t 26. she’s the youngest woman ever to have written and directed a feature film. She’s the daughter of a famous movie maverick. She has also just come out of a high-profile court case with the ruling on her side. By rights. everything should be in Jennifer Lynch's favour. but how does she describe the process of unveiling her debut movie to an eager world‘.’ ‘This has been close to a nightmare for me.‘

And not much fun for Kim Basinger either. by all accounts. Fined some $8.9 million for reneging on a verbal contract to appear in Lynch’s Boxing Helena. she's since declared herselfbankrupt and given the film a potentially valuable publicity boost in the process. Jennifer Lynch reckons that the production company ‘earned every penny‘ because they had to lay off staff and spend everything they had on taking Basinger to court. After Madonna's earlier fleeting involvement with the project. this whole controversial affair spun yet more column inches around Baring Helena. On this occasion. the young filmmaker can moan all she likes. but it’s the negative response to the movie itself which is the prime cause of her discomfort.

Just at the point when everyone wants the young Ms Lynch to be a newfound press darling. out comes this piece ofcelluloid which. to put it bluntly. just isn't very good. and mucho journalistic carnage has understandably ensued. When I meet her in a London hotel suite. for example. she looks decidedly battle weary. A chatty and ebullient type with a quip for all occasions. she’s firmly on the defensive after a number of ‘unpleasant‘ interview experiences and a UK preview screening where her handiwork was virtually laughed off the screen.

The story idea is certainly an attention- grabber: dippy doc Nick Cavanaugh (Julian Sands) is a sad male specimen who has major problems with the female of the species. so much so that when Helena (David Lynch fave Sherilyn Fenn). object of his obsessive affections. is conveniently mangled in a car accident. he amputates her ams and legs to keep her in her place a decorative wooden box-cum- } shrine and be with her forever. {LCuriously though. when you get beyond

BThe List l8 June—l July I993

enthralling than the hype.

‘I wanted to take a grotesque concept and make it about awkward love. love out of the need to be loved.’

the one-line synopsis. the treatment is really rather low-key. a would-be adult fairy tale that never achieves any resonance because the first time director hasn‘t much of a clue how to organise and orchestrate a narrative. The impression you’re left with is of an intriguing central conceit. so variably acted. idiotically scripted and sloppin assembled that not very much at all is made of it.

Resplendent in black leggings and white ribbed top. la Lynch protests that simply by hearing the outline of her piece. people have a distorted view of what the movie’s going to be before they go into it and are therefore naturally disappointed when they see the damn thing. ‘I can’t possibly compete with the imagination of anyone over. like. five-years- old. because they’ve already made the movie in their heads.‘ she reckons. modestly. ‘They just see a guy who chops his girlfriend up and puts her in a box. but that’s not the movie I made. All I can do is remind them that this isjust my interpretation of that story. but so much of the

~ ' ' ‘YI/aflh

BEFORE & AFTER: Sorry madam, they'll have to come ott. Nln Peaks lave babe Sherilyn Fenn wide-eyed and legless. nlrector Jennlter Lynch explains: 'Sherllyn's really pleased because she's In somethlng everyone's talking about, but I'm not sure It's really helping the movie...‘


What with her famous dad and her notoriously successful litigation, JENNIFER LYNCH hasn’t been short of media attention for her directing debut Boxing Helena. Trevor Johnston finds the film less

flak I’ve been getting has been about the expectations people had with the movie. rather than their actual experience of it.‘

At which point. she second-guesses my next question and keeps on rolling. ‘People who are expecting a film like my father would have made are going to have to realise that I don’t want to make the films that he makes. My interest in what other people consider the absurd. I guess came from him. in that he never forbade me any idea or any moment in my imagination but that’s where it ends. David didn’t make Boxing Helena. and if he did it would be about different things.’

Incidentally. the Boxing Helena Jennifer Lynch did make started life as a pitch from a New York restaurateur about six years back. Philippe Caland. owner of the city’s Chicken Kitchen chain. summoned the would-be auteur to his side and regaled her with this one big idea he had. Lynch herself describes the original notion as ‘excessively violent' and chose to put a new spin on it: ‘I wanted to take a grotesque concept and make it about awkward love. Love out ofthe need to be loved. The whole thing’s an observation about the way we try to change each other to make it easier to get close.’

This is indeed a fair enough description of the kernel of the piece Sands grows up as an isolated little boy whose prime measures of femininity are the presence of his domineering mother and the statue of the Venus de Milo hovering in the corner of the mansion he calls home. The trouble is that his character is so pathetic an individual. viewers will resist any kind of identification with his plight. and making him so toweringly wimpy stacks the odds in Helena‘s favour when her determination not to be dominated by him wins the day. As Helena loses her limbs yet gains the upper hand in the couple's psychological battle. you begin to see the merest glimpse of a weirdly compelling movie in there somewhere. but it’s submerged by just so much tawdry exploitation the lingerie- flaunting sex scenes straight down from the video shop’s t0p shelf. rather than the tastefully-handled amputation details —- and more incidental idiocy than you can take without cracking up with mirth and waving your legs in the air.

You‘ll surely guffaw. for instance. when