IN 1995, PBS ran a lavish ten-part documentary called American Cinema whose final episode was devoted to "The Edge of Hollywood" and the increasing influence of young independent filmmakers – the Coens, Carl Franklin, Q. Tarantino, et al. It was not just unfair, but bizarre, that David Lynch's name was never once mentioned in the episode, because his influence is all over these directors like white on rice.
The Band-Aid on the neck of Pulp Fiction's Marcellus Wallace – unexplained, visually incongruous, and featured prominently in three separate setups – is textbook Lynch. As are the long, self-consciously mundane dialogues on foot massages, pork bellies, TV pilots, etc. that punctuate Pulp Fiction's violence, a violence whose creepy-comic stylization is also Lynchian. The peculiar narrative tone of Tarantino's films – the thing that makes them seem at once strident and obscure, not-quite-clear in a haunting way – is Lynch's; Lynch invented this tone. It seems to me fair to say that the commercial Hollywood phenomenon that is Mr. Quentin Tarantino would not exist without David Lynch as a touchstone, a set of allusive codes and contexts in the viewers midbrain.
In a way, what Tarantino has done with the French New Wave and with Lynch is what Pat Boone did with rhythm and blues: He's found (ingeniously) a way to take what is ragged and distinctive and menacing about their work and homogenize it, churn it until it's smooth and cool and hygienic enough for mass consumption. Reservoir Dogs, for example, with its comically banal lunch chatter, creepily otiose code names, and intrusive soundtrack of campy pop from decades past, is a Lynch movie made commercial, i.e., fast, linear, and with what was idiosyncratically surreal now made fashionably (i.e., "hiply") surreal.
[linebreaks added. from david lynch keeps his head, by the late david foster wallace. expanded essay available in a paperback compilation]