Saturday, April 26, 2014

Review: 'Wild at Heart' Blu-Ray


1990 was a wild year for David Lynch. That’s when he and Mark Frost revolutionized TV with “Twin Peaks”, shocking a passive viewing public with more bizarre humor, cinematic atmosphere, graphic violence, and red-hot sexiness than it had ever seen on the little screen. The vibrations “Twin Peaks” sent out into world—making possible such future series as “The X-Files”, “The Sopranos”, and “Mad Men”—were so intense that we sometimes forget that ’90 was also the year Lynch had a breakthrough on the big screen when he won his first Palme d’Or with his adaptation of Barry Gifford’s novel Wild at Heart. It is significant that both pieces came out in the same year, because both Wild at Heart and “Twin Peaks” share steamy pulp-romance sensibilities, post-modern humor, pure surrealism, and lots of cast members. Both were also rejected by a fickle public as quickly as they were embraced, TV viewers losing interest in the second season of “Twin Peaks” and critics increasingly deciding that Wild at Heart was too self-referential and self-conscious. That’s always a misinformed way to approach a David Lynch film as he may actually be our least self-conscious, most purely intuitive filmmaker. Despite its nods to such pop-culture touchstones as The Wizard of Oz and Elvis Presley, Wild at Heart really follows a Rock & Roll rhythm all its own, and though it shares similarities with “Twin Peaks”, it diverges from that show and Gifford’s novel in its refreshing hopefulness. It is a film that completely believes that love can survive in a world that’s “wild at heart and weird on top.” While words like “weird” and “ironic” are overused in describing David Lynch’s movies, one word that isn’t is “sweet,” and Wild at Heart is ultimately a really sweet movie—even with its head-smashing murder, toilet seduction, severed-hand snatching dog, gross self-decapitation by shotgun, and close up of puke on a motel room carpet. Hey, it’s sweet, but it’s still a David Lynch movie.

Wild at Heart first came out in a pretty spiffy DVD edition by MGM in 2004, with a nice selection of extra features and refurbished sound and vision personally overseen by Mr. Lynch. The disc’s vibrant clarity was a revelation after so many years spent watching the film’s absolutely wretched incarnation on VHS. Ten years later, MGM has apparently decided that a breakthrough movie by perhaps the greatest living director is not worth putting out on blu-ray, so it passed Wild at Heart off to Twilight Time. It also passed along all of the extra features from its old DVD, which appear on the new blu-ray in standard definition. These are all worth a rewatch, especially for Diane Ladd’s interview. Her explanation for Marietta Fortune painting her face with lipstick is impassioned and it makes perfect sense of one of the film’s craziest scenes. The only new extras are a booklet essay (the cover of which is one of the sexiest movie stills I’ve ever seen) and Twilight Time’s standard isolated music and effects track. It would have been really nice to get those 75 minutes of deleted scenes that Lynch released on his Lime Green set in 2008, but I’m assuming Lynch personally owns that footage since his company Absurda released that DVD box and it wasn’t MGM’s to hand out. Oh, well.

The main draw of this new disc is obviously the blu-ray upgrade. No new tinkering has been performed, but the remastering of the old DVD was sharp enough that it has made the transition to high-def very well. There are some white specks here and there, but if this is the best we’re ever going to get Wild at Heart on home video, I have no complaints.

Get Wild at Heart on blu-ray at screenarchives.com here.
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