Eraserhead ★★★★★

But having rated it five stars, I'm not sure if I ever want to do this to myself again. It was my first time in the theater, and I forgot that on my previous viewing at home I paused a couple times (toilet break, water). In the theater, there is no escape, and I seriously contemplated fleeing a couple times, just because I found the film so effectively anxiety-inducing.

ERASERHEAD is a miracle of sound design, of no-budget imagination, of the potency of tapping into mundane anxieties with the absurd and grotesque. When I first saw it, I think I grooved on its surface qualities and its CRAZI-ness; I certainly didn't tap into it as deeply emotionally, whereas here I was in our protagonist's head WAY too much for my comfort. And it's not just the obvious scenes that flipped me out; one scene where he's with his wife in bed, far away, unable to make contact, effectively disquieted me as much as, say, preparing chicken at the family dinner did.

ERASERHEAD is the work of somebody who's gone so deeply into its unique world that he doesn't recognize his own power - I don't think anything Lynch has done since is nearly as unrelenting in its assault, although obviously he has plenty of moments - but despite being in that unique world, what separates it from many other works of surreality is that it's always clinging close to your deepest fears - not the .0001% chance there might be a guy around the corner with the knife, but the much higher chance you might have chosen the wrong woman, the wrong life, that you might be stuck with a child you have no idea to care for, that your life has no escape, that every social function will end in some sort of tragedy, that your purpose is easily forgotten, and so on. Just writing about it is bringing back anxiety, and so I say, yes it is a goddamn masterpiece and why do we put ourselves through these endurance contests in the name of art appreciation? I used to know.