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Cult Movie Essentials: The Elephant Man (1980)

People are frightened by what they don’t understand

An incredible film that so many more people need to watch, it’s another one of those ‘ladder’ films that churns your insides through empathy for the main character.  It was written (adapted screenplay) and directed by the one and only David Lynch. The elephant was nominated for a number of Oscars including best director, best actor in a leading role and best adapted screenplay. The fact that Hurt didn’t win best actor and Lynch didn’t win best director and screenplay is a travesty. Anthony Hopkins wasn’t even nominated for his supporting role and it’s by far one of his finest and subtlest performances. None more so apparent than after you watch this film.

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I was surprised to learn that Mel Brooks exec produced… Mel Brooks. He did not want his name in the credits for the very reason I have just demonstrated. This is a very serious and incredibly sad true story and Mel didn’t want his reputation as the ‘satire king’ to hamper these aspects. Mr Brooks insisted on shooting in black and whiteand more importantly made sure he had Lynch, who was working as a roofer at the time (random), to adapt and direct.  Well played Mel, well played.

David Lynch is my favourite director of all time. Although I have enjoyed other directors films more, for example John Carpenter, for obvious reasons. There is also the legend that is Francis Ford Coppola. People seem to have forgotten what Coppola did – the fact that he was solely responsible for finding, making or helping an almighty comeback for so many actors (Brando you ungrateful bastard).

People also forget that he was again solely responsible for convincing his studio to take a chance on the talented Steven Spielberg and the less talented George Lucas in 1971 on their first main features of their careers. All of this on top of making some truly ground breaking and timeless classics. If you get a chance take a look at the documentary Hearts of Darkness made by Coppola’s wife about the perils and nightmares of the two year plus long filming of Apocalypse Now. This documentary truly is something to behold. Like I said Brando you ungrateful bastard!!!

Lynch in my mind is the greatest visionary director there has ever been. As shown beautifully in the elephant man and most of his other films. He has this ability to instil terror in the viewer without the use of gore, surprise or even musical score. Lynch manages to produce this terror just by using the camera and the actor. Which in my opinion is the purest form of directing you can watch.

It’s purely the skill of the director and the actor and nothing else. I watched surveillance by his daughter Jennifer Lynch and Jesus is that girl a chip off the old block. The Elephant Man is a very deep, cruel, sad and vindictive story of how disgusting the human race can be. You will cry, usually when Hopkins does, at the softness and kindness of John Hurt’s Merrick.  An absolute must watch!!

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