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Dive into the world of David Lynch at the Music Box Theatre's retrospective

Zach Long
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Zach Long
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With the long-awaited third season of Twin Peaks premiering on Showtime on May 21, the work of director and screenwriter David Lynch has taken on renewed relevance as viewers prepare to decipher his latest work. Theaters across the country are screening Lynch's 1992 prequel to the series, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, but one Chicago movie house is presenting a far more comprehensive survey of Lynch's output.

The Music Box Theatre will help ease audiences back into Lynch's surreal world with its upcoming screening series, David Lynch: A Complete Retrospective. Running from April 27 to May 4, the series includes the entirety of Lynch's feature film catalog, from his 1977 debut Eraserhead to his most recent 2006 release Inland Empire—all (with the exception of his 1984 sci-fi epic Dune) presented on 35mm film.

In addition to Lynch's films, the retrospective includes the recent documentary David Lynch: The Art Life, Lynch's own Trancendental Meditation documentary Meditation, Creativity, Peace and the debut of behind-the-scenes footage filmed throughout the production of Blue Velvet called Blue Velvet Revisited. Viewers can take an even deeper dive into Lynch's work with a screening of his short films and a program that includes footage of his avant-garde play Industrial Symphony No. 1 and a collection of all of the music videos and advertisements he's directed.

The retrospective is curated by lifelong Lynch fan (and Music Box Theatre projectionist) Daniel Knox, a local musician and film buff who once served as Lynch's opening act when the director hosted a screening of Inland Empire at the Music Box in 2007. Knox has personally cut together 20-minute pre-show presentations for each film being screened, incorporating behind-the-scenes footage, interviews and other media that lend additional context to each presentation. He'll be introducing each of the screenings, helping adorn the Music Box lobby with Lynch-themed decor (including a video installation he designed) and acting as the theater's resident Lynch expert throughout the retrospective's run.

We spoke with Knox to learn more about what's in store for attendees throughout the Music Box's expansive Lynch retrospective.

How did the retrospective come about?

We had been wanting to do one for a while—we showed Dune last October and a couple months ago we did a really successful screening of Lost Highway. [A new season of] Twin Peaks is coming back at the end of May, so Ryan [Oestreich], the manager at the Music Box, asked if I’d be interested in putting something together so I was like, “let’s show literally everything.” If you buy tickets to the Industrial Symphony No. 1 screening, it includes all of his television ads, which I painstakingly tried to find the best possible sources for. I have all his music videos too, some of which include music by bands I’m not crazy about, but the videos are all interesting in and of themselves and, played as a group, I felt like that made it more of a complete retrospective.

What kind of material is included in the pre-show reels you've assembled?

There are no spoilers, so no one has to worry about that. There are references to iconic and classic scenes but it’s not going to spoil the movie for you—I promise you that. It’s also not talking heads pontificating about what David Lynch means. It’s interviews with Lynch himself and the cast or crew of each film, generally conducted during the time of its release—I tried to put people in the seat of someone who is watching this material the year the movie has come out. There’s a couple Siskel and Ebert reviews included—the Dune one is fun, the Blue Velvet one is interesting too. I also have audio from an uncomfortable conversation between [Dune author] Frank Herbert and David Lynch.

What were some of the most interesting things you found amid those odds and ends?

One of the only things I repeat is a coffee commercial for Lynch's own brand of coffee [which will be served at the Music Box]. It never strays from a closeup of his fingers pinching a Barbie head and he is talking very softly— as the Barbie head and himself—having a conversation about his coffee. It’s one of my favorite things he ever did. I don’t know what it is about it, but I watch it over and over. Dumbland [screening at the end of the shorts program] is another interesting one—it’s really crude and ridiculous. It’s how he taught himself to do Flash animation for his website and features a loud obnoxious character belching, hurting animals and fighting people.

What screenings would you recommend to someone who has never seen a Lynch film?

If you’re new to David Lynch, come to Blue Velvet and then come to Blue Velvet Revisited. They’re the perfect introduction to his work.

What are the can't-miss screenings for hardcore Lynch fans?

If you just want to see the rarities, come see Blue Velvet Revisited because it’s only screening once. Come to Industrial Symphony No. 1 because I promise you that you’ll see something you haven’t seen yet, if you stay through the night. Also, see Inland Empire because it rarely ever screens.

David Lynch: A Complete Retrospective takes place at the Music Box Theatre from April 27–May 4. Single screening tickets are $12, an all access pass is $100. View a full list of screenings on the Music Box Theatre's website.

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