2020 has been a terrible year, obviously. But if you’re a David Lynch fan, it has provided a few glimmers of brightness among the widespread doom and gloom. That shouldn’t come as a surprise, because that’s something the filmmaker has always excelled at in his on-screen work. Now, he’s basically serving up a pandemic-era version of virtual cherry pie — a small slice of sweetness in a time that definitely isn’t wonderful, but sure is strange.
Three years after TWIN PEAKS: THE RETURN blew everyone’s minds, we’re no closer to news on a follow-up. Fourteen years post-INLAND EMPIRE, Lynch appears no closer to releasing another feature either. But if you like his extensive array of other projects — or you’re just eager to watch anything he makes, or watch him make anything — we’ve been given not one, not two, not three, but four online gifts over the past five months. That feels like the kind of feat that’d only happen in the red room, but it’s firmly part of this reality. (We all well and truly know that it’s 2020, so there’s no point asking what year is this.)
Back in January, 2017 short WHAT DID JACK DO? hit Netflix. Seventeen minutes of Lynch playing a detective interrogating a capuchin monkey? That’s 17 minutes well spent. This month, Lynch released 2015’s FIRE (POZAR) via YouTube. Nightmarish, surreal and imbued with nerve-rattling tension thanks to Marek Zebrowski’s jittering score, the surreal, dialogue-free ten-minute short is a clear kindred spirit to Lynch’s paintings, drawings, and the rest of his artistic practice beyond his film and TV work. As great as it is to be able to watch these two shorts, however, Lynch has also done something much more important this year. To the joy of everyone who loves all things Lynch — including merely watching Lynch — he has brought back his daily weather reports. And, just as this article was being written, he launched a new ongoing YouTube series: WHAT IS DAVID WORKING ON TODAY?.
For long-term Lynch devotees (is there any other kind?), the return of his weather reports is huge. First rolled out daily more than a decade ago, they’re short and straightforward, yet also delightful and engaging. To someone residing anywhere other than Los Angeles, they have zero practical use. And, there’s little else to them, with Lynch observing the weather through his workshop window, telling us the present temperature and providing the day’s forecast, all in less than a minute. But thanks to Lynch being Lynch, they’re endlessly fascinating. While we’re all in lockdown and have nothing better to do, they’re easy to obsess over, too. Anything Lynch-related is easy to obsess over at any time, as we’ve all been doing for decades, but Lynch sure knows how to give the world what it needs right now — and to teach us a thing or two.
Looking on the bright side: Every day since May 11, 2020 (“and it’s a Monday”, he tells us), Lynch has sat at the same desk to share a tiny slice of his quarantine life. His tone is as matter-of-fact as ever, and he touches upon the same details, including how the sky looks, the presence or absence of clouds, and the temperature. If the weather calls for it, he gravitates towards beautiful skies and golden sunshine. They’re terms he uses as often as he can. And, they form one of his man lessons: that, even when staying inside in the name of safety, he’s still (and literally) looking on the bright side.
Connecting, and finding what meaning you can: Lynch is peering out at the world, too, even as the planet at large is looking inwards. He’s sharing himself with the world as well, during a time when we’re all largely physically constrained from doing just that. He’s reaching out and connecting — because he can’t currently ride a tractor across the country, THE STRAIGHT STORY-style, but he can do this. Plus, as always, he’s showing us that you can read as much or as little into a Lynch project as you like. Famously reluctant to explain the meaning of his work, for years he’s already taught us to interrogate every second for meaning. That’s a helpful skill in general, but it’s particularly useful during this especially reflective period.
Giving yourself a present each day: “Every day, once a day, give yourself a present,” Dale Cooper once told Harry Truman, in one of the many lines that TWIN PEAKS diehards can quote instantly and often. It’s a piece of dialogue that always felt as if it went from Lynch’s lips to Kyle MacLachlan’s. And, while Coop also told Harry not to plan or wait for it, but to just let it happen, Lynch still seems to be following that overall advice with his daily dispatches. He’s leading by example and giving the world a present each day — the present of seeing their favourite filmmaker, listening to his relaxing tones and taking his approach to life to heart.
Lynch’s hair is one of the world’s great wonders: Lynch’s weather reports are a genuine and thoughtful delight. But, let’s be honest — who doesn’t watch and just marvel at Lynch’s hair? His is a set of locks worthy of an enthusiastic ode, and now we’re now seeing it again daily, we have to sing its praises. The height and volume of his hair — not quite at Henry in ERASERHEAD levels, but close enough — has always been a thing of beauty. The silvery hue he’s grown into over the years, each strand glistening from every angle, is something that everyone who’ll go grey (i.e., pretty much everyone) can only hope they’ll attain. It never looks overly styled, or like Lynch cares too much about it, but it always looks damn perfect.
There’s nothing like a damn fine cuppa: This isn’t a new lesson, clearly. Lynch and coffee is one of film and TV’s great pairings. Still, it’s one that he’ll never stop celebrating, even when he’s doing so far more subtly than he’s known for. Sat atop his sometimes messy, sometimes clean desk, his ever-present coffee cup is such a small detail, but it’s a cosy, comforting one, especially when steam from Lynch’s coffee wafts through the frame and catches the light. It’s also consistent, warming and familiar, like a good cuppa. And, naturally, it’ll make you want one.
Routine and repetition is soothing: The daily part of Lynch’s weather reports has always been crucial. Releasing them every few days or once a week would be pointless. It also speaks to the meticulousness we see in his on-screen characters: his TWIN PEAKS FBI agents, obviously, including Gordon Cole. Routine and repetition evidently works for Lynch; his art, films, TV series and shorts could never prove routine or repetitive, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t the product of structure. Exploring his off-screen work, 2016 documentary DAVID LYNCH: THE ART LIFE demonstrated how the simple act of getting to work on something each day was a key part of Lynch’s process. His 2007 short LAMP, where he makes a lamp, already made that plain as well. And, if we needed another reminder beyond his weather reports, WHAT IS DAVID WORKING ON TODAY? is here to do just that.
Of course this is what he’s doing: If you’ve ever had the unique pleasure of roaming around an exhibition of Lynch’s art, you’ll know he’s a busy guy. He’s prolific and, given that he currently has nothing to do but stay home, he’s in his element. The return of the weather reports and the arrival of WHAT IS DAVID WORKING ON TODAY? might’ve come out of the blue, but based on everything in Lynch’s career up until this point, they’re hardly surprising. One revives an old, beloved project, as he did with TWIN PEAKS: THE RETURN, while the other continues his recent fondness for showcasing his handiwork. In its just-released first installment, the latter also answers the question: ‘who wants to watch Lynch build a sink?’ The answer is everyone, and long may WHAT IS DAVID WORKING ON TODAY? continue.
More Lynch more often, please: When WHAT DID JACK DO? hit Netflix, it wasn’t just a new Lynch short; it was a new Lynch short starring Lynch himself. And, even if he had different hair at some point for some reason, Lynch’s on-screen presence is like no one else’s. He deployed himself to beguiling and entertaining effect in TWIN PEAKS AND TWIN PEAKS: THE RETURN, and others have followed in his footsteps. In the John Carroll Lynch-directed, Harry Dean Stanton-starring LUCKY in 2017, Lynch is soulful, vibrant and warm as a turtle-owning pal of the titular character. And, Lynch’s TV appearance as a talk-show veteran on LOUIE will always stand the test of time, even if the series itself and its creator don’t. No one compares to Lynch. So, we’ll always say an enormous and hearty yes to however he lets us spend time in his company.
The question now, of course, is: what’s he going to be working on tomorrow, the next day and the day after that? Yep, Lynch just became the world’s most vital and essential YouTuber.