Posts Tagged ‘Peter Deming’

Oh, fuck me — I wouldn’t want to be the first person to “go live” with their review of part eight of David Lynch and Mark Frost’s Twin Peaks 2017/Twin Peaks : The Return/Twin Peaks season three. I couldn’t handle the responsibility.

Here’s what we know for sure — about eight hours ago as I write this, Peter Deming, who oughtta know because he shot the thing, tweeted this :

Fans promptly went into frenzied speculative overdrive, because that’s what fans do : was this the night the “real” Agent Cooper would return? Would Michael Ontkean be putting in his long-rumored cameo? Would we finally learn what “Blue Rose” meant for certain? Was somebody gonna — gasp! — die?

What it’s safe to say no one expected was an epi — sorry, a part — so visually, thematically, indeed constitutionally flabbergasting and surreal that it makes part three look like child’s play in hindsight. Like most, if not all, of you reading this, I just got done watching the most flat-out amazing hour of television I’ve ever seen in my life, and I’m not really quite sure how the hell to describe it. Still, if you wanna make a go of it as a critic — even if only of the armchair/internet variety — you’d better not be the type of person who’s at a loss for words too often, so let’s just dive in and see where it goes.

Everything starts innocently enough (at least by Twin Peaks standards) with special agent Dale Cooper’s evil doppleganger (Kyle MacLachlan’s only got the one role tonight) making his prison “break” in a car driven by his sleazebag accomplice, Ray Monroe (George Griffith). Nobody films desolate open roads like Lynch, and this opening scene has a very Lost Highway feel to it, until Evil Coop decides he’s going to get one up on Ray only to find that Ray has double-crossed him first (it’s a bit of a long story) and has him dead(?) to rights. Shots ring out in the night and then the Black Lodge comes to claim its own when a legion of those apparition-type creatures we’ve been seeing hanging out in the Buckhorn, South Dakota police station set upon BOB/Coop’s prone form and proceed to rip it to shreds — or to at least extract a whole shit-ton of blood out of it. Ray watches in stunned disbelief for a matter of minutes before finally high-tailing it out of there, which proves to be a smart move because not-Coop gets up again and doesn’t seem real happy.

Cut to the Roadhouse and our musical guests for the evening, Trent Reznor and “the” Nine Inch Nails, as introduced, if I’m not mistaken (although I could be) by Jimmy Scott, the same guy who sang “Under The Sycamore Trees” in the final episode of Twin Peaks‘ first go-round. This is fun, a good chance to catch a breath, so do that — trust me when I say you’ll need it.

Cut to — I’m not kidding — the New Mexico desert in 1945, site of the first H-Bomb test. And be prepared to go inside — deep inside. Some years back I read the notorious essay “Meditations On The Atom And Time” by Dennis Stillings in the pages of Adam Parfrey’s equally-notorious Apocalypse Culture anthology,  and while Mr. Stillings made a number of astute and otherwise-unspoken observations about the dawning of the so-called “Atomic Age,” among the most profound was his stated belief that “The Bomb” represented the destructive and awesome (in the truest sense of the word) hand of God come down to usher in a conceptual shift too profound for most of our tiny minds to comprehend. David Lynch, though, no more has a tiny mind that Donald Trump has tiny hands (at least if you ask him), and not only do I think he read Stillings’ text, I think he absorbed and understood all of its staggering contents. Which puts him at least three or four steps ahead of me.

The first nuclear explosion as channeled through Lynch’s subconscious and camera is a terrifyingly revelatory experience, far more than “quasi-” religious in nature. It is the God of the Old Testament, whose secret name of Tetragrammaton is spelled out in the Kabbalah.  It is the alpha and the omega, the Trinity (site), the hand and voice of the fire (walk with me), the burning universal absolute that has been the animus of all great artists who are/were “dialed in” to forces beyond perhaps even their own admittedly vast comprehension from William Blake to Austin Osman Spare to Jack Kirby to Lynch himself. It is the Great God Pan. It is the terrible three-headed Jah-Bul-On. It is also BOB’s daddy.

Or, at least, that’s (part of) what I got from it. We’re up to 1956 now, after a long interlude featuring The Giant (Carel Struycken), a female companion, and an abandoned theater in a “house on the hill” unlike any you’ve ever seen, and the face of Frank Silva keeps popping up in the most unusual places. As does the face of Sheryl Lee. Was Laura Palmer’s death inscribed into the book of fate that night another book — that of Revelation — came true? The visual clues seem to suggest that, but if I watch this 60 more times (and I just might!) I’ll probably have 60 more opinions on the matter. What I do know is that the world of ’56, like that of ’45, is a black-and-white one. And the vagrant apparitions we keep seeing in the here and now are all over the desert, after having first strode out of a ramshackle convenience store back when “The Bomb” birthed them. One has even learned to speak. And smoke. “Gotta light?”

He likes that question a lot — so much so, in fact, that’s is all he says, until he gets to a radio station, brutally (and graphically) kills the secretary and the DJ working there, and plants himself behind the microphone, at which point his vocabulary becomes distinctly less limited. “This is the water, this is the well —” he begins, before launching into a brief soliloquy that becomes a repeated mantra of the sort that would make David Tibet proud, a poetic paean of verbalized psychopathology, a meme back when memetic theory still fucking meant something. And something dangerous at that.

Everyone who’s tuned into the station (we see a mechanic and a diner waitress, presumably there are others) drops dead — everyone except a teenage girl, one of a pair of young lovers we meet briefly as they walk home. That’s because out in the B&W desert of ’56 an egg that came through from ’45 hatched. And out of it came a distinctly advanced, evolved, and grotesquely large bug, one whose movements are almost — dare I say it — human. And when out erstwhile New Mexican Juliet falls asleep, it crawls into her mouth. And yes, it’s every bit as disgusting as it sounds, maybe even moreso.

And that’s where it ends. We’ve got two weeks to process this one, since there’s no new episo — goddamn it, when am I gonna get that right, part — next week owing to the extended-for-some holiday weekend. But it’s going to take longer than that to wrap my head around this thing. Probably, like, forever long. On the surface, one could easily posit an argument that the main storyline wasn’t advanced all that much here in part eight, but if you’re into surface-level readings you’re probably not watching Twin Peaks in the first place. What Lynch and Frost have wrought with this particular segment is a thing both lush and terrible, beautiful and horrifying, mind-beding and stomach-churning, a gaze into the abyss and the abyss gazing back. It’s far and away the most important installment of the series to date —  shit, I’m prepared to say the most important thing to ever air on American television screens — but please don’t ask me why yet. I’m still too busy trembling. We were, all of us, touched by the hand of God tonight — and it fucking burns. Fire, walk with me.

How, exactly, does one begin to process all this?

The only way one can, I suppose — one scene, one instance, one moment at a time.

After all, it’s been 25 years and,  despite Laura Palmer’s promise, until it was first cryptically hinted at via twitter, then officially announced what already feels like countless months ago, I think it’s fairly safe to say that none of us thought this would happen. And yet, happening it is — “again,” as its promotional materials point out. David Lynch and Mark Frost’s Twin Peaks has, indeed, returned to television. And it’s been a “pinch yourself to make sure it’s real” night all the way.

Damn, but they did a good job of keeping all the details under wraps, didn’t they? In a world where the president of the United States feels compelled to spill classified info to the Russians in order to prove his dick still works (and that Mr. Putin’s money was well spent), it may be hard to believe that anyone can keep a secret anymore, but up until that red carpet (or should that be Red Room?) Hollywood screening the other night, nobody beyond the principals involved had any idea what was in store for us. No leaked scripts or rough-cuts or dailies. No wayward comments during interviews that hinted at just a little too much. Nothing. We went into this one as blind as we all did — scratch that, as those of us who were around did — when the original Twin Peaks first aired on ABC way back in 1990.

The fair question to ask, then, after all this time — is this even the same show?

Well, yes and no. In much the same way that the maligned-at-the-time-but-celebrated-now “prequel” film, Twin Peaks : Fire Walk With Me marked a distinct tonal change from its small-screen progenitor, Twin Peaks circa 2017 both looks and feels entirely different than each of its forebears, and that’s as it should be : technology has moved on (this one’s shot in HD by the great Peter Deming), actors have aged, the budget’s bigger (Lynch having temporarily abandoned the project — God, remember that? — when it wasn’t), and being on Showtime means you can show tits, ass, blood, and viscera — all of which are reasonably well-represented in the two “part” (don’t call ’em episodes!) premiere “event” that just finished airing.

And yet those are all superficial changes. What strikes me as the greatest departure of all is the overall shift toward a slower, more measured, and decidedly more somber brand of storytelling than us old-time fans may be  accustomed to. The pacing of these first two parts is more akin to Lynch’s still-criminally-underappreciated Lost Highway than it is to “old-school” Twin Peaks, each rather lengthy scene dripping with both import and inherent tension in a way that simply can’t be faked. As we progress from Red Room/Black Lodge to the town of Twin Peaks “proper” to New York City to Buckhorn, South Dakota — and back, in turn, to each again, at least once — the daily minutiae of the various fictitious “lives” on display is given more-than-ample breathing space, and seemingly “unimportant” events, such as setting up an array of video cameras or waiting for someone to come to the door, play out very nearly in real time. This is, I admit, something that takes some getting used to — particularly as far as the scenes with the dude in New York who’s hired to observe a seemingly empty glass box go — but it ensures that when things do happen, they pack an enormous wallop. I’d tell you to ask that kid in the Big Apple I just mentioned, but alas, he’s in no shape to answer questions right now.

Death is, in fact, a constant specter hanging over the proceedings here — the inimitable Catherine E. Coulson, better known as “The Log Lady,” gives a heart-wrenching performance shot shortly before her demise that bravely incorporates aspects of her own illness; David Bowie’s Phillip Jeffries and Don S. Davis’ Major Garland Briggs both play significant roles by way of mere mention in the same scene; the late Miguel Ferrer will be along before too long — and, of course, there’s Laura Palmer. There’s always Laura Palmer. Is she alive? Is she dead? Is she both and neither at the same time? Actress Sherly Lee is shown as having aged naturally, and when she finally plants a kiss on Agent Cooper’s lips it consummates what for many of us was the real, if entirely unspoken, love story at the heart of Twin Peaks as we knew it — but then she undergoes a transformation that further reinforces the idea that this isn’t, nor will it be, the Twin Peaks we thought we knew at all.

Except, of course, when it is. Paradoxically, the “unreal” world of the Red Room is where we find the most familiar faces — The Giant (Carel Struycken) kicks off the nostalgia parade followed in short order by Laura, Philip Gerard, the one-armed man (Al Strobel) — hell, even Leland Palmer (Ray Wise) turns up eventually. Change, evolution, and metamorphosis seems to be the through-line connecting all that goes on/has gone on beyond the scarlet-colored veil — exemplified most noticeably by “The Arm” (which sure ain’t an arm anymore) — so be forewarned :  if you thought that time stood still for anybody trapped in this parallel (un?)reality, think again.

And that seems doubly true for Kyle MacLachlan’s Special Agent Dale Cooper, who’s apparently spent the better part of the past quarter-century sitting in the same chair. Or at least one of him has — his “BOB”-possessed doppleganger, last seen bleeding from the forehead and saying “How’s Annie?” over and over again front of a broken mirror, is busy raising all kinds of hell on our side of the dimensional divide, and his story provides the nearest thing to a straightforward and completely accessible plotline so far. That doesn’t mean we know where things are headed for him yet — not by any stretch — but his motivations are clearly spelled out in a way that little else here is, and MacLachlan just plain acts his ass off in this starkly uncharacteristic role. He even goes toe-to-toe with the great Jennifer Jason Leigh (his head and hands, mind you, being at entirely different level vis-a-vis her form) and dominates the screen to the point where you do a hey “hey, wait, isn’t that—?”-style double-take after she first makes her appearance. Put simply, he’s real good at being real bad.

My theory — and keep in mind, it’s only a theory — is that the emergence of “BOB” into our world via Doppleganger Dale is going to prove to have been the catalyst for a sort of “overall darkening” that’s taken place. Ya see,  2017 Twin Peaks, at least to date, seems to exhibit almost none of the charming quirkiness that endeared so many to the show last time around, the noble-but-brief efforts of Lucy Moran (Kimmy Robertson), Deputy Andy Brennan (Harry Goaz), and Horne brothers (blink and you’ll miss Ashley Judd as their new secretary) Ben (Richard Beymer) and Jerry (David Patrcik Kelly) notwithstanding — and in its place we have a town where the mill stands in ruin, Dr. Jacoby (Russ Tamblyn) orders heavy equipment for a paranoia-fueled secret project deep in the woods, neither of the Sheriffs Truman (could a surprise appearance from Michael Ontkean at some point down the road be this series’ best-kept secret of all?) bother to show up for work, and Sarah Palmer (Grace Zabriskie) has graduated from “Invitation To Love” to graphic, “law of the jungle” nature documentaries. The ever-noble Deputy Hawk (Michael Horse) seems, as ever, to be the only one who just might have at least an intuitive understanding of what’s going on, but to this viewer, at least, it seems pretty clear that somewhere along the way, something went seriously wrong.

And yet, just when all seems ireevocably lost, we’re treated to a final scene at the “Bang Bang Bar” roadhouse, where Jacques Renault (Walter Olkewicz) still tends bar, Shelly Johnson (Madchen Amick) still drinks and gossips with her girlfriends, James Hurley (James Marshall) still stops in for a beer, and the nearest thing to a young version of Julee Cruise sings on stage. It’s all wrapped in a wistful, nostalgic glow that Lynch delivers with something akin to what I can only, and no doubt inadequately, describe as beauty tinged with sadness, and for those who were feeling out of their depth and/or comfort zones in the first hour-and-forty-five, it’ll most likely reel ’em back in — snap! — just like that.

As a study in contrasts, then — both with its previous version and, most interesintgly, with itself — the first two parts of Twin Peaks 2017 border on the downright breathtaking. Whether we’re looking at a grisly (to put it mildly) quasi-ritualistic murder scene in South Dakota, watching the black-and-white flooring of the Red Room shift, rise, and fall, seeing “Bad Dale” drive a muscle car in the middle of the night, or even just staring into that (usually) empty glass box again, it’s impossible to turn away. Joe Bob Briggs once said that  the cardinal rule for what makes a great drive-in movie is knowing that “anyone can die at any time” — Lynch and Frost one-up that here, though, by giving us a show where anything can happen at any time.

It’s happening again, indeed — and for the very first time.