Posted in: by Sean Axmaker, Contributors, DVD, Interviews

Interview: David Lynch on ‘Inland Empire’ II – The DVD

Back in 2007, in conjunction with the release of Inland Empire, I had the opportunity to interview David Lynch twice in the same year. This is the second of the two interviews, conducted over the phone and focused on the DVD release of Inland Empire, which he produced and distributed independently through his company Absurda. An edited version was published on MSN, as part of the “What’s in Your DVD Player” series. Here is a longer version of that interview. Lynch talks about movies and DVDs, what his favorite movie is and why commentary is “the worst possible thing a person can do.” – SAx

What’s the last DVD that you’ve seen?

I saw The Hustler last week, with Paul Newman, Piper Laurie, Jackie Gleason and George C. Scott. It’s a great film. It’s black and white and it really sets a place and a time and a world and I really enjoyed watching it again.

I love the photography by Eugene Shuftan, and all the great poolroom footage with the haze and the smoke.

It’s really, really a well made film. Really tight and great performances, really good writing. It’s a very interesting film.

Do you have a favorite DVD?

Sunset Boulevard. Tonight we’re going to the Billy Wilder Theater, and Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard is maybe my favorite world to go into, for sure in the top ten worlds to go into.

Do you ever check out the DVD supplements?

Hardly ever. But I gotta say, on the Inland Empire DVD, they’re worth checking out.

You have of course never done a commentary track, but you do load up the Inland Empire disc with a lot of interesting extras and the “Stories” section could almost be a stand-alone commentary because you talk about so many things around the film.

I believe talking is okay separate from a thing, but a commentary track that goes along through a film, I think is maybe the worst possible thing a person could do. From then on, the film is seen in terms of the memory of that commentary and it changes things forever. Things are rounded if they’re separate. Stories surrounding a film or things surrounding it, that’s a different kind a thing and I think those things are okay.

You have about 70 minutes of deleted footage in the “More Things That Happened” section and you’ve edited them so they it plays like their it’s own dreamlike film.

Right. You know, there are things in “More Things That Happened” that give a feeling that could be like a brother or sister to the film. It’s like if you know a family but you haven’t met the sister yet, you go over to Ohio and meet the sister and it adds more to the feeling of the whole family.

What was your inspiration for the black and white cooking show supplement, “Quinoa” (pronounced “keen-wah”)?

I’ve seen a lot of cooking shows on television and I guess it wasn’t even my idea. May it was my idea, something I was going to do, I don’t remember how it happened, but I do know how to cook quinoa. The recipe was given to me by a girl named Chrysta Bell, who’s a great singer, so I learned how to do that quinoa and decided that it would be good to do kind of a cooking segment.

Besides nourishing, if you cook it according to that recipe, it’s really a great taste. In the film, you can’t really see, the light got burnt out on the sea salt and the amount of quinoa I had in there. The amount of quinoa I had was about a third of a cup for one person in an inch or an inch and a quarter of water, because you notice my water burned out before the end, that doesn’t always happen. I didn’t put in enough water. And if you remember also, I didn’t turn the flame down right away, so it burned up a little too much water, And the sea salt is just like a half inch in diameter mound in your hand, something like that.

You produced the DVD yourself, through your own company, Absurda.

Yeah, a whole bunch of us, we worked together.

What is your involvement in the creation of the DVD supplements?

Let’s go bit by bit. “More Things That Happened,” I put that together, and “Quinoa” I sort of did that. It was actually edited by Noriko Miyakawa and filmed by two or three guys around. “Lynch 2” was filmed by a guy who probably doesn’t want me to give his name but he also did a documentary on me. He followed me around for like nine or ten months, day in and day out, so I got really used to him being around and he was able to get a lot of things. So there’s a documentary and then “Lynch 2” is a half hour or so of behind the scenes at Inland Empire.

Is the documentary you’re referring to “Lynch [One]”?


This is the fifth DVD you have produced through Absurda. Are there any practical lessons you learned along the way in producing your own DVDs?

It’s so beautiful, the world. You still need, in the final stages, to go to an outside facility for mass printing and producing and they need to be checked in certain ways, but so much of this anyone can do in their house, and that’s the beauty of today’s world. And then through trial and error, we discovered pipelines to stores and different places and that’s kind of an exciting thing. So you feel like you’re more in control of where things go, how they go, and it’s a good experience but a whole lot of work and I’ve had a lot of help from people working 24/7.

You went to Rhino to distribute this disc.

Rhino! A great company. And I think Rhino put out the Eraserhead soundtrack, I’m not positive about that, way back when. Rhino is a hip place and they’ve been fantastic. [ed note – Rhino didn’t release the soundtrack – but they should have]

I listened to the soundtrack LP of Eraserhead before I ever saw the movie. This was pre-video and it was the closest I could get to the film until later in college. It disturbed me greatly.

It’s a nice world, the world of Henry Spencer. I loved being in that world, I gotta tell you. You’re just bringing it all back.

I love the opportunity to be able to go back in it in the DVD you produced. It’s not like seeing it as a midnight movie in a theater, which is how I first saw it, but if you turn off all your lights…

If you turn off all your lights and you’ve got as big a screen as possible and good sound, we all can go in to a world in our home and that’s happening more and more and more, as you know.

In the “Stories” section of the Inland Empire supplements, you go on a rant about people watching movies on their phones. So how do you feel about the huge explosion of home theater?

I feel great about the home theater. It’s so hopeful. It’s a counterpart to the telephone experience, or the computer screen, but a lot of people are going to see their films on computers and phones and they will think they saw the films but they will not have seen the film. And that’s a sadness, as I say in “Stories,” that’s a real sadness. It’s very hard to sink into a world when the picture is so small. I hope that the home theater, big screens at home will be something embrace so they can feel and think in the world, not have all this distraction around it.

Do you think that’s a generational thing? Where my generation put efforts into high end stereos and big screen TVs for home theater, my nieces and nephews are listening to music on iPods and watching YouTube, closing themselves off with headphones for solo experiences.

Solo experiences are very good, but a solo experience on a phone is way, way different from a solo experience in your home when you’ve got a big, big screen and big sound. All that has to happen is somebody who is used to seeing it on a computer screen or on a phone has the experience of seeing it bigger and better sound, and then it’s done. They say, “Oh, I get it,” and they try to get that for themselves.

Absurda's DVD release of 'Inland Empire'

Sound is such an essential part of your movies. Do you have to mix it differently for the home theater experience?

You compress things for DVD so your dynamic range is squeezed. Otherwise, you’re riding the volume every time you’re seeing a film, you’ve got to pump up the quiet areas and slam down the loud areas, so you take the mountain peaks and the valleys and you bring them close together. You just gotta do that.

Is that because of the limitation of home theater speakers in contrast to theater sound systems?

It’s partly that, the television speakers and things, but it’s mostly there’s so much noise in the world. You don’t want to squeeze it too much but you want to squeeze it a little so they catch those quieter areas and they can still feel the loud.

You spell “disk” with a “k” on the DVD case, where most people spell it with a “c.” Is there something behind that?

I think you can spell it either way, but we had a little talk about it and I think a “k,” and I think it’s the Polish connection, “k” is a nice letter.

“K” is a nice letter. I’ve got one in my name.

I’ve got one in mine.

Wait a minute, unless you have a middle name I don’t know of…

I have a middle name that starts with “k.”

That’s not well known. Will you tell me what it is?

(laughing) You can find out.

[I did – it’s Keith]

When it comes to producing a DVD, what are the kinds of supplements that you’d like to see on DVD and the kinds of extras t hat you think DVD can bring to people?

Number one, I think the film is the main thing. All the rest, it’s like a circus. There’s the main tent and then there’s lots of little tents. In the little tents, I would like to see people telling stories about the experience and I would like to see scenes that weren’t there, but not put back into the film. And I would like to feel a little bit of what it was like to be there during the time of the making but not anything that would disturb the film. Extras are interesting but the film has got to be protected.

Do you think you can create a way to bring people into the film with these extraneous extras, that you can interact with them, get them to engage with the film in different ways?

I think maybe a little bit, but the film should do that. If it doesn’t do that, you could put a lot of extras on and it wouldn’t help. Inland Empire is a film that… The good thing about a DVD is you can see it whenever you want, again and again. It’s been my experience when talking to people that the first time they see Inland Empire it’s one thing, and the second and third time, it’s a whole different thing. So there’s a very good thing about a DVD, but like I said, the bigger the screen, the darker the room, the best sound you can get, so you can go into the world and have that experience. That’s the ticket.

© 2007 by Sean Axmaker