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Roll your eyes at Samuel Beckett

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Metaphors with eyes

Life of Mary MacLane

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Entries in eleanor morrow (76)


In Which We Smell Like Last Night's Rain

This review covers episodes five and six of Twin Peaks: The Return.

Dark Women


Twin Peaks: The Return
creators David Lynch & Mark Frost

There is a certain kind of woman that has captured David Lynch's attention over the years. She is either a blonde or a brunette, and very rarely both. Her cheekbones reverberate through her face, and speech comes as a relief for them, a momentary release from the tension that inhabits her face like a rite. Her attention is focused on something — a person, an idea — for as long as she can hold it without completely losing track of herself. In these areas Naomi Watts has always been Lynch's perfect module. She is the most brunette a blonde could ever be, and the most blonde a brunette could ever be. In comparison to Twin Peaks: The Return, the previous statement is the height of comprehensibility.

Trying to figure out what absolutely everything means in Twin Peaks: The Return is the kind of task that could take weeks, months, or even years. Imagine if they brought back Cheers and Ted Danson's character was now brain-dead. Actually, that's not that big of a stretch. Through six episodes Kyle MacLachlan remains an impotent loiterer who grabs his private parts in abject pain every time he needs to go to the bathroom. In a way, this subversion of our expectations is a brilliant joke on what most of us expected from this long-awaited revival, but in other way, it feels like a sketch that may have outlived its usefulness. Watts may as well be acting with a CGI racoon for all that MacLachlan's impotent character gives her on a scene-to-scene basis.

Fortunately this is Naomi Watts, and maybe she has never received the full adulation and appreciation she deserves as an actress. She is also the only character seemingly involved in any tangible plotline who is not an officer of the law. Watching her try to settle her husband's debts was like a lot of moments on Twin Peaks: The Return: ludicrous with a serious plausibility at its base. Despite this abstract feel, Twin Peaks: The Return succeeds on the basis of one thing which makes it completely unique and hilarious – the manner in which one human person relates to another.

Lynch is at his best in these two person scenes, when there is only one thing bouncing against another. Particularly amusing was Sheriff Truman (Robert Forster) and his verbal battles with his wife Doris (Candy Clark). It was legitimately hard to make out the coke-addled dialogue transacted between Becky (Amanda Seyfried) and her mess of a boyfriend. Each encounter between person A and person B is fresh and inimitable. This is such a different type of comedy, one that surpasses Ionesco and the stagey parodies of the original series while retaining just enough verisimilitude to keep us watching. Twin Peaks: The Return features a tone best described as merciless.

Strangely, it is the not-so opulent setting of the original that seems most diminished and diluted in this revival. The original Twin Peaks looked like it actually took place in a small Washington town. I don't know if it was a budget issue at work or what the deal is here, but the sets have not generally been up to par. When Miguel Ferrer finds Laura Dern in the warmth of a crowded bar, we see how little Lynch needs to create his specific moods, but larger set pieces are few and far between. Perhaps that can account for the lingering Las Vegas storyline, since any part of that plastique city is easily reproduced on a soundstage.

The plot, as well as I can surmise, concerns the two Dale Coopers: one is a demon, and one is a saint. This moral binary colors every individual in Twin Peaks, in Las Vegas, and in South Dakota. The only character who can be said to reside in the grey area would be the FBI agent that Lynch himself portrays. We have learned that only one Dale Cooper may live, and so soon Twin Peaks: The Return will turn into Prison Break. Maybe with only one Dale Cooper on the loose, we can finally revisit some of the loose ends of the original show.

Whatever you say about Twin Peaks: The Return, it is about as far from fanservice as anything can ever be. Fanservice reached an all-time low point when J.J. Abrams released a Star Wars movie with the exact same scenes as the previous films, only with slightly altered characters. If people could pretend to enjoy that, they would surely gobble up whatever is left of Lara Flynn Boyle writhing in a hotel room, but Ms. Boyle is mercifully missing. Lynch developed a severe distate for the dark woman when she ruined his storylines and subsequently her face through artificial maxillofacial alterations. Bringing her back and having loud fights with her on set would have been somewhat along the lines of Kylo Ren.


At least Star Wars was always empty commercialism – like Wonder Woman, it was a property strictly conceived to make money at the expense of act. Twin Peaks was mercurial and original, and to watch it surrender to the whimsies of television executives would have been a fate worse than the show originally encountered when Lynch was pressured to name the murderer of Laura Palmer against his better judgment. No matter how many old properties are callously dragged before us with many of the original actors still involved, I will always be grateful that Mr. Lynch did not cave this time.

Eleanor Morrow is the senior contributor to This Recording.


In Which We Appear Headed For An Amicable Split

A Very Special Marriage


I'm Sorry
creator Andrea Savage

It was a very special, yet very unexpected moment when Cheryl Hines and Larry David finally divorced on Curb Your Enthusiasm. It was such a rare thing for seasons and seasons of a show to occur in the context of an ostensibly happy marriage and then to have the show write off one of its signature characters in this fashion. Larry David's real life divorce obviously played a prominent role in taking the story in this direction —  I believe Laurie David took up with one of their servants.

Cheryl David became a sinister character after that, a woman who was more interested in Larry's money and the status that he provided than true love. On truTV's new Curb clone, I'm Sorry, Andrea (Andrea Savage) and Mike (Tom Everett Scott) seem to be heading down a similar path. Unlike Curb, the problems will have been manifest from the very beginning.

The other major difference between Larry David and Andrea Savage, besides a shitload of hair, is Andrea's six-year old daughter Amelia (Olive Petrucci). Savage, 44, has been hanging around the periphery of various shows over the years much like her co-star in I'm Sorry, Judy Greer, who even penned a memoir about how often she is recognized by passerby for absolutely nothing.

Like Larry, Andrea is a comedy writer. Her friends in that industry, including writing partner Kyle (comedian Jason Mantzoukas), are meant to prevent I'm Sorry from feeling as boring as say, Better Things or Louis CK's show since he became an absolutely dreadful shell of his former self. The scenes where Savage banters with her comedian friends initially feel forced, but they are a welcome change-of-pace from traditional mommy satire.

Savage is a likable and skilled performer, as the creative mind behind I'm Sorry, she appears to be working overtime as a performer as well. She has a surprising capacity for exploring the particulars of a sudden desperation. Many of her neuroses seem a little forced, like when she gets into a screaming argument with a roomful of seniors in her dance class over the air-conditioning. At other times, I'm Sorry hones on the absurdity of Los Angeles life without feeling complain-y or entirely bourgeois. The main conflict in Andrea's life seems to be with her husband, who has to endure the attention of her fellow comedians and his wife's outsized personality. This marriage has been set to slow cook.

Tom Everett Scott, 46, has never found that exact role which suited his abilities perfectly. He is miscast, as in I'm Sorry, as a bumbling nice guy, and he did not make much sense as a schemer with a heart of gold in Steven Bochco's short-lived but brilliant legal drama Philly. Audiences either see Scott as an absolute patsy or a liar, and it is really difficult to embody that contradiction properly as a performer. At the beginning of I'm Sorry, we are most struck that Scott's Mike is an introvert, a rare television opportunity to play someone who does not advertise every aspect of themselves with his mouth.

As parents, Mike and Andrea are devoted but you can see that they are somewhat baffled by these unfamiliar roles. My mother had me when she was 26; it is far different to enter parenthood when you are already fully formed as a person. Reevaluating the world at that age is a different challenge, and the strain it puts on the marriage in I'm Sorry is new territory that was never explored in Curb Your Enthusiasm.

It is exciting to think we will be able to watch someone's life fall completely apart, for Andrea Savage's existence is so blissful and untroubled otherwise that it would be hard to see where else I'm Sorry looks for storylines. Exploring the not-so-wild concept of a not perfectly happy couple in an honest and revealing way could propel I'm Sorry from a Larry David tribute half-hour to something completely its own.

Eleanor Morrow is the senior contributor to This Recording. You can find an archive of her writing on This Recording here.



In Which We Return To Twin Peaks At Some Point

The following review covers the first two parts of Twin Peaks: The Return.

David Lynch: The Return


Twin Peaks: The Return
creators Mark Frost & David Lynch

The burning corpse of Twin Peaks that David Lynch left behind when network executives and his partner Mark Frost tried to fuck with his creation at the end of 1980s has been alight for twenty-five disturbed years. Lynch has examined volume after volume of his dreams and committed them to film since those halcyon days. Some of his efforts, like 2001's Mulholland Drive exceeded his original vision for Twin Peaks; others became a bit overcomplicated for even his most devoted fans, even if the cinematography itself was typically one-of-a-kind.

This Lynch cares about pleasing no one again. It is in his very capable hands that we find Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan). The fifty-eight year old performer is remarkably well preserved, which makes thematic sense because he has been in another dimension, the Red Room, for all of this time. His dark doppelganger (Kyle MacLachlan with shoulder-length black hair) is in North Dakota, where two murders have taken place when Twin Peaks: The Return opens.

Two clueless cops find the head of a librarian in her apartment, the eye blasted out of its socket. After turning back the blanket, they find the torso of an obese John Doe mismatched to her pretty head. The local school principal Bill Hastings (Matthew Lillard) is the number one suspect, since his prints are found all over the librarian apartment and he knew the victim. In a few relatively straightlaced scenes, Frost and Lynch give us half the pleasure found in the original Twin Peaks: that the show was at its most amusing and poignant when it fundamentally dealt with the mundane.

The other half of Twin Peaks was the wild, spooky melodrama of the Black Lodge, where a demon possessed inhabitants of this Washington town. The moments in Twin Peaks: The Return when Agent Cooper struggles to free himself of his interdimensional confinement are replete with hokey, yet unnerving special effects, and the visuals are at times outright frightening. Lynch takes us to a room in midtown Manhattan where a young man views a glass box. His only job is to see if anything appears in it.

Such a set-up, ominously underscored by Angelo Badalamenti's haunting score, is a metaphor for the open possibilities of Twin Peaks, the town. We return to the familiar residents of the place for good at the end of the second episode. The eternally handsome James Hurley (James Marshall) is still wearing his leather jacket, observing the table where Shelly Johnson (Mädchen Amick) sits with friends. It is in these nostalgic moments where we suddenly realize how grateful we are that this is nothing like the Twin Peaks of decades ago.

So much of the original Twin Peaks was a shocking, amusing send-up of what television had become. Rewatching any of the first run of the show now, it is easily to see how much of the television that followed came out of the feel and style that Lynch developed. The original show still gives off a modern feeling. 

In order to shock us again, Lynch now has the benefit of premium cable standards and practices. Twin Peaks: The Return is frequently gruesome. It turns sexuality into a weird nothingness that fades before the everyday. Its characters are continuously waiting to be astonished by something in their lives, and when that ultimate moment arrives, they do not shy away. Boring people, Lynch insists, are not what they seem. They have their moments.

The original Twin Peaks had one key flaw that makes the show rather difficult to watch at times. That was the performance of Michael Ontkean as Sheriff Harry Truman. Ontkean was straight out of central casting for all the lame cop shows that Lynch was half-parodying here, but since Twin Peaks exceeded what it was making fun of at nearly every turn, his awkward, stumbling performance just got in the way of Kyle MacLachlan, as Truman is forced to portray a clueless straight man in every scene.

Fortunately, Ontkean smartly gave up acting a number of years ago, probably because he was not very good at it. Replacing him are a bevy of newcomers. Some are Lynch's particular favorites, and some are actors he has admired but never had a chance to work with before. Since the individual scenes of Twin Peaks: The Return have every chance of making very little sense to the audience, the rapid pace of the cameos and casting against type helps turn the show into a bizarre retrospective of Lynch's career in film and television.

By the end of the second episode, Agent Cooper has freed himself from the Red Room, ending up in the glass box. A demon follows close behind, and the show intends to follow Cooper back to the town where his life properly began. The town's waterfall and school look nearly the same; its residents are somewhat aged.

Even amidst all the confusion, David Lynch creates so many new feelings and archetypes to exploit, and Twin Peaks: The Return is more gleeful than anything. His basic theme throughout each iteration of Twin Peaks is the continuous discovery of all the places where human dignity can be found, uncovered, and disbanded. Horror, for Lynch, is a pretext to a more elucidated understanding, and he finds this more easily in a phrase, an aside, or a vision that any commonly understood form of elegy or coda. That is why he never wanted Twin Peaks to solve the murder mystery that propelled it from scene-to-scene: because doing so would only mean a false catharsis. They were all the killers.

Eleanor Morrow is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Manhattan.

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