Celeb-launched websites are, by and large, crudely executed self-promotions. Leave it to David Lynch, thenthe famously against-the-grain director whose Mulholland Drive befuddled audiences, wowed critics, and seems Oscar-boundto come up with a new pay-to-play site that similarly baffles and delights. Lynch invited EW to his Hollywood Hills office-home complex for a tour of his new creation, DavidLynch.com.
He begins by showing a screen full of bees, at which he stares, transfixed. ''You think they look the same, but they're so different,'' Lynch says in his peculiar nasal voice. It is a scene from Bees #1, one of many short films he has shot exclusively for the site (www.davidlynch.com). ''If you were sitting down in the evening, a quiet evening, you could see many subtleties going on in this environment, with these bees,'' he says excitedly.
''Okay,'' breaks in Web designer Eric Bassett, who, after working for several corporate clients, has helped the auteur build what Bassett calls the first online destination of its kind. He clicks away from the insects, asking ''What can we show that's a bit more mainstream?''
''But we're not mainstream!'' insists Lynch. He's right: The stark, surreal images reflect the dark corridors and unseen tensions that make David Lynch, well, David Lynch. During two and a half years of the site's development, Lynch had to master the tools of online filmmaking: ''I never know what I'm going to do, so I can't farm it out to somebody else. I only get ideas by doingthat's the problem.''
Last year, he finished two episodes of Dumblanda cartoon about a flatulent yokelfor Shockwave.com. Seven additional five-minute episodes will appear on his own sitealong with two other series, Axxon N., a mystery-drama, and Rabbits, a sitcom featuring Mulholland Drive's Naomi Watts, Laura Elena Harring, and Scott Coffey dressed up in bunny suits.
Lynch clearly loves having this artistic outlet: ''For me, the whole thing is about creative freedom and experimentation.'' What he must do now is draw visitors willing to spend $9.97 per month to access Web-only albums and shorts, art galleries, and daughter Jennifer's talk-radio-style show Oddio. (Non-members can pay $7.79 for a subscription to each series.)
It goes without saying that it takes a certain sensibility to appreciate his work: The site has more trapdoors and red velvet curtains than Twin Peaks' Black Lodge. Determined surfers can hunt down hidden codes, punch them into an online phone, and find themselves in strange places. (One number takes you to a woman touring her Tokyo apartment, talking about bananas.) And Lynch promises still more new experiments, short films, and whatever else catches his eye, including eight more episodes of Bees. ''They come out of these tunnels, they change places, and what they're doing is cooling this thing down. There's no nest. It's a fresh ball of bees,'' says Lynch, still excited about the insect horde he discovered in some bushes outside. ''And what they do, you can't believe!'' Our thoughts exactly.