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Oscar B presents … Fucking Dumb: David Lynch’s Dumbland *

* (restored)

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Dumbland is a crude, stupid, violent, absurd series. If it is funny, it is funny because we see the absurdity of it all. David Lynch

Contents:

1. What is Dumbland?

2. Episodes

3. David Lynch’s take on animation

4. A positive review by David Shrigley

5. A negative review by Steve

6. Sisyphus and Suburbia: A Contextual Study of David Lynch’s Dumbland
Dadaist Animation by David Durnell

7. Further links

 

1. What is Dumbland?

Dumbland is a series of eight crudely animated shorts written, directed, and voiced by director David Lynch in 2002. The shorts were originally released on the Internet through Lynch’s website, and were released as a DVD in 2005. The total running time of all eight shorts combined is approximately a half hour.

The series details the daily routines of a dull-witted white trash man. The man lives in a house along with his frazzled wife and squeaky-voiced child, both of whom are nameless as is the man in the shows. Lynch’s website, however, identifies the male character by the name Randy and the child by the name Sparky. The wife is not named.

The style of the series is intentionally crude both in terms of presentation and content, with limited animation. (Wikipedia)

 

2. Episodes

 

Episode 1: The Neighbor

Randy makes small talk with a neighbor about the neighbor’s shed. After the neighbor mentions that he has a false arm, they are interrupted by a passing helicopter. Randy swears and screams at the helicopter until it leaves, then mentions that he has heard the neighbor has sex with ducks. A duck emerges from the shed, and the neighbor admits that he is a “one-armed duck-fucker”.

 

Episode 2: The Treadmill

While watching a football game on TV, Randy loses his temper when his wife disturbs him by running on a noisy treadmill. Randy attempts – with disastrous results – to destroy the treadmill. Meanwhile, an Abraham Lincoln-quoting door-to-door salesman finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time, while Randy’s son manages to present dead fowl for dinner.

 

Episode 3: The Doctor

After Randy shocks himself while trying to fix a broken lamp, a doctor arrives to test the dazed man’s pain threshold, using increasingly violent methods, until Randy finally regains his senses and decides to do some testing of his own.

 

Episode 4: A Friend Visits

Randy destroys his wife’s new clothesline and throws it over the fence, causing a catastrophic car wreck. Then Randy’s friend visits and the two talk about hunting and killing things, all the while drinking, burping, and farting.

 

Episode 5: Get the Stick!

A screaming man crashes through Randy’s fence with a wooden stick wedged in his mouth. Sparky cheers his dad on as he tries to get the stick out. Randy breaks the man’s neck and pokes out both of his eyes before finally pulling the stick through one of his eye sockets. The horribly mutilated man rolls out into the street and is run over by a truck. Randy notes, “The fucker never even said ‘thank you’.”

 

Episode 6: My Teeth are Bleeding

Sparky is bouncing on a trampoline in the front room yelling that his teeth are bleeding, while the wife yammers until blood starts pouring out of her head. Outside on the street violent traffic accidents and shootouts occur. A noisy and bloody wrestling match is playing on TV. All is well until a fly interrupts Randy’s serene existence.

 

Episode 7: Uncle Bob

Randy is given the charge from an intimidating figure (his mother-in-law), to stay home and watch after his “Uncle Bob” at peril of having his “nuts cut out” if he does not comply. Uncle Bob proceeds to tacitly engage in increasing types of self-abuse, coughing, and vomiting, and eventually punching Randy in the face from across the room. After several iterations of this behavior, Randy anticipates Uncle Bob’s actions and preemptively strikes out at him. Almost simultaneously, the mother-in-law storms back into the room and knocks Randy through a wall. Randy spends the rest of the night up a tree until his son informs him that Uncle Bob has been taken to the hospital and Randy is now safe to come down. Bob bit his own foot off.

 

Episode 8: Ants

Randy is plagued by an increasing stream of ants into his home. His frustrations rise to the point that he grabs a can of insect killer and attempts to eliminate his ant problem. In his haste and anger, he fails to realize that the nozzle on the bug killer is pointed not at the ants but at his own face. He is squirted in the face with the killer for several seconds. He then falls to the ground and experiences a vivid hallucination in which the ants are singing and dancing and offering gleeful taunts of “asshole”, “shithead”, and “dumb-turd”. Randy eventually snaps out of his predicament and charges at the ants slapping at them on the floor, wall, and ceiling. He is later shown falling off the ceiling and suffering substantial injuries that require a full body cast. The final scene shows ants crawling over his incapacitated body and into an opening in the cast at his feet. Randy then screams helpless in agony as hundreds of ants march into his body cast. The most complex of the episodes, “Ants” parodies Lynch’s attempts at being a music producer in the early 1990s by featuring a singer who resembles Julee Cruise and music similar to that of composer Angelo Badalamenti (both of whom Lynch worked with on the soundtrack to Twin Peaks as well as the concert film Industrial Symphony No. 1).

 

3. David Lynch’s Take on Animation

“Animation is a magical thing to me. I veered off pretty quickly into live action, but I like animation, and I like Flash.”

“I think every type of medium gives you different ideas. So when you see the Flash program, it just starts talking to you. So ideas start coming along. It reminds me of early film – there’s something about it that makes your imagination kick in.”

“There’s a funky quality. You have these still pictures and when you kick the ‘go’ button, they start making movement. And it’s kind of amazing how with line drawings – and even bad line drawings – characters come alive. Sound plays a big role in that, but even silently they still work.”

“It takes me forever to do these simple animations,” says Lynch noting that many filmmakers take advantage of the tweening abilities of Flash to avoid extra work. “It kills me! I wish I was doing something so simple. I have this guy getting up off the ground and it took me three hours just to get him to stand up. There are 21 different drawings there! Sometimes with the program you can use beautiful shortcuts, but sometimes you have to draw it frame by frame. So it’s a combo, and it takes me about 60 hours to do just three minutes of the drawings, and it takes two or three days to mix it.”

Lynch does all the voices for the animation himself as he’s working. “I have a little mirror,” he says, explaining that he uses it to get the right facial contortions for his characters as they speak. “And I have a box – it’s as big as this coffee cup and just about as expensive. There are little artifacts in the voice, so for some things this box is perfect. I’m interested in real time voice manipulation – I want to sing like John Lee Hooker and I want to do it in real time.”

 

4. A positive review by David Shrigley

The genius of David Lynch’s Dumbland
David Lynch’s internet cartoon is weird, violent and full of farting – and that’s exactly why I love it
David Shrigley
The Guardian, Friday 24 July 2009

For me, David Lynch is a humourist. The works that Lynch is most famous for – Eraserhead, The Elephant Man, Blue Velvet, Twin Peaks – have a distinct seam of comedy running through them: a dark one, but comedy nonetheless. Dumbland, a series of eight short animations originally broadcast on Lynch’s website, illustrates this aspect of Lynch’s art. Dumbland concerns the domestic travails of a three-toothed thug (who, according to davidlynch.com, is named Randy), and his distressed wife and son. Randy is a heavy-set and ill-groomed man with a foul mouth, a short fuse and a propensity for violence. His wife seems to be perpetually in the midst of a mental breakdown – she emits a constant quiet scream. The son is the least rendered of the three, appearing solely as an outline with eyes, nose and mouth. All Randy’s activities are weird, violent and profane, and there is a lot of very loud farting.

While the animations are as crude as can be (all are drawn on screen with a mouse) and a lot of the action seemingly juvenile, the films still bear unmistakable Lynch hallmarks: sparse dialogue, heavy ambient sound, a general sense of surreal disquiet, characters with ambiguous motives. Even if Dumbland’s visual appearace suggests comedy, the events portrayed are genuinely disturbing. For example, episode five tells the story of a man who falls through the fence in Randy’s yard and gets a stick caught in his mouth. In trying to placate his son, who is pleading for him to “Get the stick! Get the stick!”, Randy breaks the man’s neck, gouges out both of his eyes and partially cripples him before watching him get run over a truck. Randy then delivers the punchline: “The fucker never even said thank you.”

Lynch created Dumbland entirely alone: animating, voicing the characters and creating the soundtrack at home in front of his computer. Apparently each three-minute episode took him some 10 days to create, making the whole piece quite an undertaking for such an apparently modest project. As with most internet animation, Dumbland uses Flash, and Lynch says that the intuitive, DIY nature of this software recaptured the spirit of his initial forays into animation as a film student. You can even suppose that Lynch has recreated the style of his early animations by treating the film with what people are familiar with such things call a “boil”: each image is drawn several times and overlaid so that static images appear to move, or boil. This effect mimics old-fashioned hand-drawn animation – the opposite of what Dumbland actually is.

For the record, I don’t do any of my own animation; I tell myself that this task is better delegated to a professional animator who works from my original drawings. But in truth I find the fact that Lynch actually put in this amount of graft slightly intimidating. Added to that is the fact that he actually knows how to use the software, whereas I don’t have a clue. Apart from Lynch having made every aspect of the entire series himself, the thing that is really appealing about Dumbland is that it is evidence of a great artist amusing himself, a project that he just sat down and did for the fun of it without worrying about how it would be received. It is unselfconsciously daft. Perhaps a good thing if you’ve just struggled through Inland Empire.

 

5. A Negative Review by Steve Anderson

“Dumbland” DVD Review
By Steve Anderson
zero stars

David Lynch isn’t exactly famous for making sense.

This is, after all, the guy who stuck Robocop into a series of baffling events involving hallucinogenic bug killer, typewriters built from insect carcasses, and massive governmental conspiracies engineered by enormous bugs in the midst of Islamic ports.

Based on the novel written by a former heroin addict.

So naturally, it should not come as even a lick of surprise that David Lynch’s overall body of work is just mind-boggling. And the mind continues to be boggled in “Dumbland.”

Though for a totally different set of reasons.

“Dumbland” is the excruciating story of a violent, abusive troglodyte of a man living in suburbia and the events that comprise his thoroughly pointless God-I-wish-they’d-all-just-get-hit-by-a-meteor-to-preserve-the-gene-pool life.

And when I say thoroughly pointless, I damn well MEAN thoroughly pointless. This movie’s alleged plot revolves around farting, child abuse, spousal abuse, farting, screaming obscenities at poorly rendered helicopters, weird sexual appetites involving ducks, and farting.

There is a LOT of farting going on in “Dumbland.” I don’t recall this much farting in “Beavis and Butthead Do America”, and that movie treated farting like a minor religious experience (remember the desert?).

“Dumbland” is the single longest half-hour I’ve spent watching a movie in some time. Every minute felt like three, and every minute felt like a hook in my skin. I found myself agreeing with Lynch’s own perception of the film: “‘Dumbland’ is a crude, stupid, violent and absurd series. If it is funny, it is funny because we see the absurdity of it all.” I agree totally. The sad part is, despite the absurdity, it’s STILL not that funny.

If there is television in hell, then “Dumbland” is what’s on. This is Thursdays at nine, right after “Richard Nixon’s Laugh-In,” but before “Cooking the Cajun Way! with Judas Iscariot.”

I don’t walk into a David Lynch movie expecting things to make sense, but I don’t think it’s too much to ask to expect a plot more coherent than “some guy too stupid to live does a lot of stuff and eventually gets his in the end.” And he does, too.

The ending gives us a lovely comeuppance for this pig-stupid throwback as he’s both beaten by relatives and a line of ants crawls into his full body cast.

All in all, avoid this monstrousity. Avoid it at all costs. “Dumbland” is exactly as advertised, and unless you’re in a mood to waste half an hour on some of the worst drivel put on DVD plastic, you will regret putting this one in your player.

I did.

 

6. Sisyphus and Suburbia: A Contextual Study of David Lynch’s Dumbland
Dadaist Animation by David Durnell

An Introduction to David Lynch and his animated series Dumbland

The last thing most would expect from any three-decade auteur would be the sudden, inexplicable release of a crude, vulgar, and satirical flash-animated comedy series focused unflinchingly upon the obscure goings on of a frighteningly bizarre über-dysfunctional family –but of course, David Lynch is not the average auteur. Staying well-grounded in his self-reflexive themes and motifs –though giddy in his surreal, playful and crass romp through the stereotypes of Americana dynamic– Lynch has released an eight episode animated series appositely and bluntly entitled Dumbland. The series is certainly a work of absurdity, chronicling with zeal the hyper-violent banality of a Neanderthalian alpha-male named Randy, who terrorizes his family, neighbors, and himself, all remaining perpetually enveloped in the meaninglessness and repetition of the suburban everyday and framed within Lynch’s blackly absurd comic lens. Though the series remains rooted in Lynch’s characteristic surrealism, it plunges vastly beyond most Lynch films in its puerile humor and crudeness of medium –all of which deceptively mask the real grit of Lynch’s message: a skewering of the rotted and dysfunctional nature of the American nuclear family– a family immersed in banality, and drowning in absurdity –left only to violently self-destruct. Similar to themes explored in his short film The Grandmother, and in his films Eraserhead, Blue Velvet, and Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me –all of which containing intense and nightmarish studies of the family dynamic– Lynch wishes yet again to examine the nature of absurdity, violence, and primitivism in the human condition, as well as in the family structure, using his characteristic flawless sound design, nightmarish slapstick violence, and esoteric Dadaist character behavior, with an episodic pacing and a very enjoyable disregard for any sort of polite restraint.

It is of course, however, no surprise that most critics –ranging from Lynch cult fans to structuralist cinephiles– totally miss the point of the series’ much necessary raison d’être. While structuralists attack the “crudeness” and alleged “pointlessness” of the series, using the infamous accusation of “weirdness for weirdness’ sake,” supposed Lynch fans simply relish in that alleged “reasonless weirdness,” without care or respect to any sort of real artistry or social commentary. Both camps of critical reception seem to be oblivious to the true brilliance and intensity at work here, and even more oblivious to the message, as well as Lynch’s origins: the Camus-inspired Theatre of the Absurd, the movements of Dada and Anti-Art, and the overall surrealism Lynch is perfecting, following of course in the footsteps of Buñuel and Dali. There is a lot of progression, sincerity, satire, and stark beauty in Lynch’s work –all of which impatiently ignored by critics, under the pretense of “incomprehensibility.” Lynch, however, is strikingly personal when it comes to his work –work that is more often than not extremely self-reflexive– and refuses to let any critic own his interpretation, challenging them to find their own: a radical post-structuralism and audience-trust that should be greatly appreciated, though, unfortunately, results in frustration from those who want immediate answers and understanding to everything they see –a rather languid characteristic very frustrating to the responsible cinephile. Notoriously cagey and hesitant in press conferences, Lynch remains resistant to the culture’s demand to have an easy explanation for everything, opting always to work with intuitional narratives versus logical –a rather eastern and patient approach that reflects his admiration for transcendental meditation– and refusing to fill up those beautiful pockets of vacuous ambiguity with “language” and stilted words. For to Lynch, words can never be film –and they shouldn’t try.

But Lynch’s work is by no means as esoteric as enervated audiences would have one believe. If an individual would just feel Lynch’s work versus trying to deconstruct it, new possibilities would abound, because Lynch likes to roam the hidden, layered lusts and evils of the subconscious, and certainly the meta-conscious, not simply explain them away with turgidity. Often, these pockets of ambiguous horror remain –linger– even after being filmed, which is a beautiful and stunning experience to take part in.

Read more here

http://www.offscreen.com/biblio/pages/essays/sisyphus_and_suburbia/

 

7. Further Links

http://thecityofabsurdity.com/digitalmedia/dumbland.html

http://dvd.ign.com/articles/726/726590p1.html

http://www.lynchnet.com/dumbland/
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*

p.s. Hey. Given that David Lynch is a hot topic du jour for the obvious reasons and given that no one seems to be talking about this odd, older project of his, I thought I would try slipping the blog into the zeitgeist courtesy of Oscar B’s old, until recently dead presentation of Lynch’s project in question, i.e. ‘Dumbland’. Enjoy! ** Armando, Hi. Oh, that sucks when that happens. I forgot to refresh pre-posting. apparently. It’s true that there is a ton of stuff hidden in ‘TMS’. That story at the bottom of the Encoded post has a lot of really weird twists and turns. Nightmares, sorry, man. That’s why I’m happy that I’m lucky if I remember a dream I’ve had twice a year maybe. I hope your day is wonderful and surprises you. ** David Ehrenstein, Ha. ** Steve Erickson, How awesome that he loved what you wrote so much! How ultimate is that! While Earth was a big influence on Sunn0))), they’re really very different. Sunn0))) is about a millions more dynamic for one thing. To me. Sort of like The Strangers vs. The Doors. Yeah, I’m curious about the Husker Du box, for sure, even though I too am less into the earliest of their work. HD is seriously, seriously due for a big reissue program. It’s ridiculous that that has happened. I wonder what SST’s problem is. I’ll go have a listen/peek at that Mdou Moctar album. I don’t think I know his work unless I’m spacing, although I did hear about that ‘Purple Rain’ redo. ** Dóra Grőber, Hi! I started to look at SCAB, and it’s super great. I might have to wait until the weekend to really delve because the sound work is proving to be really taxing on my brain. Sure, on Friday or Saturday is good. Like I said, I’ll set it up and give it a good slot as soon as I get it. Fantastic! My day was sound, sound, sound. All good. It’s very slow and meticulous work. Right now we’re doing a first pass to clean everything up before we start adding things, so yesterday involved a lot of careful hunting for stray noises (creaks, coughs, clicks, loud birds, etc.) and removing them. I think we should have everything ready for Sundance. Zac, who’s the far more tech savvy of our duo, was charged with getting the stuff online and to our producer so he can make the official submission before today ends. Fingers very crossed. How did your day turn out, my pal? ** Kier, Kier! We have three weeks of sound editing scheduled. It’s possible that we might have to extend that for a day or three, but hopefully not. I can’t wait for you to see it too, wow! Yeah, as soon as I next see our producer, I will tell him about the Oslo thing and see if that’s something we can do. I don’t know what his strategy about the film is. We’re due a big meeting with him. But hopefully we can! Oh, maybe something there to do with my lit, whoa! You’re making me long for everything. The scene where Roman adds to your drawings went great, I think. First he’s making violent lines on a drawing for a while, and then he carries the notebook to the mirror and compares himself to a drawing while talking to his sister, then he sits down and scribbles/adds to another drawing while talking to his sister, and then he fucks up and glues the pages together. The notebook is also seen importantly in an earlier scene too. It’s pretty key. I hope you like how it all turned out. We’re super satisfied and thrilled. That’s so great of your friend Christine. That’s so cool. Friendship is the ultimate. I hope the scary medical appointment isn’t anywhere near as scary as you fear. I’ll look up the Darby English book, cool. My day was entirely spent in the sound studio. It was good, slow but steady. Bene came in and rerecorded two of her lines for the head banging scene, and we’ll dub them in soon. All is excellent. Have a superb day! What happened? ** _Black_Acrylic, Hey, hey. Yeah, like I said, Walter Abish has become barely discussed since his early 80s heyday, and I’m not sure why. I’ll try to get ahold of that Friedrich Reck-Malleczewen book. Thanks for mentioning it! ** Jeff J, Hi, Jeff. I hope your family meet up is going well. Well, the kind of work Abish was doing isn’t really in vogue now, I guess, although other post-modernists of his generation are still noted. I guess it’s partly to do with how rarely he publishes? I think ‘HGIT’ is his most recent novel. That’s the only Abish novel I’ve read. I think there are two others, both earlier. Excited about your revising and its bigness, revision-lover that I am. Not sure when Sundance announces. I think the general deadline is next month, but I guess our film is being submitted in some category that has an earlier one. Good day! ** Misanthrope, Hm, I don’t know. I like his work, and I’m a Frenchie, so that would make sense? Cool that all the Americans made it inside. It must be a little hard being Venus. ** New Juche, Hi. Oh, no problem, I was probably overly vague. I haven’t started the Winkler yet. It might be my companion on a train ride I have to take his weekend. Your trajectory with his work is extremely interesting. That will somehow color my reading of him in a contributory way, which urges me closer in his work’s direction. If that sentence makes any sense. Thanks, Joe! Enjoy your day utterly! ** Okay. Spend some time with Lynch/Oscar today, okay? Cool. See you tomorrow.

9 Comments

  1. David Ehrenstein

    September 7, 2017 at 2:56 pm

    I’m well aware of the fact that this is a minority opinion but I’ve had it with David Lynch. The “Twin Peaks’ reboot was bloody awful. When one arbitrary thing after another piles up like a 10 car wreck on the I-5 we are no longer dealing with surrealism. Surrealism is deliberate and has an internal logic — as John Asbery’s work on Raymond Roussel shows. Lynch is simply trotting out a series of painfully familiar tropes: hissing machines, sudden screams, blank looks and Kyle Maclachlin being inert and tiresome.

  2. I find it funny how Steve Anderson’s critique of DUMBLAND thinks Lynch directed Cronenberg’s NAKED LUNCH!

    I’ve basically given control of post-production on THIS WEEK TONIGHT to my editor, although I’ve given her a list of what takes I preferred as I watched the shoot. She keeps sending me rough cuts – the next one should come tomorrow – and I tell her what I think and where she should go from here. I realize I’m ceding a certain amount of control over the film, but I don’t have the patience to sit in front of her computer with her, and given that she’s a college student who is now editing my film full-time, she’s doing this on evenings and weekends.

    I’m interviewing RAT FILM director Theo Anthony today, then watching MARJORIE PRIME again and writing a review for Cineaste magazine. I have lots to say about it, but the prospect of writing a 2,000 word review is intimidating.

    Steve

  3. Awesome! I love Dumbland and haven’t thought about it in a long time so it’s super fun to have a reminder. Such a great series. Lynch is so great. I kind of never get the Lynchian tag when it’s attached to anyone else’s art because really there’s no one else who can do what he does. Great timing as I’m already missing Twin Peaks, which for me has been some of the best stuff I’ve seen in years. The series for me has been so hugely expansive and heavy. It’s been the highlight of my week for the last few months. Thanks Bene!

    Hope you’re good, Dennis. Exciting about the Sundance submission! I’ve been back at work this week – a total joy to catch up with some of the amazing and inspiring kids who I’m privileged to work with.

    I should finish the editing of my new poetry book this weekend all being well. It’s a strange structure but I think it should turn out quite close to how I’d hoped.

  4. Here’s my review of the Dardenne brothers’ latest and weakest film, THE UNKNOWN GIRL: http://gaycitynews.nyc/doctors-conscience/. Incidentally, this is the film I had to download Chrome to watch on my laptop because its distributor’s website is so messed up for streaming video (and the only actual press screening its publicist scheduled was well after my deadline).

  5. Ha! The “negative review” of Dumbland confuses David Lynch with David Cronenberg. Maybe a joke?

  6. @ Oscar, I must have missed this post first time around, and it’s helped ease my current Twin Peaks withdrawal so thank you for that.

    @ New Juche, I was late to your comment last night but yeah, that Reck-Malleczewen is a great book alright. Sad to say it now seems quite timely too.

  7. Did you finish the film in time for the deadline?

  8. Steve Anderson isn’t exactly famous for knowing that David Cronenberg and David Lynch are different directors.

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