Giant searchlights pierce the blackness of a fog-bound, postindustrial landscape. A midget in a Tyrolean hat saws a log near the wreck of a midcentury Buick. A neatly dressed preppie tumbles weightlessly in the air as helmeted storm troopers prowl below. Sirens wail. Smoke bombs belch. Baby dolls float. Good lord! Somebody is?making Art!
Well, at least trying to, and the reason we might care, however briefly, is that the somebody is Bizarro World auteur David Lynch. His new video is a document of a performance piece staged last year at the trendy Brooklyn Academy of Music, prior to the above-ground success of Twin Peaks. To give Industrial Symphony No. 1: The Dream of the Broken Hearted its due, the video bears the unmistakable stamp of its creator. Unfortunately — and I say this as a fan — it is also an embarrassing misfire, a pretentious cross between an average heavy metal concert and all those mixed-media shows you may have suffered through in the ’60s.
Part of the problem is simple overfamiliarity; we’ve seen and heard far too much of this stuff before. Angelo Badalamenti’s score was, of course, recycled in Twin Peaks (as was dwarf actor Michael J. Anderson, who vibrated in the famous Peaks dream sequence). Peroxided thrush Julee Cruise, who at one point warbles a song from the inside of a car trunk, will also be familiar to peakniks.
To be fair, the director has re-created the piece for home video with a certain amount of flair. And the music is undeniably compelling; Badalamenti may be the only minimalist composer in the world not dealing solely in third-year piano finger exercises. His songs, especially when cranked through a good stereo system, retain their spooky charm despite recent overexposure. But much of Industrial Symphony No. 1 is the kind of pointless exercise Dan Aykroyd used to parody on Saturday Night Live as ”Thoroughly Bad Art” — unless, of course, the point is proving that the avant-garde these days is going mainstream rather than vice versa. In any case, this is for undiscriminating Lynch cultists only. C-