Essays · Movies

A Journey Through David Lynch’s Festival of Disruption

David Lynch brings meditation, ideas, rock stars, and a winemaker along with him to Los Angeles’ Ace Theater for two days of the splendid Festival of Disruption.
Disruption At Ace
By  · Published on October 20th, 2018

The David Lynch festival is as delightfully heady as you’d expect. On October 13th and 14th, Festival of Disruption brought a two-day celebration of creativity and meditation to the Ace Hotel and Theater in support of Lynch’s 12-year-old foundation, which uses Transcendental Meditation to assist schools, veterans, and victims of abuse and violence. Curated by Lynch, Festival of Disruption was an almost 24-hour experience that’s more tranquil than a grind.

Some festivals are marathons, but that’s not the case with the self-contained Festival of Disruption. I can’t speak for how the Festival is in New York, but at the Ace Hotel and Theater in downtown LA, events ran smoothly, almost always on time, and with no scheduling conflicts or any events forcing festival goers to miss out on anything. We got the full experience attending the festival, which was a good ‘ol Lynchian time with a variety of inspiring artists performing and opening up to a pleased, polite and mostly present crowd.

There were riveting live performances including RZA’s remarkable live score of The 36th Chamber of Shaolin, a captivating poetry reading from Amber Tamblyn, and a man who works dreamlike wonders with a guitar, Dylan Carlson. That doesn’t even begin to cover the list of talent that either rocked or touched the crowd, To top off the fully sensory experience with always plenty to do and even more eye candy to see, the Festival of Disruption offered up Twin Peaks VR, Lynch’s nightmarish photography and Festish exhibits.

David Lynch’s fans were overjoyed throughout the festivities, that was always for certain. I was with them in their delight, getting to watch Lynch-directed ads over and over on a big screen and later witnessing him light up a room with his presence. Seeing Lynch share his beliefs was a thrilling sight for everyone in attendance.

The Q & A with Lynch didn’t disappoint, but Festival of Disruption was one great conversation after another with fans expressing their appreciation and asking thoughtful questions. “If you’re going to ask a question, picture yourself at a dinner party,” John Horn from NPR’s The Frame told the crowd. “If you’re at a dinner party, you’re not going to pitch a screenplay idea, tell an incredibly personal story about some trauma you’ve experienced. You’re going to make conversation and ask questions.” The audience got the memo.

Grace Jones

Me & Mrs. Jones 

The crowd went particularly wild for Grace Jones after a screening of her intimate documentary, Grace Jones: Floodlight and Bami, directed by Sophie Fiennes. The doc – which has remarkably lively concert footage – came out earlier this year to acclaim, but the revealing and entertaining film had been worked on for over 10 years. It’s one of those music docs with the real deal fly-on-the-wall approach letting you witness the artist without a hint of artifice.

Jones was as real and honest in the doc as she was during her talk with artist and professor Judith Casselberry. Taking notes is the last you want to do when Grace Jones is talking to a crowd, but she openly discussed her career and image’s conflict with her religious upbringing and some family members. It was a subject explored in depth in the doc, but Jones continued to reveal more about her personal journey throughout her career. One quote of hers, in particular, stood out and felt right in line with the festival’s ideals: “Spirituality is something from a higher place that comes down and lifts you up. With creativity, you have to reach up and bring it down.”


Entering The 36th Chamber of Shaolin with RZA

Somehow, RZA managed to find a way to take one of the all-time great hero’s journeys, The 36th Chamber of Shaolin, and infuse it with even more firepower. For the last few years, one of the founding members of Wu-Tang-Clan has been performing his live score for the martial arts classic using both new and old tracks from his group. After years of missing out on these shows and only hearing nothing but praise from friends about it, RZA Live from the 36th Chamber lived up to the hype.

Following the showmanship and talents of Mike Patton and DJ Qbert, RZA took to the stage along with DJ Skane and Tom Shannon to give the crowd a hypnotic experience. The musician brings more energy and a whole new layer to the Shaw Brothers movie with an epic sound suited to San Te’s (Gordon Liu) fight against oppression. The 36th Chambers of Shaolin is already great entertainment, but the hip-hop brings a transfixing propulsion to the hero’s journey, especially during the action. The score and moves on screen align perfectly.

During the movie, every once a while you couldn’t help but watch RZA at work, whether he was DJ’ing or behind a piano. Like David Lynch and the other artists in attendance, he has a presence that changes the atmosphere of the room. Watching RZA performing live in a fairly intimate setting, and showing his longtime passion for the movie, was a part of the joy of RZA Live from the 36th Chamber.

After thanking the Wu-Tang Clan and David Lynch, RZA delved into how the movie inspired him when he first saw it and how it continues to shape him after all these years. “That could’ve been Rocky for me or anything,” he closed with. “You see a film like that, it inspired me to look into Buddhism, to appreciate the great Asian culture and the strife they went through, to appreciate my culture and history. I just hope we keep building this film, this art we have. I know everything keeps getting smaller and smaller on your phone, but I hope we can keep on coming to movie houses, communing together, watching great films, and inspire the world.”


Francis Ford Coppola Has A Story About That 

“You’re one of the reasons I wanted to be a filmmaker. The Godfather is my favorite movie of all time,” a fan said.

“Not Jack?” Coppola responded.

Francis Ford Coppola has talked enough about his many, many classic films. Finally, he got the chance to discuss, in his own words, what is “officially his worst movie.” When Festival of Disruption approached Coppola about participating, he suggested his offbeat and inconsistent Robin Williams comedy, which he directed out of a long-held desire to collaborate with Williams. Another reason the family comedy was an unexpected choice, it co-stars the recently incarcerated Bill Cosby, whose role in the movie was a concern for both Coppola and the festival. It was addressed appropriately in the introduction by Coppola, who told the audience he understood if they were uncomfortable and didn’t want to sit through the movie. More than a few people left.

Following a mostly muted response to Jack, Coppola talked and joked about his most reviled movie for over an hour with candor and humor. After watching the movie for the first time in years, parts of it still resonated deeply with him. “I must say, I was quite touched by Robin’s last comments,” Coppola said, “and I think we should take to heart what he said…. What I remember him saying is, life is fleeting. We have the time we have. Make it spectacular.”

Coppola, who’s just as good of a storyteller in-person and insisted the crowd call him Francis, succeeded in wanting to make the Q & A more of a conversation. The convo ranged from going bankrupt after One From the Heart, regretting “cinema isn’t being turned over to younger generation in better shape,” and the time he rehearsed in an Italian restaurant with Marlon Brando, James Caan, Al Pacino, John Cazale, and Robert DuVall, who kept imitating Brando when he wasn’t looking. Did you know in some places in Brazil they called the Hawaiian t-shirt “the Coppola” because he was famous for wearing them there? True story. The filmmaker had loads of familiar and new stories to share about his classics, his worst movie, and even his own personal style throughout his life.

After a breezy hour of Coppola telling stories, the gregarious winemaker then invited a dozen members in the audience to join him on stage for an acting exercise, called Sound Ball. Most of us in the audience couldn’t hear what they were saying on stage, but the sight of Coppola playing acting coach with a group of happy fans made for a joyful, kind of surreal moment. Even though Coppola taught an entertaining acting class, to this day he still doesn’t see himself as a teacher. “I have never done a master class,” he said. “I don’t consider myself a master. I consider myself a student, and I am.”

Red Room

A Brief Stroll Around the Red Room 

During a break after one of the screenings, which included Wild at Heart and Koyaanisqatsi, across the street from the Ace Theater Twin Peaks fans were exploring the Red Room and Glastonbury Grove. This was a big attraction throughout the festival with a standby line almost always outside, but the immersive time in the Red Room was worth the wait for attendees. You get up close to some of Lynch’s unshakeable imagery from Twin Peaks: The Return, including Dougie Jones’ body expiring in the Red Room, the pale horse, and the hissing and moving arm. Even those with little to no experience with VR, such as myself, will have no trouble with the gameplay, gladly forgetting the real world for a few minutes, and following in Agent Dale Cooper’s footsteps. Collider Games previewed about 10% of the game at the festival, which has some of Twin Peaks’ score to set the mood.


TOKiMONSTA Brings the House Down 

Now, if there was one downside of the festival, and it’s not even a problem with the festival, it was all the cell phones out and lit up. It wasn’t outrageously egregious like a music festival, but all the people looking at their iPhones or watching through their cameras was sometimes glaring.

When TOKiMONSTA (real name: Jennifer Lee) took the stage, even with her dazzling background visuals, phones were noticeably absent. People’s eyes were glued to what was maybe the most visual and energizing performance of the fest. TOKiMONSTA, who’s a producer as well as a DJ, even got a few people to dance in what was otherwise a mostly sit and watch environment. If it wasn’t a long day for most in the audience, who were mostly moving and grooving in their seats, I think most of them would’ve leapt to their feet and started dancing, because that’s what TOKiMONSTA makes a room want to do. Her performance was one of those striking moments of seeing a great artist for the first time and knowing immediately in your gut you must start following their work.

Festival Of Disruption

Coffee and Donuts with David Lynch

A few hours before TOKiMONSTA drew cheers from the crowd, there wasn’t any empty seat in sight for David Lynch. When he walked on stage in his black and white suit, everyone was smiling. He went on to share with everyone what he believes is most important: ideas.  “Ideas are like fish,” he once wrote. “If you want to catch little fish, you can stay in shallow water. But if you want to catch the big fish, you’ve got to go deeper. Down deep, the fish are more powerful and purer. They’re huge and abstract. And they’re also beautiful.” Lynch, who has been meditating twice a day for 45 years, reiterated that belief during an unforgettable Q & A where every word was hung onto.

The conversation went back and forth between meditation and filmmaking, but Lynch honestly could’ve talked about the weather for 20 minutes and that would’ve been entertaining, as well. “We are like light bulbs,” he offered at one point. “We radiate what’s within. If we’re filled with anger or stress, we’re going to radiate that out. Anger is, they say, a real sign of weakness. It poisons the person, it occupies the mind, it doesn’t allow ideas to flow, and it’s just a bitter anger cooking in there. You radiate it out. Nobody likes to be around an angry, negative person. It just doesn’t feel good.”

He sees meditation as a way to let in more “happiness, creativity, love, energy, power, and peace.” All of those positive qualities were felt during a very open and sometimes heartfelt Q &A. Unsurprisingly, there was a huge outpouring of love for Lynch during his hour-long Q & A. It wasn’t intrusive or overly personal; it was a pleasant reminder of how deeply his ideas and images have touched people. Again, to Lynch’s point, the power of ideas – which was always present during these meaningful interactions for fans.

Fans looking for some trivia about his body of work, well, they got that too. Where did Mulholland Drive start in Lynch’s beautiful mind? With an accident and the idea of getting lost. His least favorite movie he’s directed? Dune, of course, but Lynch sees humor and beauty in his failure. “The humiliation, the bad reviews, people just laughing – it’s incredible,” he said. “It’s horror, but there’s nowhere to go but up. There’s a freedom…With Dune, I sold out and didn’t have final cut. Not only wasn’t the film the film I wanted to make, it also was not a hit at the box-office. So I died two deaths. I hit bottom and got to make Blue Velvet and had final cut.”

And that was the last spoken of Dune for the rest of an all-around treasure of a festival curated by David Lynch. Before Lynch finished up and left the stage for the remainder of the fest, he left the audience with a few more pertinent ideas: “Walk away from suffering, walk away from negativity, and start treating your fellow man how you’d like to be treated. Help thy neighbor. It’s a beautiful thing. It’s there for all of us. We’re supposed to get along. We’re supposed to be happy. The individual is cosmic, bliss is our nature. That’s the truth of things. We weren’t made to suffer. This a joke. There are so many people suffering these days. We’re divided. It’s a bunch of bullshit and doesn’t have to be this way.”

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Longtime FSR contributor Jack Giroux likes movies. He thinks they're swell.