David Lynch – Twin Peaks and The Art Life assessed

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Kyle MacLachlan in a still from Twin Peaks. Photo: Suzanne Tenner/SHOWTIME

Kyle MacLachlan in a still from Twin Peaks. Photo: Suzanne Tenner/SHOWTIME

With Twin Peaks – The Return half way through and David Lynch The Art Life revisiting cinemas, Getintothis’ Del Pike peeks once more behind those red curtains and…there are spoilers.

Twin Peaks The Return –  a Half Time Report

For those of us who were there first-time round, it’s safe to say that the world of Twin Peaks wasn’t for everyone.

Those in search of a new soap quickly turned off when the action shifted to the Red room and folks started to talk backwards.For those of us well versed in the strange land of David Lynch, it was a rare and welcome treat. Terrestrial TV had never seen the likes of this and behold a cult was born.

After a quarter of a century this wonderful show has returned and in the first 10 episodes we have discovered a world that is even weirder and more breathtaking than ever.

Perhaps the biggest difference this time around is not within the show but in the presence of 21st Century blogging. Back in the late 80s / early 90s when the original two seasons ran, there existed fanzines, clubs, a couple of spin off paperbacks and much chatting around the watercooler.

Now, within hours of each episode broadcast, a sea of blogs is emerging, all offering opposing theories and drawing parallels with Lynch’s previous work. It has given the viewing of the show a whole new dynamic. (Even Asda are selling Twin Peaks Zig-Zag floor style mugs for a pound, get yours now!)

Getintothis doesn’t want to feel left out of this cyber-party so we would like to settle down with a big ol’ bowl of garmonbozia and offer our thoughts on the first half of the new series.

The driving narrative of the earlier seasons was, to a point, the murder of Laura Palmer, and Episode One of The Return offered up a fresh mystery in the discovery of a body in Buckhorn South Dakota. This being Twin Peaks, this is no ordinary body, a male torso and a female head – severed. With local school head (no pun intended), Bill Hastings, a richly gurning Matthew Lillard in the frame, its business as usual. Or is it?

Following episodes appear to abandon the mystery strand completely to focus on the quarter-century old mystery of the disappearance of FBI Agent Dale Cooper. Possessed at the end of Season 2 by the despicable BOB, Coop is now wandering round like a nomadic hit-man from Hell, all long hair and misogynistic tendencies, no longer the black-suited, mild-mannered Eagle Scout of old.

There appears to be another Coop, bloated and garbed in the gaudiest suits since Ledger’s Joker, taking up residence in an empty house with a sassy prostitute. This is in fact Doppel-Dale, aka Dougie Jones, a hapless family man working for a law firm. While said prostitute is showering, Dougie is replaced with the real Dale, fresh from The White Lodge. Dougie is drawn into the Lodge and swiftly extinguished. Real Dale (aka Mr Jackpots) is confused. We all are.

Could any of us have foreseen the return of Dale Cooper being anywhere near this convoluted? His journey back to the real world presented us with one of TV’s most surreal moments (Pre- episode 8), as our hero falls from the Lodge and finds himself in space via buzzing manic machinery, a babbling blind woman and the heavenly body of Major Garland Briggs. Coop arrives back via a plug socket, minus his memory and his shoes. The moment his shoes drop off on the other side is a welcome reminder of Lynch’s brilliant humour in the darkest of scenes.

David Lynch Top 10 – Right here

The world of Twin Peaks has expanded since the original run, not just in the aforementioned bloggers paradise and Asda mugs, but also in the extended experience. Co-creator Mark Frost’s book The Secret History of Twin Peaks was perhaps unfairly pooh-poohed by this writer last year for its focus on what then appeared to be lengthy and irrelevant forays into sci-fi and government conspiracies, but recent episodes are drawing directly from the book, particularly the strand concerning the headless Major Briggs, and the presence of FBI agent Tammi Preston. Bloggers have been picking up on the links, identifying the girl at the end of ep 8 as a young Log Lady due to the light bruising on her knees. This point is described in detail in Frost’s book.

The premise of the book is an investigation by Agent Preston based on files handed to her by Deputy Director Gordon Cole, an investigation which appears to be taking place throughout the new season with Preston (Chrysta Bell), Cole (Lynch) and Albert Rosenfield (Miguel Ferrer R.I.P). I may not be so dismissive when the sequel Twin Peaks: The Final Dossier comes out in November. Watch this space.

In addition to the book is the newly discovered website; The search for the Zone, curated by Bill Hastings. Another direct link to the show’s storyline, containing the findings of the School Head and his deceased lover, the body-less Ruth. The Map co-ordinates hidden at the end of the webpage have already been followed by fans, leading to remote rural area in South Dakota.

Chrysta Bell, who works with Lynch on incredibly mesmerising music projects is worth following via her online activities, adding juicy Twin Peaks info alongside her brilliant music..

The extended world also means that less than half of the action so far has actually taken place in the town of Twin Peaks, making way for extensive tales in Buckhorn, Philadelphia, Vegas and various rural backwaters.

The old Sheriff’s office crew of Andy, Hawk and Lucy are back on the case of the missing Cooper, headed by Sheriff Frank Truman, (Harry’s brother), after a typically cryptic message from The Log Lady. 90s Bad boy Bobby Briggs has turned a corner and is now also part of the team. The Sheriff’s team and Cole’s need to meet up or they’ll be wandering around the woods for another 26 years.

It’s only in these moments that a real feel of Twin Peaks returns. There was a cosy side, when immersed in a run of those two seasons, you became immersed in the community and felt like the world outside was a million miles away. The latter presence of other locations has changed the feel of the show completely.

Other original regulars appear sparingly, each given their own seemingly minor sub-plot.

Benjamin Horne has a strange Lynchian buzzing in his office, brother Jerry has gone AWOL and has developed a talking foot, Dr Jacoby has set up an anarchic radio station with gold painted shovels in a trailer, and at the Double R Diner its business as usual for Shelley and Norma. We are still waiting on the return of Audrey Horne, the show feels incomplete without her.

The show feels incomplete without the old Dale Cooper too. One of the most common complaints has been the long, long road either Bad Coop or Dougie (or both) are taking to return to the lovable, coffee and pie loving Dale of old. Let’s hope that if the time actually comes, it’s worth it.

Personally I feel that Lynch has earned the right to make us wait. A few extra weeks is nothing compared to the last 26 years, and both Bad Coop and Dougie are a joy anyway. Dougie’s wife, Janey-E Jones (Naomi Watts) has perhaps been the best new character in the series, a force to be reckoned with.

Because of the incredibly slow nature of the new series, there appears to be less room for relevant plotlines than before, obviously minor scenarios will turn out to be implausibly important, but for now the main sub-plot to watch concerns Richard Horne (Eamon Farren).

He’s the new Bobby Briggs on the block and is somehow related to The Horne dynasty and has so far terrorised local girls in the Roadhouse, run over and killed a toddler before driving off to clean the blood from his fender, and attacked his Nan in the style of A Clockwork Orange. His dealings with the manic local hood, Red (Lost Highway’s Balthazar Getty), look set to take a nasty turn.

It appears that Richard is Audrey Horne’s son, but who’s the Daddy? Could Tricky Dicky be the fruit of a dark night in a burnt out bank between Bad Coop and a comatose Audrey?

I’m not quite buying the blow-hard pseudo-enigmatic Wally Brando, son of Lucy and Andy, played by Michael Cera. It feels like a rare case of Lynch trying too hard to gain a youth audience by arch casting, and the humour comes across as forced. The whole On the Waterfront gag works to a point but doesn’t fit and only amplifies Deputy Andy’s now grossly overplayed daftness. What was once funny has now become irritating (Punky?!?!?!). Let’s hope Wally’s appearance is limited to that one cringe-laden scene.

And so, to Ep.8 aka Gotta Light? Nothing could have prepared us for this completely unique slice of TV history. Stylistically and in terms of sheer bravery, the episode is on a par with Eraserhead, Lynch’s dark, baffling and utterly fantastic debut feature, released in 1977 and embraced by midnight movie audiences before the cult spread worldwide. In another time, ep.8 would have found its home in those same midnight movie houses. FACT, we beg of you…

Starting off as normal an episode of Twin Peaks can, with a scene between Bad Coop and Cohort Ray, a shootout leaves Bad Coop in an even “badder” way, and out of the woods come the Woodsmen. We see a cleaner version of them in the Missing Pieces edition of Twin Peaks Fire Walk With Me, but these updated, coal faced, staccato moving spirits are one of Lynch’s scariest creations yet.

The remainder of the episode takes us into the core of a nuclear explosion and we possibly witness the birth of BOB. The visuals that tell this most visceral of origin stories are nothing short of breath-taking. The viewer may well pinch themselves throughout as we have never been treated to anything like this on TV in our lives. Purer than the purest Lynch, this is mainstream TV that is as far away from the mainstream as can possibly be.

We visit the very same theatre that appears in the Silencio sequence of Mulholland Drive, begging the question, “Are we in the same universe here?” and to the convenience store from Fire Walk With Me. The explosion echoes the rather awkward image from Gordon Cole’s office wall, itself another echo of a smaller almost identical image on Henry’s wall in Eraserhead. We have perhaps never been thrust deeper into the mind of David Lynch.

Alongside all this incredible nightmare imagery we get a killer performance from Nine Inch Nails and a terrifying coda featuring a strange frog / beetle creature finding its way into a young girl’s mouth. We witness, in beautiful 50s B-movie fashion, an invasion of Woodsmen in search of a light, with one intoning a hypnotic mantra as he brutally murders staff of a local radio station. A fortnight’s mid-season break from the show may not have been long enough to come down off this trip, but it felt like a year too long.

Long-time collaborator, Angelo Badalamenti’s score has been as perfect as ever, but unlike its constant repetitive presence in the original series, it is rationed out here for maximum effect, only really finding dominance in ep8. We are, however, treated to a closing tune by a rota of guests in the Roadhouse at the end of each show, (Expect a GIT Top 10). Guests including Au revoir Simone, Chromatics and The Cactus Blossoms, have been yet another element to look forward to week on week. It would be great if original series guest and Falling vocalist Julee Cruise appears at some point.

With less than half a season to go it’s impossible to predict where it will all end. Will Coop rediscover his mojo, will Major Briggs find his head and will David Bowie make his final screen appearance? Does it even matter? With TV like this, who needs answers. Just think, you could have chosen Love Island by mistake.

David Lynch: The Art Life

Jon Nguyen’s intimate portrait of the artist David Lynch is possibly the closest we have ever got to seeing the real man behind that most enigmatic of body of work.

More pedestrian followers may find disappointment in the lack of reference to Lynch’s film work, as the title suggests this is a study of Lynch as a fine artist, sculptor and photographer. From his suburban childhood, shown via home movies and family album snaps, through his student days to the filming of Eraserhead, the story is narrated by Lynch himself and every second is captivating.

Lynch doesn’t tend to use long words, he is as succinct as can be, replacing clumsy adjectives with key phrases like “Supergood”, revealing an almost childlike enthusiasm for things that keep him driven in all areas of his art. Interspersed between the archive material is extensive footage of Lynch at work in 2016, trolling around his unkempt but fascinating workshop in the Hollywood hills.

Often joined by his small daughter, Lula (Laura Dern’s character name in Wild at Heart), Lynch’s work ethic is relentless. Working with a seemingly endless variety of materials, rubbing charcoal into wet plastic sheeting, forming otherworldly shapes from grease, hair and insulating foam, and taking long smoking breaks, Lynch is entirely at home in his self-proclaimed Art Life. Inspired by an early introduction to Robert Henri’s book, The Art Spirit, Lynch has adapted his own lifestyle which is a balance of art, coffee and cigarettes.

The art itself is as dark and nightmarish as Bosch or Bruegel, but maintains that instantly recognisable Lynch humour that pervades his film and TV work. A recent re-watching of Eraserhead revealed once more a high level of comedy that really can’t be denied. Some pieces showing figures with ridiculously long arms reaching out or dark backdrops with fantastical beasts peering out, are almost as much akin to Terry Gilliam’s Monty Python cartoons as they are to Magritte.

Whether photographing industrial landscapes or dissecting insects for collages, there is a genius in the work that keys in directly to his more exposed film work. The sinister animation and collage work that makes up his early shorts The Alphabet and The Grandmother, both discussed in the film, draw exact parallels with the imagery seen in the recent Gotta Light episode of Twin Peaks. Themes of grotesque re-birth, blooming organic visuals and grotesque physiognomies.

Lynch’s persona is so close to that of Twin Peaks’ Gordon Cole but also to Blue Velvet’s Jeffrey and Eraserhead’s Henry, autobiographical elements are rife in much of his work. What comes across in The Art Life however is his humility and charm. At one point, he is unable to finish telling the tale of his family’s departure from their home and the difficulties of saying farewell to his next-door neighbour. Becoming emotional and tongue tied, he mutters “I can’t tell this.”

Perhaps the most satisfying moment comes at the end when he reveals his true feelings towards Eraserhead, Nguyen pulls on the heartstrings of the diehards here and the movie finishes too soon.

David Lynch: The Art Life is an essential watch for his fans and for artists in general. Overwhelmingly inspirational, entertaining and vital in understanding the man behind the myth.

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