Sailing with Bushnell Keeler (David Lynch, 1967, USA)

Bushnell Keeler was an early mentor of director David Lynch. Keeler served in WWII and then went on to study Economics at Dartmouth. Later on, he received a degree in fine arts at American University. Keeler became David Lynch's mentor while Lynch was studying at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia. Keeler prompted Lynch to apply for a grant from the American Film Institute, which he ended up receiving. Bushnell Keeler was the father of Lynch's childhood friend Toby Keeler.

Sailing with Bushnell Keeler is at its core a home movie, and it represents one of the first times the great auteur picked up a camera. The film was effectively an exercise in cinematography for David Lynch, who had never picked up a camera. Lynch brought a 16mm Bolex camera along on a fishing trip with Keeler on Maryland's Chesapeake Bay. It is interesting to see how Lynch used the camera here. Even in this very early home movie, he creates a sense of disorientation and spatial unease, through the use of repeated canted angles and cuts throughout the film. What should be a pleasant home movie ultimately begins to feel somewhat sinister through Lynch's lens. 

Also notable in this film is Lynch's use of sound design, which may have already been fully formed at the young age of 21. Lynch went on to direct several experimental films which are far more well-known than this short film. Still, it is interesting for fans of Lynch to see where the director got his earliest start. Certainly, this film will not be interesting to casual viewers, but for those interested in Lynch's filmography and the evolution of this great filmmaker, it is worth seeking out Sailing with Bushnell Keeler. A minor work but one that captures the earliest inklings of creativity of an auteur.



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