By Matt Sitler
What to say that hasn’t been said already about maverick filmmaker David Lynch?
Finally handed the funding, freedom and platform to drill his singular vision straight into the heart of the masses, he pulls no punches here in this delightful 8-disc return to the world of Twin Peaks, which first blew minds in the early 90s.
More reminiscent of the world he created in the film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992), what’s unveiled here is a delectable, often infuriating smorgasbord of mood, violence and vibe-riffery unparalleled since, well, the last Lynch film outing, Inland Empire (2006).
Much has been made of the 2017 series’ cryptic plot lines, cipher-like characters and stilted, impenetrable dialogue, but as Mel Brooks once quipped about Lynch’s oeuvre, one has to stand back, waay back for the bigger picture to appear.
In 1987, Lynch and Peaks co-writer Mark Frost created a script for a show called One Saliva Bubble and it’s in the spirit of that never realised project that Twin Peaks 2017 takes more than one absurdist cue.
The new series, if nothing else, is a Rorschach test for conscious experience. Strange images married with sound that elicit effects on us as we watch, resulting in vibes, for lack of a better word, that we recognise from the subtler (unconscious?) regions of life. The ridiculousness and urgency of modern existence is here too, along with the elusive search for meaning. Spectacularly, it’s rendered in crisp, clean lines thanks to cinematographer Peter Deming’s (Lost Highway) sharp eye, often coupled with a very dry humour which is a much welcome touch considering all the existential angst.
Throughout, mystery remains front and centre. So much in fact, that mid-series we get a scene of Lynch (as FBI Director Gordon Cole) and Special Agent Tammy Preston (played by songstress Chrysta Bell), giggling together at fellow Agent Albert Rosenfeld’s (Miguel Ferrer) first date with an autopsy technician in Buckhorn South Dakota. The way the scene is filmed with Cole and Preston speaking in hushed tones in the hotel’s lounge while secretly monitoring Albert in such a throwaway setup is classic Lynch and a random example of what this show’s all about.
It’s the minutiae of existence, the inescapable secret nature of the ordinary, the tantalizing knowledge we’ve all been there in each of these roles, witnessing and registering events – some that just happen of their own accord and others that hint at a profound mystery.
Lynch, above everything, is a vibe technician. Forget the meaning that may or may not be conveyed – what he’s doing is using mood to illustrate the malleability of our thoughts and impulses in a cold indifferent, universe. It’s a brave tact considering the forced, hyper-real and politically correct plastic world of media that passes for entertainment and art these days.
In this new Twin Peaks we are allowed to be wholly human, flawed and desperate – celebrated as such, even, as the story’s arc, like life, builds towards an inevitable end.
The show is a feast for people who pay attention and we are often treated to subtle clues. Briefly, for example, in the Albert/Morgue Technician scene we spy a woman with a French flag walk by, foreshadowing another scene that will undoubtedly be remembered as one of Lynch’s best:
The French woman scene where Cole regales a mysterious French woman in his room at the Buckhorn Hotel.
Asked to leave by Agent Rosenfeld, viewers bear witness to a long drawn out exit as the woman preens and poses in a magical tour de force that’s as much a homage to female mystique as it is a gateway to abstract thought. If you enjoy the shock that results when Lynch confers sanctity to such simple premises, you will love this show.
Another stand out aspect of the new series is its soundscape.
Long time Lynch fans have watched the trajectory of his use of sound through the years, which has become more minimal as time’s passed. The original Peaks used way more music to direct viewers moods. Here we are presented with abstract sounds for the most part, sporadic undertones and industrial loops used for emotional shading, while actual songs punctuate proceedings at intervals, either during pivotal scenes or at the end of each episode when famous performers turn up at the Twin Peaks roadhouse to send us out further into the ether.
It’s exciting to watch a director still experimenting to such great effect. We won’t give away much of the overall plot – it concerns Agent Dale Cooper’s roundabout return to the town of Twin Peaks and the mystery of Laura Palmer with more than a few self conscious nods to the filmmaking process itself along the way.
Watch for allusions to Cooper being author Franz Kafka and take note of that huge nuclear mushroom cloud poster hanging behind Cole’s desk at FBI headquarters. Twin Peaks 2017 is a huge, sprawling mystery.
To the benefit of viewers craving originality and fearless film making, Lynch has ensured we will be left at the edge of our seats. As Laura Palmer and agent Cooper discover, you can never go home the same way again.
(To buy Twin Peaks: A Limited Event Series, follow this link.)