David Lynch’s Arena documentary is a great starter in surrealist cinema.
In 1987, just before Blue Velvet opened in the UK, David Lynch hosted a documentary for the BBC as part of the Arena arts strand. Ruth, Roses and Revolver – directed by Helen Gallagher – took its name from a Man Ray film, and included extracts from works by Hans Richter, Max Ernst, Marcel Duchamp, Ferdinand Legar, Jean Cocteau and Dziga Vertov as well as Man Ray and – in the form of the opening moments of Blue Velvet – Lynch himself. Much of the material comes from surrealist masterpiece Dreams That Money Can Buy, and in retrospect, it’s easy to see the influence of Lynch’s later work including Twin Peaks.
At the time, Lynch was arguably on the way to being absorbed into the mainstream, having followed Eraserhead with The Elephant Man and Dune, and it would not be until Blue Velvet that he found the style that we now know as ‘Lynchian’ – but clearly, his reputation for weirdness and experimentation was still strong enough at this point to make him a natural fit for a documentary about experimental cinema.
While a few BBC Arena documentaries have appeared on iPlayer, this is not one of them, and it currently languishes in the vaults. This off-air recording is the only version that seems to be available for viewing (at least until we get our VHS transfer system up and running). The quality is not great, to say the least, but it’s fascinating viewing nonetheless.
Help support The Reprobate: