Could the creation of a shared ‘flavour language’ help us communicate what we smell?
As a frenzied Bill Pullman drove into the night and the credits to Lost Highway began to roll, there was a sharp intake of breath next to me. ‘Ok then,’ said my partner. ‘So what the f**k was that all about?’
It’s a fair question, one you could justifiably ask at the end of almost all of David Lynch’s works. From the nightmare vision of Eraserhead to his biggest popular success, Twin Peaks (now back on our television screens), Lynch’s filming is typically and deliberately opaque.
It doesn’t help that the director consistently refuses to explain or, when he does, frequently contradicts himself. Sometimes – as when asked about the blue box that is the fulcrum of Mulholland Drive – Lynch says he doesn’t know the answer himself. Given his stream-of-consciousness approach to film-making, that may even be true.
Mystery man: David Lynch has never been keen to explain his films (Photo: Chris Saunders)
My approach to watching Lynch: don’t actively try to make sense of it; concentrate, but relax; let the film wash over you and, once it’s over, ask yourself the most important question of all: did you enjoy it?
This suspension of conventional critical faculties is oddly liberating, and there’s still plenty of time afterwards to analyse, theorise and come up with your own personal answer to that ‘what the f**k’ question.
To one person, Lost Highway is about wish fulfilment and the monsters of the Id; to another, it’s an exploration of the unreliability of memory; to a third, it’s an impenetrably pretentious pile of crap.
Lynch’s refusal to explain shifts the burden from him to us: we have to form our own impressions and theories for what we’ve just seen. ‘It’s my creative vision,’ he seems to be saying, ‘but you’ve got to do the work and decide what it’s about, and what it means for you.’ Not so much audience participation as audience responsibility.
I’d love to see philosophy applied to whisky tastings. All too often, the host is telling us what flavours we’ll ‘get’ before our glasses have even been filled – the infuriating whisky equivalent to David Lynch nudging you throughout a screening of Blue Velvet and saying: ‘You’ll like this bit.’
Then, once things are opened up to the floor, the competitive sport that is tasting note oneupmanship takes over. Everyone’s so busy trying to describe the precise tropical fruit flavour in their whisky that they’ve forgotten to notice whether they actually like it or not.
Just because formal tastings have a quasi-academic format and atmosphere, that doesn’t mean the pleasure factor should be altogether discounted. Far from that, shouldn’t it come first?
Do I like it? Why do I like it? Then: what do others think? We might all want to address the question ‘what the f**k was that all about?’, but the answer surely has to begin in our own heads.
- The truth about peated whisky and phenols
- Ardbeg Twenty Something marks dark days
- Bourbon takes 2018 Whisky Bible crown
- Dalmore sells £1m Paterson Collection
- Does it matter where whisky is matured?
- Glengoyne 30 Year Old earns limited release
- Whisky baubles released for Christmas
- New whisky reviews: Batch 119
- Glen Keith distillery releases single malt
- Midleton Very Rare: a retrospective
The way I see it... 11 September 2017
With festival season under way, a ‘whisky veteran’ laments the lazy use of the M-word.
Features 14 July 2016
Dave Broom endeavours to make sense of the factors affecting how we nose and taste whisky.
From the editors 25 March 2016
Whisky shows should be for everyone, not just those who can afford them.
From the editors 04 August 2015
Geopolitical risk and economic stagnation have hit Scotch’s export numbers. Is America the answer?