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Entries in twin peaks (8)

Thursday
Aug102017

In Which We Have Returned To The Red Room Of Our Youth

Place to Hide

by ELEANOR MORROW

Twin Peaks: The Return
creators Mark Frost & David Lynch
Showtime

The only place you know is real is the town where you live. The bank, the trailer park, the diner. The police station, the bed and breakfast, the residents that only get older, never younger. Oh god, the residents. Recently I found myself watching older episodes of Twin Peaks. Although they are in general sloppier and substantially less satisfying than the precise brilliance of Twin Peaks: The Return, probably the best thing that has ever aired on American television, they are not really all that different.

The major difference is the subplots. In the original Twin Peaks, the subplots were sort of a lazy, soapy gauze around the main storyline. In Twin Peaks: The Return, they are merely reflections of something we can never exactly see. Never in my wildest dreams did I believe that David Lynch would feature Kyle MacLachlan as a mentally deficient shell who merely echoes back whatever the people around him say, and that it would work for a solid fifteen episodes.

In a season full of haunting moments, probably the most haunting were the twin delusions of Audrey Horne (Sherilyn Fenn). In her fever dream, which is never explained or put into context, she is confined in her home with her husband Charles (the fantastic Clark Middleton). She wants to leave, but she cannot. She asks her husband if he has ever felt like he is two people. He tells her that he has not, that he has always been himself and knew this to be true.

Mental illness has always been major theme of Twin Peaks. The idea that there is something about our own personalities that we can recover from, like an illness, is not only fascinating, it is wildly optimistic. Whether or not this can be accomplished in our hometown is a matter of significant question in Twin Peaks: The Return.

I never found the original Twin Peaks alike to darkest noir, probably because of television broadcast standards at the time. Whenever it delved into the particulars of various drug crimes or the seedier elements, it felt so goofy or scary, but not at the level of darkness we have been experiencing this summer. Kyle MacLachan's "other" performance as Evil Agent Cooper is ridiculous when he assume the echoes of the earlier character, serious enough to give us a rotund chill. Lynch goes for a lot of laughs here as well, such as the decisive moment where Cooper kills a man with a single punch to the face. Watching all Lynch's favorite actors cheering an arm-wrestling battle on was hysterical, but the interrogation scene that follows was more chilling than amusing.

Why are you not watching Twin Peaks: The Return? What excuse could you possibly have? Your response to my entreaty falls on deaf ears.

Forget the production design, which is one of its kind and will be reproduced forever. Ignore the sound design, which Lynch handles himself and makes listening to Twin Peaks: The Return the best radio play in the history of mankind. I can't think of another production that has ever had the sheer volume of perfect acting performances Lynch coaxes out of his regulars and newcomers on Twin Peaks: The Return.

Particularly amazing are Jennifer Jason Leigh, who is so suited to the dialogue of Lynch and Frost, Jane Adams, who deserves a spinoff of sorts, Robert Knepper's bungling mafioso, and Fenn herself, who probably should have had a much better career than she did.

Traded and exchanged between this massive cast is a story ostensibly supernatural, but a tale which at its heart is more of a MacGuffin than ever. It does not really matter who evil inhabits, or the nature of evil itself — the question is of how to deal with this eternal challenge. Lynch passes along as few answers as ever, though he gives us the courtesy of a few, bracing moments as relief in the mind-blowing musical performances that conclude most episodes.

This last week, James Marshall performed David Lynch and composer Angelo Badalamenti's marvelous hymn "Just You" while a woman looked on and cried. It told the story of several conversations over the course of many years. It completely removes a self-reflective irony, such a recurrent plague on both American comedy and drama over the last decade, and shows the world for how sincere it is. The town that knew you before you knew yourself, and you hated it for that. Years passed before you realized.

Eleanor Morrow is the senior contributor to This Recording.

Tuesday
Jul112017

In Which We Retreat From The Peaks Of Yore

On Ashley Judd Time

by ELEANOR MORROW

Twin Peaks
creators David Lynch & Mark Frost
Showtime

"I can't do this," a man tells a woman in a room they both know. From one corner of the room, possibly under a lamp's base, something indescribable is shaping their words and deeds. Twin Peaks: The Return is a show about the Schrodinger state of indeterminacy: not knowing whether you are alive or dead, whether the things these people – the Midwestern sort with salt in their beards and their minds – are experiencing exist in the true world or another.

In 370 B.C. Xenophon wrote down his story of Cyrus the Younger's invasion of Asia to depose his brother, the great king of Persia. He titled it Anabasis, and thereafter any military expedition from sea inland was also referred to by this term. Similarly, Twin Peaks: The Return begins on the eastern seaboard in a dark New York apartment, about as far from David Lynch's home in Los Angeles as you can get.

At one point, when Winston (Lynch himself), Diane (Laura Dern), Albert (Miguel Ferrer) and Tammy (Chrysta Bell) are flying over South Dakota on their way to Philadelphia, Winston has the plane suddenly reverse direction. They cannot, physically, head towards the coast. That would be like giving up, as lemmings do, on their short and lonely lives.

In a police station where the bloated body of Major Briggs sits, still fresh some thirty years after its presumed expiration date, the pieces begin to come together. You honestly need a scorecard to follow them all, but it all comes back to the day Agent Dale Cooper first heard of the existence of the White and Black Lodge. After that a lot of it is pretty murky, and if you want to figure everything out, you might be here awhile. There are podcasts to explain these connections better than I ever could, but Twin Peaks: The Return is about whether or not you can perceive the existence of a mythology behind your life. The details themselves are largely immaterial; the real evidence of another world is in the present moment, the one you currently inhabit.

What is astonishing about the world Mr. Lynch gives us from moment to moment is that certain things disappear from it completely, replaced by the sense of forboding that overwhelms the self. Gender is not really present, even though sexism is. These particulars are merely small forces exerting themselves on the world, while something larger and more earthly is really taking a tighter grip. In a way a man's wife (Naomi Watts) is a god, as much as anyone.

This democratization of self takes over as Lynch presents a series of people we would not normally identify as protagonists or antagonists. He brings them out of the background of these scenes, giving them their full duration in the sun. Whether it is a series of chuckling local federales or Tim Roth as Evil Cooper's accommodating henchmen, the way these people talk to each other makes us feel like mere observers. The last piece of television that properly managed such an arrangement was The Wire. I like to think of Twin Peaks as The Wire of rural America.

Ashley Judd had this great movie where she played the wife of Bruce Greenwood. Bruce was in a lot of debt, so he faked his own death and made her look like the killer. She served eight years in prison and was released on parole, for murder. The second she got out she went looking for Bruce, and when she found him, he was selling himself at a charity auction in New Orleans. She bid on him and won.

Imagine the world above us, where time moves more slowly than it does here. We could spend, say, twenty years ago in that place but it would feel like only months on Earth. Still, we would age, grey overtaking our temples and armpits, while the real world sped by. That is what it must have been like for Ashley Judd in prison. I hope she never went there, but in my heart I think I know that she did.

With the deliberate pace that Lynch has established with this revival, it seems almost fait accompli that Twin Peaks: The Return is in line for another season after it finishes this run on September 3rd. These episodes have seem so effortless, like poring over a children's picture book. Perhaps Lynch wants to return to other topics, challenge himself with different concepts and forms. This will be a loss for television — but it is not the only medium, only the most malleable one.

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

Tuesday
Jun272017

In Which David Lynch Becomes Both Mother And Father To Us All

The Master in Disguise

by ELEANOR MORROW

Twin Peaks
creators Mark Frost & David Lynch
Showtime

The question of when evil began is an easy one, but when did evil resume, this time for good? June 25, 2017. David Lynch answered that query in this year of our Lord, and people became very angry and afraid when he told them. Reactions on messageboards to Lynch's statement were diverse, but most boiled down to a central question in response to Lynch's hour-long answer: What did I just watch?

Not to single out one particular messageboard post, but it went something like this: Twin Peaks didn't make me feel anything. Well, when I watched a mosquito frog march into a young girl's mouth in glorious black and white, I am pretty sure I felt something, but I can recognize that others might enjoy things that I do not. I have never particularly enjoyed Hannukah, dalmatians or the game of hearts. I mean, it sort of plays itself?

Evil, says Lynch, dates back to 1945. I was not around then, and neither were my parents, so I will have to take his word for it. Soon no one living will remember World War II, and soon enough no one living will remember facebook. I can't honestly tell you which memory will last longer, and whether it will be in human years, or dog. What I do know is that Mr. Lynch's aesthetic sense knows no peer – imagine if he was actively working to display an actuality of pure beauty, rather than endeavoring to describe the various stains human beings have impinged upon their world!

I was at the movies a lot last week, since it is so warm here. Before all of the screenings the theater plays the trailer for Al Gore's new movie about the environment. There are some great scenes when they make it look like Al is negotiating between nations to solve the pressing problem of how warm it is himself. The amount of self-aggrandizement is staggering. At one point during the trailer Al verbally spanks people for suggesting we could move to Mars if Earth does not work out as a habitat. Al, it was just an idea.

Well, in 1945, humans unleashed even more serious destruction upon the planet and the third most populous species of land vertebrates this world has to offer. (Ranking slightly ahead of humanity is the brown rat and common chicken.) Evil was invented to eliminate evil, but then who eliminates the second, peripheral evil? David Lynch.

Lynch was always a troll of sorts. Even watching his most sincere movies is like staring at a David Hockney painting, where everything worthwhile in it is held below the surface of things. Yet what was so marvelous about this episode of Twin Peaks, the most perfect episode of television that has ever aired, or at least the most perfect episode of television that has ever aired on Showtime, was that it was relatively sincere.

Halfway through the events of the episde, when Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross took the stage to perform "She's Gone Away", we got a sense that Lynch was interested in this idea, and that he was uncovering it as a child unwraps a particularly precious candy bar. Most people did not take Twin Peaks very seriously, they watched it casually to see what weird thing would happen to some familiar, quirky characters in a place we all knew. But Lynch decided this whole revival could go one of two ways: he could make a stupid, jokey imitation of what people liked about the small town aesthetic, or he could go the absolute other way into expanding a mythology to describe why people do awful things to each other, and themselves.

This is the much more courageous artistic statement. If it is not always the most traditionally satisfying, we should look deep within ourselves to think: should television really be something that makes us feel good or bad, or could it possibly make us think why we might hold these emotions in the first place?

Eleanor Morrow is the senior contributor to This Recording.