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David Lynch's Freakish Advertisements: The Rats of New York City

Around the time he was filming Twin Peaks, Lynch was dabbling in some seriously bugged-out ad campaigns.

Around the time he was filming Twin Peaks, David Lynch was dabbling in some seriously bugged-out ad campaigns, as well.

Exhibit A is 1991's We Care About New York, a rodential PSA that addresses littering in New York City. The photography direction was handled by Frederick Elmes of Eraserhead, Blue Velvet and, er, Bride Wars fame. After watching a slo-mo closeup of a rat's tail cycle like a plane's propeller, and a group of bikers/swingers locked into paroxysms of creepy glee, I certainly want to litter less. Hell, I want do go outside less. (Don't bother calling that number at the end. It's now a fax machine listed to Broadway Hair or Island Video.)

Lynch has quite a number of commercial works under his ferociously sculpted mop. Two years after the rat spot, he created a PSA about breast cancer for the American Cancer Society. I can't find a copy of that film online, but there are gems of Lynchian genius in promos for Calvin Klein's Obsession, the pregnancy-test kit Clear Blue Easy, Barilla Pasta (starring Gerard Depardieu!) and Georgia Coffee. Of that last ad campaign, completed in 1991, Lynchnet says:

These commercials were done for the Japanese canned coffee, Georgia. The series was set in Twin Peaks and featured many of the cast from the series. In the ads, a Japanese man searches for his missing wife. Each commercial added more clues to the mystery, until the final one where Cooper rescues her from the Black Lodge. Originally a second series of four were planned, but the Coffee company, unhappy with the first series, canceled them.

Here's a comprehensive list of Lynch's commercial efforts. They're all tinged with insanity, perhaps no more so than this teaser for Parisienne Mild cigarettes, a brand paradoxically headquartered in Boncourt, Switzerland:

About the Author

  • John Metcalfe
    John Metcalfe is CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, based in Oakland. His coverage focuses on climate change and the science of cities.