David Lynch’s Projection Instructions for Mulholland Drive (2001)

David Lynch is known for being per­snick­ety about deliv­er­ing the cor­rect view­ing expe­ri­ence to his audi­ence, as he con­sid­ers the cin­e­ma a sacred place. In a doc­u­men­tary short a few years back, he explained, “It’s so mag­i­cal, I don’t know why, to go into a the­ater and have the lights go down. It’s very qui­et and then the cur­tains start to open. And then you go into a world.”

How­ev­er, the cin­e­math­eque is also the space where direc­tors have the least con­trol. They can hope that each print that goes out has been print­ed cor­rect­ly (espe­cial­ly dur­ing the days of film), or that the sound is clear and/or loud enough, but, in a wide release, hope is all direc­tors can do most of the time. There are excep­tions: Stan­ley Kubrick over­saw the rere­lease prints of his films. And Alfred Hitch­cock demand­ed that there would be no late seat­ing for Psy­cho-—a tac­tic that worked to the film’s advan­tage.

This card (above) from David Lynch came with every print of Mul­hol­land Dri­ve that was sent out to the­aters. “I under­stand this is an unusu­al request yet I do need your help,” he writes. Lynch asks that the vol­ume be raised 3db and that the image be giv­en a tad more head­room.

John Neff, in a post on the Face­book Lynch­land group, explained the card: “The vol­ume request was because when we heard it in the Direc­tor’s Guild The­ater for the cast and crew screen­ing, David thought it was too qui­et. The pic­ture head­room request was because of the orig­i­nal TV aspect ratio. These con­cerns have been addressed in all for­mat releas­es since the orig­i­nal DVD release.”

Mul­hol­land Dri­ve was orig­i­nal­ly shot, or rather, the first half of the film was shot as a tele­vi­sion pilot for ABC, so a 16:9 (1.78:1) aspect ratio was expect­ed. But when the stu­dios passed on the pilot, Lynch fin­ished the film as a stand­alone fea­ture. Cin­e­mas matt pro­jec­tions at 1.85:1, cut­ting down on the head­room. (None of this effects the orig­i­nal neg­a­tive, which is stan­dard 35mm.)

Lynch sim­i­lar­ly cares about home view­ers. The first direc­tor-approved box set of his short films came with a sim­i­lar, Lynch-cre­at­ed cal­i­bra­tion video so you could con­trol the col­or and the white bal­ance. And one of the rea­sons fans keep wait­ing for a prop­er Blu-Ray release of Lost High­way is that Lynch has yet to over­see a prop­er trans­fer. When Kino Lor­ber released theirs in 2019, Lynch took to Twit­ter to tell fans to skip it: “Dear Twit­ter Friends, A Blu-ray of LOST HIGHWAY will be released very soon. It was made from old ele­ments and NOT from a restora­tion of the orig­i­nal neg­a­tive. I hope that a ver­sion from the restora­tion of the orig­i­nal neg­a­tive will hap­pen as soon as pos­si­ble.”

As far as I know, he has not weighed in on the cur­rent prob­lems asso­ci­at­ed with HDTVs, but Tom Cruise has been tak­ing care of that. And what­ev­er you do, do not watch Mul­hol­land Dri­ve on your iPhone.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Watch an Epic, 4‑Hour Video Essay on the Mak­ing & Mythol­o­gy of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks

David Lynch Explains How Sim­ple Dai­ly Habits Enhance His Cre­ativ­i­ty

David Lynch Being a Mad­man for a Relent­less 8 Min­utes and 30 Sec­onds

Ted Mills is a free­lance writer on the arts who cur­rent­ly hosts the Notes from the Shed pod­cast and is the pro­duc­er of KCR­W’s Curi­ous Coast. You can also fol­low him on Twit­ter at @tedmills, and/or watch his films here.

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