Signposting the Uncanny
Watching The Singing Detective for the nth time, someone who hadn't seen it before was after around 5 episodes slightly perturbed by how it seemed to analyse itself - in the sense that Zizek talks about of the concoction of symptoms that are in themselves easily solveable. While its psoriatic protagonist declares his preference for 'all clues, no solutions' it gradually becomes clear exactly what exists only in his head and what in reality, and the Real referents that provide the raw material for his fevered imaginary - as opposed to the doors within doors of Inland Empire (more fascinating observations on which at Antigram) where solutions are abandoned altogether - and Lynch is in this a surrealist in the strictest sense, ensuring that there are always moments which evade comprehension altogether, even in his less violently oblique films. This doesn't strike me as a defect in Potter though, more a difference in the Surrealist approach and the Brechtian. While the Surrealist disjunction and alienation is fundamentally unsolveable and irrational (and promising its own irrationalism: hence perhaps Lynch's real-world conservatism) in the Brechtian example the disruption is still, in a sense, constructive: Potter's Marlow is not the sum of other people's perceptions that Laura Dern is in Inland Empire, but a subject - of a particularly fractured and fragmented sort, and capable of reconstructing himself.
The usual critique of that would be that it leaves out the Uncanny: but this ignores that the uncanny in Potter isn't signposted, isn't reducible to mere weirdness or psychedelia but a strangeness of the everyday. While the pop songs in Terence Davies' Distant Voices Still Lives are made present, actual, lived, part of some sort of struggle, in The Singing Detective the real singing voice is always recorded. The eeriness of the scenes where Marlow's parents play the Ink Spots is provided by the fact that it isn't mimetic: we don't hear the sound of Alison Steadman playing the piano, but the 'original' recording in all its crackliness, echo and antiquation: the song as the boy would remember it coming out of a speaker, listening in from the stairs. But then there's the opening scenes of the psoriatic body, stiff with pain, hissing 'I've Got You Under my Skin' through gritted teeth: a complicated dialectic of the everyday and the fantastical rather than a dedication merely to the latter.