As a world-class director of films about backward-talking dwarves, pornography and murder, David Lynch isn't surprised when people ask him why he's an avid practitioner of Transcendental Meditation.
If anything, it's because the filmmaker gets asked about it often, especially during the public tours in which he espouses the wonders of TM. The technique, which he has practiced for 40 years, involves a form of relaxation where you recite a mantra and meditate for 20 minutes.
"If you're really, really happy, you don't make movies about people embroidering doilies," Lynch says during a phone interview. "I say the artist doesn't have to suffer to show suffering. It's the key to the whole thing. Van Gogh suffered as an artist, but he didn't suffer while he was painting. I know Van Gogh would have been happier if he had been able to transcend, to dive within. When you transcend and get down into that ocean of consciousness, you infuse all these positive qualities. I've gotten happier and happier rather than more miserable."
Happier … and less prone to stage fright. A 70-minute documentary about Lynch's Q&A tour of 16 countries in 2007, titled "Meditation, Creativity, Peace," captures the notoriously reclusive director talking TM, his films and the solemn admission that he verbally abused his first wife, Peggy, until his initial brush with the technique in 1973. The documentary, which was produced and directed by the David Lynch Foundation, a New York-based charity for the director's TM endeavors, will have its South Florida premiere on Saturday, April 6 at the Muvico Parisian at CityPlace, and is part of the returning Palm Beach International Film Festival.
“Let’s just say I’m not wild about speaking in public,” says Lynch, who “meditates every day.” “But I felt so good after it was done each time, and the reaction of the people was positive, even if they didn’t care about meditation and weren’t going to start. That kind of drove the boat, too.”
For all Lynch’s overtures about TM and its potential to unlock happiness and ideas, the enigmatic director has not released a feature film since 2006’s “Inland Empire.” He’s full of ideas – just not cinematic ones. Lynch has taken up painting, lithography and served as an executive producer for his son Austin’s “Interview Project” web series, which involved among its subjects a Stevie Nicks fan named Clinton, who claims to “go around wearing capes, and sometimes moccasin boots.” His equally Lynchian cameo on FX’s “Louie” in September depicted Lynch as an old-school, oddball exec who preps Louis C.K. as a replacement host for David Letterman’s “Late Late Show,” exhorting the T-shirted comic to “Put on a suit, brother!”
"I wanted to see where cinema is headed before I work on movies again," the 67-year-old says. "I think about Internet piracy of films, I think about people seeing it on a computer who think they've seen the film, but they've missed 90 percent of it. The world is full of negativity and stress."
If Lynch believes TM and "Meditation, Creativity, Peace" may act as a palliative to all that stress, count PBIFF's executive director, Randi Emerman, as a possible convert.
"Oh, God, I could use a break. We're having such major difficulties," Emerman says with a laugh. The festival organizer is responsible for corralling nearly 140 films, shorts, docs and music videos, 26 of which are world premieres and eight of which are U.S. premieres. Emerman says she wanted this year's festival to cater to what she calls "Palm Beach's big Eastern European population," so she wrote to the Russian Cinema Fund in October to recommend a few candidates.
"They invited me to be their guest at their film festival. I saw 31 films in five days. I have such a hard life, right?" she says. "But I came away with five movies. Two of them were Oscar submissions. 'Tilt,' from Bulgaria, and 'White Tiger' from Russia, and that one played at the Cannes Film Festival. A film festival's job is to open our eyes to culture and the world around us. It's really getting the word out to the public to come support these wonderful films."
The festival is bookended by the opening-night film, "Decoding Annie Parker," (April 4) with Helen Hunt, Maggie Grace and Aaron Paul, and the world-premiering, festival-closing dark comedy "Chez Upshaw," (April 11) starring Kevin Pollack and Illeana Douglas as a couple running a lodge for assisted suicides. Asked to handicap the festival's top performers this year, Emerman says the abovementioned flicks will be audience favorites, as will possible breakthrough "My Dad Baryshnikov," (April 9) a "Billy Elliot"-esque portrait of a clumsy Bolshoi Academy student who believes he shares a hereditary gene with the famous ballet dancer. ("The kid can't dance to save his life," Emerman says.)
Also on her radar: the world-premiere of "Miss You Can Do It," (April 5) from Wellington director Ron Davis. It chronicles Miss Iowa USA 2008 Abbey Curran, who founded a beauty pageant for girls with various disabilities. The documentary will also air on HBO this June.
A pageant in Kewanee, Ill., Davis admits, shouldn't have had any appeal to a former publishing executive from New York (now selling condo properties in Palm Beach) and who once competed as a showjumper in the Palm Beach Polo Club. But after reading a People magazine spread on Curran's philanthropy, he called the pageant and bought a plane ticket.
His arrival, of course, was met with resistance from the pageant's overprotective contingent of mothers. "They were scoping me out to make sure that I wasn't doing a 'Toddlers and Tiaras'-type show but with disabilities," says Davis, whose film follows eight pageant contestants. "But it was such an amazing story, and we clicked. The mothers do everything in their power to empower their little girls, because they're told by ignorant people in their lives that they can't do anything. They just wanted to have a real conversation, and be acknowledged as normal."
Palm Beach International Film Festival
When: April 4 through April 11 (opening-night film is "Decoding Annie Parker," 7 p.m. April 4 at Muvico CityPlace, followed by a rooftop party at Two City Plaza, 701 S. Olive Ave., No. 104, West Palm Beach)
Where: Muvico Parisian 20 and IMAX at CityPlace, 545 Hibiscus St., West Palm Beach; Cobb Downtown at the Gardens, 11701 Lake Victoria Gardens Ave., Palm Beach Gardens; Stonzek Theatre, 709 Lake Ave., Lake Worth; Frank Theatres CineBowl and Grille, 9025 W. Atlantic Ave., Delray Beach
Cost: $7-$10; $175-$350 for festival passes
Contact: 561-362-0003 or PBIFilmFest.orgCopyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun