Destination Film: David Lynch: A Complete Retrospective

With the long awaited third season of Twin Peaks just around the corner and renewed interest in all things David Lynch, the prestigious Music Box Theater in Chicago dropped probably their biggest film festival lineup since their 70mm Film Festival last year: a complete retrospective of every single short film, feature film, documentary, commercial and music video in the distinguished surrealist’s illustrious film career!  Beginning on April 27th and running through May 4th, the festival represents arguably the most comprehensive assembly of the director’s oeuvre ever attempted with many surprises that are unlikely to be seen anywhere else!  Included among the surprises is a rare documentary of Peter Braatz’s 8mm documentary Blue Velvet Revisited, which is still without a distributor, as well as a myriad of short films and promotional materials never before seen!

Very clearly I had to make the sojourn to Chicago to get a taste of this enormous dedication to one of my all time favorite masters of cinema.  While I knew I wasn’t going to get to all of it, getting to see a 35mm print of The Elephant Man and a European print of the original X rated cut of Wild at Heart was an extremely rare opportunity I had to embark on.  What I wasn’t counting on was just how far the Music Box Theater and it’s lead projectionist and programmer Daniel Knox went to give moviegoers the ultimate David Lynch cinematic experience!

The moment you set foot into the Music Box, you can hear the soundtrack for Twin Peaks playing in the café lounge area.  The café lounge itself was briefly renamed The Black Lodge with many decorations adorned throughout including two television sets playing the now infamous videotapes from Lost Highway as well as custom edited versions of the retrieved videos of Laura Palmer and Donna Hayward dancing about from the pilot of Twin Peaks.  Even further still, a custom made Pabst Blue Ribbon light was added to the lounge along with two posters for Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me as well as logs recalling the beloved Log Lady and deer busts recalling the infamous Sheriff’s Department from Deer Meadow. 

By way of the concessions, the Music Box had a special treat in store: gallons of David Lynch’s own brand of custom gourmet coffee which you can buy from his website.  Being a coffee fiend myself, I was eager to try it for years and can now say “it’s all in the beans”.  Also available along with the ornately prepared and detailed program booklets accompanying the festival were custom made poster prints for the festival, with the now familiar image of the theater screen in deep red with the black and white zig-zag Black Lodge tiling on the screen.  

Further still, the night of Fire Walk with Me, a local bakery chain named Bang Bang Pie & Biscuits set up a table outside the theater with their own brand of custom cherry pie slices and other pastries, giving viewers just the right mixture of damn fine coffee and the best cherry pie in the world!  Just to be nice, they even gave away unsold pie slices to anyone who wanted them at the end of the night, allowing fans who stuck around after the film for the bonus screening of the Pilot (which was not listed on the schedule) as well as the Missing Pieces from Fire Walk with Me yet another reward for sticking around. 

The main auditorium itself was where they went crazy!  With a bright red curtain in front of the theater screen, the perfect finishing touch was adding carpeting to the aisles which resemble the zig zag tiling of the Black Lodge from Twin Peaks.  I’ve been to the Music Box many times now, but this was the first time I can recall the theater using their organ prior to a show, playing nearly all of the music from both Twin Peaks and Blue Velvet as a kind of overture.  Each show began with an introduction from Daniel Knox with trivia games and really cool prizes including one of the limited edition Mondotees vinyl reissues of the soundtrack to Fire Walk with Me and Mark Frost’s new book about the show which made him and Lynch a household name.

If anyone reading this lives near Chicago or is willing to go all out for David Lynch, I can say with certainty this was the most fun I’ve had going to a film festival in a great while!  Unlike other theaters which simply played the film with that being it, the Music Box retrospective tossed in so many bonus surprises that it was like you were being paid back for the ticket purchases.  To say they went above and beyond what anyone going to see a David Lynch film or series of films should expect is an understatement.  While I was and still am excited for the soon to be unveiling of the third season of Twin Peaks, this thoroughly extensive and comprehensive retrospective of one of the greatest American auteurs of our generation has all but fueled my obsession with David Lynch to untold heights!  The Music Box Theater is and of itself a gift to cinephiles and their magnificent retrospective on all things David Lynch represents one of their loveliest presents yet!

- Andrew Kotwicki