WEIRDLAND: Wild at Heart, Jim Morrison's snakeskin jacket

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Wild at Heart, Jim Morrison's snakeskin jacket

David Lynch's best movies: #1 Eraserhead and #2 Wild at Heart #3 Blue Velvet #4 Mulholland Drive #5 Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me. In Wild At Heart (1990) a pair of violent, disturbed twenty-something lovers, played fearlessly by Nicolas Cage and Laura Dern, hit the road into the wild blue yonder, emphasis on the “wild” bit. On their tale are assassins hired by Dern’s Lula’s mother (Diane Ladd), who wants Cage’s Sailor dead for refusing to fuck her in a bathroom stall. It’s also one of Lynch’s most straightforward films, though there’s never once a feeling of compromised vision. The focus again is on the corrosive power of repression, but Lynch’s pacing picks up here and the ecstatic expressiveness of his performers brings an electrifying element of physical presence and energy to some of Lynch’s most memorable sequences. Wild at Heart's disarming directness reveals an often eclipsed side of Lynch as an unhinged romantic. Most of Lynch’s movies are dreams, by his own admission and virtue of their rabbit-hole logic. Wild At Heart is his nightmare pastiche of road movies, outlaw crime pictures, lovers-on-the-lam thrillers, small-town noirs, and old Elvis vehicles: Lynch’s own skip down the yellow brick road of movie history. Source:

When we see Sailor and Lula have sex for the first time includes a close-up of a flame lighting a cigarette. This image, repeated later in the film, points toward the extreme enjoyment that they seem to experience. At other times, fire illustrates the enjoyment that characters experience during acts of violence. Marietta organizes the fiery deaths of both Uncle Pooch (Marvin Kaplan) and her husband Clyde, and how she receives enjoyment from their violent deaths. Lynch explicitly links Marietta's excessive enjoyment to the excesses that are ravaging the planet. Lula tells Sailor, "That ozone layer is disappearing. One of these mornings the sun is going to come up and burn a hole clear through the planet like an electrical x-ray." Michel Chion called Wild at Heart "the most beautiful love ballad which the cinema has ever whispered into the night" and contrasts this relationship with the threatening external world.

The relationship between Sailor and Lula provides respite from the unpleasant life existing outside of it. It is harmonious, pure, and innocent, while the surrounding world is degraded, violent, and perverse. Wild at Heart breaks down the distinction between the merely private fantasy and the external world, allowing us to see how private fantasies work to shape me external world. Wild at Heart depicts a threat to this romance in the form of Bobby Ray Lemon and Marietta (who hired him to kill Sailor). Lynch concludes one of Wild at Heart’s sexual montages with a lyrical flourish that evokes the 1950s culture he adores: "It was a fantastic decade in a lot of ways... there was something in the air that is not there any more at all. It was such a great feeling, and not just because I was a kid. It was a really hopeful time, and things were going up instead of going down. You got the feeling you could do anything. The future was bright. Little did we know we were headed for a disastrous future."

David Lynch and Mark Frost’s first screenplay was based on 1950s icon Marilyn Monroe. Marilyn and Elvis were the Queen and King of Lynch’s fantasyland, and he would honor their spirits in his film version of Barry Gifford’s novel Wild at Heart. Lynch is said to own the rippling piece of red velvet on which Monroe posed for her career-launching nude calendar photo, the cloth emanating the ruddy glow that suffused millions of lustful dreams. The connection in the director’s mind between eroticism and velvet may have triggered the archetype of the crimson curtains draped throughout his work. Lynch and Frost wrote a script called Venus Descending (adapted from Anthony Summers’s biography Goddess: The Secret Lives of Marilyn Monroe) which detailed the last months of Monroe’s life. Lynch and Frost consciously honored the spirit of this abandoned project in Twin Peaks, for in both works an outsider-investigator enters a community to delve into the mysterious final days of a beautiful dead blonde female icon (the sleuths of both scripts use miniature tape recorders in their quests). And Marilyn’s poignantly sad descent haunted Lynch for years: In 1990 he characterized her as “this movie actress who was falling,” words that were like a blueprint for his protagonist Diane Selwyn in 2001’s Mulholland Drive.

Lynch reacted strongly against Gifford's ending, given the heat of Sailor and Lula’s feelings for each other. The director felt Gifford’s ending “didn’t seem one bit real,” and he told Sam Goldwyn, whose company would distribute the film, “I’m going to change it, doggone it!” For Lynch, there must be life after death; and for Gifford too: He resurrected Sailor and Lula’s relationship in future stories. Sailor needs to get wise to the universal supremacy of love and resynchronize with Lula’s and his Wizard of Oz dream, and Lynch uses both masculine violence and feminine wisdom to effect his hero’s transformation. Sailor has a vision of The Wizard of Oz’s Good Witch. She floats inside her pink bubble, with her ballooning pink dress and magic wand, against an urban backdrop of run-down buildings, concrete bridges, and telephone wires, in a resonant Lynchian image that conflates the miraculous and the mundane.

She is one of Lynch’s delivering angels who float in the air, and she’s played by Sheryl Lee, who the world knows as Twin Peaks’ iconic Laura Palmer. Six years after Wild at Heart, Lynch spoke of low points in his own life in terms that Sailor would recognize: “When you’re down, when you’ve been kicked down the street, and then kicked a few more times till you’re really bleeding and some teeth are out, then you really have only up to go.” The director’s abiding optimism suffuses the final moments of his film, as the Good Witch brushes aside Sailor’s wrong-headed notion that he’s unworthy of enjoying happiness with Lula because he’s a “robber and a manslaughter” and is “wild at heart.” Both Gifford and Lynch have Lula use the words “wild at heart” to sum up and characterize all the pain, fear, madness, and danger that plague the world. Lynch, not Gifford, is the one who has Sailor call himself 'wild at heart', and there could be no stronger form of self-condemnation than using his Lula’s world-damning words against himself. When Sailor despairingly calls himself “a robber and a manslaughter” who’s “wild at heart” he’s letting Marietta’s Wicked Witch point-of-view define him. But now, with the Good Witch’s pronouncements, the essence of his being has been blessed by the high deity of Lula and his Wizard of Oz religion, and Lynch has again confirmed his radiant belief in the spirituality of the imaginations’ dreams and visions. 

But still, no matter how wild the world is, and all that will be known and not known, Sailor surmounts the chaos of cars and pulls Lula up to join him on the hood of her Pontiac: the earthly position that’s as close as they can get to heaven. Their bodies standing against the same blue sky in which Sailor saw the Good Witch floating, thus reaffirming their mutual dream of Oz. Then he does what he earlier told her that he will only do for the woman who will be his wife, he sings “Love Me Tender” to her in his sweetly ardent Elvis voice. The embracing Sailor and Lula have prevailed over all the external and internal forces that might tear them apart. Though the concept might have confounded Einstein, Lynch believes, and Sailor sings, that he and Lula have the strength and faith to make love last “till the end of time.” Free from the restraints of Twin Peaks’ TV censors, Lynch wandered more of his country than he’d ever put on film before, compiling a Walt Whitmanesque inventory of everything he feared and loved about America. The French critics felt that Lynch was making a serious political statement against American violence, whereas the director said he was offering “some kind of strange cinema,” a subjective, genre-melding portrait of his homeland that was part romance, road movie, musical, and comedy. Watching Wild at Heart, we’re charmed by Sailor’s exuberance when he clothes himself with a snakeskin jacket. The snake is an ancient symbol of the primal cosmic force. His snakeskin jacket represents a symbol of Sailor's individuality, and belief in personal freedom." —"David Lynch: Beautiful Dark" (2008) by Greg Olson

Jim Morrison typically wore leather suits and snakeskin jackets as part of his Lizard King's image. This custom-made brown jacket was bought by Jim Morrison in 1966 (probably the first snakeskin jacket he bought). Morrison later gave it to his girlfriend Pamela Courson. Pamela wore the jacket throughout the late 1960’s then she gave it to her friend Diane Gardiner after Jim’s death. This jacket was on exhibit at the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame from 2004 to 2012, where the jacket was featured in the “Jim Morrison 40 Years Later” exhibit.

I've known a lot of people in rock, and of them all, Jim was the only person I knew who would sit at the table with you, and break out into a song, like maybe a Frank Sinatra tune or an Elvis song. Jim was always making up songs in the studio. I had read a magazine piece about Jim that interested me. He was discussing the concept of evil in a way that made me feel we shared some insights. Mitchell Hamilburg, the literary agent, got us together while my play The Beard was playing in New York. Jim and I talked poetry while The Beard was running in L.A. He was interested in writing a play himself, and he liked mine. I found Jim's poetry manuscript. I sat down and read it and thought, holy smoke, this is fantastic. Later, when the book had been published and the first copies arrived by mail in L.A., I found Jim in his room, crying, holding the book, and he said, "This is the first time I haven't been fucked." He said that a couple of times, and I guess he felt that that was the first time he'd come through as himself... Jim started off like a heavyweight. My wife liked him, and we both liked Pam. We all grew very close. I liked Jim's complexity, his brilliance. I think he was one of the finest, clearest spirits of our times. I learned of Jim's death from Pam. Jim never said they weren't married. The fact is, she and Jim were living together before Jim started working at the Whisky. I remember Pam recalling the first time the Doors got a job. Jim came home with a check - I think it was for $17 - and they thought they'd hit the big time. Michael McClure Recalls an Old Friend (August 5, 1971)

Sometimes Jim Morrison called Pamela his 'little woman' sarcastically after her epic shopping binges on Rodeo Drive, spending like a drunken sailor, buying fancy clothes at YSL boutiques. “You know,” Jim said, “you really do understand me better than anyone. You are the only person with whom I can be myself.” “That’s why you love me,” Pamela laughed. “One of many reasons,” said Jim. Pamela could almost feel her heart melt at those words. She knew Jim loved her of course, but it was always nice to hear him say it. She sat up slowly, and leaned in to kiss him. He responded immediately, and his kiss was soft and slow, and so incredibly passionate that she had to grab onto him to keep from collapsing onto the bed. Pam was unable to shake the feeling that she was floating on air. "I'm m not cheating on you. Not really," said Jim: "I just want to see what other women are like." "Either way," he added: "you are my girl. I want you with me." All the poems have wolves in them. All but one. The most beautiful one of all. She dances in a ring of fire. And throws off the challenge with a shrug. —She Dances in a Ring of Fire (Realms of Bliss on

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