Monday, April 30, 2018

Wild at Heart Analysis - Renegade Cut

Now we approach Renegade Cut's video essay analyzing one of the most amped up and crazed films of David Lynch's career, Wild at Heart (1990). Wild is a bizarre pulp crime romance crossed with The Wizard of Oz (1939), making it a strangely inspired dark comedy that showcases Nic Cage, Laura Dern, Diane Ladd, Harry Dean Stanton, Willem Dafoe, and a slew of other talented actors with performances turned up to maximum overdrive.
Wild at Heart is not a film that plays it safe. To an extent, it kind of feels like David Lynch parried his critics who called his previous controversial masterpiece Blue Velvet (1986) too extreme, too violent, and too sexual by making a film that ups the ante on all points with near reckless abandon. As his filmography goes, Wild is one of Lynch's most self-aware films, at moments even occasionally bordering on self-satire of his Lynchian aesthetic.
Isabella Rossellini (Perdita Durango) and David Lynch (Director) Celebrate with
the Press His Acceptance of the Palme d'Or at Cannes in 1990
The Cannes Film Festival awarded David Lynch the top honor of the Palme d'Or only once in his 40+ year career as a filmmaker, and Wild at Heart was the film for which they awarded it to him. And when watched on home video, I confess a part of me wondered why this film in particular was singled out for such an honor.
But anyone who has seen a 35mm film print of it at a movie theater can attest to the raw cinematic power on display here. This is a true work of art if ever there were one. The incredible mix of rock and roll and symphonic music on this soundtrack, the contrast of color, the powerful and evocative visuals, the passion, the despair, the raw human emotion on display is outstanding and remarkable to watch on the big screen with a great sound system.
And every performance is a mix of hilarious and yet sweetly genuine. Spoof, yet strangely heartfelt at the same moment. Nicolas Cage and Laura Dern's lusty, energetic performances of Sailor and Lula are over-the-top, ruckus, and fun. It feels like David Lynch told them to dial it up to eleven and almost never let's them dial it down. And thankfully, these hyperbolic performances work for the characters and the tone of the film.
And that is not even mentioning the panorama showcase of supporting talent orbiting the young couple, which itself is nothing short of extraordinary. Particularly, Laura Dern's real-life mother Diane Ladd's Oscar-nominated supporting role as Lula's wicked witch of a mother. She truly stood out, giving a far different performance than any she had ever done before. Ladd's energy infuses the movie with something special.
And there is the great Willem Dafoe's brief turn in the film as the diabolically evil Bobby Peru. For so little screen time, his character swoops in near the end and practically steals the film. Which is exactly what him and his character needed to do. Peru's charm oozes on screen even when terrorizing poor Lula in her vulnerable, exhausted state. Dafoe possesses true acting genius, at its best. I, for one, wish Willem Dafoe would act in many more David Lynch projects. They seem a natural fit.
Wild at Heart (1990) recently had an excellent U.S. Blu-Ray release with over an hour of deleted scenes and extended footage included, with a number of period and modern interviews and featurettes to cover this unique production. Having been at a recent screening of the film, I can safely say the film still packs a wallop of a punch to even modern audiences.
Wild at Heart is an easy film to underestimate, but just go with its unique flow and let the whole movie wash over you. Give it a fair chance, and it will likely win you over in the end like it did for me. "Did I ever tell ya that this here movie represents my individuality and belief in personal freedom?" You can read more of my own analysis of this and every other David Lynch film in my book series: 40 Years of David Lynch.

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