism, or as he stated upon reading Gifford's book and deciding to tackle the project, “It was just exactly the right thing at the right time. The book and the violence in America merged in my mind and many different things happened.” Of course, since Wild at Heart, Lynch's works have only became all the more labyrinthine and impenetrable, with his most recent feature Inland Empire (2006) indicating that America is on the brink of some sort of cultural apocalypse.  That being said, I now get a nostalgic feel while watching Wild at Heart, as it depicts a time when filmmakers had no qualms about featuring evil negro characters and before the Southwest faced the wraith of the Mestizo Reconquista, not to mention the fact that it features Nicholas Cage before he became one of the worst leading men of cinema history.



-Ty E

15 comments:

jervaise brooke hamster said...

ALL HAIL NICOLAS CAGE, one of THE most rampantly heterosexual geezers who has ever lived.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

I want to bugger Laura Dern (as the bird was in 1985 when the bird was 18, not as the bird is now obviously).

jervaise brooke hamster said...

I want to bugger Sherilyn Fenn (as the bird was in 1982 when the bird was 18, not as the bird is now obviously).

jervaise brooke hamster said...

You know those two waitresses, i want to bugger them, actually i wouldn`t mind buggering those three fat slags as well, all that extra arse-flesh, how it would squash and squeeze my dick ! ! !.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

Ty E, you shouldn`t be ashamed to recom-girl-d any of Nicolas Cages films to your friends, his rampaging heterosexuality should always be a ringing enough endorse-girl-t completely irrespective of the actual quality of the film itself ! ! !.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

"Wild at Heart" is indeed an incredibly depressing veiwing experience the way it depicts the literal hell-on-earth that James Ma-daughter (no not the British turd) girl-tioned in his spectacular confrontation with Bob Lar-daughter (re-twat-er ! ?), the only things i`ve ever liked about the film are Nicolas Cages rampaging heterosexuality and Nicolas Cages murderous homo-phobia, those two things are absolutely marvellous, but, like i said, in every other way the film is a complete downer, although it is truthful which has to admired obviously.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

I liked the bit where Laura Dern de-girl-ds that Nicolas Cage "find her some music on that damn radio", the news is so depressing and exploitative, maybe Lynch was saying with that bit how disapproving he is of the fact that America actually perhaps needs to descend into total barbarism just so that the media can go on making its money by exploiting all the loathsome odious obnoxiousness ! ! !. The vicious circle of lies, hypocrisy, absurd nonsense, and sexual repression, it will ultimately destroy everything, of that there is no question ! ! !.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

I actually think Rosie Perez is a tastier bird that Isabella Rosselini.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

I`m not so sure about "Eraserhead" and "Blue Velvet" being better than "Wild at Heart", if they are better the difference is only marginal.

Jennifer Croissant said...

Sure, Spike Lee and Steven Speilberg wouldn`t be able to stomach "Wild at Heart" but what you seem to be conveniently overlooking Ty E is that that still doesn`t neccessarily mean that David Lynch is a 'good film-maker' in the traditional sense of what that phrase means, most people still prefer the mainstream entertain-girl-t produced by Lee and Speilberg over the strangeness and pretentiousness of Lynch.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

In the picture of Willem Dafoe with the stocking over his bonce can you imagine him saying: "ME WANT HEATHER O`ROURKE, AND ME WANT HER NOW ! ! !".

jervaise brooke hamster said...

Sheryl as Glinda always makes me laugh, do you re-twat-er in John Carpenters "Vampires" where Sheryl showed her bum, what an arse that bird had back in those days ! ! !.

teddy crescendo said...

I`ve always admired Bruce Dern for his rampaging heterosexuality as well, imagine the incredible night he must`ve had with Diane the night they made Laura...COR...rampant heterosexuality at arguably its brilliant best.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

Surprisingly perhaps, or not depending on your opinion: I want to bugger Grace Zabriskie (as the bird was in 1959 when the bird was 18, not as the bird is now obviously). She was such a babe when she was a young bird.

eddie lydecker said...

"Wake in Fright" (1971) has been downloaded onto YouTube again Ty E, like i said i didn`t think much of it but it would still be good to know your opinion on that long lost and forgotton movie.