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Saturday nights in the dark with David Lynch at Geeksboro

by Mark Burger

The Geeksboro Coffeehouse Cinema, Greensboro’s resident gathering place and repository of all things cult-friendly and pop-culture, undertakes one of its most ambitious events to date with “Esoterica: The Films of David Lynch,” a series of film screenings timed to coincide with the 70 th birthday of acclaimed filmmaker David Lynch. (He turned 70 on Jan. 20.)

The five-film series opens this Saturday with Lynch’s ground-breaking debut feature Eraserhead, which he filmed 40 years ago and was released in 1977, becoming one of the definitive midnight-movie cult classics of all time. Love it or hate it – and the film still has the power to polarize audiences – Eraserhead is unforgettable.

On Feb. 27, Geeksboro will present Blue Velvet (1986), which Lynch filmed in Wilmington under the auspices of Dune producer Dino De Laurentiis, who had just opened his North Carolina studio and DEG (De Laurentiis Entertainment Group), his short-lived distribution company. Blue Velvet stars Kyle MacLachlan (who’d debuted in Dune), Isabella Rossellini, Laura Dern, Hope Lange and Dennis Hopper, hot on the comeback trail, in a towering turn as the evil Frank Booth. Lynch earned an Oscar nomination for Best Director.

(On a side-note, I took a date to see Blue Velvet at the now-defunct Amboy Multiplex in beautiful Sayreville, New Jersey. I found it very funny. She was horrified. The relationship did not last much longer.)

“What makes Lynch special is that he’s widely known by cinephiles, but his approach to storytelling is so unique, no one has ever managed to successfully copy his style,” observes Joe Scott, Geeksboro’s chief creative officer. “He’s truly inimitable.”

Scott proclaims that “Blue Velvet is by far the best movie made in North Carolina, as well as one of the greatest movies of all time. It’s a film that shows Lynch’s power as a filmmaker who has mainline access to our worst nightmares.”

Wild at Heart (1990), which copped the top prize (the Palme d’Or) at the Cannes Film Festival, rolls March 5. The starstudded cast includes Nicolas Cage, Laura Dern, Willem Dafoe, Harry Dean Stanton, Crispin Glover (in a role even weird by his standards), and Dern’s real-life mother Diane Ladd, who earned an Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Actress.

Geeksboro gets “lost” March 12 with Lost Highway (1997), another starstudded descent into madness and mania, Lynch-style: Bill Pullman, Patricia Arquette, Balthazar Getty, Robert Loggia, Gary Busey, Natasha Gregson Wagner, Robert Blake (in his last role to date), Richard Pryor (in his last film) and Eraserhead/Blue Velvet/Wild at Heart alum Jack Nance (in his last film).

“Esoterica” then concludes March 19 with 2001’s Mulholland Drive, for which Lynch earned his last Best Director Oscar nomination to date (he was also nominated for the direction and screenplay of 1980’s The Elephant Man. Originally devised as a television project, Lynch opted to rework the material into this existential psycho-thriller/show-biz satire starring Naomi Watts, Laura Harring, Justin Theroux, Dan Hedaya, Billy Ray Cyrus (true!), and the great Robert Forster (whose role as an LA detective was carried over from the TV version.)

Each film will be preceded by a music video directed by Lynch.

“It’s going to be a deliciously disturbing way to spend a couple of hours in our unique craft cinema,” promises Scott.

In addition to his film work, Lynch is an acclaimed painter, photographer, novelist, singer/songwriter (with two albums to his credit), and the founder of the David Lynch Foundation, which teaches Transcendental Meditation in schools (Lynch is a long-time proponent of TM).

Next year will also see the return/ reboot of “Twin Peaks,” the series Lynch created for ABC in 1990 and ran for two seasons, followed by the feature-film “prequel” Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992). Lynch and fellow “Twin Peaks” creator Mark Frost reconvened in 2014 to work on the project for Showtime, but last year Lynch walked away from it – only to return a month later. It is expected the new “Twin Peaks” will premiere early in 2017.

“I’m always nervous whenever any director returns to a story they left behind 20 years ago,” Scott admits, “but the idea of a ‘Twin Peaks’ reboot with David Lynch seems like a better idea than a ‘Twin Peaks’ reboot without him. I can say at least I am curious.” !

WANNA go?

“Esoterica: The Films of David Lynch” will take place Saturday nights at Geeksboro Coffeehouse Cinema, 2134 Lawndale Drive, Greensboro. Eraserhead will be screened 10 pm this Saturday, followed by Blue Velvet (Feb. 27), Wild at Heart (March 5), Lost Highway (March 12) and Mulholland Drive (March 19). Tickets for each screening are $6, which includes a free beverage. For advance tickets or more information, call 336.355.7180 or visit the official Geeksboro website: http://geeksboro.com/

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