Lost in the Movies (formerly The Dancing Image): Fire Walk With Me: a 4-part correspondence with Tony Dayoub on the Twin Peaks movie

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Fire Walk With Me: a 4-part correspondence with Tony Dayoub on the Twin Peaks movie


Four letters on Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me written by myself and Tony Dayoub (of Cinema Viewfinder), originally published by the website To Be Cont'd in May 2014








Personal Postscript: A Conversation That Launched A Journey

Three years ago this month, I officially began an exploration of Twin Peaks that never really ended. Coincidentally in the midst of a rewatch, I was encouraged to resume writing about the subject by Tony Dayoub, a film critic who had been one of the earliest commentators on this blog and my first guide into the wild world of Twin Peaks (you can read the beginning of both strands here). He invited me to participate in a four-part conversation, suggesting Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me as a potential subject and I readily agreed. Tony had been chosen as a kind of critic-in-residence for the month of May on To Be Cont'd, a now-defunct website which consisted of weekly exchanges on a different topic between different critics each month (hopefully they restore their archives eventually; there were some great subjects and contributors during their short run). Allowed to pick his writing partner, Tony generously reached out to me and so the project began.

For me, it provided a way back into analyzing Twin Peaks, a world that had intrigued me greatly when I discovered it in 2008 but which I hadn't revisited much in the years since. My first viewing of this series dates more or less exactly to the time I started this blog - within a month I was rewatching the show and writing an episode guide, with Tony a regular commentator. (For a chronology of all my posts on Twin Peaks - which has now reached the hundreds - scroll down to the second part of this directory; at the very end, I've even rounded up posts or comments where I briefly reference the show, including its very first mention on this site, before I'd even finished watching it). Unlike me, Tony had watched the original airing of the show as a teenager in the early nineties. A rabid fan (and early Wrapped in Plastic subscriber), he saw the movie during its theatrical run and was initially disappointed although he quickly re-evaluated it. (He wrote about the film on his site for its twentieth anniversary, and also compared it to Nicholas Ray's classic Bigger Than Life).

When I saw the movie for the first time, I had questions - lots of them - and many had to do with the context of its critical response. Tony popped up right away to start answering my questions and provide his own fascinating background with the show (which actually began before ABC aired the pilot - he caught a screening at the Miami Film Festival months beforehand). Nearly six years later, this experience was incorporated into our back-and-forth exchange, each week tackling a new topic/angle on the fascinating film. I was able to not only meditate on my initial hook into the movie - its subversion of the show's pop culture legacy and startling exploration of abuse (a subject present but subdued on the series) - but also to grapple with an aspect that had provided a barrier for me the first time I watched Fire Walk With Me: the way it incorporated a supernatural mythos alongside psychological realism.

My second entry in the conversation (the third overall) launched one of the most important parts of my Twin Peaks journey during the following year: my exploration of the ways Twin Peaks wasn't just a fascinating mess and/or a story that ultimately subverted itself but also a powerful saga with a kind of internal cohesion despite the apparent contradictions. It also provided an excuse for me to watch or rewatch all of David Lynch's other films, which quickly mushroomed into my massive retrospective post a few months later. Indeed, I'm not sure my "David Lynch Month" of June 2014 (especially the round-up of Twin Peaks media commentary from 1990 to the present, which began as research for our conversation) would have happened without Tony lighting the fuse. And from there, I couldn't stop: podcast appearances, interviews with Twin Peaks authors, and of course my video series Journey Through Twin Peaks, which built on many of the ideas first expressed in these letters and became by far my popular online work. (Incidentally, Tony also praised and published - initially as an exclusive - my very first video essay in 2009. So he encouraged the birth of both strands of my Twin Peaks video project.)

Unfortunately, within a year the work that kicked off this whole process was only partially available. To Be Cont'd not only stopped publishing new conversations, the entire site and its archive went under, including our letters. Fortunately I had kept my own pieces, but Tony's remained unpublished for several years. Recently he got in touch with me to let me know he'd re-posted his own contributions; I've  now restored all the links and published this round-up here so everyone can enjoy the conversation as originally intended. I think we're each proud of this work and the role it played it expanding both of our perspectives on an underappreciated masterpiece - we were certainly encouraged to hear it had the same effect on readers. Now it can continue to do so.

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