Lost in the Movies (formerly The Dancing Image)

Monday, August 21, 2017

Twin Peaks: The Return Part 15 - "There's some fear in letting go."


There are three possibilities. First possibility: Cooper is dead (although, as the giant Jeffries kettle reminds us, Mr. C is still Cooper in some fundamental sense as well). Wouldn't that be a pisser? David Lynch and Mark Frost string us along for fifteen episodes, allowing Dougie to elude numerous assassins, and then dispatch him by having him stick a fork into a wall outlet. The event is even triggered by him hearing the name of David Lynch's character (is Sunset Boulevard the first movie we ever see played in Twin Peaks?), as if to remind us exactly who is doing this to our beloved hero. The ultimate troll? Beyond pure sadism, this development could serve some dramatic purpose - forcing Mr. C to be the conduit (no pun intended) of Cooper's redemption or sending the good Cooper back to the Lodge/elsewhere (as the Log Lady says, death is not an ending, just a transformation) so he can find another way out or achieve something even more important, which we can't foresee. Yet I suspect the series isn't going to go there. For whatever reason, even though I was audibly shouting at my TV "Don't do it!", I'm not particularly worried about the character right now.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Into the Woods (discussing Twin Peaks: The Return Pt. 12 w/ Twin Peaks Peeks podcast)


All of the Twin Peaks podcasts I listen to have something unique to offer, and in Twin Peaks Peeks' case it's the hosts' fearless enthusiasm for in-depth conversations on various topics, using Twin Peaks as a springboard to discuss TV narrative structures, sociopolitical questions of representation, or their own personal experiences (such as their journey to the series' locations while The Return was being shot). When Ashley Brandt and Mat Olson invited me to make a guest appearance on their latest show, the episode was no exception - our conversation spilled over two hours (edited down to a still-generous chunk). I talk about how I got into Twin Peaks and what my approach to it is, and then we cover on Hinduism, superhero tropes, Eisensteinian montage, and (what were to me anyway) unfamiliar concepts like tulpas and misophonia. Speculation and reflection abound; this was a really fun discussion and I hope you enjoy listening as much as I enjoyed participating. Also, Brendan James was a recent guest so between that and Discourse Collective's interview with Will Menaker, I can now assert that Lost in the Movies officially shares of an extended podcast universe with Chapo Trap House! (Take that as you will...on a more serious note, I strongly encourage you to check out Chapo's recent coverage of Charlottesville.)

Monday, August 14, 2017

Twin Peaks: The Return Part 14 - "We are like the dreamer."


What's the biggest news this week? That the gang finally made it to Jack Rabbit's Palace? That the FBI has now linked up with both Twin Peaks and Las Vegas? That Chad was busted by his compatriots? Nah, of course not. We saw all of those things coming, even if we couldn't figure out when (especially after Part 13 tipped its hand about screwy chronology). Far more shocking and memorable were any of the following: Monica Bellucci finally appears as...Monica Bellucci! (In David Lynch's, er, Gordon Cole's dream!!) Sarah Palmer literally killed an obnoxious bar patron by removing her face and then biting off his neck!!! Andy is the one to make contact with the other side (specifically the Giant ??????? The Fireman)!!!! James' gloved British buddy was sent to Twin Peaks personally by the...Fireman!!!!! DIANE AND JANEY-E ARE SISTERS!!!!!! And yet in some ways the scene that affected me most was the final one, maybe simply because it was the cherry on top of everything else, the moment that tipped my overall impression toward something I've been wanting to feel but hadn't quite yet: the intoxicating desire to enter into mysteries that I suspect will never be solved.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Twin Peaks: The Return Part 13 - "What story is that, Charlie?"


Somewhere between watching last week's and this week's episode I finally got a grip (I think) on the shape of this series. (Hey, it only took twelve hours.) Nothing big - well, nothing big big, like no earth-shattering twist on the level of a quasi-comatose Cooper popping out in Dougie Jones' place in Las Vegas - is going to happen again until the finale. True, part 8 is already something of an outlier, but look what it actually achieved: not so much a crazy narrative development as a dazzling stylistic detour (whose explicit plot relevance, if any, probably won't be revealed until later). And I don't think we're headed for another part 8 any time soon, though I'm admittedly less certain about that. In a way, this is an odd statement to make right now: aren't I just repeating what I've been saying since the beginning? I have, more or less, voiced such views about Dougie/Cooper (and, with the series more than two-thirds over, I think I've won that bet). But I thought other parts of the narrative would pull the rug out form under us, or rather pull back the curtain and reveal a hidden reality or shocking secret that reoriented our understanding of what we were watching.

This created a nervous dynamic each week: particularly eventful episodes would excite me, inspiring me to think, "Oh boy, we're really onto something big now!" while more low-key episodes would frustratingly evoke the feeling of being stuck in a rut. But after mulling over last week's perplexing, frequently perverse installment I finally sighed in a mixture of relief and resignation. I've always said that David Lynch's notion of an ongoing narrative is different from Mark Frost's (and many other television writers'): less a cycle of beginnings, middles, and ends - existing within an overarching narrative perhaps, but still full of self-contained units - and more an extension of a single middle as long as possible. I should have listened to myself, despite Frost's deceptive proclivity to sprinkle breadcrumbs along the three-and-a-half month-long path. Set-ups and payoffs do exist, characters and storylines have moved (if not exactly advanced), and there are a few mini-arcs within the larger narrative. For the most part, though, The Return wants to linger and doodle between A and B, not leap from A to B to C and onwards.

So the best way to enjoy each week is simply to sit back and let it happen without too many questions or expectations. This isn't a slow-moving train, it's a train that has stopped and calmly rests in place, partly to refuel for the final destination (the terminal point within sight on the horizon, yet frustratingly no closer as each hour passes). but also to allow to let us wander and explore at this particular way station. In that sense, those who grumble that Lynch stretched a nine-hour story into an eighteen-hour one aren't necessarily wrong, but that's the point. Don't rush the journey, we'll resume eventually; for now, just enjoy the scenery. You'll miss it when it gone.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Twin Peaks: The Return Part 12 - "Let's rock."


Tonight's episode opens with possibly the most straightforwardly lore-y scene of the series so far. Not only does Albert speak the letters "UFO," he makes plain one of the lingering mysteries of Fire Walk With Me. The blue rose has long been a symbol of pure mystification ("I can't tell you about that," Chet Desmond once informed Sam Stanley...speaking of Chet, my condolences to John Thorne and his dream theory). The blue rose was a symbol of nothing that could be articulated except perhaps just that (the inability to articulate). Sure, for years fans speculated about a connection to the supernatural nature of certain FBI investigations, but within the text of the film itself (i.e. the most purely Lynchian slice of Twin Peaks), the blue rose remained enigmatic. The cover of The Entire Mystery blu-ray used it as a motif as if to say, "Here it all is, but see what you can make of it."

Frost, on the other hand, started pinning this phrase down as early as The Secret History of Twin Peaks last fall, using the book to suggest that "blue rose cases" do indeed denote a supernatural aura. Early episodes of The Return also hinted at a more specific meaning without zeroing in too close, but "Let's rock." tells us flat out: the Blue Rose squad continues the work of the Air Force's Project Blue Book, exploring some of their unresolved cases, and takes its name from the dying words of a woman in one of these cases. Granted, there's still an air of mystery here - the ultimate origin of the phrase remains ambiguous (why did that lady utters those two words?). Nonetheless, the expository nature of the scene and its determination to ground the story in both an in-world and historical backstory indicate this episode will be more interested in answering questions, drawing threads together, and turning corners than leaving us in darkness. This turns out to not quite be true.

At times, part 12 purposefully stalls us, spinning its wheels. The exposition becomes repetitious: Truman tells Ben everything we already know about Richard (and then Ben in turn tells Beverly this same information), Albert offers more evidence to Gordon that Diane is a traitor, Jerry continues to scramble around the woods (though at least he's reached a meadow), and even the coordinates that Diane enters into a map on her phone unsurprisingly point to the town of Twin Peaks. The Chromatics play again under the closing credits, and the Jacoby scene - repeats a sthick (sometimes verbatim, perhaps even with the same footage) that was initially inventive but has become slightly tedious. Indeed, as that scene unfolded, I thought "There's gotta be a really specific reason this scene is placed here, beyond just being filler." I was right - the mind-numbing familiarity serves as the perfect counterpoint to what comes next: the revelation, finally, of a character viewers have been waiting months to see, in a manner as perplexing for us as for the character herself ("YOU'RE NOT GONNA TELL ME WHAT SHE SAID??!").

Thanks in large part to this scene as well as several other elements, the episode that begins in demystification winds up as perhaps the most mystifying episode of The Return so far.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Viva Twin Peaks! (discussing Twin Peaks: The Return Pt. 11 w/ The Lodgers podcast)


Among the many new Twin Peaks podcasts to emerge this year, one highlight has been The Lodgers, hosted by Kate Rennebohm and Simon Howell. While many podcasters approach the series from a background in TV (and a few from other esoteric angles, like Counter Esperanto's Weird Fiction), The Lodgers has a decidedly cinephiliac bent. I was delighted to join them last week to discuss not only the most recent episode of The Return ("There's fire where you are going.") but also the place of The Return within Lynch's larger filmography, the possible impact of Lynch's collaboration with editor Mary Sweeney, the balance (and at times imbalance) between Lynch and Frost, and links between Lynch and other long-form and/or narratively inventive film artists like Jacques Rivette, Mariano Llinas, and Apichatpong Weerasethakul. Plus, everyone really digs Candie's increasingly whimsical contributions to the show's atmosphere.

Listen here:



Monday, July 24, 2017

Twin Peaks: The Return Part 11 - "There's fire where you are going."


Wow, I'm still tingling after this one. The first half-hour of Part 11 can stand with the first half-hour of Part 3 and the last half-hour of Part 8 as among the most sustained sequences of The Return. Unlike those stretches, however, "There's a fire where you are going." jumps between many different characters and storylines. We are barely recovering from one traumatizing incident before we're thrust immediately into the next: from children discovering a bloodied Miriam crawling out of the brush (astute viewers noted that there must be a reason she was still breathing last week) to Becky screeching into her phone and rushing from the house, knocking her mother from the hood of the car before racing into an apartment building and fire several shots into the door where she believes her husband is having a tryst. Scored to a stabbing soundtrack, the camera careens through corridors and down stairs in a jagged, sped-up variation on Kubrick's signature Shining shot (which Lynch has already made his own through numerous variations in Twin Peaks, Lost Highway, Mulholland Drive, and Inland Empire - though never this fast and choppy), before settling on Stephen and his lover. I didn't identify her right away but am now pretty sure she's Donna's sister (the credits list Alicia Witt as Gersten Hayward and can't think who else she could be). As they pant and hold each other, the shot is too quick to be called a breather; it's more like a quick gulp before diving into even deeper waters.

In South Dakota, Twin Peaks takes perhaps its most direct cue from a recent prestige TV hit, evoking the sky swirls of True Detective (witnessed this time by Cole rather than Cohle). Twin Peaks' vision lingers longer and takes us further than the the cosmic cyclone glimpsed in the bowels of Carcosa but before Gordon is swept into a bleary tear in space/time, Albert pries him loose. Within minutes of this jittery threshold experience, they've discovered the headless corpse of Ruth Davenport and Hastings' own head explodes, thanks to a woodsman who casually flickers in and out of view. Neither Davenport's body nor Hastings' head are sickeningly real so much as hypnotically Baconesque - they look like Lynch sculptures, and probably were. After this queasy crime scene we receive a relative respite in the diner, less violent but still emotionally on-edge (Bobby-Shelly shippers, momentarily elated to discover Becky is indeed their mutual daughter, are instantly let down when Red arrives to make out with Shelly; clearly the teen lovers of seasons one and two are no longer together).

Before our jangled nerves have had any chance to calm, Lynch offers up the most memorable traffic jam since Godard's Weekend, or perhaps Lynch's own Fire Walk With Me - comic, agitating, and terrifying in equal measure (it's spurred by a pint-size hunter firing his father's gun). Dana Ashbrook does some of his best acting so far by simply reacting to this contained chaos with ever-evolving, finely attuned expressions that mirror our own. This mini-episode of hellish anxiety climaxes as a middle-aged driver screams in short bursts while her child passenger rises from her seat like a zombie, ooze dribbling down the sides of her mouth shuddering in the dim light as the traffic horns sound a symphony of appalling, yet somehow absolutely hilarious, horror.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Twin Peaks: The Return Part 10 - "Laura is the one."


This week Twin Peaks both fulfilled my expectations and surprised me, in a fashion I've come to understand as the way this bird flies. The overall shape of the narrative remains legible, consistently defying attempt to render it more complex. By now theories that the different storylines of The Return take place in different timelines, different levels of reality, or even different universes seem quite out of step with the methodical connect-the-dots nature of the episodes. When alternate dimensions or time travel do pop up, they are presented in a clear, distinct fashion, not hidden in sly, deceptive ways. The biggest "twist," at least since the central premise was established in part 3, hasn't had any effect on the plot so far (part 8's atomic/fifties aside, which will presumably become relevant further down the line). While the purpose of the story remains oblique, it is possible to frequently see where certain points might be going - Mark Frost knows how to hit his beats, and how to tease and satisfy just enough which keeping us mostly in the dark. Nonetheless, The Return is as likely as any other David Lynch work to indulge moments of whimsical humor or visionary transcendence and part 10 does not fail to follow this trend. As the title was all I knew before watching this episode, both my predictions and surprises this week have to do with Laura Palmer.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Twin Peaks: The Return Part 9 - "This is the chair."


For all its unpredictability, a definite pattern is emerging week after week on Twin Peaks: The Return, a pattern that other commentators had already begun to note. Aside from the two-part premiere, each plot-heavy, relatively straightforward episode has been followed by a more challenging, avant-garde episode, establishing a rhythm that corresponds to the differing interests and approaches of Mark Frost and David Lynch, as well as the demands of a televised narrative and Twin Peaks' yearning desire to break the mold and indulge in experimentation. Given the series' ostensible design as one big film, cut up arbitrarily at each hour mark, perhaps this alternation is a coincidence? Well, I would've been likelier to believe that before the one-two punch of "Gotta light." and "This is the chair." Their juxtaposition is too jarring, the delineation between them far too neat, to believe in an accident. Whether we characterize the modes of this series as Frost and Lynch, narrative and experimentation, breaking it down and breaking through, Cooper is not the only part of Twin Peaks that's split in two.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Twin Peaks Interlude: discussing Parts 1-8 w/ Twin Peaks Unwrapped


Last week, with a two-week break between episodes, Twin Peaks Unwrapped for a discussion about Parts 1-8. We talk about the value of Dougie (and waiting for Coop), whether we are going to get stories or glimpses of the vast ensemble, and the power of part 8.



See you Sunday.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Twin Peaks: The Return Part 8 - "Gotta light?"


Through almost my entire history of watching Twin Peaks, I've watched it alone. I saw the first two seasons on my computer screen, with headphones, in the summer of 2008. Fire Walk With Me soon became one of my most memorable solo viewings of any movie, a visceral experience I had to write about as soon as I finished, because it was so overwhelming. I immediately rewatched much of the series, writing about each episode - again, by myself. When I rewatched Twin Peaks six years later (aside from one episode with a friend, after buying a used VHS tape at a dying rental store), it was again a private experience; I finally saw a screening of Fire Walk With Me at a local library, with a crowd and my cousin (a newly-minted Peaks fan) but by this point I'd seen the movie a half-dozen times and had plenty of opportunities to think about it. The new series, initially, followed suit. I was visiting a friend in New York for the premiere, but he'd never watched Twin Peaks and didn't want to start with The Return so he sat in the other room focused on his own work, only poking his head back in when I yelled loudly at the glass box monster.

Tonight, at my parents' house after a long week spent with family,  I was surrounded by other viewers including an aunt eating Cheerios, the aforementioned cousin, my mother - who quickly left the room (around the time the dusty ghost monsters were ripping up the bloody doppelganger) - and a visiting sister who just watched the finale for the first time a few days ago. My sister hadn't even had time yet to watch the film, let alone any new episodes, so I was prepared to occasionally catch her up to speed when old and new characters appeared. As it turned out, that wouldn't be an issue. We sat spellbound for much of the episode, but also talked, noticing details, drawing comparisons, occasionally just marvelling (or cringing), laughing at jokes and asides. On the one hand, this would seem a wildly inappropriate way to watch one of the most immersive, meditative, visual pieces (not to underplay one of Lynch's most evocative soundscapes) of...well, cinema (the televisual aspect seems almost incidental) in the past hundred years. And indeed, I may wake up early tomorrow, before work, to pull a chair up much closer to the TV and rewatch the whole hour alone, soaking it in without any company or distractions.

Yet to be honest, this feels like the perfect time to make Twin Peaks communal. Not only are we all - recent, veteran, and brand-new Peaks viewers - equally lost in uncharted waters (this is radical new territory for an already radical series) - we are also undergoing one of Lynch's deepest dives into world history and mythology. This is, somehow, the history of the human race, and the modern age, and we're all in it together.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Twin Peaks: The Return Part 7 - "There's a body all right."


This Twin Peaks is a slippery beast. If you think you have a handle on its pacing, it speeds up or slows down accordingly. If you think it's going to stretch out story beats, it hurls a half-dozen major plot points - and suggestive dramatic tidbits - in scene after scene (and yet, even still, you're left hungering for more). And halfway through the episode, when you think it has established itself as primarily as an expositional hour, with Frost's narrative twists and turns leading the way, Lynch suddenly makes room for not one, not two, but three ambient setpieces in which we linger on locations and soak in the mood. Of course, Twin Peaks was always defined by abrupt shifts in tone, and it had its fair share of slower and faster episodes, maybe even parts of episodes (though I don't think the pace ever fluctuated so sharply before). But perhaps over the years and through multiple rewatches - and other shows echoing Twin Peaks' unpredictability - we grew used to these dazzling surprises. Part 6 in particular is a thrilling reminder that despite prestige TV's vaunted imagination, there's still nothing else like Twin Peaks. I mean, sure, we saw a talking dream fish on The Sopranos but we didn't see a talking braintree popping up through the concrete like a weed to matter-of-factly hiss, "Squeeze his hand off!" to a near-comatose insurance salesman wrestling with a small bald assassin while his wife bashes the little man over the head from behind.