The Elephant Man

Introduction by Alex Ross Perry
Screening on Film
Directed by David Lynch.
With Anthony Hopkins, John Hurt, Anne Bancroft.
US, 1980, 35mm, black & white, 123 min.
Print source: HFA

This is one of my top ten favorite films of all time. The further away I get from accepting that this film is part of my DNA and the more times I find myself connecting to various permutations of the “sad lonely monster” story (The Phantom of the Opera, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Beauty and the Beast [sidenote: why is the source material for all of these French?]) the more I realize that my innate emotional connection to every version of this story can be traced back to the heartbreaking tale of John/Joseph Merrick and how deeply it spoke to me as a teenager when I first saw this movie. This is, in my opinion, perhaps the most ostentatiously beautiful and emotional film ever made. It conquers every classical Hollywood melodrama, musical, tragedy and love story. I always think about what Lynch’s career would have been like if he’d been able to operate in this mode ever again, but considering that this is his second film, after only Eraserhead, the individual achievement is monumental enough. – ARP

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