"It's such a sadness"

David Lynch has a habit of saying exactly what I’m thinking, but saying about a hundred times better than I ever could. Exhibit A:

David Lynch talks about watching movies on the iPhone

Even if you don’t like his movies, you have to admit that when he’s right, he’s right. [Via BoingBoing]

30 thoughts on “"It's such a sadness"

  1. Yeah, the fuck was what tipped me from “a bit whiny” to “douchebag.” Sure, somebody had to say it. LOTS of people have said it. And I don’t know if the David Lynch fanboy crowd is particularly coherent, nor do I know if it has any bearing on the market. bleh.

  2. Aw hells no it has no bearing on the market (and incidentally, Lynch fanboys are totally incoherent), but I’m by no means a Lynch fanboy and speaking as someone who produces content that, through a series of godawful corporate machinations may one day wind up on someone’s 2-inch phone screen, let me just say that he has a very good point. I can’t pick out a single aspect of what he’s saying here that I can disagree with, and furthermore, JUST LOOK A HIS FURIOUS CONVICTION! ISN’T IT CUTE!?


  3. Hmmm…. I think it’s pretentious crap. Blah blah blah You don’t FEEEL it. Blah blah blah I’m David Lynch Blah blah blah I’m so special blah blah blah everyone who watches movies on a phone are morons blah blah blah and of course no one ever watches movies on anything BUT their PHONE blah blah blah I’m a whiny old man blah blah blah.

    Well, that was a bit harsh. He has a point, but not a strong one, since the goal of wide screened phones, and even iPods, is not to “experience” a flick, it’s to watch and enjoy it. He should stop whining and appreciate that people want to put movies in their lives in more ways.

  4. And another thing!

    It seems that David Lynch wants people to only watch movies in a movie theater with brand new film (no $2 places – the film is old and scratched) and a sound system that produces what the designers intended. If those parameters aren’t fulfilled, you aren’t “experiencing” the movie. Evidently, David Lynch doesn’t support independent filmmakers who can’t afford big showings and a four week screen run.

    Jeez, I’m an angry guy.

  5. Let me just point out that he’s got a real vested financial interest, because there’s no way in hell that you can enjoy something like Mulholland Drive when you’re watching it on a 2-inch screen. The Office, sure. Pirates of the Carribean? Maybe.

    This is why digital distribution schemes tick me the hell off. Hasn’t anybody ever noticed that you enjoy movies less when you watch them on even a TV or computer, let alone on an iPod or cell phone? I absofuckinglutely agree with what seems to me to be his basic premise—that in a perfect world, people would only ever watch first-run release prints or digital projections from a comfortable (but not too comfortable) seat in the middle of a clean theater with a well-maintained screen. OF COURSE that’s almost never the case, but I can definitely see why it might dismay him to see some hipster watching Eraserhead on their iPhone with those little tinny earbuds while they’re riding the bus. It sure as hell dismays ME!

    I’m not opposed to such behavior in general and I understand that people would rarely (if ever) watch a movie on their iPhone that they haven’t already seen, but still: At some point, movies are no longer movies. For me, while home video is teetering on the brink, Youtube and portable electronics shove it right over the edge. And I never



    want some jackass with an iPhone to judge my films based on the flaws inherent in his or anyone else’s shitty little LCD.


  6. I can’t speak for the iPhone but Life Aquatic looks pretty good on the iPod’s screen, held at the right distance it looks as good as a TV. My headphones, (not the cheapo ear buds, Bose fucking headphones) are better than my TV’s speakers by a lot, and Life Aquatic on that wee screen still gets the same emotions out of me than it does on a TV. If a movie is great, it transcends the medium, and you get lost in it all the same.
    If I had never seen Life Aquatic before though, I would feel awful watching it on an iPod. I relish the opportunity to see it on a big screen having seen it originally on DVD. I also understand the sadness of having an art medium like film degraded to a time waster on road trips, but come on Divid Lynch, there are worse crimes being committed against film than cell phones.

  7. Here’s the thing: The real problem with the iPod (or home video for that matter) has nothing to do with picture quality. I’ve seen the iPhone’s screen and from the standpoint of being a sad, sad technophiliac geek, I want to have that LCD’s babies.

    The problem, rather, is the decontextualization of movies from their intended environment (the theater) and the introduction of distractions. It would be different if there were movies made specifically for portable devices (and let me tell you, if David Lynch made a movie specifically for the iPhone, I would go buy an iPhone just to watch it).

    When he says “it’s such a sadness,” I don’t think he means it in the sense of, “Oh, you sad, pathetic creature,” but rather that it makes him sad seeing this happen to a medium that he loves (and that I love too).

    Back in the 1980s when home video first became popular, it was decided that because of the low quality of consumer videotapes, movies should be cropped from their original widescreen format to fit inside the square TV frame, essentially throwing out 20% of the picture. Not long after that, cinematic viewfinders began including a square frame inscribed inside the widescreen frame. As a rule, nothing of visual importance could happen outside of this inscribed frame so that no important information would be lost in the transfer to video. The reason: home video distribution makes a lot of money (more money than a theatrical run), and filmmakers were forced to abide by the restrictions of this additional format. As a result, you will notice that many films made in the 80s and early 90s have very static, boring framing with lots of dead space on the sides. The medium directly and tangibly suffered, for nearly 20 years. Movies made during this period were not as good as they would have been had they not had to conform to video requirements.

    My point is that if filmmakers have to account for people watching compressed video on tiny screens with ear buds instead of decent speakers, the medium of film as I know and love it (in a theater, with ratty seats and gum on the floor) will suffer. I can’t think of a worse crime against film to date (no, not even Snakes on a Plane).

    Luckily, full-frame videos are now virtually dead. With the invention of anamorphic DVDs (but even to some extent before), widescreen video releases became the norm. This encourages me, because it tells me that when the movie-watching public loses its infatuation with new technology, it generally goes back to wanting to see the movie, rather than some stripped-down or otherwise diminished version.

  8. And just to clear things up, yes, if I this were 1980 I’d be totally against the idea of movies being released on video.

    Of course if this were 1980 I wouldn’t have a blog and so nobody would have to listen to me complain.

  9. I’d join the fray here, but I’m not allowed to speak.

    What’s That? I’m already posting? Well Okay Then!

    Andrew is correct, as I’m sure we’re all aware. When video distribution first came to be not only did film suffer by having to put up with that full screen crap (Yes, I’m against that too. But more on it later), but film also suffered in other ways. Nowadays filmmakers know that most folks (myself included) see a movie not in a theatre on a big large screen with a wonderful ambience, but in the comfort of their own homes on a television screen. As a result, long shots and shots as you see in Fargo no longer exist in big-budget Hollywood films. Instead we have a bunch of close ups and extreme close ups of actors speaking. As both an actor and perhaps a future Production Designer, I’m not too happy with this. How does this fit into the iPodPhone debate? Because if this iPhone craze hits the fan and movies begin to be watched largely on those little tiny wittle bitty screens (Whats that? It already has? Well fuck) then say goodbye to seeing any of the set in a film, because if we have a shot too long, then the person (or “Intrinsic Interest” to use useless film vocabulary) will be roughly the size of a thumbtack. Of course, having the protagonist the size of a thubtack would confuse and anger the general public, and there would be mass rioting.
    So, to take a break from my “One really long paragraph” approach, watching a movie on an iPhonePod eliminates any significance buried within the setting, and instead we’ll only have giant heads on screen…like Zardoz.

    Now, Distribution? I’m not sure about if I lived in the 1980’s, although most likely I’d be rocking out to Devo with a Flock of Seagulls talking about the latest Jean Claud van Damm movie. However, I’m fine with distribution…as long as it’s widescreen format and on a large enough television screen. Why? Because almost all movies I’ve seen have been rented from Blockbuster or Parker and watched on a small screen. It’s cheaper, you don’t have to deal with hideous horrible people, and it’s cheaper.

    Well, I’ll go back to not speaking again. Hopefully this was somewhat enlightening, if not, you can go once again to telling me to shut up and get a life. David Lynch?

  10. See? SOMEBODY agrees with me! …even if it is just Vvinni.

    This is the free market, people! Your buying habits change the lives of us content providers. The best way to keep us focused on making good movies is to spend your money enjoying movies of the utmost quality.

    Vvinni: I also do a lot of my movie-watching from DVD, but you have to admit that it’s a very different experience from seeing the movie in a theater, and that’s what worries me about such things. For instance, I just watched Tideland on DVD and really didn’t like it, but I have no idea how I’d feel about it if I saw it in a theater.

    I’m not saying that I’m not going to put my movies out on DVD or even for digital download; avoiding those markets would just be foolhardy. I’m just saying that there’s no replacing the experience of watching a movie in the theater. It seems to me that a lot of people have forgotten what that’s like, and I can’t help but feel a little sorry for them, if only because I can’t imagine that they’re getting their money’s worth out of the movies they watch.

  11. Wow. This is an intense discussion.

    I completely disagree that it’s sad that people want to enjoy movies in other environments than a theater. And so WHAT if a hipster is watching it? All I’m hearing is a bunch of pretentious movie-maker crap that, to the average person, means totally zilch. I like movies, and I’ll watch Citizen Kane on my freakin one inch screen if I want to, and enjoy the hell out of it. That’s not sad, because neither I, nor ANYONE else I know, believes that watching it in such a form is the “same” as watching it in a theater. No one thinks that! They realize the difference, but to them, the difference has different priorities than to the people on the other end.

    I do agree that certain trends tend to influence how filmmakers work, but that’s their own damn problem. If they want a movie to be seen in theaters, they have to make a movie that will be seen in theaters.

    I guess I’ve been away from the biz for a while, but reading this stuff is a little off-putting, because I’m a consumer of movies, too, and I absolutely believe I get my money’s worth when watching movies somewhere other than in a theater.

    And another thing: No one is going to make movies to fill the micro-screen market, because such a thing is completely unnecessary. And if they do? Don’t watch the movies! Make your own movies and don’t whine about it.

    Whew. Climbing on this pedestal is exhausting.

  12. Hey, woah, hold on a second.

    The Office is actually a very visual show. It would be hard to appreciate all the looks on everyone’s faces, the subtle glances at the camera (from very far away), and stuff like that. That’s half of the humor! Blah!

    …Oh. This is a reply to a much earlier post. BUT I DON’T CARE!

    Also, from a filmmaker’s perspective I understand the desire for your work to be displayed perfectly, but… a movie theatre is NOT PERFECT. Maybe an empty movie theatre, but if it’s full of people, then there’s cell phones going off left and right, people laughing and commenting and getting up and sitting back down, and chewing food loudly and slurping drinks from the bottom of their cups!

    It takes a certain kind of viewer to deeply enjoy movies, and that is the dedicated one, the immersed one. This only makes a difference to that kind of person.


    An iphone user who is dedicated to watching movies on their iphones frequently (rather than the average consumer, who may watch a 2-minute clip, an occasional music video, or their favorite episode of Friends) has seen this in theaters, and has seen it at home. I would watch something on my ipod because I love it, and want it to be familiar, and it can stave off boredom, sadness and loneliness in a place with an inaccessible TV.

    The ipod and iphone and whatever else are not convenient enough to ever be used as the primary source for movie-watching. 9 time out of 10, somebody loads their favorite movie onto an ipod or iphone, not a brand-new one.

    Ehh, I see both sides of it. Nothing beats a giant screen, but nothing beats the companionship of my favorite watchables when there’s nothing else.

  13. I guess in the end my main problem with it is that the screen is REALLY tiny. Insy Binsy. Especially compared to a movie screen or even a television screen. I can see watching television episodes on the iPod (Once again, because I’m thinking of loading some Simpsons episodes on it).
    However, I would NOT reccomend watching Fargo or No Country For Old Men or…really any film. Once again, the screen is tiny and it’s hard to see much of whats going on if it’s not a close up, and (leastways to me) it doesn’t really seem that personal. Quite frankly I’m fine watching things in a movie theater with an ambience. Why? Because it adds to the environment. Case in point: I watched The Simpsons Movie opening night with a bunch of simpsons geeks, and it was FANTASTIC. Will it be fantastic when I watch later in the comfort of my own home? Probably. But as Fantastic? Who knows?!

    In the end, I guess it matters what your planning on watching on your iPod. If it’s the latest Hugh Grant romantic comedy or Walk Hard, then your fine. Bu Lynch? No. No. Not unless you want to simply hear it. Which, I guess in a movie such as Mulholland Drive or Eraserhead might work, if your a sound designer looking for inspiration. But, nevertheless, watching a movie on iPod is not like watching a movie. Even watching a movie in the comfort of your own home.

    And another thing, no matter where you watch a movie, there’ll be things that get in your way and distract you. Movie theatres have idiots, their drinks, and their cell phones; home has phone calls, washing machines, and pets; iPod has wherever the hell your watching it with all sorts of hideous horrible people and loud noises.

    Anyhoo, I’ll climb off this misanthropic train and transfer to Amtrak 345 to Santa Fe, stopping by Denver along the way. What’s that? I have a layover? Well, I’ll be looking for some good restaraunts in Chicago.

  14. Hey, hey. Woah, woah.

    I’m in total agreement here except for one thing: why do you compare Walk Hard to the latest Hugh Grant romantic comedy? And Hugh Grant has done plenty of good movies too! About a Boy was good! Those movies have PLENTY of artistic merit that’s gonna be missed on a tiny screen! And that’s the same with television!

    Things will be missed in ANY movie on an ipod screen. Don’t diminish Walk Hard because it’s a mainstream, “petty humor” comedy! There’s plenty you’re gonna miss.

    Also, I just don’t think David Lynch is that fantastic. This video is primarily funny, and carries a good point, but I don’t think the iPhone’s target market (or ANYBODY I’ve ever met) is using their iphon-a-majigs or ipods to watch movies they haven’t seen, and to even watch movies regularly! The video feature is convenient if you know you’re going on a long bus trip with no entertainment. You load your favorite movie, not because you want to experience it for the first and only time and therefore miss out on lots of things, but because you’ve become familiar with it, you love it, it makes you happy and keeps away loneliness, and occupies your time on that long road trip.

    What I’m saying here is, I kind of agree, but DON’T WORRY. I don’t think the iphone’s going to ruin everything.

  15. You’re right, Ethan. Hugh Grant has done plenty of good movies. He was just the only Romantic Comedy actor I could think of in a short while. I’m also sorry to comment after your comment, because I feel that’s a good end to this discussion. So, Ethan’s comment is the end (or at least for me), I’d just like it to be known that I do acknowledge Mr. Grant’s right to exist and make movies and very few of them are meritless crap.

    I’m sorry.

  16. I agree with Ethan that both sides have valid points, IE, I wouldn’t want films like Life Aquatic to have to cater to wee screens and have exciting things happen every other scene to make sure you’re paying attention to the movie and not Mr. Fat-And-Obnoxious sitting next to you on the plane. That is a pretty nightmarish scenario.
    On the other hand, I doubt very seriously that studios are going to look at the handheld electronics market as an indication to make movies big and readable. There is not a dark board room of executives right now saying,
    “People are watching movies on their iPhones!”
    “Let’s degrade the medium!”
    Also, HD is not as good as film but it’s close, and it better than DVD (just not as much as Blu Ray and HD DVD companies want you to think). If HD gets more penetration in the consumer market (right now it’s like 10-20%, and HD DVD/Blu Ray players are way lower than that) then that might off set and waves made by iPhones because the resolution is good enough to pick up little details, not that I think that HD DVD Blu Ray are good formats. They should have waited untill HD-DVD-Holo-Smellovision-Ray.
    Also Greg, this is pretentious whiny film maker talk because the movies we all know and love are made by whiny pretentious film makers. It sounds like nit-picking but these are important nits to be picked.

  17. Actually, HD is better than film. Video is not as good as film…not by a LONG shot, but HD is better. In fact…nevermind. Whoever has my notes on TV probably has those numbers. But I’m not supposed to speak anymore. Listen to the Ethan, he speaks the truth.

  18. A couple little clarifications and then I’m done:

    @Vvinni re “HD is better than film”: It depends on what HD and what film you’re talking about. Most HD is not as good as 3-perf 35mm. REDcode HD is slightly better than 35mm scanned to a digital intermediate at 4k, but only on paper. The lenses are what make the difference. But IMAX and 70mm film are still the king for high-performance imaging. The cameras also weigh as much as Volkswagens.

    @Mikhail re: people in dark rooms deciding to degrade movie picture quality: Those people do exist. They’re payed lots of money by Sony Entertainment and 20th Century Fox. Fortunately, thanks to the fall of the studio film-factory system, it’s a creative decision that is (for now) mostly out of their control.

    I’d also like to thank you all for a really surprisingly and refreshingly civil discussion, one which knocked me down off my high-horse and made me really think about the issues at hand. Greg, you’re mostly right, but you were also the most bombastic. Learn to be more polite.

    Anyway, thanks for an eye-opening discussion. You guys are awesome.

  19. I’m plenty polite, thankyouverymuch. Maybe a bit bombastic, but no more so than many other comments. I just used a lot of exclamation points.

    Unfortunately, it’s TRUE that many of these comments, especially the early ones, are very pretentious and insulting to people who aren’t film buffs. Re-reading the series, I also definitely admit that my comments were along these same lines. I guess we all get excited about things we’re passionate about. My apologies for being so “bombastic,” but I’d like you to be more polite too, considering I AM a, “hipster watching Eraserhead on their iPhone with those little tinny earbuds while they’re riding the bus.”

    I guess my real point here is:

    Will you still have my babies, Vvinni?
    And my hideous demon babies, Andrew?
    And my cute puppies, Mikhail?
    And my… fish, Ethan?

  20. Of COURSE I’ll eat your babies, Greg!

    (South Park moment–cue the cheesy music): I learned something on this thread. I make movies so that people watch them. And it doesn’t really matter how they watch them, as long as they watch them. And as long as I can make movies that people get to experience somehow, it’s quite silly of me to look a gift horse in the mouth. Movie theaters aren’t going anywhere for a little while yet. Eventually, though, I think they WILL die off. Maybe not in the next couple decades, but certainly within my lifetime. And that makes me sad, because when that happens we will have lost something wonderful. But movies will live on, somehow. Maybe not in a form that your or I would recognize, but they will keep going. And in the meantime, you all can download Wholesale Souls and put it on your iPod or iPhone or Zune or waffle iron or whatever you want.

    *quietly weeps stoic tears*

  21. Pingback: Exploding Goldfish Films » Blog Archive » …and bacon!

  22. Okay, so I have nothing to add, but I feel like I must tell you all that when you’re reading this thread for the first time while listening to “Sitting” by Cat Stevens, it makes the whole thing very poetic. Especially the South Park moment…

    Well done everybody. Major props for your major whining.

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