Lost in the Movies (formerly The Dancing Image): June 2017

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.

Friday, June 16, 2017

"I have no idea where this will lead us": talking Twin Peaks: The Return Pt. 1-6 w/ Obnoxious & Anonymous


One month (and six hours of television) later, I'm back on Obnoxious & Anonymous, where Cameron and I discussed the first third of Twin Peaks: The Return for a whopping three hours. Topics include whether we're dealing with include Cooper's identity (and why he's unlikely to "snap back" any moment), what Audrey's and Laura's roles will be, whether we are dealing with multiple words, the possible relevance of Richard and Linda, and much, much, much more.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Twin Peaks: The Return Part 6 - "Don't die."


Well, can you blame me? I imagine a lot of people are going to top their recaps or reviews with this picture tonight and tomorrow. This moment was the closest part 6 came to fan service - for three weeks, viewers have been predicting that "I know where she drinks" referred to Diane, and that Diane would be played by Laura Dern (although I don't think anyone predicted she'd be sporting that very Lynchian wig). The scene unfolds with fairly conventional buildup and payoff (Albert speaking her name) with a cute nod to Diane's forty hours of masked identity, as she is identified by the back of her head before finally turning around for the camera. It's a lot of fun, and I can't wait to see how her character develops, but this very brief bit is entirely unrepresentative of the rest of "Don't die." It's also something we all saw coming. As such, it's not very typical of Twin Peaks: The Return, or perhaps especially of part 6. I predict this will be one of the more frustrating and alienating episodes for many viewers, but while it didn't do as much for me as part 5, I liked it (probably more than part 4). Parts of it made me uncomfortable, but in interesting ways. It also helps that I'm sold on the Dougie/Coop scenario - but we'll get to that momentarily. After all, why rush? The Return certainly isn't.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Twin Peaks: The Return Part 5 - "Case files."


Two weeks ago, I wrote that Twin Peaks" The Return was going to allow us to crawl into corners of the narrative, to get lost inside of it. This is the part - or damn it, the episode - where that magic spell really hits. "Episode" is fitting because, despite the claim that this is all one big movie, more or less arbitrarily sliced into chunks to prolong the experience, "Case files." feels like a TV episode in the best possible way. This works as a weekly, episodic, self-sustained entry of a serialized drama. It takes strength both from its reliance on a larger canvas which we can't yet fully see and from its isolated joys and sorrows. We dip into at least a dozen different stories, check in with members of an expansive ensemble, intrigued by what we glimpse and (this is key) emotionally invested in their experiences. Some of these experiences - quite a few, actually - are set in the town of Twin Peaks itself and connected to familiar characters (either directly or indirectly), which heightens our engagement. Other are not, yet they connect with us too; possibly the most affecting image is the final one, set in Las Vegas and commenting directly on the discovery, loss, and re-discovery of humanity through art. Though it cuts even deeper, part 5's fast-paced, eclectic structure evokes the best of Twin Peaks' first season, a combination of visiting colorful characters, dropping breadcrumbs along a dark wooded path, and carving out moments of ecstasy, suspense, and raucous comedy. Celluloid or digital, feature-length or serialized into standalone entries, the essence of cinema is and always will be emotion. That was certainly the essence of Twin Peaks, no matter how that was buried or what it was packaged inside.


Thursday, June 1, 2017

Twin Peaks & the World w/ Discourse Collective: Lynch, Politics & Prestige TV

(Francesco Bongiorni for The Washington Post
- I LOVE this illustration)

A few weeks ago, the left-wing cultural podcast Discourse Collective invited me to discuss Twin Peaks with them. The episode was released yesterday but recorded before the new series premiere, so we only discuss the original series and Fire Walk With Me. The series is contrasted with the present-day craze for "prestige TV" (as covered in Matt Christman's recent "How TV Became Respectable Without Getting Better") and we also dig into Lynch's tangled political history (which I also talked about on a recent episode of Twin Peaks Unwrapped if you want to hear more). Hopefully we can all return to the subject after the new series has wrapped up.