August 19th: One more damn fine cup o’ Joe

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171. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (David Lynch, 1992)

Set yourself up for a satisfying hit of nostalgia by having a listen to that stunning title music from the Twin Peaks TV series one more time whilst you read this review…

 

I mentioned briefly when I was reviewing The Wraith that I had a crush on Sherilyn Fenn from watching David Lynch’s groundbreaking TV series Twin Peaks. I watched it when I was in my first year of University, a whole decade ago. The department had a ridiculously large VHS collection, part of which was the 10 VHS box-set of Twin Peaks. Over two weeks I devoured the whole series, plinky Badalamenti jazz, odd characters, beautiful women and bizarre storylines. I loved it, I hadn’t seen television that was so boldly subversive and inventive before. I’d come from a house that routinely watched Coronation Street, so this was mind-blowing stuff for me – despite being nearly 10 years late to the party.

There is a problem with Twin Peaks as a TV series though, it was beset with network interference in the second series and co-creators David Lynch and Mark Frost left the show. The quality drop-off is noticeable, the viewing figures plummeted and the show was cancelled. Part of the disagreement between Lynch/Frost and the network was revealing who had killed Laura Palmer. The discovery of Palmer’s body is the catalyst for the events in the series, revealing the killer decimated interest. Fire Walk With Me tells the story of the days leading up to the death of Laura Palmer as well as containing a prologue showing the investigation into the connected death of Teresa Banks.

The strangest thing about finally watching Fire Walk With Me so long after I watched the TV series were the familiar cues. It seemed as if I were meeting some old friends, except they hadn’t aged. Where this deviates mostly from the TV series is in the overall tone, gone is the humour – replaced with a constant sense of dread. Primarily because we know that Laura Palmer is going to die but also because Lynch ratchets up the tension. This is a journey into a nightmare borne of abuse and it’s pretty weird to boot. The nightmare is leant some serious weight with a bravura performance from Sheryl Lee, who will forever be associated with this role.

There are some loose ends tied up in the film but predominantly this is an explanation as to why the events in Twin Peak occurred. What is so disappointing is that this film probably represented the last chance to rekindle popular interest in Twin Peaks and it was something of a financial failure. It’s easy to see why, with a product that is difficult to market (a thriller where you already know the end result?) and equally difficult to understand at times.

Still, there is a continuing interest in Twin Peaks (my research around the net reveals that there is still a yearly Twin Peaks festival!) and recently Kyle MacLachlan has made some noises that he’d like to return to the character of Agent Dale Cooper – read about that HERE. Whether anything happens or not though what we have in Twin Peaks is something special, what we have in Fire Walk With Me is an intriguing but slightly disappointing footnote to the saga.

February 3rd: His name was Joseph, actually.

 

42. The Elephant Man (David Lynch, 1980) #85 in IMDB top 250

Beautiful, elegant and quite simple – none of the terms that could be attributed to Joseph Merrick himself but all of them apply to David Lynch’s moving portrayal of his later years. The black and white photography, the Victoriana production design, the cast of recognisable English TV faces all combine with a sharp sympathetic script and some stunning performances to produce an excellent film. Luckily TCM are showing the widescreen version of the film and it looks stunning, the photography especially is clear and crisp. It seems as if the excesses of Lynch are curtailed to two sequences that contain much more power because of their brevity. The Elephant Man is a beautiful nightmare vision, you’d have to be the owner of a cold heart to not be moved by this piece of cinema.

 

Interesting to note that Mel Brooks was the man who was determined to get the story of Joseph Merrick (John in the film) to the screen and he also fought to get Lynch as the director.

 

Bonus points for spotting Pauline Quirke credited as ‘Second Whore’.

 

Note: The Elephant Man is listed twice in the Neon book 1000 Essential Movies on Video under ‘London Movies’ & ‘Depressing Movies’.