Film Review: Eraserhead (1978)

There is no movie like Eraserhead and no filmmaker like David Lynch.  Lynch’s feature debut is a film of images and sounds, but hardly one of dialogue.  He has created a world that is thoroughly encompassed in shadows and a character that is constantly haunted by nightmares.  But in reality, Henry already lives in a nightmare.

His newly wed wife has left him and he has been forced to recon with their hideously deformed baby.  The room Henry inhabits is inside a dimly lit hotel; this is where the majority of the film occurs.  But between obscure visions and a brooding performance from Jack Nance, viewers will stay occupied and continue to wonder what’s going on.

Lynch’s approach is very much that of a surrealist, and it constantly reminds me of a cross between Bunuel and Burton.  But Bunuel’s films are not this modern and Burton’s mind is too fanciful to make something this repulsive.  Eraserhead, over the years, has become a cult classic.  It demands very specific tastes, but those who find quirky, dark, and graphic horror films savory will be catered well.

So whenever you see a movie such as this one, you can love, despise or admire it.  Eraserhead is certainly not a bad film, but rather a bizarrely unattractive one.  Its message could exist under all of the horror elements as a study of the human conscience.  The baby represents a great sin, and its constant screams ensure that he will never forget his part in it.

Lynch’s film has acquired a large group of dedicated followers since its 1978 release, but it was not to my tastes.  I am of the crowd of admirers, but not the group of loyal lovers.  The vision is fantastic, but I was too repulsed to name it a masterpiece.

Rating: 4/5

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Film Review: Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)

Divorce seems to be becoming more and more common in our society, so naturally, any controversy surrounding Kramer vs. Kramer upon its time of release has completely cleared up.  But that hardly dampens the effectiveness.  Since 1979, many films have portrayed these same family troubles while using a different strategy.  One might find that Kramer vs. Kramer works best for quite a few reasons.  A crucial part in the film’s success are the actors.  With such a simple story, the audience has to be convinced that they are watching something worthwhile.  Luckily, this is a film blessed with an abundance of convincing actors and actresses that are each in total control of their roles.  This even includes seven-year-old Justin Henry starring in his first movie.

Henry plays the young son of a dedicated worker and an unhappy wife.  When he wakes one morning to discover that his mother is gone, he is attended to by his father.  For the next fifteen months, the two grow very close.  Then, the mother returns wanting custody of her child.  What ensues is a fight in court between two parents who both love their son deeply.  Both of the fine performances of Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep were rewarded with well-deserved Oscars.  It’s one thing to display the emotions of a parent who might lose his/her only child and it’s another to do it well enough that the audience cannot tell whose side to take.  Without being able to pick sides, the audience is better involved and the entire film appears more realistic.

I’m sure that I am not alone when I say that I hate when a good movie is ruined by a filmmaker’s desperate attempt to make the audience cry.  I did not come close to crying at the end of Kramer vs. Kramer, but I never picked up any signs of this desperation.  So while I cannot honestly name the picture “a tear-jearker”, I can try to clear any doubts as to the ending being disappointing.  As far as Best Picture winners go, this one appears to be very ordinary.  Indeed, the story is not hard to predict, but what this film does, it does well.  It is well-written, well-acted, and well-directed, satisfying those looking for entertainment or something touching.

Rating: 4/5