David Lynch says forthcoming Lost Highway Blu-ray falls short

Hollywood rag IndieWire reported over the weekend that David Lynch had dropped something of a bombshell on his Twitter account concerning the release this coming week of his film Lost Highway on Blu-ray.

Lynch wrote the following: “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.”

According to IndieWire, and correctly observed, Lost Highway has never received a Blu-ray release in the U.S., with Region B versions the only ones available up until this time. Lynch is known to be a stickler for ensuring that picture and audio deliver the highest standards for disc release, and some of his formerly-helmed titles on DVD did not even offer chapter breaks to preserve the whole experience at home. The reason for Lynch’s loss of control of the title appears to be unknown, but IndieWire surmises that it might be related to October Films closing doors after acquisition by Universal, and says it is pressing for more information.

The new US release Kino Lorber will be available from tomorrow (June 25th). There appears to be little information about the bonus materials on the disc so far, and it’s perhaps surprising that Criterion has not overseen the release this time, with its legacy of distributing Lynch titles, including Eraserhead (1977) and Mulholland Drive (2001).

Some of you may wish to check out the comments below Lynch’s announcement on his Twitter feed here.

 

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Martin Dew

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55 Comments

  1. I'm still buying it. If a Lynch-approved release comes out, I'll pick that one up but after waiting a decade, I don't think it's silly to feel that is my last chance to get this movie on a disc.

  2. I just watched it. Other than a really weird audio anomaly on the Universal logo at the start (the surround sound on the 5.1 track jumps around erratically from speaker to speaker), it seemed fine to me. Comparing it to the Focus DVD, it does appear to have been derived from the same master, without much more than the usual uptick in resolution and uncompressed audio (but that's not nothing). Those darker-than-black interior shots where people emerge from and dissolve into the darkness are always going to be a real mystery to me until David Lynch gets around to approving a transfer. I saw the sneak preview in a theatre, and the look of this Blu-Ray is consistent with my memory of the look of the movie on-screen. I'll be doing some comparisons to the "Zagubiona Autostrada" DVD that I picked up in Krakow in 2005, which was not derived from the Focus DVD master and is lighter, with less contrast. You can see more in the darkness, but I've never been too sure about its fidelity to Lynch's intentions. Anyhow, the Kino Lorber Blu-Ray will do for me until Criterion or Arrow takes a crack at "Lost Highway", and if or when they do, I'd sure like to hear that Tim Lucas commentary.

  3. battlebeast

    I like that they mentioned in the article that Criterion has released Lynch Films including THE ELEPHANT MAN. (They haven’t.) But is it forthcoming?

    I believe it was announced for laserdisc release but never released. It was assigned spine #201, so that may account for some confusion. Plus it was recently streaming on the Criterion Channel.

    Hopefully it’s coming to blu from them.

  4. battlebeast

    I like that they mentioned in the article that Criterion has released Lynch Films including THE ELEPHANT MAN. (They haven’t.) But is it forthcoming?

    Yes, you're right, battlebeast – my bad. It's available from Studio Canal in some European territories, but not in the US and with no release date set. I'll change that.

  5. Martin Dew

    Yes, you're right, battlebeast – my bad. It's available from Studio Canal in some European territories, but not in the US and with no release date set. I'll change that.

    For a minute I got excited… :/ It would be nice to see Elephant Man from Criterion, but it's a paramount title… :/

  6. This shouldn't be a surprise; Universal hasn't invested in a new master for this title, and Kino can only release what exists.

    I just saw this master recently through an iTunes stream and it's fine. I'm looking forward to the disc version for the lossless audio; I found the audio on the streaming version wasn't able to handle the film's dynamic range very well (sometime I've had an issue with in virtually all streaming versions of Lynch projects that I've seen), so hopefully the disc is an improvement on that front.

    And this will automatically be a tremendous upgrade for anyone who has the UK Blu-ray, which is merely a PAL master upconverted to HD with the 4% speedup included.

  7. Kino Lorber Insider

    Lost Highway

    We reached out to Mr. Lynch via email to oversee and color grade a new 4K transfer (from the original camera negative) and get his approval on the dozen or so extras we had planned to include. Once we knew he was not interested in working with us, we had no choice, but to go ahead with the current Universal master and the few extras we had already produced and acquired. To our surprise, the master in question was a very good one, so we were happy to release it with some extras. We found out later that the extras and packaging also had to be approved by him (not the norm) and we sent email after email without one response. We delayed the release by a month, hoping we could at least get him to approve the trailer, the essay and our packaging, at this point we knew the interview and commentary were not possible, but after a few more weeks, we dropped the essay, the trailer and changed our front art to the previously approved DVD art. The BD only includes the film on a dual-layered BD50 disc, maxing out the feature at 30mbps with 5.1 surround and 2.0 lossless audio. We were planning to take the high road and not play the blame game, but after his tweet this weekend, we felt like we had to respond.

    We’re still huge David Lynch fans and are proud to release one of his masterpieces on Blu-ray.

    View attachment 59942

    From the "critical discussion thread' of Kino Lorber. FYI.

  8. Well, if Kino Lorber is to be believed (and there's no reason to disbelieve it), it's Lynch's fault. He was asked to help out, he ignored the requests and now he's complaining??? I'm just speculating but I suspect if his darling Criterion had the rights to the title, he would have been more than happy to be involved.

  9. I am a big fan of David Lynch.

    As a longtime fan, I’ve noticed that Mr. Lynch at times can have a tendency to allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good.

    He’s an artist and it’s his craft and I understand that.

    Criterion in theory could have licensed Lost Highway anytime over the last twenty years. Either they didn’t have interest, Universal wouldn’t let it out, or the asking price was too high.

    If Lynch is upset that Kino got the rights, that’s an issue for Universal, not Kino.

    And what I think Lynch is missing here is that if people choose not to buy this disc, that won’t cause the studio to say, “We should have licensed it to someone else or remastered it first.” It will cause the studio to say, “This justifies our lack of investment in the title because these sales numbers demonstrate the demand isn’t there.”

    From what I understand about other licensing deals, the term for this could be anywhere from a couple years to five or more. Does anyone really believe physical media is in such a condition where the market would be there for a second physical release five years from now?

    The reality probably is that this will be the last chance to own this title on disc.

    And I’d rather have it than not.

  10. If Lynch declined the invitation to participate in creating a new transfer and bonus features, knowing Lost Highway was going to be released with or without him, it would seem to invalidate his complaint.

    I don’t recall Lynch making a stink about either Blu-Ray release of Wild at Heart, which both were sourced from the same old master. Granted that was an old master he personally supervised back in the DVD days, but still.

  11. RichMurphy

    From the "critical discussion thread' of Kino Lorber. FYI.

    RichMurphy, thanks for adding Kino Lorber's Tuesday (I believe) response to Lynch. I was going to post another thread to that effect, but no need to now.

  12. To quote David Lynch in his famous iphone video it is such a sadness and I see no winners in the Lost Highway case.

    The upside is that the older master is actually not that bad so if somebody has not yet imported one of the European versions it is now finally available in the US.

  13. Reading into Kino's response that Lynch "was not interested in working with us", I have to assume that Kino either didn't want to pay Lynch his quote to supervise the release or Lynch himself wants the film released by Criterion to join his other films.

  14. Most filmmakers don't get paid to supervise or sign-off on new video transfers – they do it because they want their films to be viewed properly, particularly now that 35mm projection is pretty much dead. Declining an offer to be involved and then publicly trashing the end result is just a dick move on Lynch's part.

  15. Worth

    Declining an offer to be involved and then publicly trashing the end result is just a dick move on Lynch's part.

    Yep, the only reason the disc "falls short" is Lynch's attitude. It sounds like he was afforded every opportunity to participate just short of actual down-on-the-knees begging. It's either his elitist leanings or greed that prevented such. Definitely lowers my opinion of the man.

  16. Worth

    Most filmmakers don't get paid to supervise or sign-off on new video transfers – they do it because they want their films to be viewed properly, particularly now that 35mm projection is pretty much dead. Declining an offer to be involved and then publicly trashing the end result is just a dick move on Lynch's part.

    I would think that there are two sides to the argument but as of now it looks more like Kino did not even get an answer from Lynch.

    As for being paid for getting involved with creating a new master I also never heard that directors were paid for signing off on a new master or for giving pointers to improve it. Their payment would be added recognition for their body of work, the satisfaction to see their movie in the best possible form and whatever percentages they get directly or indirectly from home video sales.

  17. Worth

    Most filmmakers don't get paid to supervise or sign-off on new video transfers – they do it because they want their films to be viewed properly

    Would you manufacture a car and then pay for oil changes in perpetuity for the new owner because you want the car to be maintained properly?

    Did Kino really just email Lynch and ask him to help for free? That isn't how you get in touch with a film maker, and that isn't what you should expect him to agree to.

  18. bigshot

    Would you manufacture a car and then pay for oil changes in perpetuity for the new owner because you want the car to be maintained properly?

    Did Kino really just email Lynch and ask him to help for free? That isn't how you get in touch with a film maker, and that isn't what you should expect him to agree to.

    That's a strange analogy. If I sell my car to someone else, I couldn't care less what they do with it. If I spend a year or two of my life working on a project – for which I'm quite generously paid – I don't mind spending a day or two once a subsequent decade to ensure that people see it in the best available manner.

    I don't know what actually happened with Kino and Lynch. Maybe they didn't try hard enough to contact him. Maybe they did and his representative never passed the message on. But if he did know about it, and refused to participate because either he wouldn't be sufficiently compensated, or because he was too snobbish to deal with Kino over Criterion, then he should have kept his mouth shut about this release.

  19. bigshot

    Would you manufacture a car and then pay for oil changes in perpetuity for the new owner because you want the car to be maintained properly?

    Did Kino really just email Lynch and ask him to help for free? That isn't how you get in touch with a film maker, and that isn't what you should expect him to agree to.

    I bought a brand new Chevy last year and I get six free oil changes from the dealership.

    I seriously doubt that Money came up in KINO’s initial email to Lynch.

  20. Worth

    That's a strange analogy.

    OK. If you painted a painting and sold it to someone, could they expect you to reframe it for free if it needs a new frame?

    Or if you write a symphony, could a symphony orchestra expect you to conduct it for free?

  21. Worth

    That's a strange analogy.

    No, it's not a valid comparison. Neither is the follow-up. Lynch in fact is being paid, as any director would be paid, through his royalties from sales of the product that results from his work. Plus, this situation requires him to do something once to assure the continued quality of his product. The examples given would require him to provide support, individually, for every single person who bought the product. Not the same.

  22. Something else occurred to me, it appears Lynch maintains an unusual level of control over his work, requiring his involvement in pretty much any release or anything that's ever produced. Well, then he needs to participate in those releases, or accept whatever happens. I know he's a quirky auteur, but you can't have it both ways. It appears he had no interest in contributing to material he has contractual control over. It seems he only has himself to blame.

    I always thought his insistence that his video releases have no chapter stops was silly, FWIW.

  23. Lynch can have as much or as little involvement in the video transfers of his films as he likes, but it's bad form to openly bash a release for not getting his seal of approval after he declined to participate in it.

  24. Worth

    Lynch can have as much or as little involvement in the video transfers of his films as he likes, but it's bad form to openly bash a release for not getting his seal of approval after he declined to participate in it.

    It sounds like nothing, absolutely nothing can be released, all the way down to cover art and supplementals, without his approval. So a new transfer can't be released without his approval. Kino said they had to revert back to already approved cover art from a DVD release because he refused to have any part in the US BR release.

  25. One thing I haven’t seen mentioned is the differences in licenses that Criterion and Kino tend to acquire. Criterion typically licenses a title in perpetuity for the life of the format. They can afford to spend more on their releases because they have an unlimited amount of time in which to recoup their expenses.

    The licensing deals that Kino is able to get are generally for fixed terms and limited periods of time. They may only have the rights to their Universal titles for a short period, probably not dissimilar from Twilight Time’s three year window. They simply can’t afford to spend the same amount of money on a release that they’re only able to sell for a couple years compared to a company that has decades to recoup an investment.

    Universal owns the film, and as the owner, it’s Universal’s responsibility to ensure its proper preservation and release.

    It really seems to me that any studio-related frustration should be directed at Universal, not Kino.

  26. Josh Steinberg

    One thing I haven’t seen mentioned is the differences in licenses that Criterion and Kino tend to acquire. Criterion typically licenses a title in perpetuity for the life of the format. They can afford to spend more on their releases because they have an unlimited amount of time in which to recoup their expenses.

    The licensing deals that Kino is able to get are generally for fixed terms and limited periods of time. They may only have the rights to their Universal titles for a short period, probably not dissimilar from Twilight Time’s three year window. They simply can’t afford to spend the same amount of money on a release that they’re only able to sell for a couple years compared to a company that has decades to recoup an investment.

    Universal owns the film, and as the owner, it’s Universal’s responsibility to ensure its proper preservation and release.

    It really seems to me that any studio-related frustration should be directed at Universal, not Kino.

    Very interesting. I'd still like to know what went on behind the scenes on the licensing negotiations here. Given Criterion's relationship with Lynch, I can't imagine that Criterion didn't bid on Lost Highway.

  27. JohnRice

    No, it's not a valid comparison. Neither is the follow-up. Lynch in fact is being paid, as any director would be paid, through his royalties from sales of the product that results from his work.

    The royalties are for making the film in the first place. He gets that if he works on a release or not. He isn't required to continue to work on the film for free after it's finished. They pay the people who do the commentary tracks and the people who produce the making of videos. They pay the engineers who do the restoration, color correction and mastering. Why wouldn't they pay Lynch to supervise?

  28. Kyle_D

    Very interesting. I'd still like to know what went on behind the scenes on the licensing negotiations here. Given Criterion's relationship with Lynch, I can't imagine that Criterion didn't bid on Lost Highway.

    It wouldn't be unreasonable to speculate that maybe Criterion just wasn't interested enough, which wouldn't be a surprise considering this isn't nearly as popular a title as the others they've released. He might have been bitter.

    Regarding the other issue, considering Mr. RAH agreed with my initial comment about Lynch's involvement/non-involvement and pay, I feel rather confident to stand by my argument and leave it at that.

  29. bigshot

    The royalties are for making the film in the first place. He gets that if he works on a release or not. He isn't required to continue to work on the film for free after it's finished. They pay the people who do the commentary tracks and the people who produce the making of videos. They pay the engineers who do the restoration, color correction and mastering. Why wouldn't they pay Lynch to supervise?

    If someone asked me to work on restoring something I made and didn't offer to pay me, I might blow them off and I would certainly feel free to comment on the quality of their work afterwards.

    Why do you keep assuming that he wasn’t offered compensation? If I had to guess, their inquiry probably never got far enough for that part to even come up.

  30. JohnRice

    I always thought his insistence that his video releases have no chapter stops was silly, FWIW.

    Me too. oddly controlling of him. I bought the DVD, I will watch it as I see fit. and his no chapters rule never stopped me from super fast forwarding to a scene I liked.

  31. JohnRice

    It wouldn't be unreasonable to speculate that maybe Criterion just wasn't interested enough, which wouldn't be a surprise considering this isn't nearly as popular a title as the others they've released. He might have been bitter.

    I seriously doubt that. It's been one of the most requested titles–perhaps the most requested title–on their forum for years. Criterion even released Fire Walk With Me, which is far more derided than Lost Highway and had already been released in the Twin Peaks box set that most fans already had in their collections.

  32. This is a relatively recent film shot on modern film stocks which are far more stable than earlier color stocks. And the film was hardly a roaring success which means the negative was certainly not over-printed. Just how much "restoration" would this film require ?

  33. Rob W

    This is a relatively recent film shot on modern film stocks which are far more stable than earlier color stocks. And the film was hardly a roaring success which means the negative was certainly not over-printed. Just how much "restoration" would this film require ?

    Probably none at all, just a standard 4k scan with some TLC should do.

    I think the same was done for Blue Velvet and the improvements from the new 4k master were not as big as some people may have hoped for and I doubt that big jumps in detail or clarity are possible with Los Highway due to its original photography. So this is another good reason to get this Kino release now, Lost Highway simply isn't a hyper detailed highly resolved movie that would profit a lot from a 4k scan.

  34. Josh Steinberg

    One thing I haven’t seen mentioned is the differences in licenses that Criterion and Kino tend to acquire. Criterion typically licenses a title in perpetuity for the life of the format. They can afford to spend more on their releases because they have an unlimited amount of time in which to recoup their expenses.

    I'm guessing that's when they can arrange it. The Criterion "This Is Spinal Tap" was one of their first DVD releases and, sadly, went out of print almost immediately. I'm still kicking myself for selling my copy years ago when I naively assumed that subsequent releases on home video would contain all of the supplemental material that wasn't created specifically by Criterion. I've been pining for the long version of the "Cheese Rolling" film ever since. Lesson learned. 🙁

  35. Rob W

    This is a relatively recent film shot on modern film stocks which are far more stable than earlier color stocks. And the film was hardly a roaring success which means the negative was certainly not over-printed. Just how much "restoration" would this film require ?

    Even the best condition negative will need to be graded after being scanned. A scanner’s sensor isn’t going to “read” an untimed element the same way making a print photochemically with the correct timings would, so shot-to-shot matching has to be done. This is especially obvious from one camera load to another, where even the changes in processing times can have a drastic effect on the overall timing of a shot.

  36. Jack Theakston

    Even the best condition negative will need to be graded after being scanned. A scanner’s sensor isn’t going to “read” an untimed element the same way making a print photochemically with the correct timings would, so shot-to-shot matching has to be done. This is especially obvious from one camera load to another, where even the changes in processing times can have a drastic effect on the overall timing of a shot.

    Understood, but I see those as transfer and timing issues that would apply to every title . Had Lynch complained that the film required an upgraded transfer I would have kept my mouth shut, but "restoration" as I interpret it involves elements which have been edited, deteriorated or require TLC in order to bring a film back to the way it was intended to look, beyond the basic things that can be done in the video transfer stage.

  37. Rob W

    Understood, but I see those as transfer and timing issues that would apply to every title . Had Lynch complained that the film required an upgraded transfer I would have kept my mouth shut, but "restoration" as I interpret it involves elements which have been edited, deteriorated or require TLC in order to bring a film back to the way it was intended to look, beyond the basic things that can be done in the video transfer stage.

    The film does not need a restoration, but some people just like the sound of the word. Adds a certain position of legitimacy, importance and self-needed respect.

  38. TravisR

    The great Tim Lucas posted a link to download his commentary for Lost Highway that was forced off the Blu-ray. Here it is: http://www.videowatchdog.com/home/home.html (anyone reading this in the future, scroll down to July 1, 2019)

    This is one of the best links I've seen posted on this site! Not only is the commentary very valuable, it was also terrific to hear Tim Lucas again after the sad demise of his excellent magazine, to which I was a subscriber. Thanks for this – it deserves to be listened to by a large audience.

    (Now, if only someone can get hold of the commentary Twilight Time made for Woody Allen's Interiors, which they were also forced to pull. Why the hell can't these auteurs just let cinephiles just revel in their splendid work and allow commentaries by external experts? It's not as though anyone is forced to listen to them, if they don't want to!)

  39. TravisR

    The great Tim Lucas posted a link to download his commentary for Lost Highway that was forced off the Blu-ray. Here it is: http://www.videowatchdog.com/home/home.html (anyone reading this in the future, scroll down to July 1, 2019)

    Thanks for posting that, so now there is at least one extra that one can enjoy with this release!

    It is worth reading what he writes about that contract with David Lynch that also forced Kino to release Lost Highway without extras.

    Just in case anybody wants to blame Kino for a bare bones release.

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