On the Road

11.01.09

Left: Austin Lynch and Jason S., Interview Project, 2009, still from a color video from a 121-part series, 5 minutes 4 seconds. Mr. Siebert. Right: Austin Lynch and Jason S., Interview Project, 2009, still from a color video from a 121-part series, 3 minutes 37 seconds. Clinton.


IN HIS BOOK Catching the Big Fish (2006), David Lynch qualifies the darkness in his films in relation to his small-town upbringing in Missoula, Montana: “You could be anywhere and see a kind of strangeness in how the world is these days, or have a certain way of looking at things.” To illustrate this point, he recently donned the role of producer and dispatched a crew on a twenty-thousand-mile road trip across America. Led by son Austin Lynch and fellow director Jason S., the group pursued a single imperative: Ask questions.

The resulting 121-part Web series, which premiered on June 1 of this year, posts a new episode every three days, each with an introduction by the elder Lynch. Chronicling the experiences, dreams, and regrets of “ordinary” people, this Interview Project betrays a penetrating yet tender gaze that exposes the sad, bizarre, and comedic but never belittles or fetishizes. Mr. Siebert has been building model trolley cars in his basement for seven decades. Clinton planned suicide but was saved by watching Stevie Nicks on television. Jeremie has orgies to feel more beautiful. Palmer Black just wants to be remembered for his good barbecue. Many of the participants confess their bleakest hours on camera, but even more express a greater hope in God and life’s goodness.

Amid the bevy of on-screen characters, throughout the mini-documentaries it is the road itself that surfaces as one of the most compelling subjects. Signaling the crew’s literal journey, establishing shots of highways and neighborhood streets also come to represent the journey of life—a clichéd metaphor that remains shockingly poignant, repeated by lips that have tasted the bitterness of hardship, addiction, and loss. Though Interview Project is decidedly more Straight Story (1999) than Lost Highway (1997), one can still indulge disquieting Lynchian preoccupations—recalling the roads that send us careening along the time-space continuum to face our inescapable connectedness and the fluidity of our identities.

Cameron Shaw

For more information on The Interview Project click here.