The Fire Walk With Me side of the Twin Peaks Universe
February 12, 2017 3:23 PM   Subscribe

TWIN PEAKS Isn’t As Funny As You Remember: "The series is sold as something strange, whether it’s being explained by a friend or summarized in a '90s retrospective. And it is. It’s one of the strangest things you’ll ever watch. But just like Twin Peaks plays with the cliches of soap operas to tell a far more nuanced narrative, it also immerses itself in the bizarre to create a dreamlike world of darkness and light, with both forces warped around the struggle for a lonely teenager’s life." [Content Warning: Some description of sexual violence, and major spoilers for Twin Peaks in the FPP article and below the jump.]

With the series reboot coming ever closer to its May release date, Emily Smith writes about the sad, disturbing base of Twin Peak's quirky narrative, told in the film prequel Fire Walk With Me. Too many previouslies to list, but you can check out fanfare discussion of the show here.

The film was famously (although perhaps apocryphally) booed and jeered at its premier, and was a critical and commercial flop. The BBC's Mark Kermode discusses, in a video essay, the context of the film's initial failure, and its ultimate redemption as a masterpiece of horror cinema. From beyond the grave (and in listicle form), this Grantland article offers a list of trivia about the film, covering what made it both a success as a film, and a failure as a commercial enterprise. The Nerdist offers a less list-based summary, covering more of the history and redemption of FWWM, "But something funny happened over the past twenty-three years since the movie came out and flopped, killing all hopes at the time that Twin Peaks would continue in any form. People began to recognize the movie as not only being good, and far better than it was ever given credit for upon release, but for actually being brilliant. FWWM is a harrowing portrait of incest that isn’t always easy to watch, that’s very true, but it is also almost impossible to forget. Sheryl Lee and Ray Wise turn in the performances of their lives as Laura and Leland Palmer, and in a truly just world, they both would have received Oscar nominations for their work."

YouTube film critic, Lost in the Movies, has a several part video essay that analyses and critiques the film, starting with "Not So Special Agents", which puts forth a theory for the seemingly strange framing of FWWM [playlist link, subsequent videos in the series will play automatically].

Although tangled in a complex legal web for many years, the film has recently seen rerelease with the Twin Peaks complete edition, restoring much of the cut content, providing director commentary, and allowing audiences to continue to enjoy a masterwork of horror cinema.
posted by codacorolla (63 comments total) 45 users marked this as a favorite
 
I bought The Secret Diary Of Laura Palmer the day it was released, and it was a bit harrowing to experience, really. At the time I thought it was pretty fucked up that David had his daughter Jennifer write it, but since then I've experienced Boxing Helena and have gained some life insight that tells me it was a perfect project for her, and the effect it had on me was exactly what it needed to be, even including my revulsion that it was written by his daughter. Meta-art, indeed.

I saw FWWM in the theater opening weekend and literally have not seen it since. Maybe I should give it a rewatch. I know its reputation has increased across the years.
posted by hippybear at 3:45 PM on February 12, 2017 [4 favorites]


I still have my copy of the Secret Diary of Laura Palmer, actually. I used to have the Dale Cooper book, too.
posted by Kitteh at 3:49 PM on February 12, 2017 [2 favorites]


Sheryl Lee's performance is cruelly underrated. It is so raw as to be breathtaking.
posted by unsupervised at 4:07 PM on February 12, 2017 [7 favorites]


People remember this as funny? I watched this episode by episode as it came out and it was the scariest thing I'd ever seen.
posted by escabeche at 4:07 PM on February 12, 2017 [33 favorites]


I recently rewatched with a teenager (she heard about it at school), and she was totally absorbed and engaged... and I was surprised at how well it stands up. It's almost too weird and unlikely to be on television now much less back then when there was nothing remotely like it.

We're both really excited but also nervous about the new show.
posted by Huck500 at 4:08 PM on February 12, 2017


People remember this as funny?

Yeah, people are so weird about that... I recently saw A Monster Calls, which is one of the most heartbreaking movies I've ever seen, and there were people laughing at scenes which, taken out of context, might deserve a chuckle (you'll see one in the trailer), but in this film are expressions of rage and helplessness that are just wrenching and have serious consequences... like I had to look around to see who would be laughing at such a black moment, but I think they had an idea about the movie from the marketing and just never got beyond that.
posted by Huck500 at 4:16 PM on February 12, 2017 [1 favorite]


I always loved (/was terrified and tormented by) Fire Walk With Me. I'm glad its reputation is improving.
posted by misskaz at 4:22 PM on February 12, 2017 [4 favorites]


We were assigned Blue Velvet as an example of post-modern filmmaking in a class on PoMo I took for my undergrad. This was in the late 2000s, so it took place in a screening room with an audience of classmates, instead of having us stream or buy the film ourselves. People couldn't stop laughing, nervously, the entire time. Even parts that are totally lacking in humor, like Frank brutalizing Jeffrey. I think that part of it is laughter being a way to express an uncomfortable emotion, people not being used to a symbolic style of narrative (and therefore being made uncomfortable by it), and the contagious / herd nature of laughter.
posted by codacorolla at 4:23 PM on February 12, 2017 [2 favorites]


I watched it for a while when it was released, and gave up. It was deliberately pointless.
posted by Peach at 4:25 PM on February 12, 2017


I used to have the Dale Cooper book, too.

"Diane..." The Twin Peaks Tapes Of Agent Cooper [45m]
posted by hippybear at 4:25 PM on February 12, 2017 [6 favorites]


Most people remember the Marquis de Sade for Justine, Juliette, Philosphy in the Bedroom and the 120 Days of Sodom. But he also wrote what we would now call a novelette called Eugenie de Franval, the story of a daughter whose fantastically evil father began the plot to seduce her on the day she was born. It was always Eugenie that I thought of once I got the scope of Laura Palmer's story.
posted by Bringer Tom at 4:26 PM on February 12, 2017 [9 favorites]


I always loved (/was terrified and tormented by)...

These are the highest compliments that you can pay to any work of art.
posted by Bringer Tom at 4:34 PM on February 12, 2017 [1 favorite]


Even parts that are totally lacking in humor, like Frank brutalizing Jeffrey.

There is some extremely black humor in Blue Velvet which is actually intended to be funny, such as Frank yelling I'LL FUCK ANYTHING THAT MOVES and the incredibly queasy "I'll send you a love letter" scene shortly after, as the girl dances on top of their car. It's funny because it's ridiculous, and this is something Lynch does well and has done repeatedly. The thing is, evil often is ridiculous, and sometimes the only sensible thing you can do is laugh at it.
posted by Bringer Tom at 4:40 PM on February 12, 2017 [12 favorites]


There's also the thing that Lynch often presents things in a way that are "wrong" - for example the mechanical bird at the end of Blue Velvet. He knows exactly what he's doing, and these things that are hokey or cheesy or just plain bad to one (perhaps more general?) audience is what puts his movies slap bang in the uncanny valley for audiences that are attuned to his sensibility.

I didn't see Fire Walk With Me when it came out (I think I'd been tricked by the bad press), but soon after. It completely blew me away - it is horrific and terrifying, but also immensely sad: I remember being struck very strongly by the sheer injustice of what happens to Laura Palmer. Throughout the series she had been (at first) an object, and then increasingly an idea, an iconic image. Meeting her as a person was a slap in the face.

I don't think I'd ever seen anything that managed to address abuse as viscerally, before, either.

The Twin Peaks pilot, and Fire Walk With Me are among Lynch's best films, I think.
posted by Grangousier at 4:53 PM on February 12, 2017 [6 favorites]


I loved Twin Peaks, but Maddie's death hurt so much that I don't think I could watch FWWM. I'm nervous about the reboot. Since this is on cable, David Lynch will be able to do so much that he couldn't do on a network.
posted by pxe2000 at 4:57 PM on February 12, 2017


for example the mechanical bird at the end of Blue Velvet

Yes that was obviously a flag as to how Jeffrey's relationship with Sandy would go, beautiful (at least to Sandy) but fake.
posted by Bringer Tom at 5:03 PM on February 12, 2017 [2 favorites]


Point of order: there is no Twin Peaks "reboot". This isn't a remake or re-imagining; it is a new season of the original show, for all that there has been a lapse of many years in the filming schedule.
posted by adrienneleigh at 5:10 PM on February 12, 2017 [25 favorites]


I saw a late-night big-screen showing of FWWM just a couple of weeks ago, in celebration of the soundtrack re-release on vinyl. I thought I'd seen it when it first came out, but didn't remember any of it. I was startled by how thoroughly brutal it was, even in comparison to the series (which I also rewatched recently). This is not to say I didn't love it--I did. But I was also glad I went to see it with someone I feel loved and safe with. :)

The point others have made about laughter being a common response to uncomfortable art definitely holds, but I also think the utter weirdness of the series is what sticks in people's minds, much more so than the fact it's ultimately a story about evil, incest, and murder. And in their minds, weird = funny.
posted by rhiannonstone at 5:18 PM on February 12, 2017 [1 favorite]


There's a lot in the original series that was funny! Just not the things that were trying to be funny, like Deputy Whatshisface's attempts at slapstick. The bottom-lip out, eyebrows-down pout James always puts on when he's trying to be soulful and brooding was unintentionally hilarious. So was the intensely overused three-note musical theme they played whenever something was supposed to be ominous but the scene just couldn't carry it on its own, which seemed to happen two or three times an episode.

I'm not a True Fan, though, so
posted by echo target at 5:21 PM on February 12, 2017 [3 favorites]


I only recently saw the deleted ceiling fan scene. It is horrifying.
posted by painquale at 5:32 PM on February 12, 2017 [11 favorites]


Funny, weird, I can't say. All I know is that it had Audrey, and that was enough for me.
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 5:33 PM on February 12, 2017 [1 favorite]


Twin Peaks is pretty funny! And terrifying. And tedious. It's a mixed bag, but there is still a lot to be said for the series (and the movie; my feelings on that aren't as positive, but it has one of my favorite scenes in the series, so hey, look, another mixed bag). The High Weirdness angle of the show is probably the most appealing aspect to me. It feels surprisingly well researched and not nearly as watered down as most television in the 90s was; it really finds that Jacques Valee/John Keel UFOs-as-occult-phenomenon niche and gets comfortable.

There's also Special Agent Bryson, which is a little cringey but still considerably more positive than most contemporary media.

I have no idea what to expect from the new episodes.
posted by byanyothername at 5:47 PM on February 12, 2017 [2 favorites]


Lynch is one of the finest filmmakers alive. I hope this new season does so well that the bean counters have no choice but to let him do whatever he wants.
posted by Strange_Robinson at 5:56 PM on February 12, 2017 [1 favorite]


Twin Peaks was the only show I bothered to watch in college - in its original run. Now, I live in North Bend, WA, and got to see the filming last summer. As a bonus, I work at Twin Peaks high school...(that's not its real name and I'm not that committed as a fan - I just was tired of living in Seattle). I'm really looking forward to the new season!
posted by shrabster at 6:07 PM on February 12, 2017 [2 favorites]


That Grantland piece is good. What would be nice is a website I can go to where David Lynch films are explained to me. I mean I like them and everything but: huh?
posted by turbid dahlia at 6:08 PM on February 12, 2017


I'd like more of Season One, personally
posted by thelonius at 6:20 PM on February 12, 2017 [1 favorite]


What would be nice is a website I can go to where David Lynch films are explained to me. I mean I like them and everything but: huh?

Part of the magic of David Lynch projects is they cannot be explained. They're full of obvious symbolism but there is no clear map for the symbols. This blank canvas makes them some of the most interesting cinematic experiences of the late 20th century. And now into the 21st, obviously.

It's fascinating to revisit Lynch films in different stages of life. Things I saw in Eraserhead when in my 20s weren't there AT ALL in my 40s, while all this other stuff appeared. Repeat with his other stuff.
posted by hippybear at 6:27 PM on February 12, 2017 [11 favorites]


FWWM is a great movie if you've watched Twin Peaks. I cannot imagine it holds much interest for anybody else. In retrospect, a nationwide theatrical release seems ... risky.

Nowadays, if you made a feature-length prequel to a cult TV show, you'd release it on Netflix, and it would be a modest success. I don't think a nationwide theatrical release would even be considered.
posted by panama joe at 6:35 PM on February 12, 2017 [1 favorite]


I was one of those disappointed with FWWM. I revisited it when it came out on Blu-ray, and... I was still disappointed with FWWM.

One of the wonderful things about Twin Peaks was the way it overlaid metaphor and narrative; the spiritual realms of good and evil swirled around the periphery of both town and show and pulled the characters and the narrative into their midst, both literally and figuratively, in a way that was tantalizingly strange but consistent, artful and often terrifying. Cooper was a remarkably edifying hero in the manner that he had a methodology and temperament where it was clear that he was looking at the physical clues and metaphysical clues as one despite his simple, aw-shucks, sunny demeanor. This kind of tone was thrilling in 1990, and the series persists in the public's consciousness because it remains thrilling today.

FWWM didn't have that. The depiction of the metaphysical world was almost completely inscrutable, the depiction of the physical world was a blunt hammer. But worse, the film was jarring and incoherent whenever they came together, and the manner in which Lynch divided the film into two sections only serves to distance the two. It still rubs me the wrong way.
posted by eschatfische at 6:54 PM on February 12, 2017 [3 favorites]


FWWM is less funny than the show, I think. The show is not a comedy but it has funny bits even early on and later it's just a strange camp soap opera and Ben Horne thinks he's a Civil War general and of course it's fucking funny.
posted by atoxyl at 7:05 PM on February 12, 2017 [6 favorites]


I recently let a co-worker borrow my complete Blu-ray box set. Every day she'd check in with what was happening with the show, which she adored. She described it as a little bit Buffy, a little bit X Files. "Poor Leland," she'd say, and I'd remind her that the television point of view is different from the cinema point of view (and not just in terms of 1.33 versus 2.35 aspect ratios).

Thursday night she watched Fire Walk With Me. Friday she came in and gave me the box set, telling me that the movie had made her see the television show from an entirely different point of view and how she wasn't sure if she liked the show at all anymore. "I think that may have been David Lynch's point," I said.

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me is still unavailable to watch outside of the complete Blu-ray set or the DVD edition. I rather suspect it will not be made available on demand until the upcoming third season. But for various reasons, I cannot and will not say any more about what the future may bring.
posted by infinitewindow at 7:07 PM on February 12, 2017 [1 favorite]


Regarding Agent Bryson: I grew up in a small town in southwest Virginia where even the possibility that someone was gay was never discussed above discreet whispers, and never with children. Denise was portrayed by David Duchovny warmly and lovingly, and the other characters came around eventually etc etc, yes all very progressive for 1991. But what I remember most is when Denise went undercover by presenting as a man and going by her deadname (not that I knew the term at the time). Cooper saw her in suit and tie and grinned giddily. It was clear to twelve-year-old me that Coop was impressed by Denise's skills at disguise and drag and not in any way, shape or form glad that his friend Dennis was back.

When I saw pictures of my not-yet-out transman sibling at a drag party a few years ago dressed as the sorority girl most everyone from her youth had expected he would become, I had the same reaction, tinged with the sudden realization that he was just having fun in drag but would only really be comfortable living life as a man, and that I loved him no matter what.

So thank you, makers of Twin Peaks for that.
posted by infinitewindow at 7:21 PM on February 12, 2017 [22 favorites]


Shout out to the generation of us that discovered acid just as Twin Peaks was being broadcast. Yes, it was funny as hell and creepier than hell.

I had the Secret Diary and owned the Julie Cruise album. Before the second season premiered, we bought a giant projection screen TV, with the expressed purpose of returning it the next day, to dose and watch the entire first season at once. Anyone who had the forethought to VHS it during the original airing was a hero. If they had paused out the commercials they were a god.

I've tried going back to it since, tried to get my wife into it, but it just doesn't work the same way.

FWWM was significant mostly for using the four letter words we knew the original series was lacking.

I have no idea if I'll get into the new episodes in my current mostly sober responsible adult state, but I'll always look to Dale Cooper and Major Briggs as the quintessentially Good Men in a world gone mad and Twin Peaks is likely the subconscious reason I ended up in the PNW.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 7:25 PM on February 12, 2017 [5 favorites]


may the fish always be in the percolator, may the owls never be what they seem, and may it always be "happening again."
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 7:30 PM on February 12, 2017 [3 favorites]


"Sheryl Lee's performance is cruelly underrated. It is so raw as to be breathtaking."

Somehow I watched FWWM before I ever saw a single episode of Twin Peaks. I honestly can't tell you what I thought for most of it, since I had zero hooks upon which to hang it. Everything that was supposed to be obvious (such as who the characters were and how their interactions [would color / had colored?] the relationships in the series, etc) and so I just kind of went along for the ride.

I thought it was surreal and fascinating, and also I was probably 17 at the time so I didn't know shit about shit and didn't pick up on what it was really trying to tell me. I mean I was engrossed but I wasn't getting it.

and then there was that scene. That one where Laura and Leland are in the convertible and Mike pulls around beside them in his camper truck and he's yelling, there's yelling, and Leland is yelling back and Laura starts screaming, and there's the smell of burnt oil, and you can't hear anything over the sound of the engine, and Laura is just so, so frightened and all of that panic and terror went straight out of the screen and into me, and the screaming and the revving of the engine came tied up in it

and to this day I can't watch that scene without feeling uncomfortable, like 'make the hair stand up on my arms' uncomfortable.
posted by komara at 8:02 PM on February 12, 2017 [6 favorites]


I admit that I'm a little grumpy about this, but I honestly don't bother going to midnight screenings anymore, because I'm so tired of people laughing at everything. Everything has to be funny, and it doesn't matter what the movie is, because there's always something (check out how dated that guy's car is! or look at that woman's hair!).

I once saw an outdoor screening of Chinatown at Hollywood Forever, and during the sex scene a drunk woman near us yelled "get it, girl!" and everyone laughed. She kept yelling it, and people kept tittering, even though that scene is profoundly sad. It's great to go out and have fun and drink under the stars near Tyrone Power's grave, but sometimes that just doesn't mix with a movie about pain.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 8:31 PM on February 12, 2017 [5 favorites]


My first experience with Twin Peaks at all was seeing FWWM on cable at 4:00 AM, and being vaguely aware of the show as a fun and quirky thing from the 90s, and David Lynch being a "weird" director. It instantly hooked me, even though I didn't really understand it at all.
posted by codacorolla at 9:02 PM on February 12, 2017


komara, the scene immediately after that hit hardest for me as an adolescent. Laura quivers with murderous hatred toward her father, asking him through clenched teeth if he'd been at home during the day last week, and he immediately goes into calm, assured lying-through-telling-the-truth mode, and it terrifies Laura that he can do it so smoothly, so easily, and so well.

Since I was sixteen I have believed that BOB changed as Laura aged—from a pre-teen psychic defense mechanism to the personification of the cyclical nature of abuse. All the evidence points to Laura wanting to die; the harrowing and mundane truth is that she came very close to surviving Leland/BOB and perpetuating the "outside evil" that both the film and the series portray through BOB, MIKE and the Red Room. Leo, Jacques and Laura's clients are dimly seeking sensation and numbness, but Leland/BOB take pleasure in corruption, a pleasure that Laura was beginning to share.

This is why she's terrified, sitting in the stopped car, stammering while Leland plays inquisitive dad—she has just realized she shares a capacity for and curiosity about evil with her father and is ready to give in like he did so many years ago. The scene immediately before is a technical masterpiece on par with the punch-in-the-gut climax of Requiem for a Dream in terms of physical affect on the viewer. It's a series of nice tricks. But the scene just after that is universal in its horror and terror, I think. Anyone who's ever found themselves mistaken for their parents or aping their annoying tics or poor decisions can relate.

I can blather about the film and the first two seasons of the series for days on end if you let me. YOU MAY THINK I'VE GONE INSANE, BUT I PROMISE, I WILL ANALYZE AGAIN!
posted by infinitewindow at 9:04 PM on February 12, 2017 [18 favorites]


I go into the woods past North Bend most weekends. If I have the time and haven't eaten too large a breakfast, I'll stop at Steve's Donuts in Snoqualmie and then wind my way lazily through Snoqualmie, past the high school, and on through North Bend, in a truck that while slightly newer would not have been looked much out of place. And these towns have a trapped in amber feel to them - changing at the edges and yet very deliberately maintaining the feeling that nothing has changed. The woods are very pleasant- breathtaking at times heartbreaking. And unless you have a bit of patience and look with the right sort of eyes, that's all. But you can slowly start to recover the way that things have been buried, left overgrown, replanted with an eye to returning. Bridges, some fallen logs nearly returned to nature but for the long rebar barbs sticking from them, some tidy concrete miles from the nearest road, some only an absence that calls attention to your artificial path. Roads torn up hastily, daring even the prepared hiker to continue. Others shadows - this place has the shape of a road still. And others entirely disappeared - perhaps with the right eyes and a map you could find them given time. Names on a map hinting at stories that the rain and wind and rot and exuberant growth of the place have erased. Groves of trees that don't seem to belong. Guidebooks hinting at unpleasant goings on in the not so distant past.
posted by wotsac at 9:11 PM on February 12, 2017 [11 favorites]


Jennifer is one of my extended teenage art punk circle, and her pop both did her a solid and gave her a chance to write about us, or people we thought we knew, or people she thought she knew, and so forth. I don't so much see myself in the material as I see my people.
posted by mwhybark at 1:22 AM on February 13, 2017 [3 favorites]


As someone who watched the series when it first aired, discussion that relies heavily on the movie seems odd, like talking about the sequels to the Matrix or Highlander movies as if they were essential to the enjoyment people had of the originals. So I'm not really sold I'm remembering it wrong.
posted by mark k at 1:23 AM on February 13, 2017 [1 favorite]


There is a lot of humor in TP. Cooper is hilarious. As is Albert. I'm so psyched to see the reboot. I think TP holds up amazingly well today.
posted by persona au gratin at 1:35 AM on February 13, 2017 [1 favorite]


discussion that relies heavily on the movie seems odd, like talking about the sequels to the Matrix or Highlander movies as if they were essential to the enjoyment people had of the originals

While I wouldn't make any claims for Highlander 2+ (and the original was really just a fun, silly 80s action movie, that happened to have a Connery cameo and a Queen soundtrack, which both set it apart from the herd), the fact that the Matrix movies were shown a lot on some UK terrestrial channels over the last couple of years has definitely changed my attitude to them (interestingly there's an article about them alongside the one linked in the post). The first movie is OK, and even holds up rather well, but the other two are often remarkable in their strangeness and their relentlessness. Could they be accused of pretentiousness? Definitely, but so what? At least it shows they're trying to do something. The story of all three films is much more interesting than just the first one by itself, just as the Twin Peaks series as interpreted through the lens of Fire Walk With Me is much richer, and stranger and sadder.

If people are expecting the new Twin Peaks will just be an opportunity for campy cosplay, I hope they're bitterly disappointed.

I certainly won't make the mistake the author of that article did of going to see something from the 80s or 90s I already know I like in the cinema again - there's too much of the snickering and mockery, too much amateur MST3K snarkery, to be flung at anything that strays too far from the expectations of a general audience. "Oh, look - an 80s haircut! How hilarious!" Fuck 'em.
posted by Grangousier at 4:10 AM on February 13, 2017 [3 favorites]


And I do know how pompous that last paragraph sounds, but seriously, fuck 'em.
posted by Grangousier at 4:18 AM on February 13, 2017 [4 favorites]



There's a lot in the original series that was funny! Just not the things that were trying to be funny


This, so much. The series lost the thread in the first part of the second season with too much soap opera bullshit. The whole thing with Andy and Lucy made me want to throw shit at the screen.
posted by Halloween Jack at 4:38 AM on February 13, 2017 [1 favorite]


I watched Twin Peaks when it came out and man, I did not realize how young I was when it did! I have no idea what my parents were thinking, letting me watch it by myself, buying me the soundtrack on cassette, as well as the accompanying books.

Of course, this led a years long love affair with anything David Lynch--again, my parents just let me rent Blue Velvet and Eraserhead without supervision--and I remember the many many times I watch FWWM on VHS. I was a little obsessed with the darkness engulfing Laura Palmer. Uh, that wasn't really very healthy.
posted by Kitteh at 5:07 AM on February 13, 2017 [4 favorites]


Kitteh, me too! I was about 11 when the series premiered and I watched the whole thing and LOVED it. And then watched Blue Velvet, Wild at Heart, and Lost Highway (still one of the most terrifying movies I've ever seen).

A while I ago, I threw an episode of TP on to watch in the background while I was cleaning (after not having watched it in YEARS). I was intending to watch episode 16, where Laura's murder was solved (a favorite of mine) but wasn't sure which number it was and put on episode 14 instead, where Maddie Ferguson is murdered instead. (Again, I hadn't watched it in years.) I sat on the edge of my bed, in complete HORROR, chores forgotten. THIS SHIT AIRED ON NETWORK TELEVISION IN 1990?!?! That scene is so horrifying, and violent, and bizarre.

Sheryl Lee was so great as Laura Palmer. I've always really liked TP: FWWM, mostly due to her incredibly affecting performance. She's such a beautiful woman but can also twist her face into grotesque, exaggerated expressions, like the scene where Leland is berating her about her dirty fingernails and she's just staring at him with a wide-eyed rictus of horror and her mother Sarah is just staring down at her plate, hoping it will all just stop. It's a very evocative scene of the cycle of abuse.
posted by Aquifer at 7:18 AM on February 13, 2017 [5 favorites]


THIS SHIT AIRED ON NETWORK TELEVISION IN 1990?!?!

This is the most terrifying thing I've ever seen. (25 years later, I still can't watch it. I clicked on the link to copy it and then IMMEDIATELY CLOSED THE WINDOW)

Twin Peaks the TV show definitely has its moments of humor (fish, percolator, snorting llama, small box of chocolate bunnies, nose tweaking) but Fire Walk With Me? Not so much.
posted by Lucinda at 7:28 AM on February 13, 2017 [5 favorites]


Pursuant to my comment above, I should say that what the show got right, it got really right, even during the "soap opera bullshit" phase that I mention above. I have a relative who was working as a nurse on a psych unit at the time, and she was the first person that I knew who guessed who Bob really was; she said that all the markers for child sexual abuse were there if you knew what to look for.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:51 AM on February 13, 2017 [6 favorites]


This is the most terrifying thing I've ever seen.

QFT. I just watched it for the first time in 25 years and got chills sitting in the sunshine of my kitchen window. I may not sleep tonight.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 9:49 AM on February 13, 2017 [3 favorites]


FWWM is the real deal. Twin Peaks is the real deal. When Leland dies and someone, I forget who right now, is like "What's worse? Believing in a disembodied power of darkness that inhabits human hosts, or accepting that a man sexually abused his daughter and murdered his niece?", that's the real deal.

Tbh still considering getting a Bookhouse Boys tattoo. I grew up out there.
posted by beefetish at 9:49 AM on February 13, 2017 [8 favorites]


I certainly won't make the mistake the author of that article did of going to see something from the 80s or 90s I already know I like in the cinema again - there's too much of the snickering and mockery, too much amateur MST3K snarkery, to be flung at anything that strays too far from the expectations of a general audience. "Oh, look - an 80s haircut! How hilarious!" Fuck 'em.
posted by Grangousier at 4:10 AM on February 13 [2 favorites +] [!]


And I do know how pompous that last paragraph sounds, but seriously, fuck 'em.
posted by Grangousier at 4:18 AM on February 13 [3 favorites +] [!]


I was recently at a small-cinema screening of Videodrome (which I love), and there was definitely a contingent of the crowd that started off all snickering and "oh wow the haha early eighties"... and then the movie progressed, and the increasing silence matched with palpably growing discomfort and unease of everyone who hadn't seen the film before was a delicious ambrosia upon which I supped and savored.
posted by FatherDagon at 10:41 AM on February 13, 2017 [14 favorites]


Back in 2015, I was visiting the Seattle area and a friend of mine gave me a tour of Twin Peaks locations. We went to the bridge where Ronette Pulaski was discovered, which is now a pedestrian bridge way out in the woods. From all of the Peaks-related graffiti, it's obvious that lots of fans make a point of visiting.

As we were walking on the path to the bridge, we heard screaming in the distance, getting nearer. I saw a purple car approaching with its driver's side window rolled down, and for a second I thought the driver was blasting a heavy metal song with intense, screaming vocals from their car stereo. But as the car drew closer, the sounds became clearer: It was a woman's voice screaming "GET OUT! GET OUT! GET OUT!" As the car zoomed past, we saw the driver leaning out the window screaming with all her might, her face a mask of insane hatred. We all agreed that this was the most appropriately creepy Twin Peaks thing that could have happened on the trip.

(Seriously, this woman had a set of pipes that Bruce "The Human Air Raid Siren" Dickinson would envy.)
posted by vibrotronica at 10:59 AM on February 13, 2017 [5 favorites]


My neck gets hot sometimes when people talk about David Lynch as though a) he's being weird for weirdness' sake, or b) interpreting everything as though it's nothing more than a simple substitution cipher, like you could just have a cheat sheet or a legend that would piece everything together into a single, simplified storyline.

And it just now occurred to me that the one scene from FWWM that always bothered me is exactly those things, and now I'm entertaining the idea that maybe that scene is actually brilliant.
posted by ernielundquist at 11:07 AM on February 13, 2017 [1 favorite]


Jennifer is one of my extended teenage art punk circle, and her pop both did her a solid and gave her a chance to write about us, or people we thought we knew, or people she thought she knew, and so forth. I don't so much see myself in the material as I see my people.
posted by mwhybark


Well that's cool.
posted by Theta States at 12:47 PM on February 13, 2017


Since about a week ago, I segued into putting Twin Peaks on by asking my wife if she was in the mood for some '90s comedy, I feel like I should respond.

Twin Peaks is funnier than this author gives it credit for, and — to abuse the privilege of being an old — I'm going to fault a lot of her appraisal on the earnestness of youth, as she overvalues a lot of muddled, compromised and hackish work that was part of the failure of Twin Peaks years ago.

I've watched the whole thing several times now — my criticisms aren't condemning the work overall — including one year where some friends and I lined it up with the internal calendar of the show to create a nightly ritual.

Similar to much of Blue Velvet — or even Eraserhead — Lynch's comedy often comes from a weird, earnest outsider's ironic appraisal of camp. Much of the original series is a pitch-perfect send-up of (unintentionally) campy teen melodramas and soap operas. It's black humor, where the juxtaposition of ostensible melodrama over quotidian and minor issues is undercut with real menace. It's also something that got much more muddled as time went on with the original series, as both Mark Frost and Lynch took a big step back (IIRC, Lynch only directed two episodes in the second season; I think he only wrote three), and the show's ability to credulously reproduce '90s suburban melodrama in dream logic faltered into a supernatural horror pastiche. When Lynch returned to the helm for FWWM, a lot of the production was compromised by casting conflicts and Lynch largely abandoned much of the humor that's in the show, while still attempting to close off all of the dangling threads left by the premature cancellation. In doing so, FWWM falls into some of the same melodrama pitfalls that the first season of the show so effectively skewered, and the rushed and choppy production schedule means that he didn't get consistently good performances out of most of the cast. It's still a weird and interesting movie, but it's understandable that much of the audience would approach it with the same frame that Lynch and Frost so effectively set in the first season — as intentionally surreal and disturbing camp.
posted by klangklangston at 1:58 PM on February 13, 2017 [6 favorites]


I hadn't seen the Kermode intro to FWWM before and so I hadn't realised the BBC Philharmonic had recorded some music from Blue Velvet and Twin Peaks. I found a link here if anyone wants to hear it - their version of FWWM is excellent.
posted by crocomancer at 2:00 PM on February 13, 2017 [2 favorites]


the fact that the Matrix movies were shown a lot on some UK terrestrial channels over the last couple of years has definitely changed my attitude to them (interestingly there's an article about them alongside the one linked in the post). The first movie is OK, and even holds up rather well, but the other two are often remarkable in their strangeness and their relentlessness. Could they be accused of pretentiousness? Definitely, but so what? At least it shows they're trying to do something. The story of all three films is much more interesting than just the first one by itself, just as the Twin Peaks series as interpreted through the lens of Fire Walk With Me is much richer, and stranger and sadder.

This is of course the prototypical YMMV opinion. For me the Matrix sequels were just horrible, and replacing the first movie's mildly interesting SF / great action combo with low quality incoherent drivel that is "trying to do something" isn't appealing. (Just my opinion, man.)

The Twin Peaks world is more complicated, as I'm not going to accuse it of that big a drop off in quality. But a lot of what was unique and appealing was tossed in favor things I found weird but less appealing. People saying "it really wasn't funny if you keep thinking of FWWM" when it was IMHO gloriously and bizarrely hilarious, have lost something I wouldn't give up.
posted by mark k at 10:12 PM on February 13, 2017 [1 favorite]


I like the use of kitsch and camp in the first season of TP... less so in the second season. (Until today I wasn't aware there was a difference. I may be wrong, but to define by example, the food and uniforms at the Double-R Diner are kitsch, while Harry Goaz's and Kimmy Robertson's performances as Andy and Lucy are camp.)

But Lynch loves to use kitsch and camp to subvert and potentiate the main thrust of the narrative. Case in point: the campy, kitschy daytime soap "Invitation to Love" foreshadows lots of action in the first season while allowing viewers and characters alike to laugh. Emerald and Jade are in-world analogs of Maddy and show-Laura. Ambitious crook Dakota is a sexed-up Hollywood version of Leo Johnson--they both even speak in cliches and tough-but-shallow dialog.

But kitsch and camp are common artifacts of the process of narrative creation, the same process that Coop and Harry use to track down Laura's killer, and the characters and viewers ignore it at their peril. The townspeople and hero cops of Twin Peaks have been living a psychosexual soap opera for so long that they're missing the forest for the trees, and not paying attention to the kitschy, campy, real clues in the town invariably leads to maimed lives and death. Maddy ends up just as dead as her identical cousin Laura in a scene that still gives me nightmares. Leo bleeds out as Dakota grimaces stagily after being doublecrossed and shot on the show-within-a-show.

Lynch's masterful use of humor took a back seat to less thematically-justified kitsch and camp as a part of secondary storylines in season two. Ugh, James drove away from town and found himself in a cliched northwest noir that irritates nearly everyone I've ever talked to about Twin Peaks. It's a ham-handed attempt to bring "Invitation to Love" to life without understanding how it fits into the overall narrative thrust. But there are still some relatively deft uses of kitsch and camp for foreshadowing--Catherine Martell's super-racist disguise presages Josie's unmasking as a former prostitute and schemer, and Leo's vegetative state punctuated by mumblings of "new shoes" lulls cops and criminals alike into thinking he's harmless in his unfinished home.

So yes, Twin Peaks the show is very funny at times with its kitsch and its camp, but at its best the humor is there for a serious purpose--to support and throw into relief the narrative examination of the struggle between good and evil that rages in us all... which brings us back to the micro-scale of the film.

As FWWM was highly subjective and mainly told from Laura's 17-year-old earnest viewpoint, there is very little kitsch and camp outside Agent Desmond's story. She's too young to recognize most kitsch for what it is, and too busy living to recognize or fall into camp. At the Roadhouse, Laura mirthlessly grins at "Buck," who expects praise for his attempt at cliches humor. She breaks down listening to a lounge singer who probably performs the same song every night. She dates a stereotypical rebel without a brain and loves him completely and totally. Laura Palmer resists kitsch and camp almost by her existence.

The original FWWM trailer I recall had an outsize proportion of footage from the Agent Desmond storyline to lure the fans who adored cherry pie and a cup of joe. But this comment contains the first and second time in this thread the main character of a third of the film is even mentioned. The Teresa Banks investigation is sordid the way real murders are ugly, dirty, thoughtless affairs. The investigation sequence is also acknowledging that Twin Peaks the show had become its own brand of kitsch and camp--ripe for foreshadowing the main Laura plot like Invitation to Love did on the show. Desmond and Stanley work maturely and scientifically, don't get emotionally involved, rub the inhabitants of Deer Meadow the wrong way, and mysteriously exit having learned or done little of value. In a real sense, they can't tell the shit of Deer Meadow from the Shinola of clues. Laura wallows in subjective sensation and adolescent fury, is loved or obsessed over by all in the town, and dies having saved Ronette's life through a divine intervention she could have used for herself.

I get that the humor of Twin Peaks isn't universally loved. Humor's like that. But neither is it pointless or weird-for-the-sake-of-being-weird.
posted by infinitewindow at 11:40 PM on February 13, 2017 [11 favorites]


as intentionally surreal and disturbing camp

I suspect camp is increasingly misunderstood in today's internet world. Maybe it's being mistakenly confused for the more overt irony in fashion?

I've had camp conversations around a wide variety of shows now, including Jupiter's Ascending, the recent Luke Cage show, and Kanye's music, conversations where the very notion that they were camp was met with confusion.
posted by Strange_Robinson at 9:07 AM on February 14, 2017 [1 favorite]


I'd love an FPP on camp if anyone wants to pull one together. I never quite know what is meant by it, but whenever people who do know give examples it's always stuff I've enjoyed watching.
posted by harriet vane at 2:24 AM on February 15, 2017 [3 favorites]


I'm a fan from the original airing, and have lived in the WA filiming area about 9 years. The original TV series is very very funny. FWWM is funny in places as well, but perhaps more so in the early Isaak/Sutherland section - and the Missing Pieces cuts show even more of this. I watched some of the new filming, I've talked with folks who witnessed even more of it and I follow fan forums. I'm sure there will be humor in the new series (not a reboot!), but to date I have seen little sign of it - my initial read is that we will get something just as harrowing as FWWM.
posted by kreinsch at 10:10 AM on February 28, 2017


"I suspect camp is increasingly misunderstood in today's internet world. Maybe it's being mistakenly confused for the more overt irony in fashion?"

I wonder too, especially with the weird quasi-mainstreaming of gay culture.

I'd love an FPP on camp if anyone wants to pull one together. I never quite know what is meant by it, but whenever people who do know give examples it's always stuff I've enjoyed watching.

A good starting point is Sontag's Notes on Camp from 1964.

In general, the way that I tend to think of it is that camp is the aesthetic appreciation of style or artifice over intended meaning. It's related to irony, but isn't congruent. In TP, the camp is largely in the melodrama, which infinitewindow's pretty great comment above lays out — specifically how the over-wrought or absurd points aren't taken seriously as clues to a larger mystery. It's related to, but distinct from, the use of kitsch, which is more a cheap use of sentimentality and nostalgia, which can also be read ironically.

One of the main things left out of Sontag's essay, though perhaps implied, is that camp is often linked to queering media interpretation, and had been used prior to her to denote extravagant effeminacy within gay subcultures, especially theater.
posted by klangklangston at 11:05 AM on March 1, 2017 [2 favorites]


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