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Considering the ever-evolving
relationship between the Internet and
other aspects of pop culture, the value of the Web for film
lovers and moviemakers has taken some time to fully come to light.

While sites like ifilm and BMW Films serve as portals
for short moviemakers, there’s been a dearth of successful moviemakers who have used the Internet
as an outlet for their creative energy. Recently, however, two superb Internet
sites have emerged as a way for directors to release material that doesn’t
fit  within the narrow confines of a 90-minute feature film. These two
projects may serve as an example for other moviemakers who have been excited
by the seemingly limitless creative possibilities of the Internet, but
unable to determine exactly how the Internet and the moviemaking process
might comfortably coexist.

Somewhat surprisingly, one of the first directors to
appreciate the creative possibilities of the Internet has been iconoclastic
creepmeister David
Lynch. The 57-year-old American icon, who radiates an aw-shucks, Middle
America artlessness seemingly at odds with the technical savvy necessary
for innovation on the Internet, launched his Website, www.davidlynch.com,
in the summer of 2002 with the help of designer Eric Bassett. The site,
which features everything from short films to Lynch-designed e-greeting
cards and music by his band, Blue Bob, is a panoramic view of Lynch’s personal
universe. Entering the site, one is struck by the vaguely creepy, unsettling
tone of the enterprise as a whole. Blair Witch-like stick figures
scuttle across the screen, complemented by the atonal soundtrack stylings
of longtime Lynch collaborator Angelo Badalamenti. When the lone radio
tower and semi-goofy cemetery landscape drawing pop up, understanding hits:
Lynch has managed to transfer his quirky sensibility to the Internet, wholly
intact.

Other directors using the Web to full advantage…

Director/author/activist Michael Moore has become famous for speaking
his mind. So what better platform than the Internet? In addition
to talk of his latest projects, MichaelMoore.com also
includes commentary from the man himself and—you guessed it—information
on where you can make your own voice heard as it relates
to such issues
as gun control, workplace safety and more.

If Kevin Smith’s work and quirky sense
of humor interest you, then visit www.viewaskew.com, where you can pose questions
to the director
(with a warning that he only answers questions based on content
and intelligence), find current news and information about
his projects
and buy merchandise related to the Clerks director.

Pedro Almodóvar’s Website, www.clubcultura.com/clubcine/clubcineastas/almodovar,
is a guide to the director’s past and upcoming works—and,
considerately, offers a trilingual experience. The most interesting
section is "His Words," dedicated to exploring the director’s
vision and personal influences.

Tim Burton (www.TimBurton.com) and Tobe
Hooper
(www.TobeHooper.com)
may not have officially opened their site yet, but if the ingenuity
they’ve displayed on-screen is any indication, these are certainly
sites you’ll want to keep bookmarked.

DavidLynch.com is a vast storage house that replicates,
in some fashion, the contents of its namesake’s mysterious mind. Rather
than giving off the aroma of the spare parts store, the leftover goods
emporium of ideas
not developed enough to make their way into Blue Velvet, Mulholland
Drive
and
the like, the Website succeeds on its own terms. It is a fascinating, rare
glimpse into the mind of the moviemaker—like sneaking a peek into his notebook
of ideas when he’s not around. Simultaneously funny, haunting, obscure
and gorgeous, it fully deserves the epithet “Lynchian.” Journeying far
beyond the usual view-the-trailer tedium of most film-related Websites,
DavidLynch.com is an experience unto itself, not requiring affiliation
with any theatrical film for validation.

Lynch includes selections of his photography and painting work on the
site. The former brings to mind Herb Ritts and Nan Goldin as potential
inspirations, while the latter appears to be nothing so much as a strangely
perfect melding of Jasper Johns and Francis Bacon. The highlights of the
site, though, are the two groupings of short films. The first, Cannes
Diary
, is a series of shorts made by Lynch at the 2001 Cannes Film
Festival, when Mulholland Drive was in competition. The shorts
are a faux-naif’s view of French life and culture, from the idle strollers
ambling along the Croisette, to paparazzi swarming celebs like Sharon Stone,
to a chef’s careful, step-by-step explanation of the best method of preparing
foie gras. The second is a compilation of various other Lynch shorts, including The
Amputee
and Lumiere, taken from compilation films, early work
and assorted other sources.

What’s so intriguing about a site like DavidLynch.com
is its attempt to create a fundamentally aesthetic experience on the
Internet. In contrast
to the general tendency toward functionality and the information-dominated
nature of most of the Web, it proposes an Internet that is mysterious,
complex and visually charged. It is also an effort by Lynch to create an
Internet experience that maintains the characteristics and iconography
of his film work. In short, it is not merely a place to learn about David
Lynch, but a zone to experience his artistry.

A similar effect is taking place at another recently launched Website
from an auteur of gnarled, tangled film narratives. British director Peter
Greenaway, best known in the U.S. for his The Cook, the Thief, His Wife,
and Her Lover
, has established a site dedicated to his new film, The
Tulse Luper Suitcase: The Moab Story
. The Moab Story is scheduled
to be the first of a trilogy of films centered on the titular character,
a staple of Greenaway films since earlier, more experimental works like Vertical
Features Remake
.

The site, at www.TulseLuperNetwork.com, is an integral
part of Greenaway’s
large-scale project, and not merely a marketing-related offshoot of the
film. Greenaway’s venture tracks the history of Luper, a writer, scientist
and all-around intellectual whose life’s journey is inextricably linked
to the political turmoils of the 20th century and the scientific element
of uranium. While this may sound like somewhat unpromising material for
an amusing Internet site, TulseLuperNetwork.com uses it as a jumping-off
point for a dazzling and addictive puzzle-box. The site is set up as a
reconstruction, by a group of researchers, of crucial people, events and
objects in the life of Tulse Luper. The essential mystery of one man’s
life is highlighted by the personal and cultural detritus that remains
as his legacy.

The “archivists” have discovered 92 characters (with names like Ma Fender
and Joris Salmon) with some relevance to Luper’s life, along with 92 suitcases
(containing objects like bloodied wallpaper, lumps of coal and Vatican
pornography), 92 searchable categories (like maps, prisons, cookbooks,
atomic tables and birthday news) and 92 experts—92 being the atomic number
of uranium. Not all of the aforementioned information is currently available—it
is intended to roll out steadily over the next year, creating a mystery
wherein interested parties will return, again and again, in order to fill
in the gaps of Tulse Luper’s life. (And perhaps their own.)

Greenaway’s site takes a large step forward in utilizing the Internet
as a storytelling medium. Rather than allowing it to take a backseat to
the narrative on celluloid, Greenaway and his collaborators have worked
out a story whose parameters extend beyond the edge of the frame, and into
the zeroes and ones of the Web. Extending boldly beyond such earlier efforts
as the Website for Darren Aronofsky’s Requiem for a Dream (www.requiemforadream.com), the Tulse
Luper
site
has been created as an essential part of the overall aesthetic experience
of Greenaway’s Tulse Luper story.

Both Greenaway and Lynch share a willingness (surprising in moviemakers
so far advanced in their careers) to peer beyond the celluloid curtain,
and even beyond the glimpsed paradise of DVDs, and ponder the next step.
Whether the Internet ultimately will supplant the theatrical moviegoing
experience, or merely serve to creatively supplement it, is yet to be determined.
Lynch and Greenaway, through their fascinating new sites, are making the
Internet a more fertile ground for cinematic creativity now. MM

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