The Grandmother (David Lynch / U.S., 1970):

Surely among the most alarming portrayals of childhood, unaccountably close to Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. Nothing fascinates and frightens David Lynch so much as creation, conception here is literally an underground matter, with cutout cartoons doing the insemination: Man and woman sprout from the earth fully grown and with matching Caligari grins, the offspring appears in the forest floor after a dash of undercranked heavy petting. Domesticity (normalcy, even) is but a makeshift kitchen where Father (Robert Chadwick) drinks and Mother (Virginia Maitland) forces her scraggly mane into curlers; the Boy (Richard White) is chalky and fit into a pint-sized tux, he lies in bed in a black-walled room and awakens in orange-stained sheets, Father rubs his face into the puddle as punishment. The stairway beckons the Boy into the dark, where a rock tagged "seed" is found and tenderly planted -- a watering can produces the rumbles of a storm, the cocoon growls and bleeds until the Grandmother (Dorothy McGinnis) is extracted from it, arduously. The crone offers the Boy tenderness and peace and even encourages a hint of rebellion (he "kills" the monstrous parents in his imagination), but in a world where things decay so readily, goodness is the first to go. Lynch's formative short abounds in gooey ruptures, as befits its poetically grotesque visions of birth, death, transformation and the creative process, not so much channeled from a psyche as brutally expelled out of it. Magritte's Personal Values is called out in a particular transition, Lynch's animation is remembered in Fantastic Planet, the debt to Svankmajer is amply repaid in Little Otik; the penultimate image in the graveyard is a seed of its own, out of which Eraserhead, Blue Velvet and The Straight Story are to grow. Sound design by Alan Splet.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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