It’s 3 p.m.! Let The A.V. Club briefly make use of the waning hours of your productivity with some pop culture ephemera pulled from the depths of YouTube.
Despite the mainstream popularity of his film and TV work, David Lynch has always seemed like an outsider. Nothing he makes (barring, perhaps, The Elephant Man and Dune) feels like it was created with commercial success and popular acclaim in mind. Whether or not this is true—artists, after all, gotta eat—is impossible to say, and it’s sort of besides the point. No matter what he does, Lynch does it his way.
There’s no better example of this, T-shirt and drinks businesses included, than the commercials he’s made over the last few decades.
Lynch has acted as an unlikely salesman for everything from Alka-Seltzer tablets and PlayStation 2 game consoles to high-end clothing brands and the New York Department Of Sanitation. The above video, put together by Jeff Keeling, compiles the bulk of this work, giving you a thorough look into an alternative reality where TV commercials are directed not only to advertise stuff, but also be a total delight to watch for their own sake.
Some are off-kilter versions of what you’d expect: some unusually stirring Armani and Yves Saint Laurent promos as well as a set of Japanese ads where special agent Dale Cooper investigates a missing woman and enthusiastically spreads the gospel of Georgia Coffee to Twin Peaks’ supporting cast along the way. (She’s eventually found, remarkably unscathed, inside The Red Room.)
The others are a bit less predictable. There’s a series of Calvin Klein commercials named for famous authors, including one grimly hilarious clip called “Ernest Hemingway” where an underwear model cries in bed as a narrator monologues about starvation. There’s a nightmarish spot introducing Michael Jackson’s album Dangerous with lots of unnervingly flat, early ‘90s CGI surrounding a globe with Jackson’s face stretched across. There’s that aforementioned Department Of Sanitation ad, which hums with sinister, industrial sounds as black-and-white footage shows people carelessly throwing garbage on the streets and rats emerge from the city’s sewers. Don’t litter, Lynch reminds you, and threatens the point home through menacing close-ups of diseased-looking rodent teeth, snaking tails, and clawed paws. Some are just straight-up, completely surreal Lynch shorts, repurposed for use by Sony, Sci-Fi Channel, and Parisienne brand cigarettes. (“Lady Blue Shanghai,” for instance, is a full 15 minutes, stars Marion Cotillard, and was produced for Dior.)
We strongly encourage you to watch the entire collection. Would you want to miss a pasta commercial scored with synthetic carnival music in which Gérard Depardieu soothes a girl who trips and falls by making her lunch? What about an Adidas ad that communicates a long-distance runner’s perseverance by having the camera zoom inside his skull to show lightning bolts, fires, and scorpions while he screams in agony? You’ll never look at your running shoes, heartburn medicine, or perfume the same way again.