Flashback: The Straight Story (1999)
Hi, I'm Dana Stevens sleeps movie critic, what you're about to hear is a teaser for an episode of flashback my new movies podcast with vanity fair's K, Austin Collins, every two weeks, we're going to be digging into the archives and chatting about some of our favorite older movies. But these episodes are only available in full for slate plus members, dear every episode of flashback and get add reversions of all slate podcasts. You can sign up for slate plus now at slate dot com slash flashback. It's only thirty five dollars for the first year that slate dot com slash flashback. Thanks for listening. Ion data Stephen sleeves, critic, welcome to another episode of clash back, and you slate podcast about films of old or not, so old in this case, this is actually the least old movie. We've talked about yet. Joining me here in the studio is chaos and Collins film critic, get Vanity Fair. Hello cameron. Hi. How's it going pretty well yeah, well, this is your week. So I don't have much to say except to bat at your way. But first, let's talk about what movie we're talking about. And then you can tell us about why this movie is the straight story. The David Lynch directed film from nineteen ninety nine the year that we have posited as the outside edge of age of movies that we will discuss you knows if we'll we'll push that as historical time advances. We're talking, but it's a very unusual David Lynch movie in the context of his career, and we'll get into that. And how it stands out from what we think of as the David Lynch. We can also talk about how it was received in its time. And how it's receptionist changed since then so much to talk about with this movie, actually, really, really. Glad you chose it, but can you talk a bit about why you chose it. And what led you down this path, because I'd never spoken with anyone about the street story before, you know, even a couple of years ago when, when Lynch's revived twin peaks season three project happen. A lot of my friends were watching that Lynch was in the air. We were talking about Mohammed and drive, all of a sudden again, twin peaks. Of course, I had a few conversations about inland empire with people, but I never had a conversation with the straight story because I think a lot of people haven't seen it and don't seem to be aware of it, which is interesting in the context of his career, you know, have more friends, I feel like you've seen wild at heart than the straight story among the heart is a little bit harder to see. It's not streaming whereas the straight story, it is. And I guess, part of the reason that stuck with me that I and I just wanted to talk to someone about it because of how moved I was. Was by this movie, the first time I saw it. I can tell you, exactly when I thought it was extraordinarily win on Alvin straight play by Richard Farnsworth is on the road. And there's that shot that you get every road. Movie of the road markers vying by, you know you're on the road. You're speeding, the world is your to the land is before you the road markers are flying by the camera. And in this movie because he's on a lawnmower you get that shot. But it's slow the road markers slide by they don't fly. I remember being so I saw this move for the for semi before years ago, I was so moved by that because of what it was telling me about Lynch's project here that we were really going to be sympathetic to and subjectively trying to experience with this man is experiencing on this trip to see an estranged brother. I was deeply moved by the, the movie saying the movie is going to slow down to the images are going to change the way. That we make a road movie the way that we come up with visual images for, for that experience is going to be adjusted to the fact that this is an older man who is dying played by an actor who was at the time dying of cancer, just the, the layers of all of that have just really deeply moving to me, and final point, I just wanted to talk to someone about Lynch being moving because this is not the only Lynch film that moves me, but I think this is a good entry way into that conversation because there's no ears being chopped off. DSM. It's a Disney movie. It's the only G movie. He had movie has this is the one that I think we can all talk about. Yeah. You also mentioned last week that we've just talked about so many movies that go to dark places end up either unhappily or just ambiguously in a way, that's probably not going to be good for the main characters, and even though this movie is full of suffering, and impending death. And, you know, all kinds of backstory tragedies there still something essentially humanistic and hopeful about it, which is not something, you can say of many David Lynch movie, and I don't want to turn us into a I m to, I don't want to turn this into a moratorium on David Lynch, feel like that happens. Because he's a filmmaker such an intensely marked style and filmography. It's a little bit like Wes Anderson that every time you talk about a Wes Anderson movie, you have to bring in, you know, whatever your top ten and bottom ten and make it into this whole ranking. And I don't want to go down that direction. But I would like to really briefly get into just how each of us feels about David Lynch now as a filmmaker outside of this movie is he somebody who's one of your formative guys? No, I think he might be. I don't think I've thought of him in those terms because I you know, I came to him with Mohammed drive, and I saw that when I was in college, it was sometime after the movie come out, it was the first movie after this one. Correct. Yes, I after this one, and it was the one that I think for a lot of people if you weren't Arnie on board as of twin peaks and racer head was too, small or too colts. I think Mahala drive was the one that a lot of us sort of sump, it's, you know, it's the one on the best of twenty-first-century lists, I expect to see it there. It's in the sight, and sound poll, you know, it's a it's a new movie that's deeply revered. But I think because of that, and, you know, exploring his other work, of course he is. Really totally shaped my idea of what movies can do. I don't even love all of his movies, and, you know, twin peaks I had its ups and downs in the first two seasons of thirteen. I really like, but I just think that he someone who no matter what he's doing. I want to I want a piece of it. I just need to see it. And you know, it's led me down some places. There's a move. Hip just. Don't care for and will argue about with people. But, but yeah, I think he's that guy for me. Actually, I think he's one of those directors, I, I think when we lose him everyone dies, obviously, it'd be huge. I think for me like American movies will change after Lynch. Yeah. Oh, he's usually hugely important. I don't know that I would name him as one of my guys precisely and that might be because I came of cinematic age started to fix on my guys and gals. Maybe a little bit before he got big Mahala drives me is a movie that I don't revere. But regard is incredibly important, you know, and I feel like this is something that people don't say about while and dry because film critics get very reverential about it. But it was a TV pilot. Right. I mean it was essentially a salvage TV pilot and you can feel that in that movie. I mean it is it alternates between stretches of incredible brilliance. Which is all anybody ever remembers in talks about, like clubs linzie oh. And everything about the romance between the two women. I mean, there's those moments of brilliance, and then there's like long stretches of it that don't really make any sense and seemed to be gesturing at some future, scary thing. Gonna one day make sense. Everything about the office break in that everyone, always forgets about stories, honestly, kind of boring and Justin through getting the pink paint, thrown on him story. I mean I'm not saying all this stuff is bad. But there are just jangling bits of wire sticking out of that movie that never really getting incorporated into the machinery, and I know lots of people love that shaggy nece about it. But that to me is visible result of it having been salvaged from this. I believe ABC pilot was supposed to be wild. That was supposed to be on television, broadcast television. Cannot imagine that. But no, I'm with you. That is one of those weird projects. And I think I mean, the straight story, I think what's interesting about it is that it just does not seem to have any link to. I mean, even if Mahala and drive even if we just divorce it from the TV world is supposed to be a part of it is a part of the world of blue velvet and inland empire in Las highway that, you know, these dark undersides of America, tropes, that are not, not in the street story. But I think the darkest thing about story is mortality, and the possibility of not reconciling before death, which is scarier to me than most things in his other movies. It's also maybe more personal takes place in the mid west. It begins an Iowa where Richard Farnsworth character Alvin straight lives and ends in Wisconsin, where his brother played very briefly by Harry dean Stanton lives. And most of the movie takes place in as you say at this five mile an hour, journey via lawnmower between the two places and Lynch himself is from Missoula Montana, and very much grew up. In that world that he treats with affection, but also with a kind of distance that I want to get into, I mean, the he Vokes with just a few little brush, strokes the world of Laurens Iowa, where Farnsworth character comes from, and you get a sense that it's this strange in a noble place. But also that it's just the most banal and familiar of all possible places, and I can't think of other filmmakers, who get quite that same balance. They might have the same kind of idea. But I don't think that someone gets the weirdness, frankly, quite succinctly as he does pretty much as soon as this movie starts for me as soon as we get that longshot drifting in toward the house, and we're going to hear Alvin straight collapse in his kitchen and then cut away and can take a second to him in the kitchen. Just the arrangement even of that moment, the idea that we're going to slide between these houses, seal them in sunbathing. She goes in she gets like a plate of donuts in cakes, and sits sound and wants to eat and leave their snowball. There's no pulse rate. Right. And in the meantime, a man is collapsed in his kitchen like something incredibly violent like the thought of it is very violent. That's kind of blue velvet beginning. Yeah. Right. Right. The ear and the grass. Absolutely is like that kind of touch. I mean, for me, it makes me think just okay. Why are we doing this this way? And in a good way. But what are we doing with this movie? We don't even know who the guy is yet. And we're doing the singing kind of and hearing the seeing totally, and that's what's so strange about him that he, he makes the familiar seem, so strange. And that's something that I try to put my finger on throughout his work that I really am fascinated by writing grow up in the same place that he did. But I grew up in the suburbs, and it's right about some things in that way. I grew up in New Jersey, New Jersey can be really weird. We got ears in our grass. Do things happen to me in the suburbs near my house. Crazy. They're totally be fit for Lynch movie. It's wild. He understands something about Americana in that way. To listen to the full episode sign up for slate plus at slate dot com slash flashback.