Sunday, November 9, 2008

Film Review - "Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me" (1992)

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me


David Lynch

This movie is a real mess. Not in a bad way; I really like it. But… Damn, is it frustrating. See, the Twin Peaks TV series is probably my favorite TV show, period. When I finished it up, I was excited about seeing the movie; I was expecting a resolution to the cliffhanger that the show left us at, plus a proper venue for some trademark grotesque Lynch weirdness. Well, we got one of those things in an overabundance, and it’s not the first one.
This is a prequel to the television series. The movie begins on a murder several months prior to Laura Palmer’s. The significance? It involves Bob and the Black Lodge, and therefore the circumstances, MO, and so on of Laura’s death are practically identical, which is why Cooper was sent to Twin Peaks; it is, as Gordon Cole designates it, a ‘blue rose case’, which is theorized to mean something involving the supernatural. So anyway, we start with Gordon Cole (God, I love that guy – David Lynch is a hilarious actor, and he was probably my favorite character of the show) sending two agents down to a different small town to investigate this other murder. These two agents are played by Chris Isaac and Kiefer Sutherland, and they’re pretty good at getting down the buddy-cop dynamic, given their minimal screentime. With these guys, things are pretty straightforwardly like an episode of the show, just with a few extra sprinkles of weirdness here and there. Then, we go to the FBI offices, and in addition to seeing more of Gordon, we check in on Cooper (who, despite being the main protagonist of the show, is completely absent from the film outside of this one scene) and my favorite pacifistic asshole, Albert Rosenfeld. Here, we have one of the most baffling events in the movie: a long-missing FBI agent just walks into Gordon’s office, and starts speaking, extremely cryptically, about where he was, and warning Cooper. Apparently, he’s been trapped in the Black Lodge, just as Cooper is in the final episode of the series. Then, the agent just disappears into thin air. This small part is played, with a great deal of creepiness, by David Bowie. After an oddly specific dream-based prediction by Cooper, we travel to Twin Peaks, where we spend the rest of the film watching the final days in the life of Laura Palmer.
This movie completely and utterly failed in the box office (even famously drawing booings and en masse walkouts at its premiere), for several reasons. First, unlike most TV-to-film adaptations, there is no space in the audience for newcomers; if you’ve never seen the show, then to say you’re up shit creek is an understatement (heck, even if you’ve just finished watching the entire show, you’re still up shit creek – and the movie came out well over a year after the show ended, too, so it wasn’t exactly fresh on the general public’s mind). Second, there were a lot of people who loved the show, but were new to Lynch. They enjoyed the quirkiness of the show, and how it handled dark subject matter and still had a wonderfully bright-eyed, lighthearted sense of humor about it. The movie is totally different; the only laughs are the awkward chuckles elicited by Lynch’s trademark awkward ‘what the fuck’ moments, and other than that, the movie is completely, utterly hopeless and depressing. It’s just plain dark. Adding to this, while the show was pretty straightforward, only getting into the abstract stuff with Bob and the Black Lodge, the movie is more along the lines (which are barely visible and, upon closer inspection, are actually a flaming bowl of dog biscuits and a record of the soundtrack to Flashdance) of Eraserhead or Lost Highway – it really fucks your head, and doesn’t even use lube. In fact, having seen all of Lynch’s feature films, I can say that this is probably the most disturbing of the bunch; this is one of those few movies that actually scared me and rekindled my fear of the dark. So, with all of that in mind, it’s no wonder why the general moviegoing public took a large, collective shit on this movie, and the critics followed suit.
This is actually one of my favorite films from everyone’s favorite crazy-haired mental ward escapee. We get to see a whole lot more of the Black Lodge and its residents, and they’re scary as hell. Despite being a prequel, we get to see some time-warped Cooper and Annie Blackburn, warning Laura in her dreams, which is cool. Without network restraints, the movie gets to go balls-out, and it mostly works – demon-possessed Leland is really fucking scary, and I was effected by it ever-so-slightly worse because I have a good friend who resembles Laura in every possible way, and it just pains me to envision these horrible things happening to her. Unfortunately, we don’t get to see all that many characters from the show – where are Pete, Josie, Ben, Audrey, Jerry, Blackie, The General, the whole Twin Peaks police force, and most of the other characters? Even the Log Lady, who one would have expected Lynch to make great use of in the movie, only has one line and about twenty seconds of screentime (granted, it’s a pivotal moment, but it’s still short). It also pisses me off that Leo Johnson is so watered down from the way he was in the series. He was a truly hate-able antagonist in the show; he was a wife-beating, teenage-girl-raping, motherfucking motherfucker, and I applauded when he got his brains blown across the room in the show (and I also thought it was a terrible move when they opted for a stereotypical moustache-twirling villain in Windom Earle afterwards, and got the even worse idea of creating ‘Franken-Leo’ as his obligatory brainless henchman). Here, it just seems like they… I dunno, ‘pussified’ him – he’s almost comic relief here. It’s not like he’s gonna upstage Bob as the villain of the movie, no matter how evil they make him… Whatever, though. It’s great to see a lot more of The Arm… I swear, that man scares the fuck out of me. Mike is a weird old (well-meaning) bastard, as always, and he also gets developed a lot more in this movie as the antithesis of Bob.
The imagery in this movie is great, but even better are the drawn-out, disturbing scenes with Leland and Laura, which add to the dark mood and creepy, squirmy feeling that’s there for the whole movie and makes you feel like you need a shower afterwards.
This is one of those movies where I’m pretty much the only person who liked it, and didn’t just like it, but loved it. However, in this rare occasion, I can very plainly recognize what made others hate it so much. That said, it’s still a fantastic movie, and one of the best Lynch films (and also serving as a sort of bridge between the 80’s Blue Velvet and Wild at Heart style, and the more sleek late 90’s/early 2000’s style from Lost Highway, Mulholland Dr. and Inland Empire). I recommend it, but only (and ONLY) if you’ve seen every single episode of the series beforehand. So… What are you waiting for? Go for it!

RATING: 10/10

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