He has baffled, shocked and intrigued film lovers for the past 30 years. And as David Lynch, 60, prepares to present what may be his most obscure picture yet, the cult director has been honoured with the Golden Lion Lifetime Achievement Award at the Venice Film Festival.
The organisers said he was considered the father of independent new film-making in the US, and had paved the way for directors such as the Coen brothers, Jim Jarmusch, Spike Lee and Quentin Tarantino.
"With his visionary and disturbing style, he is one of the directors who has most strongly influenced our contemporary imagination, developing his coherent artistic career at the borders of the Hollywood industry, and fascinating the wider public with his experimentalism," the festival board said in a statement.
The honour comes as Lynch, the director of Eraserhead, The Elephant Man, Blue Velvet, Mulholland Drive and the cult television series Twin Peaks, releases Inland Empire, which has been described as highly eccentric even by his standards.
Starring Laura Dern, who previously worked with Lynch on Wild at Heart, and Jeremy Irons, it is described as a drama-mystery about a woman in trouble. It features hallucinatory scenes and a talking rabbit voiced by Naomi Watts.
Asked by a critic whether it was supposed to make sense, Lynch said: "It's supposed to make perfect sense." And he insisted it was important to be able to experiment. "They say Hitchcock was the master of suspense and mystery. Mystery and the unknown are something I love. I love it when the lights go down and the curtains open and you go into a new world. I love not knowing what's coming."
But Dern admitted even she was not sure what the film was about. "My experience on this film was very unique to say the least, even after working with David for a long time. Each day was a different direction. Each day was a different idea because we didn't have a script we were following. Each day he would tell me what to say and do, and I would repeat it.
"The truth is I didn't know who I was playing - and I still don't know. I'm looking forward to seeing the film tonight to learn more."
In Britain, Lynch secured his biggest audience with the cult TV series Twin Peaks, about Special Agent Dale Cooper, played by Kyle MacLachlan, and his investigation into the murder of a popular young schoolgirl, Laura Palmer.
But the director said yesterday he had no plans to return to television despite the global success of the series, which was first broadcast in the US in 1990.
"I don't understand things. There is no real logical reason why it was a success all around the world, but it just turned out to be that way. It's interesting, but I have zero desire to go back."
The director was speaking before the screening of his new work at the 63rd Venice Film Festival. Inland Empire is not in competition for the main festival prizes.Reuse content