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David Lynch picks five films for AFI Fest

October 25, 2010 | 10:28 am

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What do Ingmar Bergman's "Hour of the Wolf," Stanley Kubrick's "Lolita," Jacques Tati's "Mon Oncle," Alfred Hitchcock's "Rear Window" and Billy Wilder's "Sunset Boulevard" have in common?

They're the films chosen by filmmaker David Lynch for a special sidebar of AFI Fest 2010, which runs from Nov. 4 to 11. Lynch, director of "Blue Velvet, "Mulholland Drive" and "Inland Empire," is the festival's first-ever guest artistic director and himself an American Film Institute alumnus.

In addition to the eclectic and unusual group of titles unveiled by Lynch on Monday, the sidebar also will  include his debut feature, "Eraserhead," begun while he was at AFI and first released in 1976.

"I love AFI. I owe them a lot, so much I can't tell you," Lynch said in a phone interview from his office in Los Angeles. "I was living in Philadelphia, and I didn't see the brightest future for myself. I applied for an independent filmmaker grant in 1968, and I won that, and it changed my life. AFI is a very, very important institution. I love supporting it."

Announcing Lynch's appointment this summer as the guest artistic director, Bob Gazzale, president and chief executive of the American Film Institute, called the director "an artist who embodies the institute's national mandate to both educate the next generation and to honor the masters."

Speaking about his selections, Lynch said, "When I was at AFI, they ran a lot of great pictures, and I got a chance to see some things that I probably wouldn't have been able to see. It was a place that was full of inspiration." As to what might tie these particular films together, he said, "There's no theme; they're just films that I happen to love."

Although Lynch has often veered toward the abstract and hard to define in his own work, he also has shown an appreciation for the genre structures of classical Hollywood filmmaking, transforming the crime thriller, the melodrama and the romance to his own ends. Among his selections are two films that likewise bend the rules of classic Hollywood, "Sunset Boulevard" and "Rear Window."

"Those films I just love," he said. "I loved being in that world. You know, a lot of cinema is a sense of place, to create a world. Billy Wilder was just a master at that, as were the directors of the other films I picked."

The Kubrick film that Lynch has chosen is comparatively overlooked next to such unassailably important works such as "2001: A Space Odyssey" and "Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb."

As for "Lolita," Lynch said, "James Mason, Peter Sellers, Shelley Winters and Sue Lyon, they are just great performances. It's a time and a place and a sensibility. That thrills my soul."

Lynch himself is scheduled to appear at the festival on Nov. 6 to present a double bill of "Eraserhead" and "Sunset Boulevard." He has prepared video introductions for the screenings in his program he will not attend. Lynch also created the artwork that appears on this year's festival poster, an image of a clay figure floating amid the Los Angeles skyline.

"I always say a film festival is more than a chance to see films; it's a celebration of film," Lynch said. "There's always surprises that get people going. It's real exciting. 

-- Mark Olsen

Photo: David Lynch, Credit: courtesy of AFI Fest

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