Sunday, May 21, 2017

NOTES ON TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME AND TWIN PEAKS: THE RETURN



By the time you read this some of the secrets of Twin Peaks: The Return will have already been revealed. (The new series premieres Sunday, May 21, on Showtime.) As someone for whom Showtime is not available, I’ll have to spend the next four and a half months—the new run extends to 18 episodes, all directed by David Lynch—sequestered from spoilers, and probably from the Internet itself, in a perhaps ill-fated attempt to keep things fresh until the show starts appearing on streaming services or on Blu-ray. Which means also that I’ll have more time than the more premium cable-conversant viewer to rewatch the original 29 episodes from 1992-1993 and get reacquainted with the squirming underbelly of life in the small Washington town which seems fearfully and fatally tuned to a thrumming frequency of evil (transmission source: The Black Lodge) that seems, for the thankful viewer, endlessly weird and endlessly renewable.



My own re-immersion in Twin Peaks has begun with revisiting Lynch’s widely reviled 1992 feature film prequel, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, and it’s been something of a relief to discover that the movie feels much more like a fully realized masterwork than the case of fatally flawed faux-surrealist doodling it appeared to these eyes to be in 1992. The movie opens with a declaration of intent—a field of static is seen on a TV screen, which is swiftly crushed by the blunt instrument that will do in Teresa Banks, the young drifter whose murder presages that of Laura Palmer and effectively begins our journey into the series’ world of secrets.

TP:FWWM  is definitely a departure from the standards and practices of early ‘90s network television— one wonders what will result from the relative absence of restrictions on the new series, combined with the relative escalation of coarseness on movie screens in the near two decades since Lynch’s film premiered. But counter to my own initial complaint, TP: FWWM is also genuinely surrealist, perhaps more so than any other mainstream American movie I can think of, and perhaps more resonantly strange in its deadpan moments of repose than in its more stylistically disorienting moments. And yet even the film’s patented oddity, to which Lynch is clearly vocationally committed, comes in for some satirical jabs—near the film’s start, the strange, apparently nonsensical behavior of a redheaded messenger gets a straight-faced interpretation by Chris Isaak’s FBI agent that pokes fun at literal-minded viewers (like me) and then just as swiftly swerves away from the importance of the reveal to the movie at large. 



Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me is also a deeply unpleasant film, one that is significantly more difficult to watch now, when I have my own 17-year-old daughter to shepherd, than it was 25 years ago. The greatness of Sheryl Lee’s performance may have been overstated in some quarters—she’s very good at suggesting the undercurrent of torment in Laura Palmer’s life, yet she can also seem frighteningly unmodulated when the emotions start to run too hot. But her fearlessness is indisputable, and she’s the beating heart that assures Lynch’s film never strays from its most potent purpose-- illuminating the nucleus of the series’ central mystery, which is not the fate of Laura Palmer as much as it is Laura Palmer herself. Lynch himself has suggested that the key to the new Showtime run of Twin Peaks episodes lies within the heavily coded landscape of Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, news which ought to send shivers of delighted anticipation and dread through the ranks of the Twin Peaks fandom in equal measure. While the world sits down to the new episodes with a steaming cup of coffee and a slice of cherry pie, or perhaps a heaping bowl of garmonbozia, I’ll be sequestered in my own version of The Black Lodge, ears covered, eyes shut, hoping to keep the secrets of the new Twin Peaks at bay until they can be absorbed in my own way.  Good luck with that, eh?

***********************************

2 comments:

David Chute said...

Amazon!

StephenM said...

Yeah, what he said! You can get Showtime cheap through Amazon and stream it there, which is what, like, most of us are doing.

And I'd say Sheryl Lee's inability to modulate may well be why she's never really dazzled elsewhere or built a great career, but in the context of this film, it's incredibly powerful and emotionally authentic. Truly magnificent.