Lost in the Movies (formerly The Dancing Image): Twin Peaks: Realization Time

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Twin Peaks: Realization Time


SEASON 1, EPISODE 6
("Twin Peaks" reviews start here)

directed by Caleb Deschanel
written by Harley Peyton


"I feel like I'm in a dream tonight."

When it comes to "Twin Peaks," David Lynch is the master dreamer and the question becomes, which aspect of his style do the other directors explore? Tim Hunter proved himself adept - perhaps even Lynch's equal - when it came to stoking the tone of mystery and cultivating the weirdness of the atmosphere. Duwayne Dunham seemed to understand the characters best, and even while speeding up the pace and making the style more conventional, his Cooper feels the closest to what the agent should be (next to Lynch's take on our hero). As for first-time Peaker Caleb Deschanel, he seems to have the spooky slowness down pat; though he doesn't always utilize it, the early scenes of episode 6 are suffused with an ethereal, quiet calm that effectively echoes Lynch's penchant for methodically slowing down the performances and allowing shots to linger.


Initially we open where we left off (the show's one-day-at-a time gimmick has been slipping since Lynch upended it a few episodes in). It's nighttime and Cooper sits on his bed, talking to Audrey. She's naked, covered by a bedsheet, and he is wearing his jacket, "FBI" clearly emblazoned on the back. He sits awkwardly on the bed, his back essentially turned on Audrey as he gently rejects her advances. The next scene is the most interesting in the episode, though it is probably also the least important. Andy walks into the sheriff's office, slowly, tries to engage Lucy in conversation, and is rejected. Though Andy started off as a good-hearted, sensitive cop he's lately been turning into a dim-witted, pratfalling police force Gomer Pyle. Yet here he's soft-spoken again, almost whispering as he tenderly tries to find out why Lucy's been ignoring him. Deschanel repeatedly cuts to a silent, morose reverse shot of Andy that's so oddly effecting it almost had me thinking Lynch was in the director's seat (though the spatial awkwardness of Cooper's position in the first scene suggested otherwise).

Anyway, the first few scenes of the episode pull you in gently and intriguingly but most of the episode falls into the "build up to the end of the season" trap. All the seeds are planted for the climactic season finale, but since that's the next episode we don't get much satisfaction here. As with Laura's funeral (also written by Harley Peyton) we visit with the different characters one by one but don't get a sense of how all the stories tie together, and it feels a little rote. Everything's in place for the cliffhangers to pop up in episode 7 but unlike episode 4, which delivered plot points with atmosphere, menace, and intrigue, there's not much excitement here.

That said, there are some good scenes, images, and developments. Audrey's pretty strong throughout the episode, from her late-night failed seduction with Cooper to her cigarette-smoking spy work in the department store. Her part in the episode culminates with a visit to the madame of One Eyed Jacks, in which she demonstrates her unique attributes by turning a cherry stem in knots with her tongue (perhaps Cooper would have reconsidered his responsible decision had he seen this move...). We also get a bloody demise for Waldo the bird, discovered with blood seeping out of his cage, onto the feather-covered donuts below. Meanwhile, the soundtrack is filled with the late Waldo's voice on a tape recorder, mimicking Laura Palmer: "Stop it! You're hurting me!"

Speaking of which, Deschanel deserves credit for an evocative sound design: every scene features a nice aural texture that subtly fills out the locales. The pilot was shot on location, with the successive episodes filmed in dupe sets, but Deschanel gets just the right sounds to suggest we're really in an isolated little Pacific Northwest hamlet: the plastic cover rippling on Leo and Shelly's half-constructed home, the silence of the rooms with the occasional ticking clock and dull room tone compensating for the quiet outside, the voiceover and music of a soap opera which is played so loud by a bored housewife that it seems to be part of the show we're watching instead of the show they're watching.

Deschanel also adopts what seems to be the predominant visual style of the show: a preference for master shots wherever possible, with the use of reverse shots and inserts only where necessary. There are some long, slow dollies - as when Donna, James, and Maddie - cultivating their Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew vibe - listen to Laura's tapes and try to solve her mystery on their own. We start on a piano and vase, still lifes moving slightly in the frame as the camera shifts to the left, the clicking sounds of a tape recorder the only indication of the action offscreen. Like the other "Twin Peaks" directors, Deschanel makes the sets and locations as much characters as the people. And, of course, there's the occasional creepy point-of-view shot: Leo watching Bobby through binoculars, Bobby observing Maddie - in a blonde wig - linger on a gazebo, and then, ominously, that same POV shot after Bobby's left the scene.

Someone else is watching Maddie now - who is it?

Next: Twin Peaks: The Last Evening (season 1, episode 7)
Previous: Twin Peaks: Cooper's Dreams (season 1, episode 5)


For more on Twin Peaks:
Jim Emerson
Keith Phipps, The A.V. Club

On this site:
That gum you like is going to come back in style...
Twin Peaks in context
Twin Peaks (the pilot)
Twin Peaks: Traces to Nowhere
Twin Peaks: Zen, or the Skill to Catch a Killer
Twin Peaks: Rest in Pain
Twin Peaks: The One-Armed Man
Twin Peaks: Cooper's Dreams
*Twin Peaks: Realization Time
Twin Peaks: The Last Evening
Twin Peaks: May the Giant Be With You
Twin Peaks: Coma
Twin Peaks: The Man Behind Glass
Twin Peaks: Laura's Secret Diary
Twin Peaks: The Orchid's Curse
Twin Peaks: Demons
Twin Peaks: Lonely Souls
Twin Peaks: Drive With a Dead Girl
Twin Peaks: Arbitrary Law
Twin Peaks: Beyond Life and Death

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (the movie)
Critical idiocy vis a vis Fire Walk With Me

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