The legacies of both Duran Duran and David Lynch have long run parallel to one another, each lending their vision to help define pop culture in the 80s and 90s. Yet the two had never intersected professionally. While Lynch was shooting Dune with Sting in 1983, Simon Le Bon, Nick Rhodes, and the Taylor gang were enjoying chart-topping success with their Seven And The Ragged Tiger LP, which produced massive hits such as “The Reflex”, “Union Of The Snake,” and “New Moon On Monday.” And while Duran Duran was recording its follow-up, Notorious, with help from Nile Rodgers in 1986, around the same time Lynch was shooting what would be recognized as an American classic with Blue Velvet. How could it be that these gentlemen with a penchant for pompadours never crossed paths?
Yet on one remarkable night in 2011, Duran Duran and David Lynch pooled their creative talents for a live event at Los Angeles’ Mayan Theatre to shoot Unstaged, a concert film helmed by the legendary director. The one-night-only show would work as the basis of an experiment — the concert would be broadcast live over the internet and, now that it’s complete, released to theaters for only one showing. In conjunction with Screenvision, Unstaged will be playing in over 400 theaters across the United States on September 10th, 2014, as the band looks to capture the energy of the collective consciousness quickly and on a wide scale.
Just how does Lynch, who is known for his off-kilter, experimental approach to filmmaking, end up directing a concert film? He opens the piece by addressing the audience directly, very much channeling his near-deaf Gordon Cole character from Twin Peaks, speaking very loudly so that all can hear him (and more importantly, he can hear himself). He explains that he hopes for some “happy accidents” in juxtaposing a series of his own moving images over the band’s performance.
At times the visuals directly relate to the music Duran Duran is playing, at others the images take on a life of their own. Lynch’s imagery is very much rendered in his signature style, many times calling back to his filmography. Longtime fans of Lynch will be reminded of moments from his greatest films, such Lost Highway’s ominous strangers, Blue Velvet’s warm slices of Americana or the burning of Laura Palmer’s fire. The experience is a bit jarring at first, but soon it hypnotically melts into the foreground of the performance, creating a unique, psychedelic effect. Lynch’s fingerprint is all over this project.
Approaching 40 years as a group, the band looks great for their ages, as if they froze time by entering Twin Peaks’ Black Lodge some twenty years ago. They sound incredibly tight as a unit as well, running through a catalogue of classics that spans the entirety of their career. A highlight is during their delivery of “A View To A Kill,” where they offer a tribute to legendary composer John Barry, who passed away two months prior to the evening. Here they run through a fully orchestrated performance of several classic James Bond themes, before heading into their own contribution to 007’s legacy. Lynch’s overlay gives a brief glimpse into what it might have looked like if he ever directed one of the series’ historical opening title sequences.
Along with a few other notable surprise guest appearances, Mark Ronson — who produced their 2011 LP, All You Need Is Now — joined Duran Duran that evening on stage to perform on “A View To A Kill.”
“Obviously, it goes without saying that David Lynch is one of the most legendary film directors,” Ronson told Cuepoint. “And also how mysterious and how little you know about him goes into it. Like, ‘Oh my god, is he going to be this pretentious, aloof, avant-garde asshole? To be honest, I wasn’t really thinking any of those things.
“He was just so incredibly personal, and had this incredible, lovely aura,” Ronson continues. “That was great, and then obviously getting to be on stage with those guys and be a part of something like this was another one of those surreal life experiences that I couldn’t believe was happening.”