- David Lynch’s first nightclub makes quite an impression. (Guirkinger/Silencio)
You probably see David Lynch as an enigma. He is.
The man’s a 66-year old multidisciplinary enfant terrible with an imagination that still rarely ceases to surprise and confound even his most devoted supporters. Few others so delightfully subvert the very Middle American seeds from which they are sown. But, for all his complexities, amidst all the beautifying and deconstructing of his surroundings and self, there’s a simple code to Lynch. His work must compel him. Whatever emotion or sensibility tantalizes him he will return to his audience concentrated tenfold. That principle informs his vision. It is part of his legacy.
His latest creation makes great use of this tendency. It is a nightclub. Across the Atlantic. Steps from the heart of Paris’ pub strip.
It is called Silencio. Yes, Silencio. A night spot conceived and designed by the colourful director down to its most intimate details. From the edging on the carpets and the saltiness of the nuts at the bar. It’s all covered. Silencio opened in October and boosted by its curator’s heightened profile and breathless coverage in the European press it has, thus far, managed to both honour and transcend real Parisian underground. And, yes, you really do have to descend six flights of stairs before you arrive at the coat check.
Woody made hanging with Hemingway and Fitzgerald magical this year. But if you’re putting me on the ground in Paris after dark, the man I want running the show is David Lynch.
I checked in just weeks after the opening. A chill Saturday night in November. Worth the long walk down rue du Montmartre, in the second arrondissement, to 142. Incredibly, there was no lineup. The 50-deep queue of channel-hopping chavs frozen in place outside the eurotrash lounge next door seemed hardly to know Silencio existed. Underground. The best place to build your next treehouse.
There are seven true rooms in the 2,100-square foot space, each designed to suit a specific purpose. The way we conceive of bathrooms. Lynch designed those (black-on-black) here, too. It is Paris Photo Week. The room is full of young things. They look look like the director cast for these parts from his “Mulholland Drive” auditions, all in their easy 20s and early 30s. The floor bustles but it’s not too hot. And certainly not cold. The dance floor is reflective. There’s soul and jazz on the spinner. There is a lot of dancing. Real dancing, done by people who know how. But it’s different than in America. Here, when you dance among them, you know how to dance, too.
You also know how to order a drink. You stand a bit taller. Try a little French and find it comes out clean, almost easy. The bartender meets your gesture with respect. You ask him to make you the best cocktail he can conceive of. You tell him that, from now on, you will call it the same name your girl goes by. It better measure up.
It does. It may be the most expensive drink you’ve ever bought. Worth every penny.
- There’s no blue velvet but other Lynch atmospherics fill the space, from the edging of the carpet to the saltiness of the bar nuts. (Guirkinger/Silencio)
The smoking room recalls the foreboding woods beyond Twin Peaks. Lynch has spoken about coaxing the atmosphere and aesthetic from his films and characters into these walls. It’s a terrific success. No nightclub I’ve seen quite compares. The bigger idea, we’re told, is to create a space for concerts, film, visual media and performance art where patrons are not merely engaged but also encouraged to partake. You arrive because you are drawn. You experience because you are present.
The location comes with the expected allegorical accoutrements. There are murmurs that a 17th-century playwright named Molière was buried here once. The socialist Jean Jaurès was apparently murdered across the street in 1914. Lynch started to work here two years ago after a spell in Paris painting in a Montparnasse studio once used by Picasso and Miró. Now, he blends the surreal with the incisive, carefully applying touches of the surreal and incisive. Silencio‘s arching walls are covered in gold leaf applied by the same technicians who touch up the dome over Napoleon’s tomb. The juxtaposition thrills. In nightclub terms, this is classic cool meets cutting edge.
It’s worth noting that this is Paris’ first private members’ club. Annual memberships cost between 420-1500€ and reward with amenities such as access to the luxury concierge and priority seating in the club’s 24-seat theatre. You will have to complete a written application to be considered. But Silencio is free after midnight for proles like you and I. Of course, details of nightly happenings won’t be found on the club’s suitably cryptic website. You have to come inside to discover. Tonight, away from the music, in the ergonomic cinema, Metropolis is playing.
Beneath the city, the music is right, the drinks are smooth and young hearts are beating a little harder. To be in the room this night is to know that, somewhere, a soul is dancing.
- Silencio: great space made better by great drinks, company.