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David Lynch's ten weirdest scenes, by film

It's a scientific fact that if you watch the canon of David Lynch's full-length films back-to-back, your eyeballs will not only melt, but David Lynch himself will somehow randomly appear to film your eyeballs melting. Fortunately, for safety's sake, there is a week of recovery time between each of the four films featured this month in the Mayan Theatre's David Lynch Series.

Nevertheless, because even limited exposure to a small dose of David Lynch can lead to horrible boils, we've compiled a primer for the uninitiated: the weirdest scenes of David Lynch's oeuvre, one from each film. You will not enjoy this.

Eraserhead

"The Pencil Factory"

The entirety of Eraserhead, Lynch's first film, is pretty much fucked up as hell, as well as largely incoherent. The pencil-factory scene is a case in point: Dude's head pops off and is replaced by a plaintively yelling worm-creature, head is then spit out of one factory and taken by a small child to another factory, where it is processed into pencil erasers. Or something. Hence the title, presumably.

The Elephant Man

"I Am Not an Elephant"

Although the sort-of-real-life story of the Elephant Man is seemingly a perfect one for David Lynch, if only by virtue of being inherently grotesque and unsettling, Lynch actually reined in considerably on the grotesque here -- perhaps because of first-studio-movie jitters. This scene, in which the Elephant Man tells off a crowd of hostile onlookers, is almost empowering. Still weird, though.

Dune

"Cocktail"

The 1984 Dune kind of blew -- even Lynch admits it, explaining that he was under persistent studio pressure to make an action movie in the typical action-movie vein. And this one is sort of that, in a weird, unsettling, awkward way, because the filmmaker is still David Lynch -- but not a good weird, unsettling, awkward way. Still, Lynch manages to get some pretty fucked-up shit in there, like this scene in which the villain drinks some sort of bug creature. And, yes, that is Sting.

Blue Velvet

"Don't You Fucking Look at Me"

Blue Velvet is Lynch's magnum opus, but it's also his first foray into what would come to define his pet fascination as a director: the seedy underbelly of suburban kitsch. More important, though, it has Dennis Hopper, the best actor ever at playing crazy-ass motherfuckers, playing the best crazy-ass motherfucker of his career. Honorable mention: "Heineken! Fuck that shit! Pabst Blue Ribbon!"

Wild at Heart

"Those Are Dummies, Dummy"

Basically Lynch's full-length homage to the legend of early rock and roll, Wild at Heart also features Nicolas Cage in possibly the baddest-ass snakeskin jacket ever to appear on the silver screen. Elsewhere, it's a testament to Lynch's talent for milking even creepier performances than usual out of already-creepy actors. Witness Willem Dafoe above.

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me

Formica Table/David Bowie

An unnecessary prequel to a formerly popular television series that, at that point, few people cared about anymore, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me was unarguably a colossal failure -- though, like all David Lynch films, it went on to develop a cult following. David Bowie's pitiable attempt at a down-home country accent probably didn't hurt.

Lost Highway

"Call Me"

Even if you have no idea what's going on -- which you basically never do in Lost Highway -- this scene is disturbing as hell. But it gets even more disturbing when it turns out, elsewhere in the film, that Bill Pullman is having sex with this guy.

The Straight Story

"Grabber"

Apparently overwhelmed by his own weirdness, Lynch once again reined it in some following Lost Highway in order to make this adorable film about the sort-of-true story of a guy who drives a lawnmower across Wisconsin. He can't quite get the weird out, though, and even though this scene is pretty cute, it's also kind of ominous.

Mulholland Drive

"Sometimes There's a Buggy"

Considering that Mulholland Drive also features a scene in which Naomi Watts simultaneously cries and masturbates, it's a measure of Lynch's yen for the grotesque that the film's most unsettling scene features neither of those activities. Instead, it has this unbelievably creepy cowboy talking to Justin Theroux under the world's most ominous neon light. Sounds benign, but somehow you can never unsee it.

Inland Empire

"I Seen a Man Come at Me With a Crowbar One Time"

Not Lynch's weirdest (although it starts getting mighty weird about halfway through), but maybe his underappreciated best. This scene is really just a monologue -- Laura Dern relating a story -- but the way it's related, the mood, the word choice, is so vivid you can see it in as much vivid detail as anything Lynch ever put to film. Subtlety was never Lynch's strong suit, but he nails it here. Elsewhere, not so much.

The Mayan will screen three more David Lynch films this month:

Wednesday, April 11: Wild at Heart

Wednesday, April 18: Dune

Wednesday, April 25: Mulholland Drive

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