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WORKING WEEKEND: Lynched in Vegas

16 May, 2002 By: Bruce Apar

So some guy sitting in the Vegas sun to grab a snack with a friend during the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) convention last month is softly talking about this problem he has with DVD.

He says his recent experiences with the format du pure belie its state-of-the-art reputation, at least as far as he is concerned. Our correspondent says it's the digital compression that causes artifacts in the image that bother him. That, and some technical cavil he described about how DVD's built-in audio specification limits the flexibility to create more elaborate and higher quality audio mixes.

By this point, I wasn't exactly keeping pace with every nuance of his sophisticated DVD analysis, but who cares, I thought: It's enough of a kick to be hanging out on the steps outside the Sands Convention Center, carrying on this impromptu conversation with director David Lynch.

When I first approached him – slightly dumbstruck that I had caught him out of the corner of my eye sitting anonymously amid a crowd of lunchtime convention-goers paying him no mind – my opening salvo was that I had visited his davidlynch.com Web site and wondered why he didn't also put the experimental shorts there on a DVD.

He said the idea was to get people to subscribe and keep coming back to see new content he would add regularly. I suggested that by sampling some of that content on a promotional DVD, he could drive people to his site with a DVD-ROM link. “That's a good idea,” he offered. Okay, I thought, I'm on my way to Hollywood immortality. Maybe he'll cast me in his next project.

Instead, I felt cast aside when he got around to saying, “I don't like DVD.” Subsequently, days later, his confidante told me by phone that Mr. Lynch did not mean that exactly the way it might have sounded to my digital-delicate ears. He simply had just had a difficult stretch while restoring for DVD his seminal film, Eraserhead, transforming badly deteriorated masters into pristine high-def by digitally cleaning 30,000 frames.

Apparently, the man who gave us The Elephant Man, Blue Velvet, Lost Highway, Twin Peaks and Mulholland Drive was taking the opportunity I presented to vent a little. Glad to be of service. The Eraserhead DVD, by the way, is available for sale at the davidlynch.com Web site.

The result of his painstaking perfectionism, according to a Lynch technical associate, is “the cleanest work on DVD” anybody has seen. Eraserhead on DVD also features a restored soundtrack and a bonus 10-minute hip-hop remix derived from the soundtrack.

In the meantime, my casual Vegas acquaintance is the toast – or is that gran fromage? – of the Croisette as honorary chair of the Cannes Film Festival. I hope he doesn't feel lost without me there to play straight man.

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