Film 2019: Mulholland Drive

And she didn’t wake up but it was all still a dream. Or was it?

Despite my love for Twin Peaks, I’ve never been a follower of David Lynch’s films, so much so that I was more than surprised to discover that he’s only directed ten in total. With Mulholland Drive, bought last year, saved for 2019, seen for the first time, I have now seen exactly half of his output.

I approached watching the film with as little information as possible, with clean hands and composure, as you might say. I was thus not aware that Lynch had originally pitched the idea as a television series, had filmed a pilot episode that had been rejected, leading him (as was done with the Twin Peaks pilot, even though that was accepted) to extend the film to create a complete story. It explains a lot.

Mulholland Drive admits of no one convincing interpretation. In part this derives from the implantation of a variety of scenes featuring characters, mostly unnamed, who have no apparent relevance to what seems to be the central story. These are remnants of what would, we assume, have been sub-plots and plots in an open-ended TV series, here echoes of stories we never even begin to see for themselves. Anyone who attempts to fold these into one over-arching story is setting themselves an impossible task.

The main strand centres itself upon Betty Elms (Naomi Watts), Rita (Laura Elena Harring), Diane Selwyn (Watts again) and Camilla Rhodes (Melissa George and Harring at different stages). Betty, bright, blonde, perky, outwardly naive, is an aspiring actress from Ontario, arriving in Los Angeles to stay at the apartment of her Aunt Ruth, who’s someone in the industry, away in connection with a film, whilst she gets her career going. Rita, dark-haired, sultry, is an amnesiac who has lost her memory after a car crash on Mulholland Drive (a surprise stop, a gun pointed at her), who was wandered down the hill, taken refuge in Aunt Ruth’s apartment and fallen asleep, to be discovered in the shower by Betty.

‘Rita’ (who takes the name from a film poster starring Rita Hayworth) has hundreds of thousands of dollars in her handbag, and a mysterious triangular blue key. Betty sets out to help Rita rediscover her identity, despite the dark-haired woman’s fears and refusal to bring in the Police.

Elsewhere, moody and arrogant Director Adam Keshler (Justin Theroux) is under pressure to cast an unknown actress, Camilla Rhodes, in his latest film (title and story unknown, but set in the Fifties with teen music of the period). This is coming from the Mob. Adam however rebels, refuses, smashes up the Santigliani Brothers’ limo, as a result of which the film is shut down completely. He returns home to find his wife Lorraine in bed with Billy Ray Cyrus, the pool guy, retaliates by pouring pink paint into her jewellery box, and winds up in a cheap hotel with his credit revoked.

A mysterious character named the Cowboy advises Keshler to hire Camilla Rhodes for the film. Keshler hires Camilla, at this time being played by Melissa George.

Also, an incompetent assassin kills a guy for a book of telephone numbers. In trying to rig the scene to look like a suicide, he shoots a fat woma in the next cheap office, through the wall, forcing him to also have to kill her, a male cleaner and his vacuum cleaner.

The assassin has nothing else to do with the film, no more than the guy who wants to eat at a certain Winkie’s diner because he’s twice dreamed of being there, afraid, and seeing a horrible face through the wall, and who finds the guy out back of the diner and collapses in terror.

No, David Lynch films are not noted for orthodox narrative and cohesive structure, but Mulholland Drive is deliberately oneiromatic and impressionistic by comparison with his normal work.

Betty takes Rita out to the above-mentioned diner for something to eat, but Rita recovers a name, Diane Selwyn, after she sees a waitress’s name-badge of the same first name. Diane’s address is located, the  girls break in, find the body of a blonde on the bed, dead several days.

In between times, Rita helps Betty rehearse her lines for an audition. The lines are cheap and nasty, and Betty is unconvinced by them, but when she plays her audition, with the veteran ex-star who will be playing opposit her, her reading is wholly different, compelling, deeply sexual, riveting, and a far cry from the perky, naive Betty. Everyone applauds her, a career is born.

The body has terrified both women. Rita starts hacking at her hair, but Betty persuades her to ccalm down, fashions for her a blonde wig that makes her look an awful lot like Betty. She also invites Rita to share her bed that night, rather than sleep on the sofa in a towel again. They have enthusiastic sex and Betty tells Rita that she loves her.

At 2.00am Rita awakens, and insistes on Betty accompanying her to a weried, all-night club, Club Silenzio. There, the MC resides over multilingual tapes; nothing is real. Rebekah Del Rio performs an a capella Spanish version of Roy Orbison’s ‘Crying’ that makes both women cry, butwhen she collapses mid-song, that too is a tape. Betty finds a square blue box in her handbag, with a triangular keyhole.

They return to Aunt Ruth’s apartment. While Rita gets the key from its hiding place, Betty vanishes. Rita turns the key. She vanishes. The box falling makes a noise. Aunt Ruth checks she hasn’t got a prowler and goes back to bed.

The remainder of the film takes place in what may be a different reality, an alternate timeline, the recent past of the reality to which everything so far has been a fantasy or a dream. Watts is now Diane Selwyn, from Ontario, a would-be actress, but one whose career has failed, and who is bitter. She is living with Camilla Rhodes, now played by Harring, a much more successful actress, with whom she is in a lesbian relationship.

Camilla’s been cast in Keshler’s film. In order to demonstrate to an actor how hewants a kissing scene played, Keshler acts it out with Camilla. He orders the set cleared, except for Diane, at Camilla’s request, so Diane can watch Camilla being kissed.

Diane loves Camilla passionately but Camilla doesn’t love her. She ends the physical side of the relationship and Diane throws her out. Later, Camilla sends a car for Diane, that brings her to Mulholland Drive, and makes a surprise stop. There’s no gun this time, just Camilla to lead her to a party at Keshler’s house, for successful people. Betty’s landlady (Ann Miller in her last role) is now Keshler’s mother. At the table, Keshler announces he and Camilla are to marry, except that both are laughing too hard to get the word out. A blonde actress, Melissa George again, stops to talk to Camilla, kisses her intimately in front of the humiliated, tormented Diane.

Next, Diane is in the recurring Winkie’ss, hiring an assassin to kill Camilla. The waitress’s name-badge reads Betty. She’ll know when it’s done because she’ll find a blue key. That blue key’s already turned up in Diane’s apartment. Two small shieking, giggling, arm-waving people – the elderly couple who say with Betty Elms on her flight into LA, crawl under her door and chase her into the bedroom, where Diane pulls a gun out of her bedside table and shoots herself in the head.

The last word takes place back at the Club. A blue-haired woman in a balcony box seat slowly pronounces, “Silenzio”.

And she didn’t wake up but it was all still a dream. Or was it?

The dream imterpretation – that Betty and Rita are a fantasy equivalent, a happy ending version of Diane Selwyn’s life – was an early interpretation from many critics and film-goers, and I have to admit that it’s my first thought too. In true Lynchian fashion, there are elements in the Diane sequence that can be seen as filtering back into the fantasy of a strange, troubled, mysterious adventure, that nevertheless fulfils Diane’s thwarted aspirations in two key areas: Betty is a superb actress and Rita is in love with her (is she though? Only Betty says it, and immediately they make love, Rita takes over as the dominant half of their relationship, so much so that Betty vanishes. But isn’t that like dreams, settingyou up and droppingyou through trapdoors?)

Many people think that interpretation too simplistic, and that it doesn’t account for the whole film. Me, I’d have liked to have seen Mulholland Drive the series, though Lynch prefers the film, and to have seen where the unfinished strands might have led. Though I enjoyed the film immensely, and was fascinated by it, my ultimate analysis is that all the strands were unfinished. I realise that means I’m supposed to finish them myself, and maybe further viewings will begin to do that for me.

I don’t have any clever last line for this film. But I will be watching it again. And soon.

Film 2018: Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me

Fittingly or otherwise, the film I left myself for the final Film 2018 session was David Lynch’s Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, the controversial sequel to the enigmatic TV series that wasted what seemed then to be the only opportunity to complete the story that had left Special Agent Dale Cooper trapped in the Black Lodge of the series, and instead set an evil doppelganger loose to take his place.

Instead, Lynch (without co-creator Mark Frost, with whom relations had become strained) chose to do a prequel, billed as the last seven days of Laura Palmer’s life. In many ways, I still resent this decision, even now a third series has appeared: everyone was there and alive and young, and most of them were available, and this could have been a real ‘Twin Peaks’ film.

As it is, most of the cast played a part in this film, though for many their parts were limited, and for even more they were excluded to bring the film down to a mere 129 minutes. A handful of major players were unavailable due to scheduling conflicts with other projects (though Sherilyn Fenn later indicated that she had not wanted to be involved, after the vagaries of season 2). One of these was Lara Flynn Boyle, who had played Donna Hayward, Laura Palmer’s best friend: Donna’s part was integral to the story so she was recast, with Moira Kelly, a much less striking actress, taking the role.

The film, and its prospects, were distorted from the outset by Kyle MacLachlan’s fear of becoming typecast as Dale Cooper. Initially, he refused to consider the film, but ended up agreeing to a greatly diminished role, requiring the entire first half hour of the film to be rewritten, to the detriment of the film’s cohesion.

In the ansence of Coop, Lynch and his co-writer, Robert Engels, had to introduce Special Agent Chester ‘Chet’ Desmond to investigate the murder of drifter, waitress and prostitute Theresa Banks. Banks was the first killing, a year before Laura Palmer. Desmond was played, laconically but a bit stiffly, by singer Chris Isaak, already of ‘Wicked Game’ fame, and his sidekick, the awkward, bow-tied forensic expert, Sam Stanley, by a young Kiefer Sutherland.

Over insular opposition from local law enforcement, the Agents determine Banks was killed by multiple blows to the back of the skull and that a large green ring featuring a weird design that is familiar to those of us who watched the series, has been stolen from her finger. Stanley takes the body back to Portland, Desmond returns to the trailer park where Banks lives, finds her ring under a lit-up trailer, and is sucked into another dimension, populated by the mysterious characters who hang around the Black Lodge. He is never seen again.

Put like that, this lengthy opening sequence, which takes up the film’s first twenty-five minutes, seems like a straightforward setting in place of the Theresa Banks murder, not a million miles from a certain town in Washington State. If not for Kyle MacLachlan’s reluctance, it would have been Agent Cooper investigating, in which case this section would have seemed better integrated into the story, and I bet he wouldn’t have vanished inexplicably on finding the ring.

But then I haven’t mentioned any of the details, and the details always matter in a David Lynch film, and I haven’t mentioned any of the seriously loopy stuff that makes you wonder just what the hell is going on. And, in the case of the dancing woman in the red wig and dress, wearing a blue rose, whose dance is a ludicrously coded set of instructions to Agent Desmond (a briefing sheet would have worked even better but would not have been so self-consciously strange), we wouldn’t get an explanation of that until 2017.

And Lynch then prolongs the strangeness by switching to Philadelphia, FBI HQ, Gordon Cole (Lynch), Albert (Miguel Ferrer) and Coop. Coop’s being weird, checking the corridor security cam then dashing into the surveillance room to look at the feed of an empty corridor. He does this two or three times until, on the last occasion, he’s in the surveillance room, and he’s still on the security cam. Enter the long-missing Agent Philip Jeffries, played by David Bowie in a Hawaiian shirt and white linen suit, with a deep tan and a bouncy walk.

Jeffries is talking nonsense. He’s not talking about Judy. He’s aware of his colleagues but he isn’t on the same planet as them. Coop goes to check the security feed and Jeffries disappears. He was never there. But he was there.

As the late, great Spike put it, “It’s all rather confusing really”, and deliberately so. There’s a temptation to write off all the film up to this point, nearly thirty-five minutes in, as rubbish, and it certainly doesn’t seem to have any true, organic coonnection to the rest. For now comes the moment of comfort, of recognition and an instant relaxation for the audience, as we jump One Year Later and it’s the oh-so familar Welcome to Twin Peaks road sign and that instantly soothing twin note music by Angelo Badalamenti.

From this point onwards, the film is set in Twin Peaks, and it is Twin Peaks, and we are locked into watching the last seven days of Laura Palmer’s life.

Fire Walk With Me is billed as starring Sheryl Lee as Laura and Ray Wise as Leland Palmer, her father. Wise has a lot of screen time but isn’t required to do much more than look quasi-satanical. If we didn’t already know that he is the one who kills Laura, after years of incestuous rape, starting when she was 12, we would finger him anyway for his off-kilter performance, his obvious obsession with hi daughter, his volatile mood-swings and the way he just looks.

But from here on in, the film belongs to Sheryl Lee. In the series, she only got to play Laura alive in flashbacks, short and usually sweet. Here she gets to play the living person and she is astounding. Laura Palmer, blonde, beautiful, intelligent, Homecoming Queen, volunteer Meals on Wheels helper. Laura Palmer, fucking her ‘official’ boyfriend, jock Bobby Briggs, her unofficial boyfriend, James Hurley, the agrophobic recluse, Harold Smith, big, fat Jaques Renault from the Bang Bang Bar, not to mention being pimped out by him. Laura Palmer, High School smoker, drinker, cocaine addict. Laura Palmer, with the scary, horrifying, greasy, stubbly, assailant, BOB, who climbs in through her bedroom window at night, who has been ‘having’ her since she was twelve.

Lee is all these people, in turn and at once, flickering between faces. Everything is ever so slightly OTT, but the intensity that she brings to every emotion grips you and drags you along, whilst simultaneously conveying to you that this beautiful young girl, with everything going for her, is already dead, inside.

Even if we did not know that we are leading up to the opening of Twin Peaks, the discovery of Laua Palmer’s body, wrapped in plastic, floating in the lake, we would know, simply by watching Sheryl Lee, that she is sliding towards an end that will be neither commonplace nor easeful. As everything locks into place around her, as the pieces move that send her along the course that finally leads to her father’s insane and murderous attack, we understand that we are not watching fate step in to shut down all avenues of escape. All of Laura’s last chances were lost long before we got to the Welcome to Twin Peaks road sign. It’s too late, it’s far too late. We are condemned to watch the inevitable.

And it is horrible. There’s violence and degradation, but it’s not there for its own sake. It’s just part of the road, and Lynch doesn’t thrust it in our face or dwell on it. Lee lives it, simultaneously numbed and with every nerve in her affected. The two most awful moments are both sexual: Laura is terrified in her own home by the presence of BOB in the daytime, runs, crying and fearful, for cover outside, then sees her father leave the house. For the first time, she realises that her abuse has come from her own father: the blackness, the despair, the nausea. We and she understand the sickness in Leland’s ‘ordinary’ behaviour to her, the confirmation of her utter solitude.

And later, very much later, just before he will batter hs own daughter to death, Leland brandishes at her the two pages torn from her secret diary, and screams at her, in his own anguish, “I thought you knew it was me!”

The last half of this film, as the end closes in on Laura and we see her in all her phases and moods, fills in all the details we learned, retrospectively, in season 1, unpicked and assembled by Dale Cooper. It twists us at every turn, the horror of inevitability, of being forced to watch – because we cannot turn our face away – the sight of death spreading from within and bringing itself down upon this beautiful girl.

There are so many more pieces to this puzzle. What Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me really needed was Twin Peaks: The Return. It is now no longer the falling off, the unwanted beginning instead of the desired end. But it is still the beginning, even as it’s the ending of Film 2018. I’ve enjoyed this year of Sunday morning films very much. I hope some of you who have read these commentaries have enjoyed them as well.

Uncollected Thoughts: Twin Peaks: The Final Dossier, by Mark Frost

If for nothing else much good, I’m going to remember 2017 as the year that Twin Peaks came back, against all my expectations, against all my life experiences. It came back, it didn’t so much exceed my hopes and expectations as completely bypass them, unconcerned for fidelity or the notion that you might even consider going back twenty-six years to what and where we were when we were other people. It provided me with a television episode, in episode 8, that more thoroughly exploded the notion of what an episode of TV could be than anything I have ever seen since the final episode of The Prisoner. For seventeen weeks in the middle of the year, it provided me with a reason for enthusiasm and a source of utter frustration: at work, I was the only person watching Twin Peaks: The Return and the only person not watching Game of Thrones: not having anyone I could talk to about this, share interpretations and predictions was horrendous.

Today’s my birthday (no applause please, just throw money) and the start of ten days off work. I have been stockpiling ‘gifts’ for myself this last three to four weeks as I am now the only person left to ‘celebrate’ that I have survive to start a sixty-third year. Most of these ‘presents’ are books: unsurprisingly, the first choice was Mark Frost’s Twin Peaks: The Final Dossier.

Frost, the co-creator of the series, produced a similar, thicker book last year, Twin Peaks: The Secret History, which was a Xmas ‘gift’. That was presented in the form of an FBI investigation into a curious dossier that delved into the town’s history as far back as its (possible) discovery during the famous Lewis and Clark expedition in the very early Nineteenth Century. The Dossier was, at the end, determined to have been compiled by Major Briggs, and the investigating Agent was Tamara ‘Tammy’ Preston, who would be played by Chrysta Bell in The Return.

Though it’s presented as a history, and it weaves in as much real-life history as possible, including the still-debatable issue of Lewis’s death, building towards a more detailed town history in the Twentieth Century, until it absorbs the Laura Palmer murder that, wisely, Frost did not elaborate upon.

One to lead into, now one to fill in the gaps. Both books are formed as dossiers, but both state (in small letters) on their partial dust-jackets, that these are novels. The Final Dossier eschews the detail-heavy original documentation and marginalia in favour of a series of mini-dossiers, each relating to a single person, or occasionally a family, presented as summaries by Tammy Preston, left behind to try to make sense of what has happened in The Return.

Though the closing pages of the book make reference to the events of the third series, and even attempt to lend a degree of real-world clarification to the final pair of episodes, the bulk of the book is aimed at doing for the fan what the series decidedly refused to do. Instead of The Final Dossier, this could have been subtitled The Missing Twenty-Five Years or What Happened between Season 2 and Season 3.

The Final Dossier makes concrete what we had to guess at on the screen. Season 3 came in at Day 1 and left us to try to work out how each returning character – who were, after all, in the minority – had got from there to here, and which, except in one specific instance, gave us nothing as to the fates of those who did not feature all those years on. If that were all it did – Annie’s story is especially heart-breaking – it would be invaluable, but it also confirms that many of the conclusions drawn during the series’ run were pretty much on the mark.

Frost doesn’t tie-up every loose end, not even by implication, but he provides a sound, concrete footing. Should this have come out before the series? Would we have enjoyed, or understood, season 3 better for knowing this? My answers are Hell, no! and Understood yes, but being dunked underwater with no idea which direction was the best way to deal with Twin Peaks.

Is this the end? I’ve reacquired Jennifer Lynch’s The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer in its original edition but, unless it too is republished, Dale Cooper; My Life, My Tapes is going to be beyond my means for any foreseeable future. Lynch has admitted that there may, possibly, be a fourth season but, if that is so, it’s at least four years off, four years that I have to consider may be beyond me. It’s already beyond a number of the actors who appeared in season 3.

No, I suspect that the current Twin Peaks buzz, invigorating as it’s been, will not o much further. The DVD of the series is due out in December and is already pre-ordered for a Xmas ‘present’ but after that, I don’t foresee much or anything else that’s going to be new. This is, after all, The Final Dossier so, unless that’s Final in the tradition of Frank Sinatra’s Final Tours, nothing else is left to be said unless Lynch and Frost uncharacteristically decide to derail everything Twin Peaks has ever been about and authorise The Concrete Explanation of Every Mystery, this is the final, but still very welcome terminus.

But every single word of this is an unimaginable bonus that, twenty-five years ago, I would have committed grievous bodily harm to have had.

Bingewatch: Twin Peaks – The Return – Day 2

There were nine episodes, just like yesterday, and that meant nine hours of watching, like yesterday, so how come the back half took the entire day to watch, and left no time for anything other than just food and drink?

I don’t know how long it will be before I can make any kind of sense about Twin Peaks. Maybe never. The back half was a slow adding up of resolutions, or such resolutions as Lynch and Frost were prepared to allow, and there were many of them, both trivial and major, though not all resolutions were the same. And through it all, that determined deliberate pace, that intensified what was slowly unrolling, until each scene became intense.

Another Director, one more in tune with contemporary notions of pace, could and would reduce this series by as much as a third of its length by cutting out the long silences, the slow burns, the moments when your attention became utterly affixed to the screen as you waited for the movement, the word.

This was television for the pre-MTV Generation, the attention-poor demanding another visual stimulus every two seconds. This was slow television, but not dragging television.

Was the ending satisfactory? Was there an ending? Of course there was an ending, the series has ended, but once again the stopping point was on the edge. But curiously, this was a satisfying engine, or it satisfied me. There was not the shock, the terrible wrongness, the despair of the abyss with which Lynch and Frost left everything twenty-six years ago. This time we knew, we understood, we expected. Twin Peaks ended at the end of episode 17. Episode 18 began with the beginning, repeated. It began again. It leaves emptiness behind it.

Not everything has answers. Some things remain even from seasons 1 and 2. How was Annie Blackburn, anyway? And Audrey Horne? For me, enough was given to frame her story.

To be understood in any real fashion, Twin Peaks needs to be binged in some way. A piece at a time is not good enough. It beats to a different rhythm. It is one thing and must be swallowed in as large gulps as possible.

Even if it drains as it does.

Bingewatch: Twin Peaks – The Return, Day 1

When Agent Cooper looked into a mirror and saw Killer Bob, when he smashed his head into the glass and, blood pouring down his face and started to giggle, “How’s Annie?” over and over, it was possibly the most traumatic moment television has ever given me. Because Twin Peaks, which I had devoured from the first, which I had followed through the doldrums of mid-second season, was cancelled, and these were its final minutes, final seconds. Because the wrong Dale Cooper had come back, because everything was as wrong as it was possible to be, and what would come next would never ever happen.

Don’t say never. After this, you cannot say never. As long as someone is alive, the unbelievable can happen, and this year it did. Twin Peaks came back, for that third, incredible season, like Alan Garner and Boneland, completing the trilogy begun with The Weirdstone of  Breisinga-Mein, from the most unexpected yet astonishing of angles.

I have watched Twin Peaks – The Return week-in, week-out, first thing on Monday morning. Throughout the summer, it has been the only contemporary television I have watched. I have sat there glued to each moment, watching carefully how David Lynch and Mark Frost have chosen to take this undreamt of opportunity.

Unlike other Twin Peaks fans, I have come to it deliberately cleared of expectations. As long as it answered that question that horrified me so back in 1991, what happened next?, I would wait and see. And it answered it, not in the detail I would have demanded in 1991, but simply enough: the Good Cooper has been trapped all this time in the Black Lodge, the Bad Cooper disappeared and has been doing evil, out of sight, all this time. Ok, good, that’s the answer, what do we have?

I admit to having only partially understood each episode, each week, if I have understood it at all. Characters have come and gone, and I have failed to remember the relationships, or where they have first appeared. But I have watched each segment of the eighteen hour film, and I am currently wondering just how I will make my way back to ‘normal’ television shows: it’s September, the Fall Season is almost upon us, and I am not even enthusiastic from The Big Bang Theory yet.

But I have a week and a half off work, and if thunder and lightning storms and the costs and restrictions of reliance on pubic transport put me off getting away, I can get away into a proper re-watch, a bingewatch, end to end.

Now I can’t do eighteen hours, but there’s nothing to stop me doing it over two days, nine episodes today, nine tomorrow. And I’m just coming down off episode 9, and it hangs together better when you know what it’s leading up to, and characters are no longer coming out of the woodwork, I can see them first being introduced, and I have a better handle on relationships, and on which of the multifarious strands ultimately feed into the spine of the narrative – and there definitely is one, believe you me – and which are there to remind you that Twin Peaks, that small-town America generally, is a place where things happen, and people do things that they don’t necessarily want seen in public, and not all threads lead to the web.

So I’m halfway today, and it’s the downhill slope tomorrow, and the first item on this year’s self-present list is the DVD Boxset. Or maybe my birthday, if I’m too greedy to wait…

Twin Peaks: The Return – The End

In the end, the ending was as unexpected as we expected, and as open as we suspected. If there is to be any more, and I suspect that we have now finally reached the place from which there is no going forward, then I hope it takes less that twenty-five years to reach it, because I haven’t got twenty-five years left in me, or at least I don’t expect it.

This time, though, I am content. Content to leave the final episode undisturbed, with its tiny echo of the last line of long-ago Quantum Leap: Dr Sam Beckett never came home.

Special Agent Dale Cooper did come home, briefly, and many people will choose to stop at episode 17, with its final musical coda, Julee Cruise, still as fragile and delicate of face, body and voice as she was back then. The other Cooper was sent back, Evil Bob destroyed and the past, the whole past of Twin Peaks, the entire impulse and purpose, removed from the beginning, as Cooper intercepts young Laura Palmer in the woods and led her away from the path to the body wrapped in plastic. It was a moment that had me in tears.

But energy cannot be destroyed, it can only be changed, and thus one final episode let us out there into the darkness and the emptiness and left us in a place that had changed. No conclusion, no denouement, nothing but questions, more questions.

Twin Peaks‘ return after all this time has been a dream, a gift, a joy. Like some, I have been entranced by all of it, now matter how slow, how elongated it has been at times. In a summer in which so many things have come to seem infuriatingly, crushingly slow – long parts of Wonder Woman, practically all of Preacher until it bored me out of watching, I am looking at you – every slow second on Twin Peaks has held me in fascination. I have no critical faculties with which to approach this. I have only an absence where the last sixteen weeks have been, and nothing now to fill it.

I feel it in my bones: there will not be a season 4. I sense this is where the trail goes cold and only our own imaginations remain to paint whatever pictures our own hopes, fears, needs and wants dictate.

But it has been good, oh so good, to have gone back. It’s been priceless.

David Lynch. Mark Frost. Kyle MacLachlan. Sheryl Lee. Thank you, thank you, thank you.


Twin Peaks – The Return: A Mighty Moment

For the last sixteen weeks I have been watching series 3 of Twin Peaks. I have been enthralled by every second of it, even when it’s been at its most deliberately slow. I have not commented about it because I still have no idea what is going on. Just being on the ride has been enough.

Then, not quite halfway through episode 16, of 18, Coop woke up. Dale Cooper came back, all smart, neat, controlled and in charge. He’s on his way to Twin Peaks, but before all that, he stopped in the doorway of a hospital room, smiled and said, “I am the FBI”.

And I just punched the air, again and again, shouting, “Yes! Yes! Yes!”

People do do that.

Yes! Yes! Yes!


Uncollected Thoughts: Twin Peaks s03 episode 1

I’ve come to this cold. No re-watching of the original two series, of Fire Walk With Me, I’m going in trusting only in my memories. Because these are vivid memories, because Twin Peaks was vivid, and lurid, and that ending was one of, if not the most horrifying experiences I have ever had with any kind of creative form, because it was the end but it wasn’t the end, it was a cliffhanger of Himalayan proportions and I sat there stunned. Special Agent Dale Cooper had gone into the Black Lodge to rescue Annie, and he had got her out, only he wasn’t he, he was Bob, Killer Bob, and the real Cooper was imprisoned behind.

No series has ever ended so awfully as that, so unbearably incomplete. Even though season 2 had dipped so badly throughout its middle episodes, it had come back with a vengeance with the introduction of Windom Earle, a truly terrifying performance by Kenneth Welsh. And that final episode had been one of the most intense television episodes I have ever seen, rivaling the last episode of The Prisoner.

Unbelievably, it’s back. And this is the first episode, consisting of parts 1 and 2 of an eighteen part series that has been described as an eighteen hour film. Well, bring it on! I am as insulated against trailers and spoilers and even promo photos as it is possible to be in this age and I am coming to this with clean hands and composure (as the writer Harlan Ellison is wont to say) and…

Indeed, and.

I’ve already read one review that suggests season 3 will piss off cult fans and newbies alike, with which I profoundly disagree. This is an eighteen hour film and I am getting pissed off at reviewers who expect to have the complete structure and purpose laid out for them in episode 1. This is supposed to be the age of the long-term project, the viewer willing and eager to commit to long series in which secrets and objectives and purposes are only revealed slowly, and in the meantime commit to working out the puzzle in their own heads, as they go along. It was the same for American Gods only three weeks ago, and it was stupid then.

But David Lynch and Mark Frost have gone far out on a limb with this opening episode (as indeed they should: Twin Peaks wasn’t just ahead of the curve in 1990-91, it was the curve and for it to come back exactly the same as before would be to gut it and remove any point to the return). For one thing, at a rough guess, less than twenty percent of the episode takes place in Twin Peaks, or even Washington State, and only a handful of our old friends have put in an appearance, and even then as cameos.

Strange things are happening, but mostly they’re happening elsewhere. In New York City a young man watches an empty glass case, under constant filming from three angles, during which time nothing happens, until he makes out with his girl, at which point something… something… emerges and seems to beat them to a pulp. Later, we see something significant happen when they were both out of the room.

In South Dakota, a murder is investigated, a woman’s mutilated head and a man’s mutilated body in the same bed. The murderer is a School Principal, but there’s a tangle of adulteries behind this. It’s very low-key, slow, undemonstrative, exceedingly normal and except for the brutality of the murder(s). But it’s been ‘organised’ by a shadowy background figure.

Who also pops up in Las Vegas, seeking information of an undisclosed kind, and dealing unmercifully with betrayal by the white trash he has assisting him. He’s due to keep an appointment tomorrow, except he’s no intention of meeting it. It’s been twenty-five years and now he’s supposed to go back, only he has no intention of returning to the Black Lodge.

Because the constant figure is Special Agent Dale Cooper, whether he is the real one, still trapped in the Black Lodge (from where he is to finally be released, once his doppelganger comes back) or he is the doppelganger, following some twisted course in the real world.

Something is being set up, and the whole fucking point of Twin Peaks in the first place is that you don’t go expecting the answers to be dropped in your lap, tied up with pretty pink ribbon. Lynch and Frost take things slowly – just as they always did – but there’s obviously a thread linking things together. Cooper’s coming back. The Log Lady, or at least her log (a fine, vulnerable, final performance by a clearly weak Catherine Coulson, sadly gone before this appears) knows it. Deputy Hawk understands some of it: he has come to Glastonbury Grove in the night and even though the real Cooper can’t leave before his doppelganger returns, the Black Lodge is losing its power.

And we see little vignettes with old faces, ending in the bar, as a band I’d never heard of called Chromatics replace Julee Cruise with a fine song I promptly downloaded, and people talk and drink and dance, and a near shaven-headed James looks across at a gaggle of women, one of whom is Shelley…

It’s back. Whether it can provide the resolutions we want after twenty-six years, we will have to wait until the end. I’m here for the duration, good, bad or indifferent. It’s like Alan Garner’s Boneland, the unexpected, much-delayed, radically different end of the trilogy. If Twin Peaks does as much to disturb the previous two parts as Garner did then, it will be a triumph.


The Secret History of Twin Peaks

Each week that goes by brings us nearer to the long-unexpected season 3 of Twin Peaks, details of which I have been avoiding much as I would UKIP Party Political meetings, leper colonies and football matches featuring the Bitters. However, just before Xmas, co-creator Mark Frost published The Secret History of Twin Peaks, a handsome, substantial hardback book with green binding and one of those annoying, Americanised half-dustjackets.

I bought it on impulse for myself for Xmas, but only made the time to read it this week (I am still only about a fifth of the way through Alan Moore’s Jerusalem). It was not until I took it up that I noticed that the dust-jacket described it as a novel.

This put a different perspective on the book, which I’d previously assumed was going to be more of a behind-the-scenes thing about the original two series. Wrong, very wrong. It’s a massive, wide-ranging, highly-detailed work that’s clearly intended as a direct lead-in to season 3, without giving away any spoilers, as such, as to what we’re all going to find out.

The book takes the form of an FBI Investigation, ordered up by Gordon Cole (David Lynch’s character in Twin Peaks) by an agent unnamed until literally the book’s last words, into a collection of documents assembled by someone known only as The Archivist (who, for a long time, seems most likely to be Dale Cooper but is instead a different, and entirely logical member of the Twin Peaks cast).

Agent TP is conducting an assessment of the Archivist’s materials, attempting to verify the truth and accuracy of the various materials it assembles, beginning with the Lewis and Clark expedition’s time in the Pacific North West and incorporating a lot of supposedly real history. Straight away, let me state that I am no specialist on American history in this depth, but the book is put together in a way that leads me to think that a great many real historical mysteries have been interwoven with the fictional history of Twin Peaks, the town, and its main families.

What the book does, over its many pages, is to build a history based around the spine of an unexpected minor character in the original series, one who was actually killed off in the show. The ostensible underlying story is the intriguing issue of Unidentified flying Objects, and the varied responses to sightings made by the American Army and authorities.

This does seem bafflingly tangential to the main thrust of the series, which concerned itself with more ‘magical’ elements, forces of Evil out of Indian beliefs: UFOs, Roswell, and similar incidents are more of a scientific theme, no matter what your opinion as to their validity and/or credibility.

But Frost manoeuvres his account round to merge the two ideas into something rather larger, lying behind everything that is happening, has happened, and is still waiting to happen in Twin Peaks, Washington State, 2017.

What he also manages to do is to successfully freeze the story at where it was last left, in 1991. We are reminded that the wrong Cooper came back from the Black Lodge, and that some time later he left Twin Peaks, never to return, but no more than that. The bomb in the Bank in the last episode did kill Pete Martell (RIP Jack Nance) and Andrew Packard, but only injured – critically – Audrey Horne.

Hank Jennings is also dead, Catherine Martell moved away, but otherwise we only get histories that amplify, and in one case completely re-orient, the backgrounds of the people we watched a quarter century ago (and in that one case, the character is confirmed as being dead, physically, but you, me and I know that she was last seen trapped in the knob of a chest of drawers, so I have my hopes).

So if you’re a Twin Peaks fan, go out and buy this book. I have no doubt that you won’t need it in order to understand season 3, assuming season 3 is an Understandable Thing, about which I am taking no bets whatsoever, but I rather expect you’ll find it incredibly useful.

Now, do I have time to rewatch the DVD box set before May?

Twin Peaks: It’s getting nearer

Filming has been completed for the long-unexpected third series of Twin Peaks, due to appear in 2017.

A cast list with 200 names (200!) has been published and can be studied here.

This going to be either the greatest television experience ever or the greatest television disaster ever, and I can’t even begin to guess which one is the more likely.

But it’s going to happen. My 1991 self would be absolutely delighted (except for the bit about waiting twenty-six years, that is).