To wonder if David Lynch is working on something is absurd — the critically acclaimed filmmaker is known to be working on something at all hours of the day, be it painting, sculpting, carpentry, photography, music, weather reports — the list goes on. “He is never not making art,” frequent collaborator Laura Dern said of Lynch in an interview with Elle. “He is my great inspiration in life.”
Of course, when a David Lynch fan wonders with characteristic exasperation (a mixture of coffee jitters and smoker’s shakes) if the artist is making something, they are not thinking of Lynch’s lamps, desks, or tables, nor even his paintings or short films. They’re wondering if the 76-year-old auteur will ever make another long-form cinematic work — be it a feature film, a television series, or the mythical fourth season of Twin Peaks fans have been salivating over since the third season’s mind-boggling conclusion.
Despite little to no confirmation from the filmmaker and his collaborators, Lynch’s fans — experts of expecting the unexpected — have been clinging to rumors of an upcoming project for years. A recent announcement from Variety seemed to validate these hopes. In early April, news of a mystery project from Lynch and Dern set to premiere at the upcoming Cannes Film Festival made headlines. Lynch, however, deep in promotion for the restoration of Inland Empire (2006) (his most recent theatrical film, already sixteen years old), denied the rumor as baseless. Fans were similarly crest-fallen when rumors of a new Netflix-produced show called wisteria disappeared into thin air.
There are reasons to suspect that Lynch is not retired from big-time filmmaking. In an interview with the Film Stage, Lynch mentioned that he has spent most of his time in his studio, working on “sculpture and painting, and you know, some … some film work.” Though the director swore off feature filmmaking in the months leading up to the release of Twin Peaks: The Return (2018), his reasoning lies in the decline of the movie-going experience — this does not discount television or internet distribution.
Below, we’ll break down what we know about Lynch’s current creative endeavors and the rumors surrounding them.
Inland Empire Restoration
Let’s begin with the only project we know for certain Lynch have you been working on and is releasing: Janus Film’s 4K restoration of his three-hour waking nightmare, Inland Empire. This release may not raise the kind of excitement as a brand-new project, but frankly, it should. Inland Empire is one of the towering achievements of Lynch’s career, a long-neglected amalgamation of his world-building chops, (multi-)reality-bending approach to narrative, and fusion of avant-garde sensory overload with character driven story. It is also notoriously difficult to track down, with no options for streaming and a limited home media release. The film was shot on a digital camcorder, leaving many scenes too dark to see in the DVD transfer. While the movie’s home-video aesthetic adds a layer of unreality to the already surreal proceedings, the low resolution is an additional barrier to general audiences in addition to the labyrinthine plot and bladder testing runtime.
With the Janus Films restoration and re-release, audiences get the chance to see a definitive, high-quality version of the film. The film has not been re-edited, and Lynch made sure to keep all adjustments within the scope of his original vision of it. Lynch told the Film Stage that the restoration was motivated by improvements in technology, just as the original film was motivated by the new Sony PD150 and its creative potential.
“[…] Because we were shooting with the Sony PD150 it was low-res, then it was up-ressed with that day’s technology, and now things have progressed — we’ve got this AI thing going towards it with algorithms, or whatever they use – – and lo and behold: I saw now this … depth coming. Beauty coming. Deeper colors. More focus. Richer look. […] it is much better Inland Empire because of this modern technology, but it’s the same in another way […] true to the same idea.”
If Inland Empire ends up being the last theatrical David Lynch film, it would be a great sadness for film lovers — but it would also be a spectacular note to go off on, one that has been retouched and cleaned up. Though the loss of digital artifacts and blur may sacrifice some of the original film’s charm, its aesthetic will remain fuzzy and amorphous even in 4K, and Lynch has no intention of changing the actual narrative structure. However, there is a film he has considered retouching…
David Lynch’s Dune
Most of the recent clickbait and headlines about Lynch’s upcoming projects have been drawn from his press run for the Inland Empire restoration. Much innocent conversation has been blown out of proportion, taken by the internet as confirmation or definitive plans. One of the juiciest pieces of chit-chat-turned headline comes from Lynch’s interview with the AV Club. Lynch brought up the most malignant project in his filmography of him: dunes (1984). Though Lynch claims to have loved everyone he worked with on the project, he maintains that he was compromising artistically from the start, creating a film he could never be proud of, even if it had been met with success (it wasn’t).
“[…] the thing was a horrible sadness and failure to me, and if I could go back in I’ve thought, well, maybe I would […]”
However, he is just as quick to add that “it’s not going to happen.” The Director’s Cut of dunes is something he would like to do but not something he is planning or working on. Lynch has made a point of noting that there is no great film buried in dunesas opposed to, say, the clunky original edit of bladerunner (1982).
“It’s not like there’s a bunch of gold in the vaults waiting to be cut and put back together […] I would like to see what’s there […] it might be interesting — there could be something there. But I don’t think it’s a silk purse. I know it’s a sow’s ear.”
Sow’s ear or not, it would be fascinating to see what Lynch would have done if he had had creative control in the editing room. It’s not something he has slotted ahead of him (and there’s a chance his retouches of him would never see the light of day beyond his own editing room), but this project could potentially materialize.
Rumors of a David Lynch Netflix series have held out for a few years, accepted by many as official, something that will happen, to the point that they have spawned additional rumours: it is a new season of Twin Peaks? Will it be the mystery premiere at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival? The rumor dates back to late 2020, when IndieWire published an article announcing the series. It noted that Netflix had declined to comment, but industry paper Production Weekly had already put forward a production start date in May 2021. While nothing was confirmed by Netflix or David Lynch, the rumor was not denied — which, for many fans, was as good as a confirmation.
Wisteria is a flower that frequently symbolizes longevity or immortality. The idea of a mystical property in a mundane object makes perfect sense for a Lynch project, though why the internet has accepted wisteria as the title is as mysterious as the project itself. “Wisteria” is not mentioned anywhere in the IndieWire article or the Production Weekly announcement. All that was disclosed was the partnership between Netflix and Lynch to create a new TV show.
Since that announcement, there has been nothing more on wisteria. There have been clickbait articles here and there, including one that claimed the show had been canceled — but nothing from any official source. wisteria stands as the most precarious rumored Lynch project. It seems the most likely to be happening of all, yet there is a very good chance it does not and will not exist. Only time will tell.
The Mystery Cannes Film
Unfortunately, the most exciting rumor has come to be the most baseless. Or has it?
Yes, it has (… or has it?).
Internet headlines were aflame early this April with the news of a mystery film by David Lynch, to be premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, featuring a performance by Laura Dern. Would this be the premiere of wisteria? A follow-up to Twin Peaks? The feature film follow-up to Inland Empire? How did the production stay so under the radar?
Baseless rumors like these pass through the blogosphere every day — but this one was different. It was announced by Variety, a reliable entertainment industry news source. The article didn’t fixate on Lynch’s project specifically and announced many films reliably. It should be noted that the post was not a straightforward listing of the Cannes Film Festival slots. It was a prediction of the films that would be featured, published before the official announcements.
Adherents of the rumor also cited Laura Dern’s interview with Elle, who said that David Lynch fans “should expect more radical, boundary-less art from David Lynch. And I know it will make my life better.” Dern could very easily be referring to any kind of art by Lynch, which, as a friend and a fan, would enrich her life de ella as it would anyone’s – but this ambiguity is lost as soon as we go searching for evidence of the upcoming film. It seems obvious that Dern is teasing her latest collaboration with the director, right?
It seems not: Lynch told EW that the rumors are completely baseless. Of course, this was not enough to stop the theorizing of devoted fans. After all, Lynch is no stranger to surprise releases — fans unwilling to accept that no new narrative mobius strip will be premiering at the Cannes Film Festival can point to the un-promoted drop of Lynch’s 2020 short, What Did Jack Do? Perhaps this new film was intended to top that shock release, with Lynch denying the premiere to maintain the soiled surprise. But a homemade art film/sketch about a monkey suspected of murder — starring the director himself — is quite a bit easier to keep hushed up than a major motion picture starring Laura Dern.
Plus, David Lynch is notoriously tight-lipped about his films and filmmaking, so when he does say something, we can assume he means it.
So, despite the hopes and rumors and prayers, it does not seem like David Lynch has any new upcoming film projects. However, that’s no reason to despair as one of his best films of him is getting a long-overdue re-release, and he might touch up his most regretted film. If that’s not enough to satisfy Lynch fans, well, there’s always the furniture, his acting role in a Spielberg movie, and the treasure trove of already released films. Some of the most striking, innovative, and unique contributions to the American Film Canon. If the man never makes another film, he will still have done his part of it.
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