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'Twin Peaks' creator David Lynch turns 70

Jochen Kürten / catJanuary 20, 2016

American director David Lynch has been pushing the envelope since he made his debut with "Eraserhead" in 1977. On his 70th birthday, we take a look back at his groundbreaking repertoire.

David Lynch, Copyright: picture-alliance/AP Photo/M.Rourke
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/M.Rourke

In the late 1970s, cinema visitors who preferred the independent offerings at arthouse theaters to Hollywood blockbusters like "Star Wars" were treated to something special in one particular midnight showing. A low-budget black and white independent film with the unusual title, "Eraserhead" made its first appearance in those tiny theaters. Its debut marked the beginning of the career of one of the US's most famous directors: David Lynch.

Moviegoers followed along as a rare being, a cross between animal and person and clothed in diapers, whined and screamed nonstop on the screen. Living in a shabby apartment and cared for by an overwhelmed father, the being's presence in the drab horror film became a study in pity and a shocking vision for parents-to-be. A fascinating film experiment.

Still from David Lynch's Eraserhead, Copyright: picture-alliance/dpa
Lynch made his directorial debut with the surreal black and white film "Eraserhead"Image: picture-alliance/dpa

Images from "Eraserhead" are unforgettable for those who've seen them, even now, nearly 40 years after the film's debut. One could guess, while watching, that this film could only come from an artist set to make it big. When David Lynch entered the world of cinema in the 1970s, it was clear the director would become one of the world's most influential directors of all time.

An exceptionally imaginative director

Although the name David Lynch may not say much to moviegoers today - with his latest films seeing less success - Lynch's talents and range aren't valued enough in the US film industry.

The next generation of directors has gained a lot from Lynch's vision, that much is clear today. A director like Quentin Tarantino, whose hit "Pulp Fiction" was rightly celebrated around the world, would not have been possible had Lynch not come before.

Lynch's film "Wild at Heart," which was awarded the Golden Palm in Cannes in 1990, was the first modern American movie to combine violence with humor, to bring both horror and sarcasm to the big screen simultaneously - paving the way for Quentin Tarantino's later variation on the theme.

Still from David Lynch's Wild at Heart, Copyright:"picture-alliance/dpa/Mary Evans Picture Library
"Wild at Heart" had Lynch take home the Golden Palm from Cannes in 1990Image: picture-alliance/dpa/Mary Evans Picture Library

While "Dune," the sci-fi epic released in 1984 took a beating at the box office, it showed future directors that even big commercial blockbusters could be created as art masterpieces with finesse and imagination.

The shocking film vision behind "Blue Velvet" proved a hit in the mid-80s, with celebrities Isabella Rosellini and Dennis Hopper brought onboard. It's a fascinating study even today in genre-mixing, showing how elements from a number of genres can create something entirely new when brought together.

With 'Twin Peaks,' Lynch wrote television history

The path to the creation of the popular television series "Twin Peaks" was paved, according to many experts, more than half a century ago.

Lynch's films became more inaccessible after "Wild at Heart" in 1990, apart from the exceptional "The Straight Story." At the same time, the director was delving deeper into the layers of human sub-consciousness as he became more interested in transcendental meditation. Interviews and profiles about the director in recent years report increasingly more about his connection to meditation than about his movies and films.

Still from Twin Peaks, Copyright: picture-alliance/dpa
"Twin Peaks" revolutionized television with its unusual twist on the murder mysteryImage: picture-alliance/dpa

Still, David Lynch fans have good reason to hold out hope. After a long break, the master has returned to the director's chair to take on the continuation of the "Twin Peaks" series. While not much else is known, planning for 18 additional episodes of the small-town drama centering on the death of the young Laura Palmer is in the works, with Lynch himself directing. The new episodes are expected to air in 2017; until then, fans will have to wait patiently.

But first, while we wait, let's raise a toast to the occasion and send good wishes his way.

Happy 70th birthday, Mr. Lynch!