The Texas Theatre’s upcoming David Lynch Retrospective is set to be the largest exhibition of the director’s work ever.
While films and ancillary projects from across Lynch’s career—including classics like 1986’s Blue Velvet and his short films—will be included, they will be supplemented by screenings of other work that was not made by Lynch. These will be films and shorts that share connective tissue with Lynch’s movies, such as Red Rock West and The Wizard of Oz. It’s rare for a retrospective of any artist’s work to cast such a wide net with its programming, but the Texas Theatre is providing the event the time and space needed to accomplish its ambitions.
The festival is the brainchild of projectionist Daniel Knox and the Dallas-based production company Talented Friends. Jason Reimer, co-owner of the Texas Theatre and co-founder of Talented Friends, said the goal was to make the event as immersive and extensive as possible, going beyond just hosting screenings.
“There’ll be lots of projections and…things going on in the theater. There’re little sneaky surprises that people will just have to wait and see,” he says.
An ongoing part of the program will be a series of special events that the team behind the retrospective is calling “The Black Lodge,” a reference to Twin Peaks. While details about Black Lodge events are still under wraps, Reimer says they will be “for the super hardcore people that want to get lunch and stick in for each day.” The Texas will open daily at 1 p.m. to host The Black Lodge, which will be free to attend.
The organizers have also worked to bring additional voices into the programming and execution of the event. Texas Theatre staples like Tuesday Night Trash and Dallas Ambient Music Nights will be coordinating with the venue to take part in the retrospective.
Scott Ryan, an author and the managing editor of Blue Rose Magazine, will moderate Q&As with guests. His magazine is dedicated to Lynch’s work and a testament to the director’s enduring appeal. While Ryan jokes about his decision to start a print magazine in the mid-2010s during a digital revolution, he and his team have since released 17 issues and attracted a global readership.
Working on Blue Rose and his books has allowed Ryan to build relationships with a number of Lynch’s collaborators, some of whom will make an appearance at the Texas. His intention is to keep the energy up and the vibe fun for attendees during the Q&A sessions. “I love being in front of a crowd or asking [guests] questions and making everyone laugh,” says Ryan. “People should expect a very interactive Q&A with me—this will not be boring.”
The guests Ryan will be interviewing include actors and directors Lynch has worked with or who have been inspired by him in some way.
One attendee, George Griffith, whose directorial debut, From the Head, will screen during the retrospective, grew up in a house where he says “directors were talked about in…an exalted fashion.” Lynch was one such director, and Griffith and his brother spent their teenage years watching Lynch’s early films: Eraserhead, The Elephant Man, and Blue Velvet. Griffith says the latter “changed [his] perspective on everything.”
When Lynch’s seminal television series Twin Peaks was released, Griffith and his brother followed the director across mediums, taping episodes as they premiered. Decades later, Griffith played a role in the series revival, Twin Peaks: The Return. “I had admired [Lynch] since I was so young, and just to be a part of his world was exhilarating beyond words and…truly a dream come true,” says Griffith.
Being exposed to, and influenced by, Lynch’s work at a young age is not an experience unique to Griffith. Sherilyn Fenn, who appeared in Lynch’s Wild at Heart, Twin Peaks, and Twin Peaks: The Return, and Natasha Gregson Wagner, who appeared in Lost Highway, were similarly struck by the auteur’s visionary filmmaking as young adults. Working alongside Lynch deepened their admiration for him as an artist.
Gregson Wagner shared her assessment of Lynch’s process and what inspires him. “I think David is a real artist. I mean—the fact that he’s a painter, he makes coffee, he meditates, he’s so interested in dreams,” she says. “I think people resonate and react to his authenticity as an artist, that…he really is a storyteller… He pulls from every medium to create his stories.”
Fenn says Lynch subverted her expectations. “You think [David Lynch is] going to be weird,” she says. “But he’s not weird, he just finds beauty in everything, and probably more often in things that people don’t find beauty in.”
Fenn and Kimmy Robertson, who will also be attending the retrospective and worked with Lynch on Twin Peaks and Twin Peaks: The Return, both spoke about Lynch’s enduring appeal and why his work resonates so strongly with audiences.
“We live in a society where we’re taught not to go deep… [and] I think that some part of people’s soul is longing to be touched,” says Fenn. Robertson echoes her sentiments and thinks the reason Lynch’s work has remained so relevant is because, “…it touches part of us that…we don’t think about daily… I think our souls look at [his work] and go, ‘Oh, I recognize that.’”
Another planned attendee for the retrospective, Alexandre O. Philippe, is an example of the impact Lynch’s filmography can have on those who haven’t worked with him directly. Philippe is a documentarian whose career has involved making movies about movies. He knew Lynch would be an excellent subject.
Philippe ultimately decided to explore the relationship between Lynch’s work and The Wizard of Oz. “It [was] something [that had]…been floating around in culture for a long time,” he explains. His exploration eventually led to a feature-length documentary, Lynch/Oz, which will be shown during the retrospective.
Philippe thinks the reason audiences have been so enamored with Lynch’s work and driven to dig deeper into it is that, while it can be “cryptic,” the movies are also “extraordinarily entertaining.” He adds, “I think there’s always the sense that [Lynch] holds your hand throughout his films, even if you’re scratching your head, [or] you don’t have a clue what’s going on.”
Each of these guests will make appearances at screenings and Q&As during the festival to help celebrate Lynch’s artistry and its impact on them personally and the broader film landscape. While the programmers want to avoid making the event feel like a fan convention, they believe that having these guests (and others) onsite will enhance the overall experience for attendees.
“People…may have seen Lost Highway, but have they seen it with people that are involved with the film?” asks Jason Reimer.
Along with the guests, Reimer says the format films will be shown in will also set this retrospective apart from typical screenings. “People may know David Lynch did The Straight Story, for instance, but…they may not realize how hard it is to get a 35-millimeter print of that,” he says. “We have The Straight Story with a 35-millimeter print.”
“[You] definitely need to see more than one thing, because [you] can’t get a grasp of David Lynch with just one movie, or one commercial, or one cartoon, or one Calvin Klein ad,” says actress Kimmy Robertson.
Griffith, the director, perhaps best sums up the appeal of the event for local moviegoers, saying the David Lynch Retrospective, “…will be like a living museum of cinema and [Lynch’s] work.”