Eraserhead: not a student film

One of the reasons I enjoy the Alex on Film blog is the author speaks his mind and doesn't pretend to be offering anything but his subjective take on movies.

But this is just going too far:

Eraserhead is a movie better experienced than talked about. I don’t think Lynch had any real statement in mind and people probably see in it what they want to see. I was mightily impressed by it thirty years ago, and while I came away from it this time with a lot of respect for what Lynch accomplished, on a shooting schedule that stretched over five years, I have to say it’s not a movie I enjoy as much today. It was student work, of the highest caliber but still student work, and it appealed to me as a student. But my imagination isn’t what it used to be.

Lynch may have begun the film as a student but five years later, keeping the same cast and crew together to film when time and budget allowed, he was an auteur. It's actually amazing how tight and focused Eraserhead is for having been shot over such a long time frame -- there's no loss of momentum at all. And one can see a more or less seamless jump forty years ahead to Lynch's Twin Peaks: The Return, which might be an expansion and deepening of the same movie.

I didn't want to just flippantly troll Alex on Film for its flip dismissal of a fascinating film (seconded by a commenter) so I tried to say some nice things in defense:

On rewatching for the first time in decades I realized how much of a comedy it is. Even the weirdest bits have comic timing. When the monster baby breaks out in disgusting chicken pox, there’s a beat and Henry says with a concerned, fatherly tone, “oh you *are* sick.” Then another beat and he has placed a vaporizer next to the infant’s head. The dinner scene is a mad hatter’s tea party of “people behaving strangely for no reason” (as an Amazon reviewer once described an Argento film), carefully choreographed to provide tension and release. Even the feature you eloquently pointed out, “that within [the film’s] dream of dark and troubling things the dreamer only dreams of things more dark and troubling still,” has macabre humor.
As for the meaning, you can take a lot at face value. A man is going quietly crazy in a low rent urban apartment, with a failing marriage and a deformed child who he eventually kills. It’s a “post-industrial landscape,” a milieu that was barely identified in the mid-’70s and became commonplace as a description in the ’80s. Lynch arrived at this early on, indeed nailed it, based on pure artist’s intuition.
Also it’s hard for me to evaluate Eraserhead as a fragment of my own youth because Lynch never went away and I in effect grew up with him. The signature tropes of this movie (white noise, disgusting growths, people behaving strangely for no reason) continue in almost all of his subsequent creative endeavors. So I watch it now as the psychic blueprint for an amazing (and amazingly improbable) career.

aeon flux vhs vs dvd: End Sinister

end_sinister650w

screenshot from Bregna 215 (resized)

In the '90s, MTV, between the "shitty music video" era and the "spring breakers" era, briefly hosted some trippy animation. Aeon Flux emerged then, under the direction of Peter Chung, who was 30 at the time, with all imaginative pistons firing. Shortly thereafter MTV released the three seasons on VHS tape, and in 2005 Chung remastered the tapes and re-released them on DVD. To the annoyance of some fans, he added new dialog to four of the shows. He claimed this was to bring the characterizations of Aeon Flux and Trevor Goodchild "into better continuity with the series as a whole." New dialog was also written for the character "Clavius," former leader of Bregna. Three of the episodes he altered ("The Demiurge," "Reraizure," and this one, "End Sinister") were directed by Howard E. Baker, a fourth, "Utopia or Deuteranopia," was directed by Chung himself. Here are some belated notes on the changes to:

End Sinister
Peter Chung had no involvement in the original (1995) writing of this episode; he at least had "Story" credits for the other three episodes he later altered. So perhaps not surprisingly, this one got his most severe revisions ten years later. The main change is to make Trevor Goodchild more humanitarian and less of a eugenicist Hitler.
VHS DVD
No opening title Opening title:
Trevor prepares to shoot a ray that will change the course of human evolution.
Trevor Goodchild: Strength is not an absolute value. To be strong is to evolve. Mutability is strength. Evolution is a stream of victories by the strong over the meek. The meek shall not inherit the earth. What is strength when a 200 pound man can be killed by a ray emanating from a satellite in space? Strength is within. Case in point: I make two men sick by exposing them to the same ray, Aldous B. One dies, horribly, with pain. The other one buries him without remorse. He is the winner. Who will the other winners be? Those who will be left once I use the ray. We have already evolved so much that our actions would be incomprehensible to a human from 1000 years ago. It's the evolution revolution. Tomorrow we speed up the process. All sectors. All species. Only the strong shall evolve. Trevor: Go forth and multiply. Procreation is the fundamental act of faith. We divide even as we conquer. And is it losses on the field of battle? No, it is the battle of love. So I turn my weapons to the task of evolution. Case in point: I transform two men's semen into armies of conception by exposing them to the same ray, Aldous B. Sadly one dies. The other one buries him with honor. The ray is imperfect. Some will die but the alternative is the death of the entire human race. We have already evolved so much that our actions would be incomprehensible to a human from 1000 years ago. It's the evolution revolution. Tomorrow we speed up the process. All sectors. All species. Only the strong shall evolve.
Aeon Flux [arguing with Trevor]: And let you kill off half the planet? I don't think so.
Trevor: You have nothing to be afraid of. The rays will only affect the meek. They'll strengthen the strong, like you and me.
Aeon [to herself]: No one can make me be anything.
[Aeon nuzzles up to Trevor, then kicks and handcuffs him]
Aeon [arguing with Trevor]: And let you kill off half the planet? I don't think so.
Trevor: The ray will be fatal only to a small minority at most. It will strengthen the strange, like you and me. If we're all doomed, what will you live for, Aeon?
[Aeon nuzzles up to Trevor, then kicks and handcuffs him]
Aeon [talking to alien]: You can't stay here, it's not safe. You don't speak, do you?
[Aeon pulls off cloth, revealing alien's weird body]
Aeon: Come on!
Aeon [talking to alien]: Where are you... All right, you don't have to answer that. I know someone who's just going to love you.
[Aeon pulls off cloth, revealing alien's weird body]
Aeon: Bit much... Let's go, I'm getting you out.
Trevor: These creatures have died from exposure to Aldous B. Somehow it shot from the satellite to their planet. They must have come to search for the source of the ray. But they failed. It wasn't enough. They're not different or adaptable enough. It will be your fault if the human race does not survive.
Aeon: These creatures are dead and you're guilty as hell.
Trevor: As a matter of fact I feel quite guilty.
Trevor: These creatures have died from exposure to Aldous B. Somehow it shot from the satellite to their ship. They had to find the source of the ray but the ray killed them first. They lacked the resilience to survive. We need exposure to Aldous B. We must remain a virulent strain.
Aeon: You've made your sickbed. Who else are you going to ask to die in it?
Trevor: As a matter of fact I feel quite guilty.
[Aeon points at Trevor's stomach]
Trevor: They don't have one of those, or one of these [tongue-kisses Aeon]
[Trevor and Aeon begin making love as the alien watches]
Aeon: Maybe they don't have sex.
Trevor: Maybe they've found a better way.
[Aeon points at Trevor's stomach]
Trevor: They don't have one of those, or one of these [tongue-kisses Aeon]
[Trevor and Aeon begin making love as the alien watches]
[Alien rejects Aeon's sex offer and leaves]
Aeon: Please, stay.
[Alien implants vision in Aeon's mind of the alien having "mental" sex with Trevor]
Aeon: I don't think so, sweetheart.
[Alien rejects Aeon's sex offer and leaves]
Aeon: You'll be back.
[Alien implants vision in Aeon's mind of the alien having "mental" sex with Trevor]
Aeon: I don't think so, sweetheart. You'll definitely be back.
Trevor: Why am I bothering to save these people with their secret appetites and sorry needs? The alien - by contrast - is remarkable. She relies on no physical sustenance. No need for air, for food, for water. She does not defecate or perspire. She lives in the mind. Her feelings are real, more intense than our own. Her language of pictures is at once more poetic and more precise. She needs no one else [touches alien's face], but she wants someone else. That’s where I come in. I've got to stay with her. Trevor: Why am I bothering to save these people with their secret appetites and sorry needs? The alien - by contrast - is remarkable. She relies on no physical sustenance. No need for air, for food, for water. She does not defecate or perspire. She lives in the mind. Her feelings are real, more intense than our own. Her language of pictures is at once more poetic and more precise. She needs no one else [touches alien's face], but she wants someone else. This will be my evolution.
Aeon [sending Trevor telepathic message]: Trevor, there's a bomb! Throw it off the rocket! Aeon [sending Trevor telepathic message]: Trevor, there's a bomb! Eject the tube!
Aeon [talking to alien]: Don't... Don't try to...
[Alien implants scene in Aeon's mind of alien ingesting floating energy cell]
Aeon: No!
Aeon [talking to alien]: Out! Get out of my head, you!
[Alien implants scene in Aeon's mind of alien ingesting floating energy cell]
Aeon: It's you or me now!
[Aeon sees new connective organ on sick alien's body]
Aeon [thinking]: Trevor was right. They are human.
[Aeon sees new connective organ on sick alien's body]
Aeon [thinking]: They are us. I am alien.
Trevor: We are all winners, those who will be left once I use the ray. We have already evolved so much that our actions would be incomprehensible to a human from 1000 years ago. It's the evolution revolution. May the best man win. Trevor: We are all winners, those who will be left once I use the ray. We have already evolved so much that our actions would be incomprehensible to a human from 1000 years ago. It's the evolution revolution. Go forth and multiply.

previous comparisons: Utopia or Deutoranopia / The Demiurge / Reraizure

Update: This is my own comparison and transcription, based on review of the VHS and DVD versions of this episode. After posting (sigh) I found this tumblr post. I made a few tweaks to my chart based on that transcription.

aeon flux vhs vs dvd: Reraizure

narghile

screenshot from Bregna 2415 (resized, autoleveled)

In the '90s, MTV, between the "shitty music video" era and the "spring breakers" era, briefly hosted some trippy animation. Aeon Flux emerged then, under the direction of Peter Chung, who was 30 at the time, with all imaginative pistons firing. Shortly thereafter MTV released the three seasons on VHS tape, and in 2005 Chung remastered the tapes and re-released them on DVD. To the annoyance of some fans, he added new dialog to four of the shows. He claimed this was to bring the characterizations of Aeon Flux and Trevor Goodchild "into better continuity with the series as a whole." New dialog was also written for the character "Clavius," former leader of Bregna. Three of the episodes he altered ("The Demiurge," this one, "Reraizure," and "End Sinister") were directed by Howard E. Baker, a fourth, "Utopia or Deuteranopia," was directed by Chung himself. Here are some belated notes on the changes to:

Reraizure
VHS DVD
No opening title Opening title:
Trevor's interrogation of a Monican agent leads inevitably to his favorite subject... Aeon Flux...
Aeon [in Bregnan uniform, surprises Muriel in prison corridor]: Stay calm. The guard drag is dress-up. I'm not going to hurt you.
Muriel: I'm desperate. Keep away from me.
Aeon: Let's pass like ships.
Aeon [in Bregnan uniform, surprises Muriel in prison corridor]: I don't care who you are or what you're up to but you're in my way so just let me pass.
Muriel: Keep away from me. I'm desperate.
Aeon: Desperate to live or to die? Your choice.
Rordy: Appearances can be deceptive.
Aeon: No kidding.
[Both laugh sarcastically]
Rordy: Appearances can be deceptive.
Aeon: No kidding.
[Laughs edited out]
Rordy: Did you see a woman? 23, short hair, very pale, would have been wearing a grey prison uniform. Rordy: Did you see a woman? Short hair, very pale, would have been wearing a grey prison uniform.
[Rordy removes Narghile from water pipe]
Aeon: What is it?
[Rordy removes Narghile from water pipe]
Aeon: You caught that?
Rordy: It's called a Narghile. I collect them.
Aeon: Are you serious? Narghile?
Do you have the bliss pellets?
Rordy: It's called a Narghile. I collect them.
Aeon: You collect... [under breath] Could have met you earlier.
Do you have the bliss pellets?
Rordy [yelling at Narghile in jar]: You little bastard! What have you done to my Muriel?
[Aeon seduces Rordy]
Rordy [yelling at Narghile in jar]: You little bastard! What have you done to my Muriel?
Aeon [begins seducing Rordy]: What has it done to you? Is getting rid of them really so hard? First thing you do is stop thinking about them.
[Aeon studies orbital platform through telescope]
Rordy: Muriel took each of the Narghiles up there.
Aeon: Why didn't you just destroy them here?
Rordy: How? You can't kill them. I was collecting them to blast into the sun. Now I don't know what I'll do.
Aeon: All right. I'll do it.
[Aeon studies orbital platform through telescope]
Rordy: Muriel took each of the Narghiles up there.
Aeon: That was her idea? Not to destroy them?
Rordy: How? You can't kill them. I was collecting them to blast into the sun.
Aeon: The sun...
Rordy: Now I don't know what I'll do.
Aeon: Sounds good. I'll do it.
Trevor: That's the funny thing about memory, isn't it? We are not what we remember of ourselves; we are what people say we are. They project upon us their convictions. We are nothing but blank screens. Trevor: We are not what we remember of ourselves; we can undo only what others have already forgotten. Learn from your mistakes, so that one day you can repeat them precisely. Stop, erase.

other comparisons: Utopia or Deuteranopia / The Demiurge / End Sinister

Update: This is my own comparison and transcription, based on review of the VHS and DVD versions of this episode. After posting (sigh) I found this tumblr post. I made a few tweaks to my chart based on that transcription.

reraizure_pipeline650w

screenshot from Bregna 2415 (resized)

aeon flux vhs vs dvd: The Demiurge

demiurge650

screenshot from Bregna 2415 (resized, autoleveled)

In the '90s, MTV, between the "shitty music video" era and the "spring breakers" era, briefly hosted some trippy animation. Aeon Flux emerged then, under the direction of Peter Chung, who was 30 at the time, with all imaginative pistons firing. Shortly thereafter MTV released the three seasons on VHS tape, and in 2005 Chung remastered the tapes and re-released them on DVD. To the annoyance of some fans, he added new dialog to four of the shows. He claimed this was to bring the characterizations of Aeon Flux and Trevor Goodchild "into better continuity with the series as a whole." New dialog was also written for the character "Clavius," former leader of Bregna. Three of the episodes he altered (this one, "The Demiurge," "Reraizure," and "End Sinister") were directed by Howard E. Baker, a fourth, "Utopia or Deuteranopia," was directed by Chung himself. Here are some belated notes on the changes to:

The Demiurge
VHS DVD
Trevor: Light, in the absence of eyes, illuminates nothing. Visible forms are not inherent in the world but are granted by the act of seeing. Events contain no meaning in themselves, only the meaning that the mind imposes on them. Yet, the world endures whether or not the mind exists. I endow the lives of my people with meaning. I tell them to follow me and they come. But I can no longer stand the sleepless nights. I think I will stop worrying. I think I am learning to love the Demiurge. Trevor: Light, in the absence of eyes, illuminates nothing. Visible forms are not inherent in the world but are granted by the act of seeing. Though the world and events do exist independent of mind, they obtain of no meaning in themselves. None that the mind is not guilty of imposing on them. I bid my people follow and, like all good equations, they follow. For full endowment of purpose, they do submit. In turn, they resign me to a role inhuman, impossible and unaccountable. But I can no longer stand the sleepless nights. I think I am learning to love the Demiurge.
Trevor: On the whole, the engagement seems to have gone well. The Monican resistance has failed. The launch of the missile has been stopped. Now to dismantle that crude shell and let the Demiurge bring peace. Trevor: Ground engagement effective. The enemy resistance has failed. Monican launch effort has been scrubbed. Target payload is secure. Dismantle that cheap rig and let the Demiurge bring us to peace eternal.
Trevor: Yes? Damn violence... I know. But you’re alive, Rubio.
Rubio: I’m as good as dead, sir.
Trevor: You’re not as good as dead.
Rubio: I’m not as good as I would be dead?
Trevor: That’s not what I... You will understand.
Trevor: Yes? I didn’t want this either. But you’re alive, Rubio.
Rubio: I’m as good as dead, sir.
Trevor: You’re not as good as dead.
Rubio: I’m not as good as I would be dead?
Trevor: Understand why. What we’re doing here.
Aeon: Do you see how the blue light is making those patterns on the joints?
Nadir: Yes. It's beautiful.
Aeon [slapping Nadir]: It's dangerous!
Aeon: Do you see how the blue light is making those patterns on the joints?
Nadir: Yes. It's beautiful.
Aeon [slapping Nadir]: It's delusion!
Aeon: Stay here. Cover me. Aeon: I’m going out. Just keep me covered.
Aeon: No!
Trevor: Yes, the Demiurge! Now you will see.
Aeon: I don’t want to see.
Trevor: But you will see.
Aeon: No!
Trevor: Yes! It is that which is!
Aeon: It is not.
[Nadir has been killed and zombified due to Aeon's oversight]
Aeon [with concerned tone]: Nadir, how are you?
[Nadir has been killed and zombified due to Aeon's oversight]
Aeon [with guilty/ironic tone]: Nadir, uh, how are you?
Trevor: It could have changed everything!
Aeon: Change everything yourself!
Trevor: I will.
Aeon [flinging gemlike, forcefield-encased bullet away]: No one changes me.
Trevor: It could have changed everything!
Aeon: Not the ways that we are.
Trevor: Everything.
[Aeon silently flings gemlike, forcefield-encased bullet away]
Celia: You know something. Tell me what you know.
Aeon: The joints were too weak. The head is finally gone. But you can't tell what a man thinks when he's... But love doesn't solve anything.
Celia: You know something. Tell me what you know.
Aeon: What I know? He said the light was beautiful. Yes, it was. No use, see? Because the truth isn't even pretty. What else? Oh, right. Love isn't the answer, it's the problem.
Aeon: That bird. Then it's still here.
[Aeon traps bird in rectangular case]
[Aeon traps bird in rectangular case -- no dialogue]
[Additional footage and dialogue added to scene of Trevor drafting a speech using his tape recorder]
Trevor: Shedding our animal nature, we prepare a vessel for the advent of merging wills. We become like infants, primordial and innocent. The return to the womb... The rebirth... What the Demiurge offers is the opportunity to be made whole, to be one with the eternity residing within us. Trevor: Natural evolution should amount to nothing by now but a vicious cycle of obsolescence. A world unaccountable to its own past and doomed to repeat indefinitely.
Aeon: You don’t know what you’re doing. That thing...
Trevor: ...is your salvation, and mine.
Aeon: I didn't ask for it. I don't want it.
Aeon: You don’t know what you’re doing. That thing...
Trevor: ...is your salvation, and mine.
[Aeon doesn't reply]
Trevor: It is the everywhere, the everything, the every all.
Aeon: I won't argue over the color of skeletons when they were horses. Aeon: I'm not in the habit of arguing over the color of red herrings.
Trevor: And so, deprived of eternity, we're left to live in the here and now, amid our vanities, our fears, our petty flaws.
[Brief Nadir/Celia dialogue]
Trevor: But it is out there waiting for us, and it will not be denied.
Trevor: If but the cosmos could possibly have come about innocent of history and not wholly ignorant of all its potential, unprejudiced but aware...
[Brief Nadir/Celia dialogue]
Trevor: ...rather than that its only trial be performed at the mercy of all its error.

other comparisons: Utopia or Deutoranopia / Reraizure / End Sinister

Update: This is my own comparison and transcription, based on review of the VHS and DVD versions of this episode. After posting (sigh) I found this tumblr post. I made several additions to my chart based on that transcription.

aeon flux vhs vs dvd: Utopia or Deuteranopia

utopia_or_deuteranopia650w

screenshot from Bregna 2415 (resized)

In the '90s, MTV, between the "shitty music video" era and the "spring breakers" era, briefly hosted some trippy animation. Aeon Flux emerged then, under the direction of Peter Chung, who was 30 at the time, with all imaginative pistons firing. Shortly thereafter MTV released the three seasons on VHS tape, and in 2005 Chung remastered the tapes and re-released them on DVD. To the annoyance of some fans, he added new dialog to four of the shows. He claimed this was to bring the characterizations of Aeon Flux and Trevor Goodchild "into better continuity with the series as a whole." New dialog was also written for the character "Clavius," former leader of Bregna. Three of the episodes he altered ("The Demiurge," "Reraizure," and "End Sinister") were directed by Howard E. Baker, a fourth (this one, "Utopia or Deuteranopia)," was directed by Chung himself. Here are some belated notes on the changes to:

Utopia or Deuteranopia
Presumably this means a better society, with or without rules. It should probably be spelled Deuteronopia, after the biblical book Deuteronomy
VHS DVD
Opening title includes the sentence "It's none of Aeon's business, but..." [sentence removed in DVD version]
Trevor Goodchild in voiceover:
There can be no justice where there is no truth. What is the truth? Tell me if you know and I will not believe you. Things are never what they seem. Clean gloves hide dirty hands, and mine are dirtier than most.
Trevor Goodchild in voiceover:
The unobserved state is a fog of probabilities. A window of and for error. The watcher observes; the fog collapses; an event resolves. A theory becomes a fact. What is the truth? Tell me if you know and I will not believe you. Things are never what they seem. Clean gloves hide dirty hands, and mine are dirtier than most. Without truth there can be no justice.
Aeon: My name is Aeon Flux. I’m here on a mission to assassinate Trevor Goodchild. Is everybody listening? Do you believe me? Am I confessing? Aeon: My name is Aeon Flux. I’m here on a mission to assassinate Trevor Goodchild. Is everybody listening? Do you believe me? Everybody happy?
Trevor, watching surveillance footage shot by his government's cameras:
So many people with so much to hide.
They know what's wrong and they don't listen.
These are the new rules: No more hiding. There's nothing to lose but shame, inhibition, perversion. All the good things in life.
Trevor, watching surveillance footage shot by his government's cameras:
What is this? Look, let's not even bother with those idiots, just show me some action.
[narrating action on video] Aah, going somewhere? Vacation -- for ten years?
[phonetic -- spoken over footage of bigwig being spanked by dominatrix] Counsel Gaiman!
You know the rules. Total information awareness. Equal opportunity enforcement. We are not losing anything but shame, inhibition, perversion, depravity, degeneracy, debauch... [interrupted]
Gildemere: Listen, I think I’m being watched. There are things I have to do. Keep this safe here. Gildemere: Listen, I think I’m being watched.
Aeon: You don’t miss a trick.
Gildemere: There are things I have to do. Keep this safe here.
Clavius, awakening from machine trance:
A bed... A hole... The crickets...
Clavius, awakening from machine trance:
I want out... I want out... ohh...
Clavius, watching surveillance footage from government prison cells:
Valentine, Orillian, Mustafa. Impossible. Diacono. What is this?
By locking them up, Trevor has shut down the flow of funds, you fool.
Not to mention that they're some of my best friends. Why is there no air in here?
Clavius, watching surveillance footage from government prison cells:
[phonetic] Paysok. Andrus. Turkaloo?! Who did this? They've rounded up the whole network!
By locking them up, Trevor has shut down our base of credit, you fool. These men are my special friends. Why is it so hot in here?
Clavius, talking with Gildemere:
No, the flying saucer men are the flying saucer men -- Nowzak! Galaxy 66! The evil empire! What's wrong with you? When the orbital jellyfish umbrella is deployed we'll have round-the-clock defensive capability.
Shut up, mother! [weeps, laughs]
Clavius, talking with Gildemere:
No, the flying saucer men are the flying saucer men -- Narzak! Area 66! The global empire! What level are you? We're men of peace so we attack. Deploy the orbital jellyfish. Next, expulsion of all foreign particles.
Shut up, mother!
We can do the air... Fecal matter... I don't know [weeps, laughs]

other comparisons: The Demiurge / Reraizure / End Sinister

Update: This is my own comparison and transcription, based on review of the VHS and DVD versions of this episode. After posting (sigh) I found this tumblr post. I made a few tweaks to my chart based on that transcription.