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Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992)

by on 2012/05/26

“For a long time you wouldn’t feel anything. And then you’d burst into fire. Forever.
And the angels wouldn’t help you, because they’ve all gone away.”

* * *

Hoping to impress a film school girl, I started watching Twin Peaks. That was in the earliest Nineties, when the series originally ran. I enjoyed it, but I wasn’t exactly fanatical. Mostly I loved the music, two soundtracks, followed years later by a third. Then some Julee Cruise albums. And an audio tape called Diane. Also two books: Laura Palmer’s diary, and Dale Cooper’s autobiography. Finally, an alternate version of the pilot from Europe on video cassette. But not the chessboard forest sets. I mean, I’m not obsessive-compulsive.

I must admit, I was always disappointed the story wasn’t continued, especially recently. I read someone pointing out how Kyle MacLachlan (Blue Velvet) would now be the appropriate age to play Dale Cooper, emerging from imprisonment, a generation later.

Instead, we got a prequel feature as soon as the series ended. While I won’t say I’m not grateful, it wasn’t — and still isn’t — what I’d hoped for.

Broken into roughly two parts, we first meet Chester Desmond (Chris Isaak) and Sam Stanley (Kiefer Sutherland of Dark City) investigating the murder of a teenaged trailer park waitress. Teresa Banks of Portland, Oregon seems, more than not, familiar. She reminds us of an “it” girl named Laura Palmer. In fact, a lot seems oddly familiar: the police station, the diner, the flickering lights, coffee references, eccentric bit players, non-sequiturs, and intercut trees.

We see a clutch of new faces in that first half hour, including David Bowie, Jurgen Prochnow, and Harry Dean Stanton, but this tale isn’t theirs. We quickly move along to Laura’s final days, a year later, in the small town of Twin Peaks.

Cue the reverb-drenched guitar, cue the original sign. Many faces appear like visiting friends, though briefly, and darkened in tone. Laura (Sheryl Lee of Vampires) spirals to her end in a haze of sex and drugs. She beds over half a dozen others, flailing her way through abuse, addiction, mental illness, or even the supernatural.

The movie doesn’t hold your hand if you don’t already know the details, ironic given its prequelistic leanings. Rather it appears to exist to seed threads in the episodes ahead — behind? — the once-popular “Who Killed Laura Palmer?” days.

Of course, we’re not in TV-land anymore. Now we get true location work, stark lighting, swearing, violence, drug abuse, nudity, in addition to the usual surreality. So many limits are pushed or penetrated, this Twin Peaks is not quite itself. It’s a piece of greater extremes, of David Lynch (Mulholland Drive) going unfiltered: harrowing, inevitable, nihilistic, oppressive, unhappy, it’s merciless and nearly humourless too.

While I didn’t enjoy this flawed reunion, I do appreciate it, particularly with time and further viewings. I’ve heard Lynch directed Fire Walk with Me because he wasn’t ready to leave Twin Peaks, but then he rendered a place you wouldn’t want to linger in for long.

* * *

Rated R

135 minutes

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