About two years ago, Sailor (Nicolas Cage) was stepping out with his girlfriend Lula (Laura Dern) at this club, but as they walked towards the stairs a thug approached him and accused him of having an affair with Lula's mother Marietta (Diane Ladd) - then pulled a knife on him. Sailor may have reacted in self-defence, but he still bashed the man's brains out for which he was sentenced on a charge of manslaughter, yet Lula waited for him and was there at the prison gates when he got out. Not that Marietta was pleased...
1990 was a good year for director David Lynch as his TV series Twin Peaks was the talk of the entertainment world and Wild at Heart won the Palme d'Or at Cannes. But he will always divide opinion, and for everyone praising his stylings there were plenty to lambast him for not making sense or simply being too weird for his own good, and this film polarised the viewers more than most. It was made on a break from Lynch's TV work, and utilised a few of that series' cast, but for all those turned off by what they saw as pointless depravity, this was actually one of his lightest, most optimistic movies.
It was drawn from the writings of Barry Gifford, and you could see what appealed to Lynch with its overheated melodrama and frequent digressions into bizarre anecdotes, gifting the filmmaker with a plethora of vivid images that were his stock in trade. What this was turned out to be the kind of flick Elvis Presley would have made if Lynch had had his way, with Cage, an avowed fan of the King of Rock 'n' Roll himself, making no secret of his approach being somewhere between interpretation and outright impression, even singing a couple of numbers, but where Sailor was placed was on a curious variation of the Yellow Brick Road.
The Wizard of Oz had always appealed to Lynch, and here was his most blatant attempt to conjure up its bright, garish and starry-eyed tone in the context of what in other hands could have been a sundrenched gangster thriller. Once Sailor and Lula hit the road to escape Marietta and the hitman (J.E. Freeman) she has inadvertently set on their trail after feelings of jealousy and bitterness overwhelm her, they encounter all sorts of strangeness, yet it never feels gratuitous, growing out of their survival on a world both romantic and dangerous. Time and again the story returns to the purity of the love they feel for each other proving their salvation.
Not that this is sickly sweet lovey-dovey all the way, and if it ends up that way then you certainly feel Sailor and Lula have earned it and indeed are worth it. A pace that switches from the languid to sharp bursts of activity can be disorienting, but when such anecdotes as the one featuring Crispin Glover as Lula's cousin who dressed as Santa Claus all year round and stuffed cockroaches into his underwear pop up and have you wondering what the hell that has to do with anything, if you respond to this you welcome the random scenes which litter the plot. It was all a matter of texture, as much delighting in saying to the cultists, "Look who's here! It's Freddie Jones on helium/Isabella Rossellini as a blonde/Jack Nance barking/Sheryl Lee as the Good Witch of the North/etc" as it was being caught up in an old time movie idea of a relationship dressed up with violence, swearing and sex. The worst thing you could say about this was it presented Lynch with too many autopilot opportunities, but he was having such fun it was tempting not to care. Music by Angelo Badalamenti.
One-of-a-kind American writer-director and artist. His low budget debut Eraserhead set the trends for his work: surreal, unnerving but with a unique sense of humour. After Mel Brooks offered him The Elephant Man, Dino De Laurentiis gave Lynch Dune to direct, but it was an unhappy experience for him.
Luckily, despite the failure of Dune, De Laurentiis was prepared to produce Lynch's script for Blue Velvet, which has since become regarded as a classic. He moved into television with Twin Peaks and On the Air, but it was with film that he was most comfortable: Cannes winner Wild at Heart, prequel/sequel Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, plot-twisting Lost Highway, the out of character but sweet-natured The Straight Story, the mysterious Mulholland Drive and the rambling, willfully obscure Inland Empire. His return to directing after a long gap with the revival of Twin Peaks on television was regarded as a triumph.