The Straight Story - rated - HOT! HOT! HOT!

Lynch goes Straight

David Lynch telling a straight story? You'd better believe it! And you'd better see it, too. As I watched this film I remembered what Me l Brooks called David Lynch: "Jimmy Stewart from Mars." Well this is the Jimmy Stewart part.

The stunning opening sequence (the Director of Photography is Freddie Francis (The Elephant Man (1980), The Innocents (1961), Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960)) features a tractor on a wide open field. Then there's a long slow pan across a yard. All is very slow - which of course, immediately establishes the speed of movie. We see a tractor behind the yard's house and a woman lying prone sunbaking. Then the camera focuses on the outside wall of the house, and you hear someone fall to the ground, but you don't see it. I seem to remember seeing a shot of grass on a shed wall, held for ages. This is a very special kind of movie.

There's so much to relish in this film. There are many scenes which just involve people talking to each other. Most of these characters don't have much screen time, but they are beautifully drawn. Clearly Lynch knows them well, and loves them. There's a beautiful scene where two old men have a drink together in a bar, and just start telling the truth about the past. Something about Alvin Straight (Richard Farnsworth, playing a real life character) makes it easy for people to talk.

There's also a shopkeeper who can't bear to part with his goods (a "grabber"!). There's a salesman who makes a "straight" deal with Alvin over a used ride-on lawnmower, and it turns out that it is the salesman's own lawnmower. These people are honest and good, and you begin to feel for them.

Throughout Alvin's slow and steady journey, Lynch's camera follows at the same pace. We take our time. The camera lingers on faces. There's a long long hold on a girl's face in a roadside campfire. There are more long pans up & down & across the countryside. There are close-ups of passing wheat fields, and then a tarpaulin on the trailer. There's a close-up of road. There's time for things to sink in.

Lynch is giving us the time and space to think about the little things. He shows us Alvin's joy at accomplishing the task of getting his blown-off hat back, but tempers it with his failure to start the tractor. he shows us the connection between the land and the weather. In this country the weather is not just an inconvenience - it's a vital part of your day. Could this be a movie about the real America? After all, much of American is rural countryside like this. People ask simple questions: "How long you bin on the road?", "What day is this?", "How far've you come?" They list the places. An old guy marvels: "You come a long way, haven't you?" Alvin is making a relatively small journey, but the people he meets on the way instantly grasp how huge it really is. After all, on Alvin's journey even bicycles seem to whiz by at breakneck speed. But at Alvin's pace we can share with him the sheer joy of crossing a bridge over a river. Or we can just gaze at Alvin's face - lit by fire, time and again lit by fire.

Who else but David Lynch could pull this off? And who else would have Angelo Badalamenti do a western score? And make it work?