A bit weird, but you won’t lose your lynch

There were no dwarves. No dancing men. No one talked backwards — until the daquiries kicked in — and with the exception of the Japanese cowboy who turned out to be a fashion designer, no one looked all that weird.

In fact, by the time Silencio, David Lynch’s new Paris nightclub-cum-salon-cum-laboratory of the weird closed its doors at dawn on Wednesday last month after its first night, nothing truly bizarre had happened. Except — and it’s a big except — there was no sign whatsoever of the presiding genius himself. David Lynch was not in the building.

It’s true he could have been watching us from behind one of the smoked-glass walls, stroking a vintage Nicolas Cage hairpiece while plotting new ways to freak us out. After all, the place is inspired by the deeply strange Club Silencio in Mulholland Drive. Everything from the toilet bowls — black on black — to the saltiness of the nuts on the bar was decided by the master himself. He even created the 1950s-inspired furniture, the chairs designed to “induce and sustain a specific state of alertness and openness to the unknown”.

Strange genius
This is Lynch’s answer to Warhol’s Factory, the existentialists’ Café Flore, the dadaists’ Cabaret Voltaire. So where was the Dada? The club’s owner, Arnaud Frisch, assured me Lynch was not even on the same continent: “He’ll be here programming everything next month. Trust me, it will be worth the wait.”

Luckily one woman has managed to penetrate the three enormous cubes of concrete in the Hollywood hills where Lynch lives and works. “I’m 65 years old,” he told my colleague Paola Genone from L’Express. “They say that when men go into their 50s, they dream of building gigantic towers to prove their virility. I have directed films, composed music, made all sorts of objects, works that had a beginning and an end. Now I want to make something solid.

“First, I started with painting. For the past three years I have been working in a lithographic studio in Montparnasse that Picasso and Miró used, drawing on the same stones where they painted. Then I started working on Silencio, which has taken the past two years. Looking at what we have done, I feel myself almost immortal,” he said.
“I have the feeling that I have coaxed out some of the atmosphere and the characters from my films and even from my music.”

You do feel you are descending into another world as you go down the six flights of stairs into Silencio. ­Buddhist cocktail bars with their own bijoux cinemas, library, dream forest and stage straight from Twin Peaks are thin on the ground, even in the second arrondissement.

One minute you are in the dark, the next you are in a golden tunnel of mini-mandalas. The effect is somewhere between nirvana, a classy Cincinatti cocktail bar circa 1975 and Goldie’s mouth.

Devil in the details

Everything is bespoke, the gold leaf applied by the same technicians who touch up the dome over Napoleon’s tomb. Lynch even said he wanted some “Gypsies in the woods” to carve the thousands of gilded mandalas on the walls. Unfortunately, just at that moment, Nicolas Sarkozy was deporting them.

Lynch won’t answer the question that everyone is asking: whether he will ever make another feature film. It’s been more than five years since Inland Empire. But, reading the runes, it doesn’t look good.

“Silencio is something dear to me. I wanted to create an intimate space where all the arts could come together. There won’t be a Warhol-like guru, but it will be open to celebrated artists of all disciplines to come here to programme or create what they want.”

It’s not hard to see why the place appealed to him. Number 142 rue de Montmartre is a psychogeographer’s dream. Molieré is supposed to have been buried there and Zola printed J’Accuse in the basement. The great socialist Jean Jaurés was even assassinated in the cafe across the road trying to stop World War I.

The perfect place, then, for Paris’s first private members’ club. Frisch is alive to the irony, but claims the club is not an affront to its republican ghosts. “I feel they are on our side.” The €1?000 membership will be “cheap, given the artists who will be working here … and after midnight anyone can get in”.

Outside, a queue was forming. Not for the club, but for the automatic toilet opposite, where a group of rough sleepers had gathered round a slab of rocket-fuel beer. Were they part of some Lynch installation? Weirdly enough, they weren’t.

Subscribe to the M&G for R2 a month

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

And for this weekend only, you can become a subscriber by paying just R2 a month for your first three months.

Fiachra Gibbons
Editor of culture, food and fashion at AFP.

Related stories

Doors, chairs and what lies between

One might say that all the doors we pass through in our lives are ours. They belong to us, just because we passed through them, or we belong to them

Guardian angels hit Montreal’s clubs to tackle harassment

Night clubs and rave organizers have turned to the group to tackle gropers

It’s closing time in Kinshasa

In less than a month, the bars spilling out on to the city’s highways and byways will no longer be allowed to serve customers before 6pm

When bouncers shoot bouncers

Author probes battles of security and gangsters

Twin Peaks returns to television 25 years later

what happened to Dale Cooper? Does Audrey Horne have kids now? With the return of the cult show, David Lynch has a chance to answer all our questions.

Patrons assaulted at Fourways nightclub

A man who claimed to be a bouncer at Stones in Fourways, Johannesburg, posted a video on his Facebook account in which he assaults three patrons.

Subscribers only

ANC: ‘We’re operating under conditions of anarchy’

In its latest policy documents, the ANC is self-critical and wants ‘consequence management’, yet it’s letting its members off the hook again

Q&A Sessions: ‘I think I was born way before my...

The chief executive of the Estate Agency Affairs Board and the deputy chair of the SABC board, shares her take on retrenchments at the public broadcaster and reveals why she hates horror movies

More top stories

DRC: Tshisekedi and Kabila fall out

The country’s governing coalition is under strain, which could lead to even more acrimony ahead

Editorial: Crocodile tears from the coalface

Pumping limited resources into a project that is predominantly meant to extend dirty coal energy in South Africa is not what local communities and the climate needs.

Klipgat residents left high and dry

Flushing toilets were installed in backyards in the North West, but they can’t be used because the sewage has nowhere to go

Nehawu leaders are ‘betraying us’

The accusation by a branch of the union comes after it withdrew from a parliamentary process

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…