Another Trip to Twin Peaks

twin_peaks

 

Charlene Lydon explains why we shouldn’t be afraid to get excited about new Twin Peaks.

 

 

My gut reaction to the news that Twin Peaks is coming back to our screens was painfully panicked. I was, at first, excited, then terrified, then, for a horrible moment, thought they were talking about re-runs, then went back to panicking again.

 

I always get a blast of this when I hear of a remake or a sequel or a reboot of something I love. It’s the fear that the thing I love will be somehow corrupted by a poor imitation of its former iteration. It’s a valid fear. But I’m also an optimist so I choose to believe that new Twin Peaks will be great, perhaps even just as great.

 

There’s a well-earned trust in David Lynch’s catalogue of past treasures (filmography feels too slight a term). He is truly a great auteur and one with a distinct, singular vision in which audiences put their trust. So what if it doesn’t make sense? It isn’t supposed to! Lynch’s films wash over you in the most wonderful way. They fill you with dread and energy and delirium with every frame. The only pieces of work that incur any sort of critical wrath are Dune and Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. But in this fangirl’s opinion, these films are both full of the aesthetic and psychological pleasures that Lynch always provides. In fact, since we’re on the topic of Twin Peaks, Fire Walk With Me, it managed to touch on the tragedy and horror of the incest storyline in a way that the television show never got to do. It was full of rage and sadness and the full horror of Laura Palmers sad life is really, truly confronted. Replacement Donna aside, I think it’s an excellent prequel to a wonderful series.

 

The worry with reboots is that the cast and crew are doing it for the money. I call it Fierce Creatures syndrome, and I happily believe that there’s a genuine affection within the show’s stars (many of them at least) for the show. All of them regularly entertain interviews about the show and attend fan conventions and so many of them contributed to the recent Blu-ray release, And truly, how could anyone who was part of that world not want to go back there? At the end of the day, Twin Peaks is such a fully realised world that without the ghost of Laura Palmer looming there’s still a wealth of wonderful stories in there and old friends (and enemies) to catch up with.

 

So what will the series be about? I hate to even think about it but when we last left Twin Peaks we were left with the utterly shattering image of our hero Dale Cooper inhabited by the spirit of Bob, an incarnation of all evil that lurks beneath the surface. An unpopular ending in certain circles, I always thought it was simply the most horrific conclusion imaginable for the show. Coop, the innocent, the ultimate force for good, corrupted. And with the “dot dot dot” conclusion, Coop is now frozen in time, forever corrupted with no chance of being saved. Until now.

 

I have no doubt that David Lynch would not have returned to the northeast passage did he not have a story to tell. Twin Peaks was always about America, its secrets, its lies, its rotten core. One must wonder if this will be the central thesis of the new Twin Peaks or if there will be a different direction. Who will be back? Who won’t be back?

 

The fact that the how was picked up by Showtime, one of the more liberal networks, means there will be fewer restraints regarding sex and violence. There will probably be little by way of network pressure for Lynch and Frost to conform to. But how will they react to the quarter-century that has passed and can Twin Peaks remain unique after so many excellent shows have borrowed from it? From The X Files to The Killing and Desperate Housewives and everything in between, the legacy of Twin Peaks looms large all over this so called golden-era of television. Can Twin Peaks maintain its unique quality?

 

I believe it can. I believe in David Lynch and Mark Frost and the world they created. So let’s be hopeful.

Share

Hollywood Babylon presents ‘Dune’

Dune-1
Continuing a series of screenings of movies from the year 1984 Hollywood Babylon brings you David Lynch’s one-of-a-kind sci-fi epic Dune

The film screens at the Light House Cinema on this Saturday, 17th August 2013 at 11.45pm.

Reproductions of the original “glossary sheets” distributed at early screenings of the film in 1984 will be available on the night as well as a rarely screened behind-the-scenes film shot and narrated by Blade Runner’s Sean Young which will screen before the main event.

There will be themed ‘Spice’ cocktails in the bar from 9.30pm and the bar will stay open during the screening, plus giveaways for early arrivals.

Share

We Love… Boxsets

TV Drama

Illustration by Adeline Pericart

Long gone are the days when you used to rush home from the circus to watch Dempsey & Makepeace on a Thursday night at 8 o’clock on television. Nowadays rather than follow weekly installments on the box, most of us indulge ourselves with lavish boxsets that we can watch whenever we choose even if that means an all-night, whole season feast of vampires, mobsters, meth-dealers or serial killers. In conjunction with the recent article ‘BIG DRAMA little screen’  in Film Ireland‘s Autumn issue, Steven Galvin gave up his sleep-filled nights and was couchridden under a crisp-strewn duvet in order to take a look at what’s out there in the boxset-land of TV drama. Here he takes a look at 3 contemporary dramas (Mad Men, Dexter, and Breaking Bad), 3 classic dramas (Twin Peaks, The Sopranos, and The Wire) and 3 dramas that you may have missed (The Prisoner, The Singing Detective, and Deadwood).

CONTEMPORARY:

Mad Men – Season I

‘I hate to break it to you but there is no big lie, there is no system. The universe is indifferent’

Oozing style, capturing a moment of social American history on the cusp of change and populated by characters of dubious values, Mad Men is the stylish soap opera that lives off the lives it seeks to exploit. It is a world of superficial beauty, of vacuous dialogue, of empty vessels and guff that perfectly captures the depressing reality of an advertising industry populated by characters as hollow as the products they sell. Its unflinching realism refuses to renegotiate the past in terms of the present and in doing so exposes a world of undesirable creatures wallowing in their own self-congratulatory existence. What’s not to love? Its snail-like pace unfolds with a subtle and skilful dramatic plot seducing the viewer into its luscious narrative that is lit from all angles with exquisite production design and bang-on attention to detail. Has there ever been anything on television so fascinatingly ugly that looks so beautiful?

Dexter – Season I

‘I’ve lived in darkness a long time. Over the years my eyes adjusted, until the dark became my world and I could see’

Despite being a bit of a one-trick pony, Dexter is a delicious slice of depraved humour. Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall) is the charming sociopathic serial killer with a conscience, who works for forensics for the Miami Metro Police Department while also expertly disposing of the ‘scum’ that society has failed to punish – he kills killers. The series has no qualms fetishising violence and its many gruesome scenes are lovingly shot with cameras lingering over blood-splattered canvases. The deep red blood of the visual is always matched by the black humour of the dialogue, which energises each episode with a verve and style that drives things forward at a rapid pace. The tightly scripted episodes develop well over the first season as the overarching narrative develops into an intriguing story that brings the moral ambiguity at the heart of the series to an intriguing culmination.

Breaking Bad – Season 1

‘Fulminated mercury. A little tweak of chemistry’

Breaking Bad is a blow to the guts of television drama. What begins as a dark comedy unfolds and reveals itself as tragic drama. It follows the descent of a run-of-the-mill Joe Soap into the murky world of crime and drugs. Walter White (Bryan Cranston) is a middle-aged chemistry teacher who, after learning he has terminal cancer, hooks up with former student Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) who’s now a low-level drug dealer. White uses his chemistry skills to make the purest form of crystal meth there is in an effort to make money for his family and pay for his treatment. There are some heart-breaking scenes throughout the series as both Walter and Jesse struggle with what they have become and how it has affected their relationships with those that care about them. Often cinematic in scope, Breaking Bad is never less than riveting stuff. With its pitch-perfect central performance, tightly woven narrative strands and fervent imaginative storyline,  Breaking Bad is an unpredictable, edgy series and of all the current dramas it’ll be the most fascinating to see where it goes.

CLASSIC:

Twin Peaks

‘Damn fine coffee! And hot!’

David Lynch’s foray into television was like walking down the yellow brick road of a Brothers’ Grimm story accompanied by angels & demons. It’s difficult to comprehend now what a breakthrough Twin Peaks was in popular television. It reinvented American TV drama and encouraged, even demanded, that from then on such stuff could do much more than provide an hour’s diverting entertainment. Lynch’s camera brought a cinematic style to television screens and the lush colours and production design were matched by Angelo Badalamenti’s seductive score that sweeps majestically through the series. Twin Peaks delved deep into the undergrowth of the America of white-picket fences, revealing Lynch’s obsession with the opposites at work in life – the ugliness behind the beauty; the dark behind the light; the tears behind the joy; and the evil behind the good. All of this was exquisitely wrapped in an offbeat surreal sense of humour that was proud to be ‘odd’. It is still a marvel to behold as well as still being essential viewing, having influenced so much of what came after it. It might be a while before we see the likes of it again.

The Sopranos

‘A wrong decision is better than indecision’

Taking the brutality and humour of Goodfellas and the drama and scope of The Godfather, David Chase’s excellently written television series The Sopranos is a remarkable achievement. It is based around the life of Tony Soprano, a New Jersey mafia captain, who starts to attend therapy after suffering panic attacks. The series explores his troubled relationship with the two families in his life – his own and the mob. The show is an extraordinary concoction of violence and humour that springs from the richly energetic writing and excellent performances. The cast of mobsters and extended families are a wonderfully imagined array of morally ambiguous characters, each of whom in their own way struggle to reconcile their public and private personas, which of course is doomed to tragic failure. Tony Soprano is a classic tragic hero dealing with ‘blind fate’. The plot constantly functions as a test through which he must work out his destiny, but ultimately he undergoes a tragic ‘fall’ that transpires through events which his own actions has set in motion – actions stemming from his own flaws and inability to reconcile his private and public roles. The Sopranos is a lethal hit. And, to quote the series once more, ‘A hit is a hit’.

The Wire

‘All in the game yo, all in the game’

The Wire is superior storytelling that intelligently and honestly explores its socio-political landscape with a fine-tooth comb and populates its world with an array of fascinating and complex characters. Each series is a thoroughly rewarding dramatic experience and is organised around a central theme: season I – the illegal drug trade; season II – the port system; season III – the city government and bureaucracy; season IV – the school system; and season V – the print news media. Its structure resembles that of a novel in that each episode resembles a chapter and makes sense as a whole, achieving an organic unity through its perfect management of plot and composition of episodes that richly fulfil its ambitious dramatic objectives. The show’s realistic portrayal of Baltimore scales lofty heights exposing the structures of power at play in everyday life and is never afraid to take a close look at the maggots it finds under the stones it turns over. With its gritty realism and refusal to offer pithy resolutions The Wire proudly charts, in the words of its creator, ‘the death of America’. A must-see experience.

ONES YOU MAY HAVE MISSED:

The Prisoner

‘I will not make any deals with you. I’ve resigned. I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed or numbered. My life is my own. I resign’

Right from its terrific opening sequence, you know The Prisoner isn’t your average television drama. Made in the late ’60s, the series follows ‘Number Six’ (Patrick McGoohan), who, after resigning his job as a secret agent, is captured from his home and mysteriously finds himself trapped on an island known as ‘The Village’ populated by unquestioning inhabitants going about their lives as numbers under the watchful gaze of the island’s Orwellian type authorities. Charting Six’s efforts to escape, the series takes on the structure of a puzzle, but one that raises more questions than it answers; cleverly leaving itself open to a myriad of interpretations ranging from the social to the individual and its intriguing use of symbols feeds into the show’s allegorical readings. Its air of mystery is intensified by the often surreal atmosphere that infuses episodes and the sharp dialogue, beautifully designed sets, intense performances and swinging ’60s soundtrack ensure its addictive watchability. The Prisoner is truly a bold, original and inventive piece of television.

The Singing Detective

‘Can I go back to the ward now? I lead an exciting and vibrant life there’

Dennis Potter’s 1986  Tv show is a masterpiece of dramatic writing. It tells the tale of the physical and mental decay of a writer of detective fiction, who suffers from psoriatic arthropathy (a severe form of inflammatory arthritis) and is bedridden in a hospital. He fantasises his latest novel in an effort to deal with his illness, while at the same time dealing with his traumatic childhood memories. The Singing Detective has a skilfully crafted, multi-temporal narrative that constantly shifts between three layers: A burns victim hospital bed in the 1980s (reality); a childhood traumatic incident in London in the 1930s (memory); and a film-noir detective in the 1940s (fantasy). With a wonderful central performance by Michael Gambon underpinned by Potter’s brilliant, literary writing and mastery of form, The Singing Detective is a towering achievement in television drama.

Deadwood

‘The world ends when you’re dead. Until then, you got more punishment in store. Stand it like a man and give some back’

Deadwood, South Dakota is a grubby hell-like illegal settlement in the 1870s in a wild West truly wild, populated by every manner of oddball, misfit and bandit, all out to fill their pockets after a huge gold strike. The series traces how a civilisation is formed evolving from the vacuum of chaos into a structured organisation. Playing with fact and fiction, the series introduces historical figures into the narrative and sets up its own narrative world – a world of law searching for order. Written by Ian Milch, Deadwood is a rich tapestry of tension and rivalry that exists to torment the building of a community. Its multi-layered themes are expertly juggled. Often brutal, the series is blessed with fearless writing and boasts an outstanding ensemble cast. The sharp dialogue provides some sparkling moments and bullets of wicked humour, and in Ian McShane’s Al Swearengen has provided television with one of its most memorable monsters. Deadwood is a compelling piece of drama that often feels like a foul-mouthed Shakespeare drinking whisky while writing a Western.

Steven Galvin

Read Film Ireland‘s recent article ‘BIG DRAMA – little screen’, in which Amanda Spencer talks to directors Dearbhla Walsh, Daniel O’Hara, Ciaran Donnelly, and Robert Quinn and sees who’s taking sides in TV versus film.

Check out these DVDs and more on www.towerrecords.ie

Share

Issue 131 – Beyond the Cutting Room

marysweeney
Mary Sweeney working on 'Tender Mercies' in New York, 1982. Photo by Norman Buckley

Mary Sweeney, long-time editor and collaborator with David Lynch, talks about the transition to directing with her first feature Baraboo.

This photo of me was taken in 1982, in the New York cutting rooms of Tender Mercies. I had recently survived several months as a sound apprentice on Reds, a boot camp of a New York editorial job, under the magnificent Dede Allen. As a sound apprentice I was buried on an entirely different floor from the revered Picture Department, in a bin-filled, windowless room I shared with four other apprentice sound editors. We reconstituted trims, ran out for cigarettes, labelled thousands of reels, made coffee and reconstituted more trims. On the rare errand to the Picture Department, I might catch a glimpse of Dede through a cracked door, hunched over her upright Moviola, trims flying, assistants hovering, a magician over a cauldron. Her complete focus, intensity and dedication to the alchemy of her commanding art was an inspiration – no, more than that – a drug I was dying for a shot of. That will and desire is what reaches out to me through time in my regard in this photo. The details in this image leave me nostalgic for the delicious mechanics of the film cutting room; the squawk box, synchronizer, rewinds, Goldberg reels and 35 mm film! I’m left nostalgic also for the labour-intensive camaraderie of those days.

Best-kept secret
Editing was, for decades, the best-kept secret power base in the filmmaking process. No sexy stars, no lights, camera, action; just a darkened room with one or two creative people massaging all that was in the can into mobile, musical, magical works of visual art. Directors and editors were forgotten in those dark rooms, left with the luxury of time to consider, to explore, experiment, reject and try something else with the available material.

The full article is printed in Film Ireland 131.

Share

Issue 115 – Listening to Lynch

Listening to Lynch
Listening to Lynch

From the ‘fast’ Mulholand Dr. and Wild at Heart to the ‘slow’ Eraserhead and The Elephant Man, Tony McKibbin examines the work of David Lynch, with a particular emphasis on sound.

Here are a couple of moments from David Lynch’s work. The first comes from Lost Highway: the credits come towards us on the screen, we’re in a car hurtling along a road at night, while an intense rock song plays on the soundtrack. The second is the opening scene from Blue Velvet, where Bobby Vinton’s dulcet tones accompany Lynch’s slow motion take on small town American life. Vinton sings ‘Blue Velvet’, and Lynch captures a slumberous Lumberton. Using a Lynchian vocabulary, we can suggest the first scene utilises ‘fast sound’; the latter ‘slow sound’. In fast sound our nerves are often stretched and in slow sound ostensibly assuaged, or at least temporarily relieved from dramatic exigencies and nerve pounding. But, just as Lynch says, ‘The borderline between sound effects and music is the most beautiful area’; we can add that another beautiful area in Lynch’s work resides in the complex way he works with fast and slow sound.

Many filmmakers, of course, work with fast and slow sonic effects, but they often do so far more regimentally than Lynch. Horror is a great genre of fast and slow sounds played against each other for the purposes of audience impact. In the original Cat People, for example, we hear the quiet street sounds of the central character’s heels on the pavement only to have the slow soundscape suddenly interrupted by the loud, fast screech of a bus pulling up. Then there is, of course, Jaws, where the calm of the sea is set against the sharp, strident chords of John Williams’s shark-track. In a less conventional fashion there is a film like Funny Games, which utilises a thrash metal soundtrack during the opening credits, contrasted with snatches of classical and opera, before settling down to domestic slow sounds, made ominous partly because of the fast sound the film briefly utilises.

Lost Highway shares with Funny Games this use of metal, but it uses it more ambiguously. Haneke seems to fall into the high/low art dichotomy as he contrasts metal with opera, but for Lynch it is just another element in the complexity of sound. This isn’t sound that needs sociological contrasting with the civilized sound of opera and classical music. It is instead an especially intriguing example of fast sound that succeeds in capturing an internal rawness over an external chaos. Lynch seems interested in an experimental, tentative exploration of sound’s inner workings over socio-categories of a collapsing society, symbolized by the insensitive sounds of modern living: of which metal might seem to be the nadir.

Thus metal doesn’t serve to symbolize social decay in Lynch, but to energize certain cinematic images, and certain mental states. For example, it can help the body of a film and the mind of its protagonists fly. As Lynch himself says, ‘A film is like a pyramid. In the beginning you can go slowly and, as you go along and it may seem the same amount of slowness, but in actuality it’s much faster, just because you seem to be going for some time… Film is flying.’

The full article is printed in Film Ireland 115.

Share