The Elephant Man is returning to cinemas in a new 4K restoration

David Lynch’s award-winning vision of alienation has never looked better.


Charles Bramesco


It’s been a big week for David Lynch fans. On Monday, Netflix added the experimental filmmaker’s short WHAT DID JACK DO? to their platform, and now StudioCanal has unveiled the trailer for their new restoration of his landmark 1980 drama The Elephant Man.

The true(ish) account of Joseph Merrick, a gentle-hearted man with a severe physical deformity that made him a pariah in so-called polite society, launched Lynch from the avant-garde fringes into the mainstream. The film netted eight Oscar nominations and the biggest box-office return of Lynch’s career, leading to an offer to direct the next Star Wars picture and ultimately a deal to helm his massively catastrophic adaptation of Dune.

But while it may have connected with a wider swath of audiences, The Elephant Man by no means represents a concession on the director’s inimitable style. There’s not the slightest whiff of compromise in his stark black-and-white photography, the themes of alienation and bodily breakdown – beautifully realised by John Hurt in a career-best performance – or the ambient creeping horror that are all Lynchian stock-in-trade.

Studiocanal has given the film a spiffy 4K restoration and scheduled a theatrical run for the spring, though a specific date has yet to be set, with plans for a home-video release undoubtedly coming down the pike. As is the case with all of Lynch’s films, it really sings in the theater, where a viewer can savor every creak and pop and hiss of the meticulously constructed sound design.

As one of the comparatively less-weird entries in Lynch’s canon, it’s accordingly one of the least-discussed, but that shouldn’t detract from the brilliance on display. For a brief, glorious moment, Hollywood was Lynch’s oyster, and instead of cozying up closer to the industry types, he spent that cachet making multiplexes a stranger, more foreign place to be.

The Elephant Man 40th anniversary 4K restoration is released in cinemas on 13 March, and on digital, DVD, Blu-ray and 4K UHD Collector’s Edition on 6 April.

Published 22 Jan 2020

Tags: Anthony Hopkins David Lynch John Hurt

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