Shout! Factory Has Fired Up David Lynch’s ‘Wild at Heart’ on Blu-ray

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This whole world’s wild at heart and weird on top.

The quote above spoken by Laura Dern’s Lula in David Lynch’s Wild at Heart is nearly a perfect summation of Lynch’s oeuvre as a filmmaker. Evil and weirdness coexist without explanation in our own world, as they do in the cinematic worlds crafted by Lynch. Because evil and oddity converge in Lynch’s films without explanation, people like to think that acclaimed filmmaker is crafting enigmas that need to be deciphered in order to be understood. With his reluctance to provide any concrete answers about the ambiguity of his films, Lynch only adds fuel to this fire about his work. Finally available on Blu-ray thanks to a new edition from Shout! Factory, Wild at Heart proves that Lynch is not crafting riddles at 24 frames per second but crafting unique cinematic experiences where weirdness and evil coexist. Within the Lynch’s work lie extremes of opposite ends – the grotesque and the gorgeous dancing together in a ballet that tip toes between realism and surrealism.

Wild at Heart sees Lynch’s adaptint the novel of the same name by author Barry Gifford. It focuses on two young lovers, Sailor (Nicolas Cage) and Lula (Dern), who are practically star-crossed. In true Lynchian fashion, the story of Sailor and Lula is rife with fiery passion and extremely brutal, ugly violence. In the world that Lynch and Gifford bring to the screen, the love between Sailor and Lula is incredibly strong, like a powerful bond forged by mystical forces. However, there’s a flip side to that connection in the form of Lula’s mother Marietta (Diane Ladd), who schemes and conspires to find any way to keep her daughter away from her love. The film begins with Marietta’s nefarious scheming resulting in Sailor’s arrest for manslaughter, as he brutally beats Bob Ray Lemon (Gregg Dandridge) to death after Marietta paid the gangster to kill Sailor. This is the first major obstacle in the love story of Sailor and Lula, one of many to follow.

Reunited after a stint in prison for manslaughter, Lula presents Sailor with his cherished snakeskin jacket, which he likes to say is “a symbol of my individuality and belief in personal freedom.” With his new freedom, Sailor decides to abandon the conditions of his parole and hit the road with Lula. Little does the passionate couple know that Marietta is scheming to keep the two apart. At first, Marietta sends Johnnie Farragut (Harry Dean Stanton), a private eye who is hopelessly in love with Marietta, to bring Lula back to her home in North Carolina. Little does Johnnie know that Marietta isn’t done scheming and arranges for the brutal gangster Marcello Santos (J.E. Freeman) to track down Sailor and kill him, and the gangster wants to kill Johnnie as a bonus to his blood work.

Sailor and Lula make their way west and find themselves in the company of Perdita Durango (Isabella Rossellini), an old friend of Sailor who has an old agreement that each would alert one another to any contracts on their lives. However, Sailor doesn’t know that Perdita has broken this agreement. Hiding out in a dusty little town of Big Tuna, Texas, Sailor and Lula encounter Bobby Peru (Willem Dafoe), a sleazy former Marine with spectacularly bad teeth. This menacing figure reminds Lula of past trauma and eventually coerces Sailor into taking part in a daring daylight robbery.

One motif that Lynch prominently inserts into Wild at Heart is fire, and he’s not operating with any subtlety with his use of roaring flames. The credits roll as a fire rages. The camera zooms in intently on the lit cherry of a cigarette. The flashbacks to Lula’s father, killed when set ablaze with kerosene. The fire represents two distinct aspects of the story. One, a fiery passion between the two lovers, a flame that lights the way and provides heat. The other, a destructive force that levels buildings and takes lives. Lynch makes sure to inject the visuals of the film with lots of red to further emphasize the hot and fiery nature of the film.

Another motif that pops up throughout Wild at Heart is a twisted slice of Americana that comes through in two distinct pop culture influences – Elvis Presley and The Wizard of Oz. Of course, Nicolas Cage has been obsessed with Elvis for most of his adult life, and in Sailor he’s able to bring that obsession to his character. One of my favorite scenes in the film is when Sailor and Lula are at a heavy metal concert and a misunderstanding leads to the threat of violence. Upon the defusing of the situation, Sailor asks for the microphone which is promptly placed in his hand and sings Elvis’ “Love Me” as the metal band settles into the Presley classic without missing a beat. The classic of The Wizard of Oz finds itself referenced more than once, such as when Lula frantically taps her red slippers together in the hopes of being transported away from an increasingly creepy Bobby Peru. At the film’s conclusion, when it looks like another joyous reunion between Lula and Sailor, he pushes her away to go strike it out on his own. It’s only after a slight beating by some ruffians that the Good Witch (Sheryl Lee) appears in a vision, convincing the beaten and dejected Sailor to find his love. He does and serenades her with Elvis’ “Love Me Tender” as the camera swirls and the credits roll. This brings about the rarest of occurrences in a David Lynch film – a happy ending.

The new Blu-ray for Wild at Heart brings an HD transfer of the film to home audiences for the first time ever. The disc boasts a new interview with author Barry Gifford, where the writer is quite candid about his thoughts on the movie and the changes that Lynch made to his novel. (Spoiler alert: He likes it.) The other special features have been moved over from the previous DVD edition of the film, including over an hour of deleted and extended scenes. There are a few featurettes on the film, such as a vintage making of documentary and retrospective featurette where the cast and crew reflect on the Palme D’or-winning film.

Wild at Heart is a Lynchian take on the American love story, an outlaw romance in the mold of They Live by Night but with the twisted sensibilities that Lynch has been brining to the screen since Eraserhead. It’s not a mystery at what Lynch is going for in the film – it’s right there on the screen with his repeated use of fire. There’s nothing to be deciphered. It’s a story of passions that create and passions that destroy and their inevitable collision. Lynch brings forth a world where evil and weirdness coexist, the two being these obstacles that arise in the way of a romance unlike any other. Lynch fans have been clamoring for far too long for Wild at Heart to land on Blu-ray, and thanks to Shout! Factory our prayers have been answered in a new edition that symbolizes the film’s individuality and belief in personal freedom.

Wild at Heart
  • Overall Score
5

Summary

A unique romance engulfed in fiery passion and destructive flames, David Lynch’s Wild at Heart makes its long-awaited Blu-ray debut thanks to a new edition from Shout! Factory.

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