Lost in the Movies (formerly The Dancing Image): Mike and Other Mysteries - Twin Peaks comment collection #3 (fall 2014)

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Mike and Other Mysteries - Twin Peaks comment collection #3 (fall 2014)


Every month, I will be offering at least one post on Twin Peaks...up until Showtime re-airs the original series. Then I will post extensive coverage of each episode (mixing new reactions with my many older pieces) immediately after they air. Stay tuned.

Welcome to my third round-up of Twin Peaks comments. As before, I am selecting what I consider highlights from my discussions on various forums, and under various articles, back in 2014 when I first got into the show and film again. Even being picky, I ended up with a lot of material thanks - especially in this lineup - to the other commentators who offered their own ideas and engaged with mine. While I'm generally just re-posting my own contributions, in this case they often include quotes from the people I'm responding to, so you can get a sense of the larger conversation. All of these comments come from a period immediately after I had declared that I was taking a step back from Twin Peaks. After all, it had been six months since I'd gotten obsessed with the show again and it was time to move on. Besides, what else was there to talk about?

Ha, ha, ha...

The round-up kicks off with a lengthy, off-into-the-weeds exchange about Mike the one-armed man and it concludes when I discover that "that gum you like is going to come back in style" after all - we were going to get more Twin Peaks, which was a good thing considering that my plan to depart that universe had already gone completely kaput at this point. In fact, during the time these comments were being written, my video series Journey Through Twin Peaks was just beginning to take shape; I posted the first part of the analysis just a day or two before Mark Frost's and David Lynch's infamous tweets. By sheer coincidence, I had become a Twin Peaks fanatic at the exact moment it was about to explode back into public consciousness.


September 4, 2014 on dugpa

In a way, I think you may have answered your own question here! Maybe more so than any other character, the one-armed man changes purpose and meaning depending on the context he's used in. His role is ambiguous enough early on that Lynch can get away with this kind of reboot approach though if one thinks about it too much the various actions become hard to reconcile.

That said, I think in the movie at least Mike/Gerard (who seem more blurred this time around) corresponds to Laura & Leland's ability/inability to face up to the truth of what has been going on. The scene in traffic occurs right after Leland has been reminded of Laura & Ronette on the bed and it leads to his flashback (and instigates Laura's questioning of her father and eventual remembrance of the ring on Teresa). Everyone around him - Laura, the mechanics - seem more concerned with Leland's reaction than the one-armed man's actions which suggests his appearance is important primarily as a psychological trigger for Leland. In Fire Walk With Me at least, the one-armed man and the ring he sometimes wears and eventually gives Laura, seems to represent "truth", "awareness", or "recognition": something Leland avoids and Laura eventually accepts (and which the FBI, in their investigation of Teresa Banks, cannot attain).

As a side note, here's a thought I've never heard anyone suggest before, and which only just occurred to me: what if, rather perversely, the Arm that the Little Man represents is not Mike's detached arm but his remaining one? The one which bears the ring?

Come to think of it, in the show both Mike and a ring (Cooper's own ring in this case) are used to signify knowledge and the quest for the truth. Perhaps Mike cannot "tell" people what he "knows" but only manifest what they themselves already suspect. So that on the show, he leads Coop closer to Bob but cannot simply give him the name of his host (something Cooper must discover/recall on his own) and in the film he can push/prod Laura & Leland to face the truth of their relationship but they have to take the final steps themselves (indeed, he can't even just give Laura the ring - Ronette, freed by an angel which Laura may have manifested, must open the door first). Likewise, the Giant and the Little Man provide clues but not answers. Mike, lying in bed, tells Coop he has the answers he needs. And when Coop enters the Lodge, it is his own fears and anxieties that haunt him. The more I think about it, even on the show, the Lodge creatures are as much reactive as they are active.


September 5, 2014 on dugpa

StealThisCorn wrote:
That would certainly be interesting, but I seem to remember Bob Engels talking about how the inspiration for the whole Little Man=the Arm idea came from the phantom limb pain phenomenon, taking that and personifying it in a way. I can't remember where exactly I read that, but I took it to mean the limb becoming a character would have to be the one MIKE took off, which, so far, I'm still not sure is supposed to have anything to do with the physical arm the human being Gerard lost.


Since Mike is Phillip, I'd assume axing the physical arm coincided with axing the metaphysical arm. Otherwise it's the world's biggest red herring (and non sequitur)!

As for the Little Man being Mike's existing (right) arm I take it back when I recall that it's the left arm which falls asleep and bears the ring (at least on Teresa - and I think on Laura too in the final scene: does she place it on her left ring finger in the train car?) Which means the Little Man corresponds not only to Phillip's/Mike's arm but the arms - that is to say, the vulnerability to evil - of all the victims. Thus it makes sense that he offers Laura the ring in the dream and seems ecstatic when she uses the ring in the final scene.

Some further thoughts: we often assume the ring didn't perform the same function for Teresa as for Laura but when do we - and Laura - see her wearing it? After it occurs to her that Leland may be Laura's or Ronette's father. In other words, when she gains knowledge (which will eventually be useful to Laura herself).

If Mike's left arm = evil, and the Little Man is his left arm, it would certainly seem to follow that the Little Man = evil, but that doesn't seem to be how he behaves in the film. Something else seems to be going on there in which he and Bob are on different sides. And why is Mike sitting alongside him in the final scene, reunited? This part I'll admit still has me perplexed.

Another element that throws me a bit in the end is the ring's final appearance. Up till now the ring seems to represent knowledge but what new knowledge does Laura gain in the end? Here, to me at least, the ring seems to represent Laura's goodness - and her power to act on that goodness (since I assume she is responsible for the angel that rescues Ronette, and thus leads to the open door and the ring being rolled in). Right now all I can think of is that Laura has gained knowledge of her goodness/power and that this is the final knowledge necessary to overpower Bob.



StealThisCorn wrote:
But MIKE is an "inhabiting spirit", Philip is "host to [him]". So MIKE should have existed long before Philip Gerard was born and will exist after he dies. Being a spirit, MIKE has no physical body from which to physically cut an arm off, which makes me think his words in Cooper's dream of taking the "entire arm off" are to be taken more symbolically. When interviewed by Cooper, Philip Gerard said he lost his arm in a car accident. I guess they could have happened at the same time, but taking everything together makes me think it really is a non sequitur.

But then again, there is that weirdness with Leland's hair turning white, which Cooper, rather inexplicably, tied to BOB being a long grey-haired man (even though Leland's hair is clearly WHITE not grey), so maybe there is some kind of physical connection. Hmm I never thought of that before. But it doesn't really make sense to be how either.
When Mike says in the dream and later in the interrogation that he took the arm off I always assumed he removed his host's arm (maybe by causing the car accident somehow, though that could just be Lynch and Frost purposefully fucking with our ability/desire to reconcile the two worlds). And that this physical action corresponded to severing himself from the sway of evil (both Teresa and Laura lost feeling in their left arm as Bob or death or both grew closer). Keep in mind too that when we see Mike, he's always in Phillip Gerard's body (perhaps BECAUSE he chopped off the arm and thus his pathway back to the Lodge and his spirit form?). I don't think it would make sense for spirit Mike to chop off an arm: while the spirits may have their own human form, even apart from the host's (like Bob for example, and maybe like Mike used to have) this seems to be more a way to present themselves to humans rather than a corporeal, tangible form: thus there isn't any real arm for Mike to cut off - except his host's.

Another interesting thought: in the film, the line between Mike and Phillip Gerard is blurred because when we see Phillip acting in ways that we assume must be Mike taking over, he nonetheless speaks in Phillip's voice not the very clearly delineated Mike voice from the show. I suppose this corresponds to the blurring of the distinction between Leland and Bob, but not sure what else it's meant to convey , if anything.


Quote:
But we also see it on her finger in a photograph in her trailer found by Desmond and Stanley. The film said she had rented that space in Fat Trout Trailer Park for the last month, and the Chalfonts/Tremonds were specifically mentioned as being there for a time as well and disappearing after her death. Since Desmond found the ring underneath their trailer, I had always assumed they gave it to her originally.


Ah, but here it represents knowledge as well - in this case, the knowledge of who killed Teresa (and more importantly, why). That Desmond wants to know about the ring and ultimately reaches for it (an action we cannot see him complete and which, it is implied, lead to his disappearance) corresponds to the FBI's inability to acquire knowledge, emblematic of the Twin Peaks narrative's overall shift away from Cooper and toward Laura as the seeker of truth. As for the Chalfonts/Tremonds I DEFINITELY see them as harbingers of deeper knowledge, perhaps even more so than Mike or the Little Man: they tell Laura about the man looking for the diary, present Laura with the picture she hangs on her wall asking "is it true?" and then wave her into the Lodge in her dream.

As for the relationship between Mike & the Little Man sounds like were both still mystified! I do think their "re-joining" at the end has something to do with the ring (a perfect circle, which represents full understanding, it also reunites what has been severed - Mike and the Little Man). But why is it a good thing - or is it a good thing (or even a morally neutral, "just-is" kind of thing?) - and how does it relate to their role in the narrative? Still don't know.


StealThisCorn wrote:
But it just seems like it would be a little strange if MIKE, being an immortal spirit entity, just suddenly had his epiphany within the small mortal lifetime of one Philip Gerard. If BOB has been inhabiting Leland for "nearly 40 years" and all. But what would chopping off his host, Gerard's arm do, in the spirit dimension?

Considering how interrelated the physical and spiritual realms are (especially as FWWM makes evident), I think that the numbness in the left arm and the acceptance of evil are basically synonymous. In that sense, Mike severing off his host's arm is the same thing as him rejecting evil. In the world of Twin Peaks, every spiritual action has a physical reaction...and vice-versa.

I think this conception of the "two worlds" also explains the Mike/Philip relationship a little more clearly. Perhaps it was something to do with Philip's personality or outlook that "caused" Mike to detach himself from evil, even if Philip himself was not entirely conscious of it. Thus it's less about Mike having his epiphany at this precise historical moment than Philip having some sort of awakening (or guilt, or whatever) and managing to separate the good & bad aspects of Mike from one another, clinging only to the good. Though this still leaves me perplexed as to what the hell he's doing at the end of FWWM!

In general, I think - and like to think - the inhabiting spirit concept is very much a two-way street.


September 7, 2014 on dugpa

Another thought - to what extent does Mike really help them find Bob? He leads them to the Great Northern (where, to be fair, Leland was the night before - I guess they just waited too long to go) and then goes into a seizure right when Ben walks by (is Leland passing by offscreen, or is it just a coincidence)? Ultimately the only people (or figures?) who help Coop solve the case are the giant, indirectly, and Laura herself (her diary and her dream-self are the best clues he has). Maybe - though I feel I'm probably giving the writers too much credit here - the one-armed man is meant to be something of a red herring all along? A figure who does indeed point us closer to the supernatural/metaphysical nature of Laura's killer but not his (earthbound) identity?

You know, I've never really sat down and done this but at some point I'd like to really parse out the whole investigation from the perspective of how effectively it leads to the suspect. After all, Cooper does not catch the killer before he kills again, and when he finally catches him he's abandoning most previous threads of the investigation (one reason ep. 16 can feel so frustrating to watch). I'm wondering if EVERYTHING is a dead end/red herring or if, when you look closely, certain threads do contribute to the ultimate resolution. I have a couple hunches though: one is that it's actually the James-Donna-Maddy investigation which produces more helpful evidence than Audrey's (much as I'd like to credit her, most of what she digs up diverts us toward her father) or even Cooper's. I think what Lynch & Frost are telling us is that to understand Laura's death we must understand her life, not just what she did but who she was inside. Cooper only partially understands what Laura's friends understand intuitively. The code that must be cracked is less about dream signals or social connections than her inner life.

Interesting too that the investigators manhandle Philip but completely overlook Leland's danger even though he consistently demonstrates unbalanced behavior and has even admitted to killing someone. Their personal affection and respect for him blind them the truth. And of course the show encourages us to be blind as well: during Leland's bail proceedings, who would think the bumbling, officious prosecutor is more correct than the benevolent, likable old judge? (Judge Sternwood is a really interesting character in that sense - someone who is presented as a wise, understanding, very human authority but who, in fact, makes the wrong decisions.) This is all part of what I love about Twin Peaks: it starts off by subverting expectations, but allows us to think we understand the new expectations it's set up, only to then subvert those too. What a wild ride.


September 10, 2014

StealThisCorn wrote:
I was watching the Missing Pieces again and a few more details I hadn't noticed before sparked some new curiosities I thought I might as well share.

There seems to be some kind of connection in the series with the trees and spirits ("Ghostwood", Log Lady, Josie in the drawer pull?). There's that shot of the Lodge entities dissolving into the forest tree line too. Whereas in the film there is a new emphasis on electricity, with shots of power lines, frequent electrical humming, static, and the mysterious Electrician spirit of course. Right at the beginning of the "Above the Convenience Store" extended scene, there is a zoom in of the Number 6 powerline/telephone pole and something suddenly occurred to me. In the living woods, maybe the spirits use the web of life as a conduit of some kind, but in areas of civilization where the woods have been cleared to make room for human development, what is there? Power lines and telephone poles! Made from trees and connected by wires that stretch all over continents. So maybe that is what is going on with the power line thing, they are like the trees of the city, connected by electricity rather than organic life.



Love this.

And for the moment I'll play Fernanda's role with a quote & link (though in this case I don't think they are particularly revealing, except of Lynch's love for wood and I guess some vague sense of artistic creation and assembling different objects from the same source): "There is an abundance of fish in the sea but tonight I would like to speak about wood. There are many times in the world when the phone rings and someone is inquiring about wood. This happens primarily at lumberyards and in this case it is necessary to have a phone. It is only natural that trees are growing and that they are made of wood. Much happiness can come from observing a tree and the same can be said about observing the many shapes fashioned out of wood. Quite often when we are talking about beauty, we are talking about wood." https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XmXkTNJzawo


Quote:
When Leland first calls Teresa Banks, if you look closely, you'll see she doesn't have the ring on her finger. But she does when she calls him from the telephone booth to blackmail him. I hadn't noticed this before. So maybe Mrs. Chalfont (or the One-Armed Man perhaps?) gave her the ring after Leland started having an affair with her, knowing that BOB, inside Leland, had taken notice of her, and scheming to claim her garmonbozia for the Lodge, which BOB later stole.


Increasingly, especially watching ep. 16 a few more times and noticing the role Cooper's ring plays there, I think the ring = knowledge/wisdom/truth.

Teresa wears it when she realizes Leland's relationship to Laura. Laura receives it in a dream after coming perilously close to discovering her father is Bob (and vice-versa). The one-armed man waves it in both Leland's and Laura's faces after Leland remembers seeing Laura & Ronette in the motel room and just before Laura forces him to admit that he was home the other day when she saw Bob. Later that night, we cut between Laura remembering Teresa's ring and Leland remembering her murder. And Cooper tells Laura not to take the ring which is consistent with him being imprisoned in the Lodge by his own confusion. Hell, even the now-canonical scene of the nurse and Annie could be read in that light. The nurse takes the ring from Annie after hearing her say the bit about Cooper being in the Lodge, just like Laura did: she is now the only living, conscious person to have full knowledge of Cooper/Bob's situation even if she doesn't yet understand it. Does Teresa wear the ring when she sees Leland leave the motel? Or does it only appear on her finger when she goes back inside and cuddles with Laura and Ronette on the bed (i.e. AFTER she's put 2 and 2 together w/ Leland and she/we have seen the boy with the mask come out of the bushes and dance). If the latter, that's further confirmation of the ring's significance.

It gets trickier at the end of the film when the ring rolls into the train car and saves Laura from possession/delivers her to death (something I suspect was added in post-production with inserts and tricky editing). What new knowledge would it represent at this point? It arrives when Ronette is freed by the angel and opens the door to let the ring in so, indirectly, the appearance of a good spirit (which Laura had earlier seen disappear from her picture/life) is what delivers the ring to Laura. One could say that it is knowledge of this goodness, until now absent from Laura's world, which triggers the ring's final and crucial appearance. As I've already noted on these boards, the angel's rescue of Ronette in the train car visually and dramatically echoes Laura's rescue of Donna in the Pink Room. And Ronette and Donna have been established several times as mirrors of one another and, in turn, representatives of Laura's two sides. With that in mind, I think the appearance of the angel, the liberation of Ronette, and the delivery of the ring are Laura's realization not only of a general out-there goodness but a goodness within herself, a knowledge of the power of her own love and compassion which in this case save Ronette (& simultaneously her own "bad side").

This is consistent with love being continuously posited as the opposite of fear in Twin Peaks: Leland, along with many of the other townspeople and even Cooper himself fall or fail not because of hate, but because of fear (even when they love as well - in Cooper's case the two seem to be mixed together, but fear ultimately wins out and traps him in the Lodge). The only characters to survive the story unscathed are Andy & Lucy, Maj. & Mrs. Briggs, Bobby & Shelly...the lovers. (Bobby & Shelly's bliss is even contrasted with Leo's state of primal fear in Lynch's cutaway to Leo in the cabin holding the spider-string.) The song which plays over the ending is called The Voice of Love and in the film's final movement the delivery of pain and suffering is contrasted with the delivery of love and grace with the angel's appearance.

So I think the ring is an embodiment (I'll try to avoid the loaded term "symbol") of knowledge and that the ultimate knowledge, which saves Laura, is knowledge of her own goodness, its power, and the larger goodness of the universe. This also goes well with what she says in Between Two Worlds and is certainly consistent with Lynch's vision, which depicts the universe as, for all its darkness, confusion, and unhappiness, ultimately a place of great and serene beauty.

EDIT: Just checked up on FWWM. Teresa IS wearing the ring in the scene with Leland outside the motel. However, she's also carrying a tray of ice which mostly blocks our view of her left hand as she approaches Leland (I only noticed the ring by freeze-framing) and when she stops to talk to him the frame line is, conspicuously, just above where the ring would be. You can then very fleetingly see the ring on her finger as she walks away from Leland and turns back to look in his direction. Also worth noting that in the earlier Leland/Teresa scene, when he covers her eyes and asks her who he is, her left hand is also hidden (in fact her entire arm is under Leland's body). There appears to be a ring on her finger in the Flesh World photo but it looks like it's on another finger and is a simple band.

Is all of this part of Lynch's visual strategy to reveal Teresa's ring only after she learns the truth about Leland (in which case the brief one- or two-frame slip as she approaches is just a flub)? If so, it's rather brilliant and completely consistent with his unwillingness to delineate between the natural and supernatural (since the ring doesn't "magically" appear on her finger with new knowledge but rather isn't seen by us until that point; it could be or not be there). If not, I guess it's a contradiction to the idea that Teresa's ring is triggered by her knowledge of Leland.


September 10, 2014 on dugpa

StealThisCorn wrote:
I don't disagree with you that the ring seems to embody knowledge in the scenes you referenced. I've never been sold though that Cooper's warning not to take the ring was in error. I mean, we hear the Little Man say to Bob, "With this ring, I thee wed" and they both laugh evilly. People who have come into contact with the ring--Judy? Presumably Jeffries, Desmond, Teresa and Laura seem to either disappear or are killed which seems like an unfortunate fate. Though it's true, Laura would rather have that than let Bob come inside. But I'm not so sure if it wasn't just her own strength of character and determination and self-sacrifice in those last moments which made Bob realize he couldn't win and would have to kill her. I don't know if it's that the ring had some magical power which specifically prevented her from being possessed. Or, since it came from Phillip Gerard's finger, and we see the "garmonbozia" fed to the Little Man/MIKE later, maybe it marks or claims her for him somehow.

EDIT: Oh and I forgot, I think the scene where Gerard flashes the ring was meant, not just to remind Laura of Teresa's ring while saying "it's your father!", but when he's talking about the corn he had "canned above the store" and the "look on her face when it was opened--there was a stillness", I thought he was showing the ring to remind Bob of his authority or their mutual covenant/pact/vow too ("With this ring, I thee wed"). Though again, I'm confused why Mike, if he's supposed to be good now, is messing around with evil like Bob, garmonbozia, the ring or his Arm, the Little Man.
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Don't forget thought that Mike in that episode also mentions a "ring" of sorts--the golden circle of appetite and satisfaction he shared with Bob. I always thought that was part of the idea of the green ring as a "replacement" of sorts, between the Little Man/Arm and Bob after the golden circle between Mike and Bob had, apparently, been broken.

It is certainly true that Laura is able to have a realization of sorts upon remembering that both Teresa and Phillip Gerard had the same ring that the Little Man offered her in the dream, though, in the script, Bob says it's "not important". 
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I don't know, [the ring in the train car] looks very convincing to me. 

I've recently been collecting various issues of the Wrapped In Plastic fanzine I can find online, and in Issue #11 there's a 6 page interview with Al Strobel. It's a great read but at one point he said he was under the impression that the symbol on the ring was a powerful evil symbol and that it acted as a magical talisman of the "other place" they come from somehow. 

I just find it very confusing trying to figure out the ring's purpose in its various appearances and references and what it means for each of them. Maybe it acts as something slightly different for each wearer? Just like with MIKE/Gerard/the Little Man, I can't seem to come up with an idea that reconciles all the different pieces of information together into a whole that makes complete sense to me.
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I tend to, or maybe prefer to, think Lynch didn't have any accidents ... and that if we see the Ring somewhere it was meant to be there and has some kind of meaning to the story. Yeah I rewatched the scene and you can definitely see it when she is walking away with her back towards the camera (what were those ice cube trays for though lol?). So I think she must have received the ring some time between receiving Leland's first call and him arriving at the hotel to party with her girlfriends.


Hey, tried to respond to this but my response was very convoluted and I kept messing up the quote brackets so I'm starting over! To quickly address your specific points: 1) The danger of the ring needn't contradict its truth-seeking function. In Lynch's world the truth is as dangerous as it is necessary. 2) The theory of Laura's ring being added in post is actually also from Wrapped in Plastic and based on John Thorne's interviews with Strobel and others who were on set. That said, I just re-watched that part of the train car scene and I agree that Laura's reaction shot to the ring seems "pretty convincing" (i.e. it's hard to imagine it being shot for some other purpose). That said, we never see Lee's face and the ring in the same shot so Thorne's theory is possible if not necessarily likely. Either way, the essential point is not so much when Lynch added the ring's "good" function (and it's clearly good in this sequence, saving Laura from possession), but the fact that it represented a deviation from the intended course, in which Laura verbally demands her father kill her. That's what was scripted, while the ring itself didn't appear in the train car sequence on the page. We can parse out the reasons for this but, along with the unscripted angels, it represents a detour in Lynch's thinking which must have some significance. 3) We do see the ring as Teresa walks away from Leland but that's not necessarily the problem (since she's already had her suspicion raised by his hasty exit); the issue is that we can briefly see it as she approaches him! But it's clearly not intentional as we only catch a glimpse when Gidley's hand bobs up for a moment while walking. The ice tray (and the position of Teresa's hand in the frame) definitely serve to keep Teresa's left hand out of view. It seems that Lynch did not want us to notice Teresa's ring (we only see it because we're closely scrutinizing the footage to catch it for a frame or two) until after Leland leaves, possibly not till after Laura sees it herself. Whether this was simply for dramatic impact or for mythological/allegorical reasons is unclear but either way it wasn't a big enough deal for him to compromise performance and composition too much. That's my hunch, and it seems consistent with how he works though maybe I'm just overthinking it!

As for the larger discussion, I don't think the literal and allegorical readings of the ring and the Lodge are contradictory or exclusionary. To me the key is finding the ways in which the two correspond (if they diverge at any point, I tend to think I'm missing something). In other words, "Mike telling Bob he stole creamed corn" = "Phillip telling Leland he murdered Teresa." The supernatural and psychological reading of any given event or character should go hand in glove. Think of it as a relationship between plot (the Lodge creatures providing physical objects and actions to move the narrative forward) and meaning (the actual significance & resonance of those objects and actions). Most movies provide us with a clear plot and then we have to tease out the meaning but in Lynch both plot and meaning can be equally obscure and mysterious!

I will say that I don't think anything the Lodge creatures do is without a deeper psychological/spiritual significance for Laura, Leland and the other "human" characters. The difference between Fire Walk With Me and later Lynch films like Lost Highway or Mulholland Drive, is that it arrives with mythological baggage from the show, which does try to explain how the natural and supernatural interact as separate realms. That's never really been a theme that interests Lynch, and I believe in Fire Walk With Me he is trying to draw the two worlds closer together, to intertwine them so that they become inseparable. In that sense it's a path to the later films which don't at all concern themselves with questions of, say, how the Mystery Man travels through time or what entities fashioned the Blue Box. Just as people interpret Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive as entirely internal fantasies (which I'm coming to suspect may be a mistake), so viewers coming to FWWM without having seen the show often interpret all the supernatural elements as psychological projections of Laura. Meanwhile, viewers coming from the series have the opposite problem - they already see the Lodge creatures as having a real, physical, tangible existence and so they tend to neglect the degree to which these entities DO reflect or express psychological or spiritual phenomena. I think the truth of what Lynch is going for is somewhere between these two interpretations, though I'm still trying to figure out how this works. But just as I can't accept that the Lodge creatures are "imaginary" in the sense that there is a physical, material world whose laws they don't actually violate, I also can't accept that they have an entirely independent existence from their human hosts/victims. Increasingly, I view the people as (perhaps subconsciously) using these spirits for their purposes at least as much as vice-versa.


September 14, 2014 on IMDb

In this comment I discuss why new viewers should probably watch FWWM first but why I still think return trips to Twin Peaks should DEFINITELY slip the Missing Pieces between the series and film. As such, there are spoilers!

Thanks for all the thoughtful responses (you wouldn't believe the vitriol that gets hurled when this is brought up in other forums!). While TP/FWWM remains challenging viewing with or without The Missing Pieces I can see that perhaps the whole concept of the Pieces - that they are at once deleted scenes and standalone narrative fragments - can be a bit overwhelming & distracting for the first-time viewer. I still think they COULD work between the series and film for a newbie but only if approached with a certain mentality: one which ignores their genesis as extracted footage (something Lynch reminds us of in the very opening credits!) and which also considers the series, the missing pieces, and the film as chapters in one long story so that the question of the scenes "belonging" to the film doesn't even arise. The scenes AND the film both "belong" to the larger story, if that makes sense. But for a viewer to do all this while simultaneously hooked into the narrative for the first time, aware of all the historical circumstances, and conscious of the film and series as separate entities, is probably too much to ask. As such I'd probably say the best route for a newbie is to more or less ignore the missing pieces first time around and/or treat them as ephemera, or a bonus, after the main viewing is done. Maybe even watch a documentary first to clear the air (there's a great one on FWWM on the disc, Moving Through Time, as well as a really frustrating one, Reflections on the Phenomenon etc...). Sadly, this means the challenges of FWWM, which have alienated many a viewer first time around, remain unmitigated. But if watching the Missing Pieces introduces more complications than it resolves, I suppose that's unavoidable. Maybe Twin Peaks has to be indigestible on first viewing, and only return visits can make it seem whole?

With that said, reflection and a revisit over the past month has only further convinced me that The Missing Pieces fits best between the series and film, even if viewers should probably wait for the second time around to experience it this way. Once the film has been experienced on its own, for what it is independently of the series, the scenes can be watched as a stylistic and dramatic bridge that doesn't take away from FWWM's narrative. Indeed, watching these fragments first enhances FWWM for me, making what might appear elliptical or curtailed flow better in comparison: by NOT restoring the deleted scenes to the film, Lynch has ironically enhanced the original film! I think that to see the big picture, to understand Twin Peaks as not just an abandoned series and controversial film but a complete if unconventional narrative cycle, watching the scenes in this order can help immensely.

It's also important, I think, to keep two things in mind.

1) Twin Peaks and Fire Walk With Me are meant to be of a piece, but it can be hard to see them that way. Every addition Lynch has made to Twin Peaks after the series ended has been an attempt to take the jumbled TV series (which changed course, was prematurely aborted, and only intermittently engaged Lynch's involvement - long stretches don't bear his imprint at all) and reconfigure it as a cohesive whole. And he did so through the character of Laura Palmer, who had been almost entirely forgotten by the time the series ended. For Lynch she remained the key to everything in Twin Peaks: the sense of mystery, the darkness in the woods, the tonal mixture of light & dark, the unsettled malaise of the town itself, even perhaps Cooper's ultimate inability to survive the Black Lodge in the finale. So, when most fans demanded a follow-up he hit the reset button instead and devoted an entire film to the as-yet-mostly-unseen Laura. The film flopped, ending tentative plans for sequels, but in the process reinforcing Laura's firsthand experience as the appropriate endpoint of Twin Peaks.

Think about it: the pilot is almost obsessively centered around questions about Laura Palmer, not so much "who killed her" but "who was she, really" and the film finally gives us this. Critics often celebrate Lynch for his air of moody mysteriousness and praise him for offering more questions than answers, but I think this misses the point. His works almost always take us "all the way" and his peculiar power as a filmmaker is that what he eventually shows us is usually more powerful than whatever we could have imagined. Despite all the open ends and confusing elements, Lynch's art is one of revelation not concealment. However, many viewers were so startled by the film's abrupt shift in tone and style that they couldn't see it as part of the saga. Initially, this mostly resulted in angry fans (not all, but many) rejecting or ignoring the film. Later on, many fans and non-fans have reevaluated and appropriated it but often from the standpoint of treating it as independent from the show, a separate phenomenon altogether (this is true whether critics and fans were proclaiming it better or worse than the series). This was mostly my own approach before the blu-ray; I loved the film, more than the series even, but felt that it was more about destroying the show than fulfilling it and that the two probably had to be appreciated in isolation.

But Lynch didn't see them this way and since the possibility of a new entry in the saga was curtailed in '92 he had to find more subtle ways to nudge viewers into experiencing Twin Peaks as the story he wanted it to be. And he had to do this alone; here it should be noted that Mark Frost, who started out on the same page as Lynch, diverged from him in his eventual view of the series. For Frost, Laura was a way into the town but not the be-all, end-all; although he's since changed his mind, in 1990 he felt ending Laura's mystery would be healthy for the show and allow it to go in new directions. He certainly did not have the almost spiritual veneration that Lynch did for Laura Palmer and her mysteries as the hub around which all of Twin Peaks must spin (which is one reason Frost had virtually no involvement with FWWM: he thought a sequel, rather than a prequel, was what was needed). For Frost today, the series remains incomplete and while he wouldn't mind creating new chapters - something Lynch has refused - he also seems ok with the open, inconclusive ending of the finale, which he's compared to The Sopranos. So we have the unusual case, with Twin Peaks, of a work firmly rooted in two co-creators but completed - and to a certain extent reimagined - by only one of them.

Anyway, Lynch's first step in reconfiguring the messy Twin Peaks into something whole, Laura-centered, and ending with FWWM, was the Log Lady intros in 1993. He wrote and directed them for Bravo's re-airing of the show and these short little pieces do two essential things: they give viewers a point of continuity before each episode, even though the episodes themseles vary wildly in tone, story, and quality over the course of the series, and they reframe the show, even the parts that Lynch himself had nothing to do with, around Lynch's own sensibility. Most importantly the very first Log Lady intro emphatically identifies Laura Palmer as the key to Twin Peaks: "The one leading to the many is Laura Palmer. Laura is the one." Fade to black. Later, when the mystery ends with Leland's capture and confession, the Log Lady says, "So now the sadness comes - the revelation. There is a depression after the answer is given. It was almost fun not knowing. Yes, now we know. At least we know what we sought in the beginning." That's the part everyone always quotes. But more important, I think, is what follows: "But there is still the question: why? And this question will go on and on until the final answer comes. And then the knowing is so full there is no room for questions." This of course has many spiritual and philosophical implications, but in terms of Twin Peaks itself it implies the mystery has not ended and points forward to the feature film which does address the question of why.

For twenty years, this was all the help Lynch could provide. Then, this year, he was able to complete his most radical re-configuration yet with the blu-ray release. Proclaiming "During the last days in the life of Laura Palmer many things happened, which have never been seen before," Lynch remastered and re-edited the deleted footage into a standalone collection of fragments which simultaneously served to hype the film more than the series, to remind us of Laura's centrality to Twin Peaks, and to emphasize that the pieces were "missing" from the overall story of Twin Peaks NOT from Fire Walk With Me itself. He also interviewed the actors who played the Palmers and wrote a short script (the morning of the interview) in which he spoke to the characters they played. Called Between Two Worlds, the segments ends with Laura's little speech, which is not only the most Lynchian of the three monologues but the only one to which the interviewer (Lynch himself, of course) responds with unqualified enthusiasm. Finally, the presentation of the package itself underlined a sense of continuity between Twin Peaks and Fire Walk With Me: the cover art (unlike that on the earlier Gold Box or the earlier Season 2 DVD) centered around a dark image of Laura herself, and the box set was dubbed "The Entire Mystery."

Now, that said, how does Lynch want us to view the scenes? Aside from ensuring they aren't a part of the movie, I'd argue Lynch isn't much concerned with this. They appear on the menu where one would expect, as a bonus after the movie (although not lumped in with "special features" on the label) and clearly labelled as deleted scenes. Yet he also presents them, in the quote above, as part of the story and his repeated emphasis on Laura and the importance of the film implies that her angel's appearance at the end of FWWM is the proper end to the story. How to square this circle? Frankly, I don't think Lynch thinks in linear terms: to him what's important is how we hold the various pieces in our minds as a whole not which order we assemble them in. Since we (or most of us anyway!) are trapped within linear time, we have to determine the order which satisfies us. With the above in mind - Lynch's concern for Laura's story, the dramatic impact of Fire Walk With Me, the canonical position of the missing pieces, the sense that there is "an entire mystery" and not just fragments or multiple mysteries in Twin Peaks - to me at least points to both including The Missing Pieces and preserving Fire Walk With Me as the climax of Twin Peaks...which of course leaves the scenes between the series and film. Maybe not on the first pass, but then perhaps the "entire mystery" cannot be experienced in just one trip? That would be very Lynchian. ;)

2) (Forgot there was a second point coming, didn't you? This may turn out to be my longest comment - hopefully it will be my last for a while...) Most of Lynch's later films - certainly Lost Highway, Mulholland Drive, and Inland Empire - are, to put it mildly, unconventional and nonlinear in structure. When taken as a whole (pilot through feature film), the Twin Peaks cycle belongs in their company. All of those films also feature transitional sequences in which the character's - and viewer's - place in reality becomes unmoored, before we settle into a new, different and disorienting, reality (well, in Inland Empire, we never quite settle and the bulk of the film is that "transitional sequence"). This is usually preceded by a visit to an unsettling location. In Lost Highway, Fred is locked in prison and there he experiences a kind of psychic/physical transference in which he "becomes" Pete. In Mulholland Drive, Betty & Camilla visit Club Silencio where they discover the blue box - opening it sends our viewpoint careening through shifting hallways before we "wake up" with Diane at the Cowboy's request. And Inland Empire sends Nikki through the Axxon N doorway in the alley, which leads her to a soundstage on which her earlier incarnation is sitting, before she flees into a house set and goes down the rabbit hole with shifting landscapes and visions of dancing girls.

In each of these sequences, a threshold is crossed "between two worlds" in which not only space but time is warped and folded over itself. Twin Peaks and Fire Walk With Me were made as Lynch was just gearing up for this second stage of his work, and as such they are very transitional. More importantly, when re-invented with latter-day tinkering, I think the "Twin Peaks cycle" definitely fits with these later works and The Missing Pieces underlines this correspondence. Just as Nikki, Fred, and (dreaming?) Diane pass through a new, foreboding location in their stories, so we enter the Black Lodge with Cooper in the finale of Twin Peaks (in an unscripted improvisation which Lynch added to the show after a long absence; we could see this as the beginning of his ret-con). But while those shorter films represent the passage between "present" and "past" with fragmented, moody visuals, until 2014 we had to leap directly from the end of the series to the feature film. To my eyes, the Missing Pieces offers the lengthy saga what it needs: a long, at times surreal, always fragmented transition "between two worlds," lasting over an hour rather then a minute or two which is appropriate given the overall length of the story (30+ hours). I think of the Missing Pieces as occurring in a moment when Cooper's shocking fragmentation and possession has shaken us up and sent us reeling back through time, a fragmented and bumpy ride for 90 minutes until FWWM takes us in for a landing. Indeed, I already saw the relationship between the Twin Peaks series and Fire Walk With Me as corresponding to the relationship between the first 2/3 and the last 1/3 of Mulholland Drive: the reassuring if at times disquieting investigation followed by the darker and deeper reality which informed it, the "answer" we almost didn't want (yet had) to know. The Missing Pieces is like the opening of the blue box and passage between the hallways: perhaps unnecessary, but it smooths the transition, solidifies the link, and adds to the experience for me.

So, in conclusion, yeah it might be best to leave the Missing Pieces out/treat them as a footnote on your first trip to Twin Peaks. But definitely consider using them as a passageway between two worlds when you return.


September 17, 2014 on IMDb

The Missing Pieces are interesting in this sense since they show a "happier" (if still quite manic) Leland interacting with his family at dinner.

Anyway, I remember having a similar reaction to the "wash your hands" scene - an oh *beep* this puts everything in a very different light feeling. The show toys with Bob as a way to absolve Leland (moreso in the episode where he dies than in the one Lynch directed) but the film, whatever we make of Bob, draws a far more damning portrait of Laura's father.

Here's my take on what Lynch was - and is - going for. Kind of tangential to the point you raised but it got me thinking:

I would argue Lynch's involvement with Twin Peaks comes in two phases. The first, from around 1988 when he & Frost conceived the show, through circa September 1990, when the killer's reveal was shot, deals with the mystery of Laura Palmer: who killed her, and how does it relate to the strange mood and feeling of this town (with Cooper as our outsider guide). He and Frost were initially on the same page in seeing a balance between Cooper, Laura, and Twin Peaks as the key to the show. But even in the lead-up to the answer, we can see some divergence. It was apparently Frost's idea to give supporting characters unrelated subplots (compare to the first season, where everyone seems to be interlocked and it's even implied that Laura may be connected to what ails them all). He seemed concerned about viewers being too attached to Laura and wanted to wean them away from that part of the story. Lynch on the other hand asserted that Laura and her mystery/shadow were essential to the keep the show going (something Frost has come to agree with in retrospect). And he seems to have fallen under her spell too, not only through his continual development of Sheryl Lee's role in the show but by increasing emphasis on the gravity of Laura's pain, something we were a bit more aloof from in the early episodes. The premiere features the grisly flashback to her murder, the diary becomes a big plot device (with Lynch tasking his own daughter with the published version), and then of course there's the unforgettable reveal itself which pretty much shatters the show's previous tone and balance. And the fact that it's essentially a re-enactment of the crime that launched the story in the first place, it retroactively casts the whole preceding story in an uncomfortable light. It really feels like the ending of something, and for Lynch it seems it was.

For the second half of the show, it isn't really a Lynch project anymore. He was (eventually) active as a spokesman for the show's renewal and guest actor but he did not write or direct any episodes and his role in the series' overall direction remains hazy (it's been asserted by many that he didn't like Windom Earle, and the Lodge mythology of these episodes feel more like Frost's take on the occult, so it's probable he still wasn't very hands-on behind the scenes). Then he's handed the script for the series finale, apparently during the show's February - March hiatus when it seemed unlikely season two would finish, let alone that there would be a season three. And thus phase two of Lynch's involvement with Twin Peaks begins, taking us from the spring of 1991 all the way to this spring, when he completes work on The Entire Mystery blu-ray. During this period Lynch essentially has to do what he eventually did with Mulholland Drive - take an incomplete, aborted project and add new material, recontextualize the existing material, and thus redirect the entire story in a new direction. As it began, the saga used Laura Palmer as a path into Twin Peaks. Now Lynch would use Twin Peaks as a path back to Laura Palmer.

The roots for this, ironically, were in the script Frost, Peyton, and Engels handed Lynch. Although he threw out the Black Lodge sequences, he kept the rest of the material, which basically lays waste to the town and hands Cooper over to Bob. Supposedly Lynch didn't like the possession angle vis a vis Coop (and it's worth noting that the material Lynch DID add - the diner sequence - is one of the few in which characters do end on a happy note) but it works wonders as a transition into the next phase of Twin Peaks and makes sense as a follow-up to the last time we'd seen Cooper in Lynch's hands, as he sits stunned in the Road House vaguely realizing that he has failed in his approach and the killer has struck again. Meanwhile, the town - which episodes 17-28 have inadvertently presented as being deeply in denial about the Palmer family trauma - falls to pieces: Nadine disrupting Ed & Norma's blissful plans, Andrew, Audrey, and Pete blown up in the bank, Ben conked on the head as Donna screams and Doc potentially becomes a murderer. We see Leland, or his doppelganger, in the Black Lodge saying "I did not kill anybody" (which seems a mockery of his it-was-but-it-wasn't-me confession in episode 16) and Laura herself hardly seems to be at peace. The whole episode subverts the sense of closure which the series went for in its post-episode 14 run.

And Fire Walk With Me goes further in that direction. That's why Leland is no longer simply Bob's puppet; it's as if Lynch is stripping away every protective coating that separates us from Laura's pain. There's no longer any character we can identify with in lieu of her, and nobody else - certainly not Leland - seems to be as worthy of our pity. With this movie, phase two of Twin Peaks - and in retrospect, phase one - becomes all about moving closer to the "garmonbozia" at the heart of this guilty town. Even the Deer Meadow sequence serves as a device, much like the final episode, to take Twin Peaks and Cooper - the other two elements of the story - out of the equation and leave us only with Laura (a kind of vengeance for the fact that she was taken out of the equation early on). And this process was escalated in the cutting room, where Lynch disposed of virtually all the non-Laura footage (other than the first 40 minutes). Box-office failure only underlined the movie's mission, since it would now be the very last piece of Twin Peaks (something Lynch may have already suspected when he cut the Cooper-in-the-bathroom conclusion). And then Lynch spent the following 22 years doing everything he could to retroactively cultivate a sense of Twin Peaks a whole work, with Laura's story at its core. This begins with the Log Lady intros and climaxes with The Entire Mystery presentation (look at the cover image, note the title, and observe that FWWM is positioned as the culmination of the mystery - not simply as an addendum, that the Missing Pieces tie the show & film closer together, and that Between Two Worlds underlines the centrality of the Palmers, particularly Laura).

I guess this is just stating, or re-stating the obvious, but for some reason it helps me visualize the whole process to discuss it this way (plus, I'm planning a video essay on the subject so this is kind of a very rough and way over-verbose draft for the narration haha). This could also be why Twin Peaks proved to be the crucial turning point in Lynch's career, leading into his very different second stage which favors fractured narratives, a more complex presentation of good and evil, a heavier reliance on seemingly supernatural phenomena, female protagonists over males, and a more subjective, unhinged film style. Think of what came before: in Eraserhead he spent many years overcoming hurdles to create the film he wanted to. Elephant Man and Blue Velvet were executed according to plan (and polished off quite well in the process) while Dune proved an irredeemable failure. Wild at Heart, also a transitional work, was probably Lynch's freest film to date. And then he's faced with a challenge even worse than Dune - his greatest popular and critical triumph so far, Twin Peaks, compromised by a development which promises to kill it not just in terms of ratings but artistic integrity. Lynch's path out of this wilderness paves the way for everything that came after, showing that he could overcome the greatest challenges, and it makes Twin Peaks taken as a whole (pilot through feature, all 30+ hours) arguably his first, most ambitious, and perhaps greatest second-stage work.


September 30, 2014

StealThisCorn wrote:
Twin Peaks: An Access Guide To the Town is an invaluable little resource for stories set in Peaks' past. So many interesting tidbits in that little book.

I just bought that on Amazon for a song (one verse, no chorus). Great fun! I'd love to know the writing process behind it (it looks like it has tons of contributors, including Harley Peyton, Bob Engels, and other writers for the show, but is credited on Amazon to Lynch, Frost, and Richard Saul Werman, who is credited for numerous other - real - Access Guides as well).

For some reason I particularly enjoyed finding out the religions of Peaks inhabitants. To wit: the Palmers, Briggs, and Jennings are Lutherans, the Hurleys, Pulaskis, and Packards are Catholics, nobody we know is a Baptist (although a church is listed, with a minister named Oliver Twist), and the Haywards and Hornes are Episcopal (I guess Episcopalians are into wife-swapping?). Pete and the Log Lady are Theosophists, though Coop has been rumored to show up at their meetings.


Quote:
But I do wonder, what kind of storyline would be as compelling as the mystery of who killed Laura Palmer, with all its twists and turns, red herrings and illogical leaps that, conveniently, pay off, without just becoming a repeat? Laura by another name.

I've been doing a lot of thinking about this and have come to the conclusion that when Twin Peaks is in perfect harmony, three elements are in play: Laura, who represents the unknown, the mystery, the darkness haunting the town; Twin Peaks, the town and the people which provide the terrain across which the investigation into the unknown will move; and Agent Cooper, who provides us entry into the story and the world as well as relief from other somber elements. The first season keeps these three forces in perfect check but when the decision was made to remove Laura's mystery it was like kicking one leg out from under a three-legged stool. Instinctively, I've always felt that the only way to continue the show (narratively, I mean - in terms of viewer appeal it was already a lost cause) would have been to use Laura's mystery as a springboard into the mystery of the woods. I thought that's where the show was going when ep. 16 ended with the shot of the owl ("where's Bob now?"). We could have kept checking in on Mrs. Palmer and Laura's spirit could have continued to haunt Cooper (besides, discovering the Leland-Bob connection doesn't mean there wasn't still more to investigate about Laura's links to the Black Lodge), reminding us that she is our gateway into this world (the pilot emphasizes her impact far too much for the show to get away with cavalierly "moving on" as it eventually attempts). Alas, while Twin Peaks eventually kinda sorta went in this direction, it took forever and only in the rewritten finale did it feel like it was coming home again.

Incidentally, the film, though it appears to dispose of Cooper and the town and focus entirely on Laura, still has an element of this triptych in play, while redefining what each element means. Instead of Cooper-Twin Peaks-dead Laura, it's basically FBI-Black Lodge (shadow world of Twin Peaks)-live Laura. And the elements are more separated than they were in the show, with the FBI storyline presented quite apart from Laura's as if to emphasize that the links have been severed (or, as the one-armed man puts it, "the thread [has] be[en] torn...!").


On September 30, I completed Part 1 of Journey Through Twin Peaks and uploaded it to Vimeo (two days later, it would be split into five chapters and uploaded to YouTube as well).

September 30, 2014

The funny thing about it is if Twin Peaks were to "come back" it would ONLY be if Lynch was involved. And if Lynch was involved, it would be something so strange, unconventional, and unlike classic Twin Peaks that it would make Fire Walk With Me look mild. Personally, I wouldn't mind that at all but I suspect an Inland Empire-ish revisit is not what most people have in mind when they say "bring back Twin Peaks!" (Laura's speech in Between Two Worlds, the closest Lynch has and probably will come to a revisit, is an indication.) While something like that could be really cool - an even trippier meditation on the themes and images of that world - I have to say I'm happy with the cycle as it exists. It feels complete even though it was never intended to take the form it did.

I'm more concerned that Lynch might never make a feature film again! Although I have to admit, with some reluctance, that his body of work feels complete there as well. Just look at Eraserhead and Inland Empire - perfect mirror images bookending his career, striking both in their complete divergences and more subtle connections.


Two days later, Lynch and Frost tweeted "Dear Twitter friends, That gum you like is going to come back in style!" Speculation immediately emerged that they were going to bring back the series, and on the following Monday this was confirmed.

October 3, 2014


Ross wrote:
Well, if there was ever a time to do... something, its now when the TP iron is hot.


That's for sure. It's so strange too how things just get hot at a certain time, how these cultural cycles occur. Yes, I know the blu-ray came out this year but I was seeing a big uptick in TP discussion on Twitter, for example, when the Missing Pieces hadn't even been announced yet. Hell, I myself got re-obsessed with Twin Peaks this year based on reading the 20-year-old Full of Secrets essay book which I bought last year on a whim to fill out an online gift card. And I've heard similar things from other people. It's like there's something in the air which everybody catches a hold of at a certain moment. I know the "in-world" 25th anniversary was this year but outside of devout fan circles, I don't think that would have too much relevance. And the actual 25th anniversary was still a year away when a lot of this buzz began.

Really excited and curious. I've never been one of those people who felt Twin Peaks needed to or even should necessarily "come back" but I'm as thrilled at the hint that David Lynch will be involved with something (presumably) film-related again, aside from commercials and music videos (though I do consider Crazy Clown Time one of his great short works) and that Lynch & Frost are possibly partnering up again. That it will be Twin Peaks-related makes me slightly nervous but also even more thrilled. The 25th anniversary of Twin Peaks is going to be an interesting year...


TO BE CONTINUED...

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